Posts Tagged ‘Simpsorama


Compare & Contrast: Planet Express Goes Back in Time


“Choke on that, causality!” – Professor Farnsworth

The Futurama gang has traveled back in time on several occasions and by several different methods, but usually when they do they manage to find something a lot more interesting than in Simpsorama.  They’ve looted ancient treasures, gone back to the American Revolution, and been in and around December 31st, 1999 more times than I can count.  But for an episode that goes and stays in (relatively) contemporary America, the best comparison is easily Roswell That Ends Well.

Both episodes put Fry, Leela, Bender and the Professor in fish-out-of-water situations, but Roswell That Ends Well not only gives them something meaningful to do along the way, it also puts them in an actually interesting place with actually interesting characters.  Simpsorama has dull characters lurch from one unconnected situation to the next, never developing any kind of momentum (story wise or comedy wise).

For starters, just look at the characters we get to see.  Simpsorama has the one-note remains of Professor Frink making lots of weird noises because that’s his catchphrase.  Roswell That Ends Well has all the government scientists who become increasingly frustrated in their attempts to study and dissect Zoidberg.  One of these gives you “glaven flaven” for fifteen seconds, the other gives you “Uh, it’s free” when Zoidberg thinks their experiment is a buffet, “the same deviled egg” during their old fashioned alien autopsy, and “The President is gagging on my gas bladder.  What an honor.”


Is President Truman coming on to Dr. Zoidberg? He’s not hearing a no.

Similarly, the entire Simpson family doesn’t possess nearly as much character as Fry’s grandparents.  While they can be secretly gay, get blown up in an atomic blast, sleep with their own time traveling grandson, and hear about how the implosion trigger functioned perfectly, the Simpson family has become so flat that they can do little more than repeat catchphrases, or, as the case may be, catch-actions: with Homer strangling Bart-clones being something they thought so funny that they twice did it repeatedly.

The respective settings are just as divergent.  Springfield is a shell of itself at this point.  The long established locales (Moe’s, Barney’s Bowlarama) don’t have anything left to offer, which is why all they could think to do in both was have Bender extend his arms.  There’s something we’ve never seen in either place: a robot from the future with really long arms!

The new spots, this mysterious horse track and (just for the hell of it) Panucci’s Pizza, were there as filler and fan service.  The first was another interchangeable locale for Bender to be a jerk, which would be fine in a regular episode but feels, shall we say, a bit undercooked in a long promised crossover.  The second was a quick and nonsensical reminder of one of Futurama‘s most memorable moments.  It didn’t need to be there, but it did check one more item off the “let’s cram stuff in” list, so I guess there’s that.

By contrast, in Roswell That Ends Well, we get an almost Simpsonized version of a post-war 1940s military base.  There’s the Sgt. Carter like lunatic NCO who wants to eat in the latrine, the obsession with secrecy that leads to shipping President Truman in a wooden crate marked “Canned Eggs”, and the blundering ignorance of the top military officials who can’t understand a theft minded robot carcass or a lonely and annoyingly talkative crustacean.  The whole thing is classic fish-out-of-water comedy and it provides plenty of opportunities for the characters to act like it (“You really don’t cook enough roasts, Leela.”).  Having Bender fit in at a few random Springfield locales isn’t.

The same is true of the Simpson family after they get sucked into the future (for some reason).  While there, they spend most of their time sitting around a table before easily herding the previously uncontrollable Bart-clones into Madison Cube Garden in time for the ending.  Sure, they went to the future, but we don’t get to see them do much, and since there isn’t much to do, the jokes are predictably lame:

Marge: Homer works at a nuclear plant.  He can help us get home.
Professor Farnsworth: Oh, are you good at your job?
Homer: I was voted employee of the month as an April Fool’s Day joke. [resume strangling]


Lisa: Attention goblins, Madison Cube Garden is filled with Butterfinger bars, and people are laying fingers all over them.

It’s the usual litany of weak Zombie Simpsons writing (expository background, general nonsense, and Sitcom 101 setup-punchline-laugh crap), it just happens to be in the future.


Here you go, fans. Enjoy it.

To see how all of that stuff ads up to such weak television, just compare the two endings.  In both, Bender is stuck a thousand years in the past.  Here’s how it plays out in Zombie Simpsons:

Lisa: Wait, wait, wait!  You’re the portal?  How are you gonna get to the future?
Bender: The old fashioned way.

At that latest expository question and answer, Bender turns himself off for a thousand years.  In Futurama, we see the crew rescue Bender’s body and Zoidberg, steal the microwave dish they need, and then blast their way out of the base.  Bender’s head plummets back to Earth as he tells 1947 to kiss his shiny metal ass.  The episode has already shown us what’s happening, so we don’t need it explained, and we get a context appropriate, and extra bitter, rendition of Bender’s favorite saying.

When things get around to wrapping up, we also get two very different actions.  In Zombie Simpsons, Homer pours a beer into Bender’s deactivated head.  Bender replies, “Thanks, buddy.”  In Futurama, the crew finds Bender’s head and “rescues” him from what they think of as a thousand years of lonely torment:

Fry: Bender, what was it like lying in that hole for a thousand years?
Bender: I was enjoying it until you guys showed up.

So were we, Bender.  So were we.


Behind Us Forever: Simpsorama


“Some Bart Simpson dolls!” – Fry
“Eat my shorts.” – Bart Simpson Doll
“Okay.   Mmm, shorts.” – Bender

Well, the Futurama crossover finally happened.  It had a few good jokes here and there, which is above average for Zombie Simpsons, but mostly it was a mess and suffered from the same kinds of crossover problems we all so recently suffered through with Family Guy: cramming in as many characters from Futurama as possible, whether or not putting them there is funny or necessary.  It’s a thing that happened, a little footnote to both shows that will never be confused with the cream of either canon.

– I love Hedonismbot, but that couch gag was way too long.  The tag “A Show Out of Ideas Teams Up With a Show Out of Episodes” is easily the best joke in the episode, though.

– We open with Skinner telling the students they have to put something in a time capsule.  Then Chalmers appears from nowhere to fire a spitwad at Skinner.  This is not a promising start.

– Chalmers just pulled a TV-VCR combo from out of nowhere.

– The time capsule ceremony was just interrupted by an instant rain storm for some reason.

– Bender just fell out of the sky during a thunderstorm.  Which lead to a full minute of Homer and Bart trying to find him in the basement.  They settled on hanging Bart upside down from a rope for some reason.  Then they pointlessly smacked him around for ten seconds.

– Now we’re at Moe’s.  Bender belched fire.

– The premise here is that Bender and Homer are friends.  It’s charming enough, though predictably dumb.

– Hey, how about some fan service?:

Lisa: You know, they look a little similar.
Bart: Yeah, like the guy who designed Bender just took a drawing of Dad and stuck an antenna on it.
Lisa: A little lazy, if you ask me.

– Lisa took Bender to see Frink.  Frink reboots Bender.  Now Bender’s supposed to kill Homer, who just showed up after not being there until now.

– Writing “Crossovers Are Hell” on the wall in the future was nice.  Even if it’s not funny for the reason they think it is.

– I guess it’s nice that these mutant rabbits are another nod to Groening, but color me unsurprised that they went with mass chaos for their crossover.

– More fourth wall jokes with Zoidberg.

– They had to get Fry and Leela (and the Professor) back in time somehow, I get that.  But it’s very out of character for Leela want to kill Homer.  Obviously she doesn’t actually do it, but it’s pretty weird nevertheless.

– Heh: “Okay, but remember, to me you’re incredibly stupid.”

– Hey, it’s Seymour!  The fan service is pointless and not that funny, but it’s easily the best part of this thing.

– Homer and Bender are asleep on the couch together for yet more fan service.

– Ugh, this scene where they’re trying to figure out who to kill really drags on.

– I get that crossover stories are weird, but having the plot keep popping out of Bender’s ass is still dumb.

– Case in point, now we’re flashing back to the beginning with the time capsule.  This isn’t that complicated, but we’re getting reminded of it just because.

– “In our time, Epcot Center is a work farm for the weak.”  That was funny.

– They drove to the time capsule and then Willie showed up for some reason.

– Bender’s ass just gave us our brief and pointless appearances from Amy and Scruffy.

– Everyone but Bender and Maggie just got sucked into the future for some reason.

– Oof, the animation on Homer strangling Bart here is really weird.  They drew Bart the same size as all the little creatures.



– It was weird for Leela to want to kill, but why on Earth would Marge think Homer can fix a generator in the future?

– And now Hedonismbot showed up again for some reason.

– I could cite a bunch of different examples, but if you want an idea of how much of a mess this episode is, just noodle this series of events:

Lisa: If there’s one thing I know how to do, it’s manipulate Barts.
Bart: You’re nuts.  I’ve got a will of iron.
Leela: [Turns on Hypnotoad]

It’s doesn’t make sense, but it did cram something from Futurama in.

– Back in Springfield, Bender just blew up a racehorse.

– More pointless fan service: Lisa playing a holophoner.

– Oh, and all the Barts just got rounded up.

– Heh: “Wow, it’s working!  I guess the instructions were in English.”

– Now Bender just shuts himself down for 1000 years.

– I suppose Kang and Kodos needed to meet Lrrr and Ndnd.

– There are some good sign gags in this credit/opening sequence at the end, including a Stonecutter headquarters, “Eat My Shorts” written in the alien language, and Freeze Frame Industries.

Anyway, the numbers are in and I was apparently being too optimistic last week when I predicted 7 million viewers.  Even with the football lead in, just 6.59 million people wished they’d done this episode fifteen years ago.  FOX has a late national game again next week, but after that it’s two weeks with no late football.  I’ll be curious to see whether or not they even bother to broadcast new episodes.


Sunday Preview: Simpsorama










In a special crossover episode, “Futurama’s” Planet Express crew comes to present-day Springfield to prevent the Simpsons from destroying the future.

Well, “Simpsorama” has been hinted at for over a year, and now it’s finally happening. Raise your hands, who wanted this? You? Hang your head in shame.


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