Futurama, Season Eight, Episode Eleven, “31st Century Fox”

Written by: Patric M Verrone
Directed by: Edmund Fong
DN’s Ranking: Bad / NONESSENTIAL / Essential

“Ah, yes, foxhunting. If there’s one thing I know, it’s everything about it.”

This one feels like it has really low ambitions and hits them perfectly. The central joke takes an idea identified by beloved commentor Raven Wilder all the way back in “Fear Of A Bot Planet” – people (especially Bender) treating a robot version of a thing like the actual thing even though it doesn’t translate at all when you think about it more than four seconds – and pushes it to the absolute extreme in absurdity. Like, the starting point is Bender being outraged at a robot fox being hunted, and it deliberately keeps escalating the stupidity of the exercise. I used to think the final twist was a bit too much a turn of the knife; I’m more relaxed about it now, but I can still sense that “31st Century Fox” has a more experimental attitude about it.

There are nonessential episodes of the Fox run that I still believe have a level of thoughtfulness put into their intent and structure; “War Is The H Word” and “The Deep South” are two of my favourites, never rising above entertaining, never falling below it, and still having a sense of confidence and substance to them. “31st Century Fox” feels different – this feels like they really were making it up as they went along. Each step in a Fox-era plot feels like they at least spent time not just working out where they were trying to go, but going back and cleaning up the whole to make it flow in a comical way if not an entirely logical one. This feels a little more slapdash – it’s funny and filled with funny lines, but the beats aren’t connected in the funniest possible way.

“I’m not giving up yet!”
“I am.”
“I already did.”

You can see it in the even more ‘meh’ than usual ending. It’s not the apotheosis of a genuine exploration of an issue the way “The Problem With Popplers” points out the casual cruelty we operate on with animals, it’s a “we weren’t really thinking this through at all” dismissal. To be clear, I think it’s hilarious that Leela basically gives up about a third of the way through the episode, I’m just noting the tone here, and perhaps figuring out one of the reasons (beyond general cynicism) that people gave up on the CC era.

Title Card: Today’s episode brought to you by the letter [Alienese symbol]
Cartoon Billboard: N/A

“And now we hunt the most dangerous game, aside from lawn darts.”

Patrick Stewart guest stars as the hunter and it really feels like he’s pulling heavily from his Avery Bullock performance on American Dad – hitting one note and having enormous fun doing it. Bender obsessing over something immediately after learning about it is never not funny to me. Once again, the animation is absolutely, unnecessarily gorgeous – I love the designs of the hunters’ uniforms and I love the deep browns and greens of the forest.

“We’re hot on his heels! Aha – one of his heels!”

The title is a reference to the company 20th Century Fox. The plot references “A Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell. The various uniform references: Dune by Frank Herbert, Federation uniforms from Star Trek, Storm Trooper uniforms from Star Wars, the main character’s outfit from Barbarella, a Pan Am uniform from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Sean Connery’s costume in Zardoz. Bender’s fox-hunter uniform is lifted from the film The 10th Victim. Squidward Scissorhands is a combination of film character Edward Scissorhands and Squidward of Spongebob Squarepants.

“You remember when you said ‘nobody leave’, and then you turned your head slightly? He left an hour before that.”

A highway sign drops a reference to the Bruce Springsteen song “Born To Run”. Farnsworth quotes a catchphrase from Get Smart. Newmar’s Own Catnip is a blending of Paul Newman’s “Newman’s Own” brand with Julie Newmar, who famously played Catwoman on the Sixties TV version of Batman. The ‘mission accomplished’ banner is a reference to a similar banner shown at an infamous speech given by US President George W Bush. Bender reveals his anti-gravity snare with a ‘boo-wop’ sound effect Bob Clampett often used to end many of his cartoons. 

Iconic Moments: N/A
Biggest Laugh:

Next Week: “Viva Mars Vegas”. “Shoot him, Blind Joe. And let this be a lesson to any other albino lobsters thinking of robbing our casino.”