Futurama, Season Seven, Episode Ten, “All The President’s Heads”

Written by: Josh Weinstein
Directed by: Stephen Sandoval
DN’s Ranking: Bad / Nonessential / ESSENTIAL

“Well, it’s six o’clock. I guess we’ll have to deliver that human heart tomorrow. Good work people!”

How much do you suppose one’s enjoyment of any given Futurama episode is connected to one’s enjoyment of the facts and references it’s built on? I enjoy this episode a lot because I know and take pleasure in Civil War-era US history – I’m no Lin-Manuel Miranda, but I definitely recognise every single joke in this episode, and I delight in the jokes deliberately undermining the verisimilitude (“What are you looking at, you British bastards?!”). One way to look at this show is that it captures the feeling of goofing off in history class. I think my favourite thing about this episode is how well it actually captures Ben Franklin, in spirit if not in word – I think he would be very amused by the Franklinator. The funny thing about this show is that it’s known for being smart, but it’s specifically smart in the ‘knowing a lot of facts and references’ way; what separates it from something like Family Guy or the obnoxious nerd at the party is that it uses these references as a jumping off point for punchlines rather than simply recreating them.

I also enjoy the particular flavour of wacky time travel shenanigans – it’s an excellent and hilarious extrapolation of the head-in-a-jar technology, something mostly unexplained by the series until now, and I enjoy the unique ruleset cooked up for the episode. It’s soft science fiction, even by this show’s standards; it’s about the level of Back To The Future, where it works much more on an emotional logic than on hard rules, which is great when it leads to things like mod-era Zoidberg. The only thing I don’t really like about this episode is the climax; I do enjoy the English versions of Futurama things, but the jokes most definitely cross into being actually hacky rather than ironically hacky, which this this show very rarely ventures into, and the end just kind of fades out as opposed to builds up to a spectacular final absurdity.

“You’re lying!”
“He’s George Washington. He tends not to do that.”

Title Card: Apply viewing oil now
Cartoon Billboard: Zoich (2010)

“I’m not a still, I just smell like one!”

Incredibly, that’s Dave Herman as David Farnsworth – this might not be his best-acted role, but it’s certainly the one he disappears into most. Even more incredibly, David Farnsworth was a real person who did indeed betray George Washington, later to be hanged. Farnsworth says he’s explicitly related to Philo Farnsworth – not the inventor of television as he claims, but of the all-electronic televisor. Fry mostly falls to the background of this episode but I do love the whole night job gag. This may have the most offhand references to previous episodes, with nods to both Lars (he of the fabulous jars) and Fry banging his grandmother. 

“Why couldn’t my disgraced ancestor have lived in the NASCAR era?”

The title is a reference to the book and film All The President’s Men. Fry counting the dung beetles is a reference to Savant Syndrome and more specifically Rain Man. The Wall Footpath Journal is a parody of The Wall Street Journal. Tom Baker’s Doctor Who makes a cameo. British Zoidberg acts like the Minister Of Silly Walks from Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and part of the documentary is in the style of Terry Gilliam’s animations on the show. David Farnsworth mentions he’s married to one of the Spice Girls.

Iconic Moments: N/A
Biggest Laugh: I honestly believe this joke is up there with “I used to be with it”, if only for being the culmination of every joke about New Jersey.

Next Week: “Cold Warriors”. “Wait! I know where you can get some 20th Century cold virus without killing me!” / “Hush, lad! I’m totally in the zone!”