Futurama, Season Seven, Episode Three, “Benderama”

Written by: Aaron Ehasz
Directed by: Crystal Chesney-Thompson
DN’s Ranking: Bad / Nonessential / ESSENTIAL

“I like how it’s not killing us so far!”

This absolutely deserves to be considered amongst any of this show’s hilarious scifi riffs. The grey goo scenario is a classic one, originally suggested by K Eric Drexler, in which nanotechnology that has been given the ability to replicate and insufficiently programmed enough that it simply replicates itself ad infinitum. Drexler would go on to regret coining the phrase; he and other technology experts have observed that a ‘grey goo’ scenario is extraordinarily unlikely even if the technology is ever developed and that arms control is a far more pressing issue. I think this speaks to how vivid and memorable the image is, and in fact I would say that “Benderama” illustrates why. Bender isn’t really a robot, of course – he’s a human being’s raw id with all physical consequences taken away. We don’t question the thought of him guzzling up all the world’s resources because that’s basically what he does every day, and we get why he does that because drinking beer, smoking cigars, watching TV, and banging hookerbots feels really really good. It’s easy to believe that robots would devour the world to reproduce because that’s what people do in the same position. It’s a comprehensible motivation even if it’s utter projection, whereas the nuances of arms control are harder to relate to.

What I really like about this episode is how it shows off the strengths of Futurama. The thing that tickles me is that even Farnsworth’s justification for building the replicator in the first place is so hilariously specific and weird – this show doesn’t really invent things, it invents new and absurd justifications for old things. Time travel, alien biology, God – it spins totally nonsense yet oddly sensible explanations for how this stuff works. I have often noted how the show recycles the imagery of the past with a relentless zeal; its creativity comes in making up a stupid reason we’re seeing it. I find myself thinking of “A Bicyclops Built For Two”, in which the writers came up with a brilliant one-liner to justify the reason for the whole plot (“Hey lady, you got any idea how much it costs to rent a tux that changes shape?”). Some people in this world have a talent for bullshitting, and one way of looking at Futurama is that it’s a vehicle for these people. 

“Razza frazzer, two things! Ooh, razzer frazzer duplicator.”

Title Card: Others ask ‘what if?’, we ask ‘why if?’
Cartoon Billboard: “Hollywood Capers”, 1935

“Hey, I know that guy!”

Patton Oswalt guest stars as the ugly monster and he brilliantly wanders across the spectrum of rage – from total repression to all out fury – without ever sounding like anything other than a lonely nerd. The absolutely cruelty this episode lays on the poor guy is hilarious to me – just fuck this poor bastard in particular – and weirdly enough I think it’s compensated by the equal amounts of cruelty to the mini-Benders. I also enjoy the little detail that he wears sandals. Linda ends up the MVP of this episode. Fry and Farnsworth’s drunken conversation is how many of my drunken conversations go.

“This doesn’t taste like old man water.”

The title is a reference to some TV show. The dead bender montage is set to “Rock And Roll Pest Control” by the Presidents Of The United States Of America. The narrator of The Scary Door riffs on a line from “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” by The Beatles, and the plot riffs on “The Brain Center At Whipple’s”. The duplicator’s name is a riff on the Banach-Tarski paradox. Bender introduces his copies with a catchphrase from the show Newhart. There’s another riff on King Kong when big Bender dies and Fry falls to his knees. Bender compares the alien to Edward James Olmos.

Iconic Moments: N/A
Biggest Laugh: This made me laugh so hard I had to pause it for like five minutes. It really captures how a drunk speaker can skip over five or six thoughts to make their point.

Next Week: “The Tip Of The Zoidberg”. “What started out as a pleasant afternoon of drugs and surgery has not gone as planned.”