Futurama, Season Four, Episode Seven, “Jurassic Bark”

Written by: Eric Kaplan
Directed by: Swinton O Scott III
DN’s Ranking: Bad / Nonessential / ESSENTIAL

So, one of my most major moments of heretical Futurama fan opinions has always been that this episode is wildly overrated. I felt that the emotional beat that the episode ends on is unearned, relying more on appealing to the viewer’s generic love of dogs than in anything particular about Seymour; I love dogs to bits but I love a good story just as much, and I never felt the story building up to it was any good. As a result, I actually hadn’t seen this episode in a fairly long time. Watching it now, I haven’t turned as strongly as I did for “The Luck Of The Fryrish”, but I have turned a little. I still think the basic story is pretty weak; it’s absolutely impossible for me to take the story of Bender’s jealousy and redemption all that seriously because it relies on him being arbitrarily dumb and just as arbitrarily insightful afterwards, but it’s impossible for me to find it funny because his attempted destruction of Seymour is cruel without being hilariously, stupidly cruel. It’s actually worse than “A Pharaoh To Remember” because at least that was funny in its cruelty. Meanwhile, Fry’s plot is basically shaggy and unoriginal; there are some funny beats, like Fry’s weird family and the relentless grossness of Panucci’s Pizza, but otherwise it’s a Greatest Hits list of dog owner moments.

But over the years, I have discussed this episode with others. One friend observed that the major climatic beat isn’t just Seymour waiting forever, it’s Fry actively choosing not to resurrect him. This is a case of Fry deciding to sacrifice his self-interest for what he perceives as the best interests of someone else after recognising his own insignificance – a moment of maturity. What’s sad is that this is a moment of false maturity; he has inarguably made the wrong decision even as his reasoning made sense. In retrospect, it comes off as a dry run for Bender’s Big Score, in which Fry sacrifices his own happiness for the sake of what will make Leela happy. Zoom in and look at this as a complete story, though, and it feels like a warning against trying to calculate all the angles. For once in his life, Fry goes against his instincts and makes a calculated long-term decision, it was exactly the wrong one, and now he’ll never even know. That is pretty sad.

Title Card: Not affiliated with Futurama Brass Knuckle Co.
Cartoon Billboard: “Hiss And Make Up”, 1943

Normally, I avoid the most spoilery frames for the featured image, but in this case the needless cruelty of posting the saddest picture seemed appropriate for Futurama. Originally, this episode was to center around Fry’s mother being fossilised, before the writers realised maybe they should tone it the fuck down a bit. There is one funny and genuinely interesting scene when Fry falls in love with Seymour by projecting his own insecurities onto him; I figure if more had been done with this, I’d be more invested in the particulars of Fry and Seymour’s relationship. I do think the origin of Seymour’s name is very cute. With an offhand line of Bender’s (“Needless to say, I was mortified.”), I wonder if Bender is the character who is funniest when acting out of character. Leela suddenly being callous or cruel is even funnier, but it also feels more baked into who she is. When Fry falls into the freezerdoodle, we see Nibbler’s eye in the desk and Nibbler and Fry’s shadow on the wall, which is weird and inexplicable and will obviously never come up again, obviously. The random wrestling match between Amy and Leela is the second-funniest joke centered around needlessly sexualising the women that this show ever did. Once again, we get a peek into the modern day, and once again I’m tickled by how grounded it is compared to the future (“I am one hungover cryogenicist.”). 

“Acting like a moron won’t bring your dog back!”
“Then all hope is lost!”

The title is a reference to Billy And The Cloneasaurus Jurassic Park. Fry dances the Hustle. The paleontologist who discovers Seymour is Ben Beeler, a reference to Futurama producer/writer Ken Keeler. The final scene is set to “I Will Wait For You” sung by Connie Francis. Seymour’s fate is a reference to multiple dogs who waited by their dead masters graves or ports of call, including Hachiko and Shep. Dolemite is a real mineral, but it also doubles in this case as a reference to the film Dolemite. Bender references Koko the gorilla. Fry makes the Vulcan salute and says “Live long and prosper”, a reference to Star Trek. Farnsworth’s description of dolemite is a reference to the Shaft theme song. When Seymour searches for Fry, there’s a sign referencing plot points from “I Married Marge” and “Natural Born Kissers” on The Simpsons. Bender’s robo-puppy is a reference to Tekno The Robotic Puppy.

Iconic Moments: “Interesting! No, wait. The other thing. Tedious.” | “I’m a Professor! Why isn’t anyone listening to me?” | “Professor! Lava! Hot!”
Biggest Laugh: The sheer grossness of Seymour’s incorporation into Panucci’s Pizza kills me.

Next Week: “Crimes Of The Hot”. “I must go now, to help collect cans on Jupiter. Peace out, y’all!”