Written by: Michael Rowe
Directed by: Crystal Chesny-Thompson
DN’s Ranking: BAD / Nonessential / Essential
“You know the floor safe where you keep ten grand? There’s five grand in there.”
I’m convinced the one-two punch of this and “Attack Of The Killer APP” is what largely confirmed people’s skepticism towards the first revival. It’s not as aggressively dire as the previous episode, but it is pretty much carried by a combination of ideas – one that could have worked if they put any effort into it and one that was ipso facto, prima facie, raptus regaliter bad. Continuing the theme of ripped-from-the-headlines plotting, this largely draws on the US campaign for marriage equality (with the Supreme Court striking down all state bans on same-sex marriage roughly five years after this episode aired). I find it pretty unlikely that the series could ever have generated interesting satire of the marriage equality issue (anymore than I expected great things from their satire of feminism) but they could very well have generated funny comedy from it; beloved commentor Raven Wilder has broken down how much of the robot-versions-of-things comedy of Futurama comes from how poorly any metaphor actually fits the concept. Sadly, it seems at every turn the writers chose the least interesting, most obvious take on the material – right down to homophobes being hypocritically turned on by what they’re attacking. Many before me have pointed out how this kind of story makes out that queer people are apparently largely oppressed by other queer people; I would also point out that it’s hacky and boring.
(The one exception is when Bender points out all the forms of marriage that are already legal and ‘interracial’ is represented by the two aliens from “Let This Be Your Last Battlefield”. The episode is famous for being preachy, but I also found it quite racist – taking rhetoric like “we uplifted black people out of savagery!” at its word rather than as a racist justification for slavery – so it being used as an offhand example of justice made me laugh pretty hard.)
More frustratingly, this is the beginning of the show’s tendency to pair up almost random cast members. I’ve seen people talk about this as if it were creative bankruptcy on the part of the writers, but I have a more charitable read that they wanted to do right by the characters (and, likely, cast members) that had been underserved by the Fox run, particularly Amy. Plus I think they were starting to regard their characters with sentimentality, particularly Zoidberg. It’s in the same vein as the rest of the CC run in that it had amazing highs next to dire lows, and it had the misfortune to open with one of its most dire examples.
“Pardon my language, but I’ve had it with you ruffling my petticoats!”
I know this sounds like a “such small portions!” joke given how much I’ve complained about it in the past, but this just throws away the Amy/Kiff relationship with a few cheap gags, gets Amy and Bender together with a few cheap gags, then abandons the whole thing at the end for a return to the status quo with a cheap gag, and with the exception of that last one, it’s not even funny cheap gags! One thing this show tended to take seriously was the relationships between characters (with the delightful exception of them all hating Zoidberg), and that has acted as a ballast to build the comedy around. It’s not that it’s not funny to chuck away a serious relationship, it’s that it’s not funny for this show to do it, and it’s one thing I never really waver from personally. I always like to describe this show as 75% ironic and 25% serious, and that’s a rare and special balance.
Title Card: Dictated but not read
Cartoon Billboard: N/A
George Takei guest stars as his head and neck, and he makes an absolute meal out of practically nothing. Oh my. Once again I look at contemporary reviews and find I’m in the minority for disliking it. One thing this episode does have going for it is that it has a lot more sparkling dialogue than I remembered; almost everything outside the actual robosexual marriage works for me, especially the tornado sequence – if nothing else, this episode is gorgeous. I love the circusitis scene and it baffles me that it only pops up the once – there must be a few cut scenes developing it. There’s an interesting subtextual moment – Fry and Leela are sitting closer together than everyone else when they all go out to drink with Amy, implying their relationship is on-again at the moment. The funniest gay joke in the episode is the “no Brokebacking” sign outside the Wong place. “My parents may be evil, but at least they’re stupid.” = Would that it were so simple.
“I HATED JIM!”
Bender’s vandalism spree is a reference to the graffiti artist Invader. The house in a tornado is a reference to The Wizard Of Oz. Bender is imprisoned on Will Riker’s Island, a combo reference to the Star Trek: The Next Generation character and the real-life prison Riker’s Island. “No Brokebacking” is a reference to the movie Brokeback Mountain. URL delivers a Vulcan Nerve pinch in a reference to Star Trek and quips “Mama said Spock you out” in a reference to the song “Mama Said Knock You Out” by LL Cool J. The Nixon “despair” poster is a reference to the Obama “HOPE” poster by Shepard Fairey. The slogan for Channel √2 News is “Fair and balanced”, the Fox News slogan. The TV spot against robosexual marriage is a direct reference to a commercial by the National Organisation for Marriage. Forbidden Hollywood Planet is a dual reference to Hollywood Planet and the film Forbidden Planet, and it contains references to Star Wars, Iron Man, Elvis Presley, and Lassie. Nick Swardson’s character Gay Robot appears in crowd scenes. Randy’s line “Our poodle has two daddies!” is a reference to the children’s book Heather Has Two Mommies. Gearwich Village is a reference to Greenwich Village, an area i lower Manhattan. The (ugh) pre-op transformer line is a reference to Transformers.
Iconic Moments: N/A
Next Week: “The Duh-Vinci Code”. “I may not be clever, but I have a good heart. That’s what my Mom used to say.” / “She was a wise woman.” / “Also, that I’m not much to look at.” / “A wise woman indeed.”