Futurama, Season Eight, Episode Twelve, “Viva Mars Vegas”

Written by: Josh Weinstein
Directed by: Frank Marino
DN’s Ranking: Bad / NONESSENTIAL / Essential

“Maybe Vegas isn’t the best place for people like you.”
“What? It’s full of fat guys in sandals.”

This one is a hard one to judge because it appeals to my love of heists. Actually, scratch that, it makes it extremely easy to judge – this rules. It’s exactly the kind of straightforward comedy storytelling I love about the Fox era – this is to heists what “A Big Piece Of Garbage” is to disaster movies, where it deliberately uses some ridiculous scifi invention and some loose logic to deliver the basic plot beats of the genre. Maybe comedy plotting is distinct from dramatic plotting too – this manages to sneak in a few plot beats under our nose (literally, in the case of the spoiled shrimp) that come into play later. One of the upsides of comedies over dramas is that you can throw in a plot point that doesn’t make much sense as long as it’s funny; on the other hand, maybe comedies have to have the payoff be even funnier than the setup. That certainly works here.

“This much money could feed a small starving planet! But it doesn’t!”

I also enjoy how it uses Amy’s character. She’s always been very ill-defined, and the CC era’s attempts to fix that have had mixed results – I think because outside of being rich, spoiled, and an enthusiastic proponent of casual sex she doesn’t have much of a motivation. I think the writers in these seasons liked the idea of rehabilitating her the way they were also doing for Zoidberg; to try and make her into a more heroic figure, which means making her smarter and with a more sympathetic motivation. I feel this episode threads the needle between her various contradictory traits more effectively than any other, with her spoiledness (“What’s rent?”) next to her end solution to the central moral conflict.

Title Card: Made by hand (and tentacle)
Cartoon Billboard: “Colorama”

“Aw, loosen up. You can’t take it with you. Now I’m heading down to the casino and I’m taking my money with me.”

The title sequence is made in live action, and this was used in advertising for the season. This is also one of my favourite Zoidberg episodes; in particular, there’s something about the fact that he apparently reaches his limit in eating gross things that tickles me. 

“I’m enjoying the casino business. You meet a lot of colourful characters.”

The title is a reference to the song “Viva Las Vegas”, most famously sung by Elvis Presley. Zoidberg sings a parody of “Big Spender” from the musical Sweet Charity. The Binks Armoured Express truck is an extended riff on Jar-Jar Binks from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. The Professor quips a parody of the movie Dude, Where’s My Car? Fry’s tattoo is a lift of a joke from The Hangover: Part II. Zoidberg giggling when being poked in the belly is a reference to the Pillsbury Doughboy. The Robot Mafia wields the guns from Halo. 

Iconic Moments: N/A
Biggest Laugh: The increasingly ridiculous charts in the chart room (beginning with the chart showing how often they use the chart room) were great, but I have to give it to this.

Next Week: “Naturama”. “I don’t have a name. I’m a salmon.”