Futurama, Season Nine, Episode Six, “Saturday Morning Fun Pit”

Written by: Patric M Verrone
Directed by: Crystal Chesney-Thompson
DN’s Ranking: BAD / Nonessential / Essential

“I do enjoy a well-buttered floor.”

Look, this one is just straight up bad. Beloved commentor Drinking With Skeletons remarked that he liked many of the song parodies the show has done less than I do because he considered them to be just bad, and that’s pretty much how I feel about what’s one display here. The Scooby-Doo parody is straight-up hacky – have you considered, my friends, the possibility that as a young man with a large appetite, Shaggy resembles people who partake of ‘marijuana’ or ‘pot’??? Or noticed that the animation is kind of crummy??? Or that the characters are constantly splitting up and searching for clues??? Meanwhile, the Purpleberry town section is just straight up the exact repetitive preschool children’s programming it riffs on – the show has already done a brilliant parody of that, so it’s a shame to see this lazy presentation of cliches in place of any jokes.

What’s really frustrating is that you see aspects of the show’s brilliance peeking out from under the laziness. The Scooby-Doo section has the brilliant joke about Larry Bird’s refusal to cooperate with the production (as well as everything George Takei says), the Purpleberry Town has the increasingly bizarre ‘we’re back!’ images that actually make a joke out of the repetition, and not only do the Nixon wraparound segments rule, the entire GI Joe parody manages to work by building it around him. The second and third segments have weak satirical points about children’s television as secret commercials and weak censorship of violent media respectively, but the latter makes it work by having an actual character doing the censoring; the joke isn’t just what Nixon censors, but what he censors it to, and more importantly what he chooses not to censor (“Oh that’s clever! I’ll leave that the way it is!”). We know this Nixon well enough to understand his choices and why he’s making them.

“It’s funny how we never get tired of the word ‘purple’. Never.”

One thing that bothers me about Futurama is when it effectively becomes hypocritical by being as lazy and stupid as it jokes about Fry and Bender being – at its best, this show is an efficient machine deftly analysing an idea from many different perspectives and with a level of forethought and education on the topic it’s exploring. But at its middling, this show is still thought through and fleshed out, so that while it might not be profound, it has a level of understanding on its topic and a desire to express an original thought on it. At its worst, this show is lazy recreations of the very thing it’s supposedly mocking with no insight and no new jokes to make.

Title Card: Brought to you by REGRETTO permanent clown makeup
Cartoon Billboard: N/A

“No one can complain about this patriotic dreck!”

George Takei and Larry Bird cameo as themselves, and the former makes meals out of every line the writers give him. I will say that the actual art for this episode is as astounding as ever, adjusting itself perfectly to the aesthetic of each cartoon parodied; my favourite is the backgrounds in the Scooby-Doo parody. The thing about the weak animation of TV cartoons of the past is that everybody involved in making them was aware of the, uh, limitations, with various internal responses; part of the reason the violence censorship jokes work so well for me is that it reminds me of an infamous drawing by an exasperated He-Man animator showing the title character using a pineapple like a gun. The flipside was that people genuinely tried to make good TV out of it, and one way was relying on gorgeous background paintings, which this episode recreates marvellously.

“Ready! Aim!”

The ‘animation dumb-i-nation’ sign is a reference to the Fox Network’s ‘Animation Domination’ block. Another sign says “Bring back Sea Hunt”, a reference to the show. The reference to golf at the end combines the habit of playing sports broadcasts after Saturday Morning cartoons and the real Spirow Agnew’s terrible golf game. The first segment is a parody of Scooby-Doo, the second is based on Strawberry Shortcake, and the third is GI Joe.  

Iconic Moments: N/A
Biggest Laugh:

Next Week: “Calculon 2.0”. “Yes, the number I was thinking of was the letter ‘m’.”