Futurama, Season Six, Episode Eight, “That Darn Katz!”

Written by: Josh Weinstein
Directed by: Frank Marino
DN’s Ranking: Bad / NONESSENTIAL / Essential

“He proved that fifty years ago, and he’s been coasting on it ever since!”

This episode is a pretty dumb idea that gets a pretty good execution. Of all the arbitrary pairings of characters the CC seasons will do, this feels the most arbitrary – Fry and the Professor is actually a pretty logical pairing whilst Bender and Hermes is at least bringing together a member of the main trio with an important secondary character, but Amy and Nibbler really feels like they put names in a hat and pulled out two. On top of that, the writers finally seem to remember that Amy is a grad student – indeed, that she ought to have graduated long ago (admittedly, right during the time the show was cancelled), and to be honest I find the absolute laziness of it incredibly funny the way I find the laziness of Fox-era Futurama funny. Amy’s character gets a bit of a retcon during the CC seasons to downplay her airheadedness; it edges so close to being a white guy trying to write an empowerment fantasy for women of colour – a futile and contemptible goal when WOC are much more capable of writing their empowerment fantasies than the rest of us will ever be – and it narrowly avoids this by it coming off more like they’re realising Amy is a more interesting protagonist this way.

“Miss Wong, I mind everything.

Part of it is that they’re using her as a vehicle for something they know intimately – the problems of a grad student. This is another great example of the overeducated writer’s room giving the rest of us insight into the culture of academia, like teachers who are exasperated by the mundane aspects of teaching and even have some right to be (absolutely love Dr Katz responding to “Imagine a world–” with “Oh god!”). Based on this episode, life for a student means trying to impress the most weary and cynical with genuine innovation and hoping to God you’re not plagiarised. Next to this is a story genuinely engaging with the fact that Nibbler is a full member of the crew, which I find compelling simply for shaking up the status quo in an honest way. It mirrors the way Fry and Leela are gradually and with much effort becoming an actual couple with awkward movement forwards and backwards. It has the vibe of genuine curiosity at how Nibbler could fit into the group dynamic with his full intelligence allowed to be shown at any time without losing the pet/owner dynamic he and Leela have.

“The conclusion is as inescapable as it is moronic.”

On top of all of this is the very amusing exploration of cats. The essential basic element of any comedy is a point of view, especially a classically constructed comedy like Futurama. It’s based around setting up your expectations and then subverting them; you expect things to go one way and they go another. This obviously depends upon an understanding of how the world works, and that’s usually pretty easy to classify – we’ve already talked about how Futurama in general has an apathetic cynical Gen Xer view of things. Within this specific episode, we take the viewpoint of someone who does not like cats, and while I love cats, I admit it’s pretty funny to see things from that point of view for a while. The jokes are at the expense of cats and cat owners, and I find the jokes mostly original enough to be funny. It all adds up to an episode that doesn’t reach any tremendous heights but is pretty fun to watch. 

Title Card: (or similar product)
Cartoon Billboard: “Scotty Finds A Home”, 1935

This is a rare case of another fake commercial cold open, this time for Cash Bone. Love the image of the cats descending on Planet Express. Definitely a top tier Futurama cliche twist with “You can’t just know something by assembling a committee of words – that’s it!”. Fry and Leela are apparently off again in this episode, as she laments being single. Others have expressed frustration with the series apparently backtracking, but I enjoy both the practical purpose this serves of allowing us to explore singledom and casual coupledom at will and the emotional subtext of a relationship in gentle flux. Incredibly, this is the first script Josh Weinstein wrote for Futurama despite being a prolific Simpsons contributor and a consulting producer for this show since 2001.

“I’m warning you – if I have to get cute it’s gonna get ugly!”

Both the episode title and the name of the human puppet are taken from the film That Darn Cat! The cold open drops a reference to the song “Dem Bones” by James Weldon Johnson and J Rosamond Johnson. Bender’s quip that the cat’s anus looks like an asterisk is a reference to the Kurt Vonnegut novel Breakfast Of Champions. The episode contains the second funniest reference to the Meow Mix jingle in the Groeningverse, which also doubles as a reference to Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. The cats and their spaceship is a reference to the film The Cat From Outer Space. A background gag combines a reference to the ‘hang in there kitty’ posters and lolcats. Katz drops references to Purina cat foods. 

Iconic Moments: “The horse says DOCTORATE DENIED.”
Biggest Laugh:

Next Week: “A Clockwork Origin”. “This is a cool way to die!”