Futurama, Season Ten, Episode Two, “Children Of A Lesser Bog”

Written by: Eric Horsted
Directed by: Edmund Fong

“You seem like the kind of guy who has a mouth.”

So it actually happened – Kif gave birth and declared that, in twenty years, the children would return to be cared for, and here we are twenty years later with a followup episode. I’ve long felt the supposed ambitions of storytelling in Futurama have been overstated; there’s, what, four episodes of Big Plot in the original run? And it still has a certain status quo it doesn’t deviate from, like how Cubert and Dwight have never aged. To be clear, I don’t hold this against the show – for one, conditions of television at the time of the Fox run required the creators to make certain choice in order to survive – Mission Hill was much more audacious in its storytelling and ambitions (including having lead character Andy change jobs every eight or so episodes) and it was cancelled within thirteen episodes. For two, I love the show we have and I’m grateful for it.

“Question: these three babies are different sizes. Question mark.”

But there is something to be said for the show’s relaxed acceptance of the passage of time, in a literal if not spiritual sense. One weakness of this episode is that Amy’s embrace of motherhood doesn’t feel like any more of a natural development than her suddenly remembering she was going for a PHD; the general idea of someone suddenly tearfully falling in love with parenthood upon the birth of their child makes sense because I’ve seen it all the time, but it doesn’t feel quite right for the story here. But I’m more than willing to go with the loud announcement of a shift in status quo – that, from now on, Kif and Amy are parents – because these kind of shifts have happened in the show all the time and the show has mined good comedy out of them, including now.

“It’s not weird. It looks like yours.”
“It looks pretty weird.”

Emotionally, this episode doesn’t completely work for me. It’s kind of like my criticism of “Jurassic Bark”, in that I feel like it’s playing more off the idea of parenthood than anything specific about Amy, but it’s a little worse in that the Intense Feelings feel like they take up the majority of the episode rather than being weighted towards the very end – it feels like a quarter of the episode is Amy crying and slowly declaring how much she… loves… these… kids!!! Now I have been looking around and noticed fans who are also new mothers reacting strongly to “Children Of A Lesser Bog”, which makes me more inclined to give it the benefit of the doubt in terms of sincerity (although I’m a dog person unimpressed by “Jurassic Bark”), and outside Amy’s intensity, the jokes are pretty funny.

“Oh no you willn’t!”

More importantly though, I love the episode’s take on Leela here as an unwilling aunt. I have no children, but I’m beloved by my friends’ kids, and my relationship with them isn’t too different from Leela with the Kroker kids. It reminds me of Mommy Blogger posts I’ve seen pointing out to other mothers that their children will always act up more at home and especially around their mothers because that is their safe space to express emotions; this episode is how such things look from the outside, where parents seem to resent that other people can afford (emotionally, at least) to be fun with their kids. Throwing in the scifi biology is a fun twist on that feeling too. I also specifically identify with Leela’s amused exhaustion at the 100% intensity with which a kid can love anything, overpowered by their staggering amounts of energy and focus – I recall playing with two ten-year-olds and marvelling over the speed and efficiency at which they honed the rules of their imaginary world to be more fair.

Title Card: Anything happen while we were out?
Cartoon Billboard: “Room Runners”, 1932

“I’m the worst mom ever! Except my own mom!”

This is our first appearance of Feodor Chin as Leo Wong! He’s a bit weak right now, but I’m confident moving forward. I also find the tone of these two episodes fascinating. It’s very hard to explain because it’s a strange feeling – the Fox run was cheerful, melancholic, but always with this sense of professional focus. The CC run was wackier, more audacious, more freeform. These two episodes have felt oddly dry – not in the sense that they don’t care, but in that they’re tired and reserving energy. It’s as much to do with the timing of the animation feeling a touch off as it is the writing. That said, it feels like it draws attention to how easy these characters are to write. What these characters want and how they’d react to things is incredibly clear. I feel like the best way to explain the whole tone is that they’re only thinking one line at a time.

The whale biologist returns! Sadly, I do not consider this to be up to the standard of his original appearance, but there are entire perfectly good sitcoms that fail to live up to the standards of his original appearance. This is especially sad, though, given that the Grand Midwife is, if anything, even funnier here than she’s ever been (“That wasn’t supposed to do that.”).  

“I am the Grand Midwife from the other day!”

The title is a reference to the play and film Children of a Lesser God

Biggest Laugh: “Children, you may now hug your mother and father. For only a small additional fee.”