Futurama, Season Ten, Episode One, “The Impossible Stream”

Written by: Patric Verrone
Directed by: Peter Avanzino”

“Have I really spent 23 years in the future?”
“We call it the present, but, whatever.”

We’re back, baby! This reboot is interesting to consider in light of the other two. The first film opened with an extended riff on the circumstances of the show’s cancellation before jumping into a story riffing on the show’s history; “Rebirth” was a tonally strange establishment of the show’s new status quo (Fry and Leela being maybe 75% of the way together, more sex and violence). “The Impossible Stream” has some very meta riffs, some of which really work for me, but it’s something new again: an entirely conventional episode for this show. Like, in terms of the amount of substance, I’d put it around something like “The Deep South”, where it’s not trying to reach for something profound but it’s not a weak episode either.

After establishing as clearly and definitively as possible that the characters did not, in fact, return to the beginning of the series but to the end of “Meanwhile” (which is a mild retcon from ‘the instant [the Professor] conceived of it’), we dive, to my great surprise, into a plot that genuinely spins out of the meta-concept of reviving a long-dead TV show. I admit to being one of those who was skeptical of Futurama getting topical again, but I think it successfully engages with the way watching television has changed in the decades since the show premiered – and more specifically, how it has not.

I like that the show really is engaging with how much time has passed in its production – I know we’re getting the followup to “Kif Gets Knocked Up A Notch” – and I do love the idea of Fry setting himself some big goal, and I cackle at it being ‘watch every TV show ever made’. When you get right down to it, that is a fundamental complaint people have about television today – there is so much of it and all of it seems important and it’s become a full-time job keeping up. I personally do think television is important because I find it spiritually fulfilling and enjoy writing about it, and have set several goals based around watching important shows; I also deeply admire Fry’s pure gluttonous approach, where he’s just binging on it because he wants to. Compare this with people who watch things purely because they think they’re supposed to.

But then, how was this much different from when Fry was watching whatever was on? If anything, there’s at least a marginally higher quality to what he’s watching, at least in the sense that he’s watching things he wants to watch – assuming he’s not like the rest of us and takes twenty minutes of scrolling to not watch something, though given he walks us through the half-dozen shows he’s seen, that strikes me as unlikely. There’s also the fact that he’s watching far fewer ads than he ever used to. It’s a cliche at this point to observe that when you get something for free, you’re not the customer, you’re the product – television was always something that was put on between ads for soap. The shift to streaming has made it (temporarily?) so that the shows themselves are the product; All My Circuits certainly isn’t brought back by any advertisers.

Title Card: AVENGED!
Cartoon Billboard: “Ain’t She Sweet?”, 1933

Dan Castellanetta returns as the Robot Devil and Cara Delevigne guests as a Makeup Robot. 

I enjoy that the relationship between Fry and Leela has shifted so that she’s considering the responsibility of encouraging his hopes and dreams – it’s really the closest this has to an emotional arc, but it’s something new and different again from their relationship in the CC seasons.

I cannot stress enough that the reason this mostly works for me is because the offhand lines are as funny as ever – I particularly enjoy that they slip right back into Fry’s mangled English without missing a beat (“J, Philip I Fry…” and “It sure do” being highlights).

The one thing that bothers me about this episode – and there’s nothing anyone can do about it – is that Billy West’s voice has gotten deeper and more gravelly in a way that’s extremely noticeable with Fry. The thing is, West is now 71, and Fry is now at least ostensibly the same age that West was when he started voicing Fry.

The title is a reference to “The Impossible Dream (The Quest)” from the play and movie Man Of Malancha. The stillsuits are a reference to Dune, particularly the 2022 film. The Scary Door is turned from a reference to The Twilight Zone to Black Mirror. Fry dismisses Geiger King and How I Met Your Smizmar, clearly riffing on Tiger King and How I Met Your Mother. The Professor drops a reference to Law & Order. 

Biggest Laugh: “How does a show get cancelled this many times?! By this many networks?!”

Yeah, we’re back. I’m sorry for not clocking onto the fact that there would be a gap of three months between me publishing “Meanwhile” and the first episode airing. The first week was great and refreshing, but then I sorely missed you guys and writing about the show. It’s good to be back in the saddle again, and I’m looking forward to writing about Seinfeld when this season is over in two and a half months. At first I was worried my plan to publish on the first Sunday after every episode would backfire given new episodes are going up every, uh, Monday, but I think it works out best this way – I have the week to really formulate my thoughts. I’ve never written about a show that wasn’t at least a decade old! Should be exciting.