Futurama, Season Two, Episode Thirteen, “Bender Gets Made”

Written By: Eric Horsted
Directed By: Peter Avanzino
DN’s Ranking: Bad / NONESSENTIAL / Essential

Fun story: this is an episode I haven’t revisited much, not because there’s not much to it but because my season two DVD got scratched and that was the only episode affected (“Wait, that’s not a fun story at all!). Unfortunately, it’s not really a classic that I’ve been sleeping on; the whole thing is kind of forgettable to the point that the fact that the jokes are still funny is the only thing stopping me from putting it in the ‘bad’ category. Robot versions of things continues to be hilarious, but outside the first act, that’s basically all this episode has got – well, that and the also hilarious parodies of mafia diction (the only thing stopping ‘this here crew list lists a robot on this crew here’ from being a line from The Sopranos is the word ‘robot’). In fact, we’re hitting a consistent pattern where an episode that makes the ‘robot versions’ joke the main attraction ends up pretty weak; the ones that work are ones that bring in some potent satirical or character work. A good Futurama episode doesn’t have to be a brilliant insight into politics or religion or the universe, but it does have to have something to say. There’s something kind of there in how Bender is selfish right up until it affects his friends in any serious way, but the transition from chasing the mafia job to saving his friends doesn’t feel as interesting as has been done or will be done later.

That said, if this episode’s jokes are the only thing worth really talking about, you can see some really great variety of Futurama comedy. The mafia diction is a really great extension of the show’s control over the English language; I’ve read that one philosophy of poetry is poetic compression in which an idea is expressed as efficiently as possible, and this is the exact opposite – a poetic redundancy. I’m also tickled by the runner about Clamps, which is a case of a one-note gag that’s made funnier by playing it louder and louder, until the absurdity of a guy whose whole identity is contained by his one-word name becomes almost too much to bear. There are also multiple cases of the classic ‘zig when you expect to zag’ jokes, with my favourite being when Leela manages to break Bender’s arm off by rubbing her rope on it. The humour of Futurama is very traditionally vaudevillian when you get right down to it – an extremely simple case of a setup followed by a punchline, and it’s gotten very good at finding not just funny ways of jumping in odd directions but finding the perfect way to do it; the gag of the optometrist with slides is a perfect articulation of that, because the gag is already funny and the precision of a toucan playing tennis is the funniest way of telling it.

Title Card: Simulcast on crazy people’s fillings
Cartoon Billboard: “Up To Mars”, 1930

The plot about Leela being blinded is pretty funny and a great way to knock her down a peg from pure comic foil as she’s too proud to admit she needs help. The chihuahua in the hospital is a very Mystery Science Theater 3000 gag in that it’s a very specific reference that’s absurd enough to make me laugh even without context – very reminiscent of Homer singing the Meow Mix jingle. This episode contains what might be the world’s longest spittake, and definitely the world’s second-funniest spittake gag after Shortpacked!. There was originally a gag revealing that Bender was replaced by Flexo at some point that was deleted because it would have irritated fans (presumably, having learned from the whole “The Principal And The Pauper” debacle). I love Fry’s clever solution to having to fly and shoot simultaneously.

“Now, since we’ll be committin’ crimes which may be against the law, I suggest you have an alibi.”

The Chihuahua doctor is a reference to a Taco Bell ad. The robot cop reads a Marmaduke comic. MmmTV is a reference to MTV. Sammy “The Mechanical Bull” Gravano is a reference to real-life mobster Sammy “The Bull” Gravano. Bender says “I always wanted to be a gangster”, which is lifted from the opening narration of Goodfellas.Iconic Moments: None!
Biggest Laugh: This clip has the decency to pick the two best moments that I couldn’t pick between.

Next week: “Mother’s Day”