For this week's TV Thursday, I wanted to look at some of my favorite episodes of one of my favorite series: Futurama.
Warning: There are some 15-ish year-old spoilers ahead.
Honorable Mentions: Space Pilot 3000 / The Series Has Landed
The first two episodes do an incredible job establishing the tone of the show. Filled with humor but also acutely aware of the tragedy inherent to a character thrust 1,000 years into the future away from all of his family and friends.
Space Pilot 3000 stays on Earth and establishes the premise of a slacker delivery boy frozen and thawed out 1,000 years in the future and The Series Has Landed explores the moon - which for Fry is an incredible achievement but for the Planet Express crew it’s a 10-second trip to a shitty amusement park.
Fry and the Slurm Factory
There are probably better standout episodes but this fun and futuristic take on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is almost always one of the first episodes I think of when I think about the show.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten excited in the comfort of my own home and screamed out Whimmy-wham-wham wazzle! Party on Slurms McKenzie.
The Luck of the Fryrish
The Luck of the Fryrish tells a great story filling in some of Fry’s back story on earth when he goes in search of his luck 7-leaf clover. The episode shines a line on the sibling rivalry between Fry and his brother Yancy but the real kicker comes when we get to see just how Fry’s disappearance affected Yancy while the Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” plays out in an emotional gut punch.
Roswell That Ends Well
Roswell That Ends Well features the Planet Express crew traveling back into the 1940s New Mexico to become the famed UFO. Not only do we get the humor of the Planet Express crew having to experience life closer to Fry’s time but we also get the absurd experience of Fry killing the man he believed to be his grandfather and actually becoming his own grandfather after he consoles his grandmother.
Another episode known for the emotional gut punch of the last few minutes, Jurassic Bark sees Fry discovering the fossilized remains of his old dog Seymour. As he excitedly tells his friends just how much he loved the dog, we see Bender become increasingly jealous of the dog and Fry’s love of it. When Fry learns that Seymour lived for years after Fry vanished and probably wouldn’t even remember him anymore, he gives up on a plan to revive him. And then we, the audience, get the tear-jerking ending revealing that Seymour waited at the Pizza Place for Fry every day hoping his master would someday return. In my opinion the show somewhat lessened the impact of this ending by revisiting it in its assorted revivals but if you disregard that, this episode can bring even the most stoic people (i.e. me) to tears.
The Devil’s Hands are Idle Playthings
The original run’s farewell episode, the Devil’s Hands are Idle Playthings tells the Futurama twist on the Faustian tale (where a character makes a deal with the devil). Desperate to impress Leela, Fry implores the Robot Devil to get a set of robot hands to play the incredibly difficult holophoner. Through his own oversight, the Robot Devil actually has to give Fry his own hands in the deal. Desperate to get his hands back, the Robot Devil puts forth an absurdly intricate series of side deals with other Planet Express members to win his hands back.
Through it all, we get to see the holophoner opera that Fry crafts, featuring the shows best musical moments and the sweetest instance the series had ever given us in the will they/won’t they relationship of Fry and Leela. That the de facto finale ended with Fry being reunited with his clumsy hands and Leela wanting to hear his (now) terrible opera anyway was a touching send off, as a very rudimentary bubble of Fry and Leela sharing a kiss and walking off into the distance holding hands would be the last image we’d have for years until the show came back from the dead.