Futurama, Season Two, Episode Seven, “Put Your Head On My Shoulders”

Written by: Ken Keeler
Directed by: Chris Louden
DN’s Ranking: Bad / NONESSENTIAL / Essential

Absolutely the worst thing about this episode is the fact that it successfully sells me on a Fry/Amy relationship and then pulls it away for no good reason. The big reason the Fry/Leela teasing doesn’t work for me and doesn’t work for a lot of people is because we can’t see what it is that attracts them to each other, beyond Fry projecting an idea of what he wants onto her and Leela settling out of loneliness. They make sense as friends and as people who enjoy working together, but not romantically; their values are just so wildly different. “Put Your Head On My Shoulders” makes the compelling argument that Fry and Amy, on the other hand, are two dismotivated slackers where the difference is that he’s rich and she’s poor, and that these differences create as much of a spark as their similarities. On one level, it’s hard not to feel frustrated that the writers not only throw out this neat little relationship in three minutes, they do so for the sake of a boring joke that turns Fry into a caricature of male insecurity – he’s thoughtless, not heartless. I’m willing to sit through – indeed, love – any implausible breaking of the laws of man or God from the speed of light to criminal negligence hearings for a funny joke, but breaking character always leaves a bad taste in my mouth. On another level, it’s frustrating that the writers can bring this level of nuance and insight into a one-off short-term relationship but not one of the main emotional anchors for the series. I am forgiving when it comes to TV shows when they’re consistently good in some way and consistently bad in another – like with people, I see it as someone having certain strengths and certain weaknesses. Knowing they could have done it but chose not to makes me resent sitting through the more obnoxious Fry/Leela scenes.

On the other hand, having someone’s head on your shoulder is a great scifi comedy concept, especially because it’s not played for horror this time. It works a lot better for me as an exaggeration of an everyday feeling than Fry suddenly acting like a caricature – shoved in the same space as someone you’ve just been in a relationship with, forced to deal with jealousy and insecurity – it’s just the space happens to be ‘at the neck’. Fry’s behaviour in this section is much funnier to me because even if it’s not how I would react, I can see a real person reacting in a very similar way. I do enjoy the third act of this episode for managing to tie together not just the threads of the episode but the ideas that drive the show – of course, it brings together Bender’s plot and the main attraction, using the former to tie up the latter, but I also enjoy the way it manages to bring together ideas that drive the show; it’s a wonderful case of Futurama delivering the spirit of Three’s Company without any specific reference and so creating a larger-than-life extension of real human behaviours. Leela saving the day by getting Amy’s hookup to talk about his boring job isn’t just hilarious and it isn’t just an the show delivering emotional sincerity and human connection through its comedy, it’s an example of the show taking pleasure in knowledge for its own sake. It isn’t just that this guy is pleased by getting to drop knowledge on this obscure topic, it’s that the show takes effort to get that information right (or at least sounding right). This never quite all squares into greatness, but it does manage to hit entertaining.

Title Card: Not based on the novel by James Fenimore Cooper
Cartoon Billboard: “Chick And Double Chick”, 1946

The first act is pretty funny as yet another riff on sleazy car salesmen, a concept going back very far in Groening shows. The jokes about Amy falling for cheap sales tricks are pretty average, but it does layer in some good ones – Victor’s raised eyebrow in response to “My parents are paying and they’re incredibly rich!” is great, and “No dog food for Victor tonight!” recontextualises his hypercompetence as desperation in a hilarious way. Speaking of great lines, this really feels like the point where the writers have nailed Fry’s offbeat way to articulate a thought – “So, what? Shorts?” is great and “No wonder you’ve been staying at the back of conga lines lately!” is a classic Fry non-sequitur. This also somehow manages to make Bender have that ‘pushed to the background only to become funnier’ energy despite being the protagonist of his own subplot! 

“Valentine’s Day? Oh crap, I forgot to get a girlfriend again!”

This is the exact point where the writers lock into Zoidberg’s character, and indeed they do it with one line: “Oh, so it’s a coincidence that Zoidberg is desperately poor and miserably lonely?” (“For your information, it’s because he’s hideous!”). This has one of the funniest science jokes the show ever did with Bender advertising his dating service as “discreet and discrete”. There is an unfortunate transphobic gag about Zapp Brannigan dating a trans woman.

The characters pass by the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey with an ‘out of order’ sign on it. Malfunctioning Eddy advertises a Plymouth V’ger, a dual reference to the device in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and the Plymouth Voyager. Amy has ‘cross your heart seat belts’, a reference to Cross Your Heart bras. The only gas station on Mercury is Hg’s Fuel, which is a pun on the chemical symbol for mercury. Septuple A is a reference to Triple A, the American Automobile Association. Beat Romeo is a reference to Alpha Romeo. Bender’s subplot about ‘rear-end collisions’ is probably a riff on the controversy of the Ford Pinto. The two books labelled P and NP is a reference to the P vs NP Problem.

Iconic Moments: 1. “Shut up, baby, I know it!”
Biggest Laugh: