15 Years of Futurama

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By: Connor Lenahan Fifteen years ago yesterday Philip J. Fry tipped over his chair and fell into a cryogenic freezing tube. He remained there for the next thousand years, awaking in the year 3000. This began the story of Futurama.

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I grew up loving the show. My brothers Chase and Cary had introduced it to me and created an obsession. We were already head over heels in love with The Simpsons, Matt Groening’s other wildly successful animated show, before finding and falling for Futurama. It was nerdy, smart, and most importantly, hilarious. It immediately became one of our favorite shows. It remains one of our favorites to this day. I have spent countless hours watching episodes in marathons. Unlike other family favorites like Lost or Breaking BadFuturama is one that we could conceivably watch for 24 consecutive hours without breaking a sweat. Obviously Futurama is a cartoon while the other two are dramas, but that’s being unfair to Futurama. What makes it such an incredible show, one that has left a lasting legacy on my life, is the depth at which stories are told. Through a combination of it’s premise – with everything taking place one thousand years in the future, there is a flexibility to reality that greatly benefits the program – and it’s heart that turn Futurama into the critically-lauded, fan-adored classic it is today. It’s stunning to think that the show is now 15 years old. As any fan would know, this decade and a half long run was unconventional to say the least. March 28, 1999 was the premiere of the series, while August 10, 2003 was it’s “finale.” It would be five years before the Planet Express crew would fly again. With a renewed vigor and a new home on Comedy Central, the show returned to the air in 2008 with four straight-to-DVD movies. This new season of episodes was the first my brothers and I were able to watch in real time. We admittedly didn’t suffer through the same five-year drought that original fans had, but I was nine when the original finale aired, so this makes more sense with thought. Regardless, we were elated, as was the rest of the world that enjoys high class comedy, over the return of Fry, Leela, Bender, Professor Farnsworth, Hermes, Amy, Dr. Zoidberg, Zapp Brannigan, Kiff, and most of all Scruffy. The show ended it’s second act last September in beautiful fashion. “Meanwhile” is one of the greatest, most rewarding, television finales in history. There could never be another episode and I would be okay with that. Better to go out on top than as a shell of your former glory. Yet, I’m not going to argue against more episodes either. It’s addictive and brilliant. The world is a better place when Futurama is around. At least my life is anyway. So how do we best celebrate the anniversary of a landmark show such as this? Well, I went out and picked 15 of my favorite episodes to write about today that show the epitome of the genius that is Futurama. The episodes are in airing order, not any ranking. Ranking these would be as if you asked me to pick between my children, my parents, my family, my dog, bacon, and the ability to breathe. It would be a masochistic exercise that would obviously end with Bacon/”Amazon Women in the Mood” at the top, but not without a healthy dose of tears and contemplation. Without further ado, let’s take a look back at the highlights of an American classic. ************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************* I. Brannigan, Begin Again

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Much like The SimpsonsFuturama needed a season to feel things out. It needed time to grow into itself and become the near-flawless show that it was for three straight seasons. Early in the second season came “Brannigan, Begin Again,” an otherworldly fantastic episode for Zapp Brannigan. Zapp, either the worst great space captain or best terrible space captain, has been discharged from his post and becomes a Planet Express employee. What makes this episode perfect is his cartoonish narcissism and idiocy that leads him to almost kill Fry, Leela, and Bender. Thankfully they survive and Zapp lives to regain his former “glory.” The episode also includes one of my favorite throwaway lines in the series. With a crash into the “Neutral Planet” imminent, the president requests that should he die to “tell [his] wife hello.” Is there a reason this makes me laugh years later? Yes. It’s simple and brilliant. ************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************* II. The Problem with Popplers

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When I was a kid, I was desperate to try Popplers. I still am. They seem delicious. Sure, they’re sentient and occasionally like swimming in honey mustard, but dammit they look like the perfect snack treat on the patio, in the car, on the boat or wherever good times are had. ************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************* III. War is the H-Word hqdefault228px-LettermanTop Not only is this episode a wonderful parody on just about every war film ever made, it includes one of the funniest Bender plots in the show’s run. After taking a grenade blast into his chest cabinet, Bender is not only given wheels to ride around on, but is also implanted with a bomb. When sent in to negotiate the war with opposition leaders, Bender is set to explode should he udder the trigger word. This leads us to the top ten list above. I still start crying laughing when I read the top ten most used words for our robotic hero. My goal in life is now to try and incorporate as many of these words into my daily lexicon as possible. Also, whoever decided to include “chumpette,” “pimpmobile,” and “daffodil,” is a god among mere mortals. Funnier yet is the reset trigger word of the word Bender is least likely to utter. I had never been moved to side-splitting chuckles by the word “antiquing” before, but now it is a sure fire way to get me to a girlish glee. ************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************* IV. Amazon Women in the Mood

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In short, this is my favorite episode of all time. From start to finish it is hilarious. It is a full realization of the potential of Futurama while taking advantage of most of the funniest characters the show has to offer. There are lines in here, “ah, she’s built like a steakhouse, but she handles like a bistro,” “you win again, gravity,” and the greatest pickup line in history, “you know, I find the most erotic part of a woman is the boobies,” that are absolute perfection. There’s never a dull moment here. You couldn’t ask for anything more. ************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************* V. Luck of the Fryrish I’m actually tearing up watching this clip. This was the moment in which it became apparent that there was a heart to Futurama that didn’t exist anywhere else. The episode moves between Fry’s childhood in New York and the quest to discover the identity of the new Philip J. Fry that existed while Fry was frozen. When it is revealed that Yancy, Fry’s older brother, named his son after Fry as a tribute to his younger brother, it brings tears to my eyes. Over time, this has gone from a sweet tribute within the show that gives Fry an incredible depth to his backstory into a reminder to love my own younger siblings in the same way that Yancy loved his. Let’s move on before I start sobbing. Too late. Dammit. ************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************* VI. Time Keeps On Slippin’

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This episode was hysterical before the ending and would have made a real run at my personal favorite favorite list. The ending, however, makes this a classic. Leela and Fry are continuously in limbo in terms of their relationship status. In this episode, Fry makes a grand gesture to try and win the heart of his desired Leela. When he moves stars to spell “I Love You, Leela,” only to have his message erased in an explosion, the collective heart of fans breaks. He’s finally got it set, he’s finally going to do it, and it gets stolen from him. We’ve all had that experience. It makes a loss of a message made out of stars in outer space somehow relatable. This is another part of the magic of Futurama: by toeing the line between fiction and reality, there is a heart and hilarity to the show that stands the test of time. ************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************* VII. Roswell That Ends Well

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Fry accidentally sends the crew of the Planet Express ship back in time to the 1950s. Bender is mistaken for a UFO. Zoidberg is thought to be an alien. Professor Farnsworth and Leela attempt to fit in with fifties culture. Fry does the nasty in the past-y and becomes his own grandfather. I challenge you to find something wrong with this episode. It’s a fan favorite, a critical darling, and named a personal favorite by many of the cast members. It’s impossible to argue against “Roswell” being a pure classic half hour of television. ************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************* VIII. Godfellas

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When I asked my brothers for their input on what episodes needed to make the list, it only took seconds for my brother Cary to reply “Godfellas.” This is one of, if not the most thought-provoking episode in the series. Bender is lost in space, ends up becoming the home and God of a microscopic society, and eventually meets God himself. Not only are there laugh out loud jokes in the episode, including Bender’s request that the universe “check out the dude with the Rolex,” but real questions surrounding the concept of someone playing God. Bender doesn’t do all that awful of a job, yet his society is destroyed anyway. It’s funny and fascinating, and one of the best episodes the show has to offer. ************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************* IX. Leela’s Homeworld

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Leela can be cantankerous, demanding, and annoying, yet we still love her. We never lose sight of her rough upbringing. We knew that she was left at an orphanage without any knowledge of her parents identity for her entire life. That was, until this episode. Leela finds her parents living below her in the sewers of New New York and finally regains her family. The reveal that her parents have been an invisible force looking after her for her entire life only adds to the sentimentality of the moment. Finally things are going right for Leela. She finally catches a break. It’s a heartwarming moment for her and the viewer alike. ************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************* X. Jurassic Bark

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No. I can’t. This isn’t okay. This is the saddest thing in the galaxy and it isn’t close. I’m not ready to talk about this. I never will be. I love you Seymour. ************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************* XI. The Why of Fry Futurama-Episode-410-The-Why-of-Fry Yet another fascinating episode from the series. Fry learns not only of his great importance to the universe in this episode, but a crucial part of his story is revealed. It turns out that it wasn’t simply gravity that knocked him over when the clock struck midnight on December 31, 1999, but Nibbler as well. Nibble was sent back in order to ensure Fry would be able to fight the brains that would try to take over the world a thousand years later. Heavy stuff indeed. Yet it helps elaborate, complicate, and further improve the story of Philip J. Fry, by changing an accident to a mission. It’s sneakily important to the show, so it makes this list. ************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************* XII. Where No Fan Has Gone Before Futurama,_Where_No_Fan_Has_Gone_Before,_Welshie_dead Not only does this episode include the high-concept plot of Star Trek’s banishment from the universe and the ultimate fan electric cloud that reunites the entire cast but it seriously features a Star Trek reunion. William Shatner is in this episode. He does a spoken word version of Eminem’s “The Real Slim Shady.” How does he do a spoken word version of a rap song you ask? “He found a way.” This episode is all around fun and hilarious and a testament to the science-fiction legacy of Futurama. ************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************* XIII. The Sting Futurama-Sting I’m not entirely sure why, but I’ve been deathly afraid of bees since I was a toddler. I freeze up whenever they are around me. So having Futurama do a story around gigantic, angry bumblebees did not exactly calm my young mind. While it’s an uncomfortable watch for me and many to make, it isn’t just because I’m horrified of being stung. The story is about Leela’s heartbreak over having Fry die saving her. She begins to lose her sanity and we are along fro the ride. It’s a draining episode, but when it is revealed at the end that Fry has been waiting by Leela’s side to make sure she would wake up from a coma, tears begin flowing. Leela was the one close to death, not Fry. This moment of pure love by Fry stands as one of the biggest indicators that he and Leela would indeed end up together in the end. ************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************* XIV. The Devil’s Hands Are Idle Playthings Man wishes to have his love interest fall for him. Man makes a deal with the Devil to trade hands so he can gain the ability to play the most difficult instrument in the world. Devil ends up tricking the man before regaining his hands and having the man fall short of his original plan. It’s a classic love story really. The story is not only sweet, but hilarious as well. Zoidberg has the best moment of the episode, noting “I can’t believe everyone is just ad-libbing,” during the impromptu opera. In the end, there are non stop laughs and a beautiful moment for Fry and Leela. Originally the end of the series, Fry and Leela are shown via holophoner to end up together and live happily ever after. The series could have been done for good right here and hung it’s hat on four basically perfect seasons with a beautiful resolution, but we weren’t done with the series just yet. ************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************* XV. The Late Philip J. Fry

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When Futurama returned for another few seasons, it wasn’t the same. The show had changed in the five years between the original run and the reincarnation. It was no longer perfect, but I’d be dammed if it wasn’t funny. There were even flashes of it’s prior perfection at points. “The Late Philip J. Fry” was not a flash. It was one last flawless episode that stands as one of the three of four best the show has ever produced. It’s brilliant, beautifully told between timelines, heartbreaking and heartwarming all in the 22 minutes of it’s run time. The show was never the same, this is true, but this moment was enough. This episode was proof that there was still greatness to these characters. This was a reminder that Futurama is, was, and forever will be one of the greatest shows in television history. ************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************* Thank you to everyone involved with this incredible show for making the world a better, funnier place. Connor Lenahan (@ConnorLenahan) is a freshman at Boston University, majoring in journalism. He can be contacted at lenahan@bu.edu