Futurama, Season Eight, Episode Eight, “Fun On A Bun”

Written by: Dan Vebber
Directed by: Stephen Sondoval
DN’s Ranking: Bad / NONESSENTIAL / Essential

“It’s July, right? Let’s wait three months and go to Oktoberfest!”

I can never get over how much I enjoy the half-assed way the CC seasons play with Fry and Leela’s relationship – to me (and to Leela apparently) it’s obvious that they’re in a relationship now, but there’s still room for Fry to be caught off guard with it. I do think it’s an unfortunate flipside that the episode also dives into an interesting topic but then doesn’t really do much with it. A really thorough exploration of Fry’s boorish behaviour – where it comes from and where it goes – would make a fine episode; indeed, I do believe this to be one of the most profound strengths of The Simpsons, and the different character of both Futurama and the, uh, characters within it could lead to some different conclusions. We are at the point where Fry is a little more responsible, where Leela is a little more laid back, where both of them have come to realise they’re in a comfortable and happy status quo. There’s room for self-indulgence and an upper limit, and we all see a little better where that limit is, so it’s a little frustrating that it descends into riffing on Neanderthals.

“People in your day were primitive and crude.”
“Well at least we were hammered!”

But this is complaining that something good isn’t great. I enjoy the maturing structural play here – nothing on the level of “Three Hundred Big Boys” or the movies, but letting us stay with Leela before pulling back to reveal what happened to Fry is a nice, elegant move. And, of course, it’s funny as hell. I’m thinking back to one of the first insights I presented about this show – that its lower ambitions gave it a very different flavour from The Simpsons. I do think that each episode benefits enormously from having some kind of clear goal just to get through this one episode – some kind of idea that keeps us driving forward, even if it’s as banal as how funny disaster movies are. This episode slips a bit because it does have a few goals but switches inelegantly between them – not fatal, but drawing attention to missed potential.

Title Card: 50% more colors than bargain-brand cartoons.
Cartoon Billboard: N/A

“And the worst part is, I had to have the break-up sex by myself!”

Interestingly, assistant director Aimee Steinberger described this as her most time-intensive and gruelling episode. My understanding is that Neanderthals died out because they did, indeed, interbreed with homo sapiens to the point of disappearing – this episode mixes fact and misinformation about Ice Age era species in a manner outright delirious. It finally clicked for me watching this episode that orange and purple are complimentary colours. It’s possible to draw connections between the ending here and white people’s treatment of minorities (particularly Native Americans), so I recommend not drawing that connection. 

“They may not have technology, like us, but we have something they don’t have: technology.”

Bender places a giant set of ribs on Zapp’s plate a la the closing credits of The Flintstones. The plot point of Leela wiping her memories of Fry is a reference to Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. The history machine refers to mammoths as Snuffleupagus, a character from Sesame Street. The messenger raven is lifted from Game Of Thrones. Hermes makes a pun on Harry Belafonte. One of the Neanderthals is modelled on Raquael Welch in the film One Million Years BC.

Iconic Moments: N/A
Biggest Laugh: The giant sloth attacking Hermes technically made me laugh the longest, but I think it’s more accurate to say this.

Next Week: “Free Will Hunting”. “Thanks to you, I went on a soul-searching journey. I hate those!”