by Bob Teoh
“Futurama” has finally returned, with an hour long premiere of back-back episodes. The first episode, “The Bots and the Bees,” immediately kicks off the seventh season with a wild, crazy plotline, that seems absolutely absolutely appropriate for the show. Professor Farnsworth manages to acquire a new soda vending machine named Bev. Since Bev does not sell alcohol, Bender dislikes her, which leads to a feud between the two machines.
Bev, voiced by Wanda Sykes, does a very good job countering Bender’s lines with her own one-liners, but the fight eventually becomes physical. Soon, the Planet Express crew finds out that the fight was too physical, leaving Bev impregnated with a robot baby.
Initially repulsed by his son, Bender soon grows fond of him and takes custody when Bev runs away. Bender and his son, Ben, bond over several illegal activities. Ben grows up and wants to be a bending robot like his father, but since arm-control software is inherited maternally, Ben does not have this ability. Unfortunately, during Ben’s robot Bar Mitzvah, Bev returns to take Ben and claim custody.
Unwilling to lose his son, Bender kidnaps Ben, and the two try to run, but are caught by the police. Fortunately, Bev is once again impregnated by the police officer and gives up custody of Ben. To fulfill Ben’s dream of becoming a bending robot, Bender allows the Professor to replace his son’s memory card with bending software. Ben loses all memories and forgets his father, but he eventually enrolls in bending university.
“Futurama’s” universe allows the writers and producers to have much more freedom than they did with “The Simpsons,” so the show thrives when they create outlandish plotlines that build up the 31st century, and “Bots” is a perfect example of that. From the “Futurama Fry Internet meme” to robot sex ed, the show also excels at exuberating 21st century popular culture.
Still, out of the two episodes, “Bots” is probably the weaker one, since it forfeits a lot of laughs in order to push a storyline through. With the focus on Bender, the rest of the crew is pushed away from the spotlight. However, like previous episodes, the writers skillfully add some touching moments in between the outrageous laughter into the scenes with Bender and his son. These moments, along with the insane plotline, make the episode very enjoyable.
The second of “Futurama’s” one-hour back-to-back episode turns its attention to the 2012 Mayan calendar phenomenon. Again, “Futurama” is funniest when it uses its fictional universe to parody modern pop culture. Therefore, I am thrilled that the writers would take advantage of the global anxiety over the 2012 apocalypse theory and produce this hilarious episode.
Professor Farnsworth observes recent, bizarre weather patterns on Earth and launches a weather balloon to gather data. Fry’s “lucky pants” are accidentally tied to this balloon, and after some mishaps, the pants land in Central Park. After a badger drags the pants beneath the park, Fry follows after them, which leads the crew to discover a large stone calendar hidden in a cave underground.
Amy identifies the writing as native Martian language and concludes that the world will end in 3012. The Professor confirms this when the weather balloon indicates that Earth will be destroyed by a giant solar flare. The storm also disables all spaceships and prevents evacuation. Amy translates more Martian and reveals that the pyramid hidden underneath Central Park is a giant stone spacecraft that can hold a limited amount of people.
The head of President Richard Nixon appoints a decision making machine to decide who can board the plane. Surprisingly, Fry is chosen and Leela is rejected. Fry disguises his boarding ticket as one for Leela and sacrifices his seat on the plane for her. When the survivors reach Mars, they meet the Martian chief, who reveals that the calendar predicts the destruction of Mars, not Earth. Fortunately, the solar flare storm launches Mars towards Earth and for a brief moment, the survivors can jump off the planet’s surface and land safely on Earth.
“A Farewell to Arms” is a classic “Futurama” episode, and I absolutely loved every moment of it. The plot clearly pokes fun at the 2012 phenomenon, but the writers used the universe they created to push it to a whole new level. The episode was packed with hilarious moments, like Bender’s decision to stay so he can loot and Fry being picked because the decision making machine “liked his pants.” Like previous seasons, the writers also use the characters to create very moving moments. Fry and Leela’s interaction added a very nice romantic interlude to the absurd plotline.
Overall, “Futurama” could not have returned with a better season premiere. The writers stuck to what they do best and delivered an hour of unbelievable fun. The two episodes launched the new season on a high note and left nothing but anticipation for the rest of the season.
Bob Teoh is a staff writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.