Futurama, Season Eight, Episode Four, “The Thief Of Baghead”

Written by: Dan Vebber
Directed by: Edmund Fong
DN’s Ranking: Bad / NONESSENTIAL / Essential

“Can I touch the water?”
“I wouldn’t. But I’m smart.”

I always have a really good time with this one and then have to admit it’s actually pretty slight afterwards; it’s a really good example of a lot of basic aspects of the show, including the fact that the CC years amped up the quality of the art. I love the scifi idea here – a genuinely blazingly original scifi spin on a basic, everyday concept that is itself tied into a few specific images to give it more resonance. The creators of a beloved cult hit animated show know the ego-boost of adulation and celebrity worship as well as any other celebrity, I’d imagine; I enjoy the satirical take on actors self-mythologising (“THE PROCESS!”), and the final twist that he came here specifically because it meant he could feed off ego alone instead of taking people’s souls life forces is so great. When you put it that way, he sounds like the victim of the episode rather than the bad guy! Certainly, recognising that one is egotistical and just wants to be liked and then channelling that into the least harmful direction sounds like a reasonable thing to do.

I enjoy how it’s tied into this spectacular images, too – perhaps the most spectacular imagery so far. The mushroom dog is the central image of the episode, a massive, unnecessarily detailed monster covered in breathing mushrooms and waving tentacles, but I also enjoy how the soul-stealing life-force-draining effect looks genuinely horrifying (which, of course, only makes it funnier when Bender deliberately causes it three times in a row). There’s a similar effect much earlier in the episode, where the combination of a gross design and completely normal voice for Bender’s papparazo boss is hilarious – something Rick & Morty often goes for and sometimes fails at.

“I’ll be in my day-off trailer!”

Underlying all of this is the show’s interesting use of Calculon. Calculon just straight up dies – not even at the climax, but before it! Then he disappears from the narrative without an acknowledgement, like a Tarantino character. Technically, I should be annoyed that a beloved side character is just tossed aside, but aside from the fact that this gets a great sequel later, that basic concept is so funny to me. Calculon isn’t exactly Seymour Skinner, and indeed the opening act gives me a lot of reasons not to take him seriously. He doesn’t have any real sympathetic feelings or real human need to love and be loved – he’s just a collection of jokes.

Title Card: If this show’s a-rockin’, don’t come a-knockin’
Cartoon Billboard: N/A

“A true photo buff wouldn’t use this for toilet paper.”

Beloved commentor Raven Wilder has occasionally pointed out jokes that seem written for me because of their wordplay, and this time I found myself thinking of him with the joke about having had digital cameras for a thousand years. I also enjoy the gag where Bender keeps interrupting the TV show Zoidberg is showing, forcing him to rewind – a really great riff on a basic TV convention. We here ‘smizmar’ used to describe a gender again.

“At least he died knowing I was great.”

The title is a parody of the film The Thief Of Bagdad. There’s a visual reference to the film They Live. Larvae Levin is a parody of Harvey Levin, founder of TMZ. Selena Go-bot is a parody of both Selena Gomez and the Go-bots cartoon, and Parts Hilton is a parody of Paris Hilton. Langdon Cobb riffs on the image of the Unknown Comic. Us People combines Us Weekly and People Magazine. Leela combines William Shakespeare with hip-hop musician will.i.am. Cobb’s butler drops a reference to Battlestar Galactica. Zoidberg drops a parody of the film Faster, Pussycat! Kill, Kill! Cobb drops a reference to Rigel 7, the home planet of Kang and Kodos from The Simpsons. There’s a poster parodying Girls Gone Wild.

Iconic Moments: N/A
Biggest Laugh:

Next Week: “Zapp Dingbat”. “We’re under attack and the wedding’s off. Kif, return fire and the cake.”