Futurama, Season Four, Episode One, “Kif Gets Knocked Up A Notch”

Written by: Bill Odenkirk
Directed by: Wes Archer
DN’s Ranking: Bad / NONESSENTIAL / Essential

This is my favourite of the Amy-focused episodes, which is pretty reflective of how the show treated her in general because it has so many crucial things stopping it from reaching greatness. Much like “Put Your Head On My Shoulders”, it comes within spitting distance of really understanding Amy in a fascinating way. I believe we’re all driven by impulses that contradict each other – the absolute funniest thing about being a prison abolitionist is tripping up fellow abolitionists who suddenly lose their convictions when someone they don’t like commits a crime, even as I understand they’re caught between an honest belief that prisons make the world worse and an even equally more honest belief in revenge feeling really good. A good storyteller will put their contradictory impulses in different characters and watch them interact, and Futurama is very good about that sort of thing. Bender is all the most impulsive, short-sighted desires for sensation and easy good vibes. Fry is all the emotional sincerity and idealism at the expense of practical intelligence. Leela is all the intelligence and practicality at the expense of personal satisfaction. The Professor is all the references; Hermes is all the pedanticness; Zoidberg is a rare different example in that he exists as an outlet for an action that everyone else does to him i.e. he exists so the other characters can bully him.

Amy doesn’t really have much of a place in the show’s outlook; the one thing she really does is misogynistic jibes at Leela. The one thing I can really think of that brings her close to the show’s morality is her lazy thoughtlessness, and while in one way she’s made redundant in that by Fry, in another she actually creates a perfect foil. As I said in “Put Your Head On My Shoulders”, the difference between her and Fry is that she’s rich, but another difference is that she’s female where he’s male and Chinese where he’s white. In this episode, we have a young woman who is put in a position where she might have to have children she definitely doesn’t want because she would rather spend her time partying and surfing, and the story is deeply empathetic to her. At no point does the episode take her feelings anything less than seriously. You compare it with how the show generally treats Amy’s partying; rather than being a joke about how shallow she is, it’s a genuine story, and the effect feels distinct from stories about Leela, Bender, or even Fry. I feel as if I do understand the perspective of a twentysomething woman who’d rather drink and party than raise children; I can see her experiences as a metaphor for my own. This makes it more disappointing that they story skips over her decision to come back to Kif. It feels like that empathy only going so far.

Title Card: Bigfoot’s Choice
Cartoon Billboard: “It’s A Greek Life”, 1936

Unfortunately, this is also dogged by making Kif even more pathetic than usual in his love for Amy. The frustrating thing is that I know exactly what they’re going for and it’s not an unhealthy urge – there are people whose highest passion is not some great achievement in their career or to be The Best at something or to achieve deep knowledge about a particular subject or to make new discoveries, but to have a family and get to see people they care about every day. The movie Say Anything… is a pretty great story about a guy who comes to realise he doesn’t actually want a career beyond being a good boyfriend. Kif takes that basic idea and balloons it to unhealthy levels; beloved commentor Liliburne once remarked that he disliked some of the toxic masculinity character beats because they reminded him of things he’d done, and Kif’s behaviour here feels like the worst of my codependence amplified to horrific levels (I cringe through him sitting by the phone for over an hour waiting for Amy). On the other hand, this also contains some great, classic Futurama scifi riffing on Kif’s biology; I love the gag of him offering Amy the floor of his room while he takes the ceiling, climbing on it like a gecko, and the writers have a lot of fun inventing both biological and cultural processes for Kif’s pregnancy as well as a centrifuge paternity tester. 

Amy falling off her board shortly after expertly using it is hilarious both times. The moon saving the day in the explosive decompression scene is a great joke-slash-plot-point. There’s a little scene in which Bender is stashed in a closet with his head removed for no reason; there was originally a scene setting that up, but somehow I find this lack of explanation funnier. The word ‘smizmar’ returns here, now settled as being a nongendered word for ‘love interest’. Maurice LaMarche’s reading of Kif’s monologue about their commitment is hilarious for being so heartfelt even as it twists the knife for Amy. I absolutely love the tadpoles for some of them having two eyes and some only one. I love the end solution to the conflict as well – it reminds me of the solution to the Morpheus vs Lucifer plot in The Sandman in how the writers find a clever way to resolve the plot with as little conflict as possible. There’s a really great line in a moment where all the characters are talking at once where Fry says “My face was stuck in a pizza.” Interestingly, Fry only gets nine lines this entire episode.

“You disgust me. Go on.”

The Holo-Shed and its failure is a riff on the holodeck from Star Trek: The Next Generation and the fact that it seemed to fail all the time. The doctor of the Nimbus is a clear reference to McCoy of Star Trek. The docking bay doors are a reference to the James Bond film You Only Live Twice. The title is a rare internal reference, referring to Elzar’s catchphrase.

Iconic Moments: “If anyone needs me, I’ll be in the Angry Dome!” | “Spare me your space age technobabble, Attila the Hun!” | “Everyone we invited is here!” / “Also Zoidberg!”
Biggest Laugh:

Next Week: “Leela’s Homeworld”. “Isn’t that the same machine that makes noses?” / “It can do other things! Why shouldn’t it?”