Thanks to a very inconvenient bout of strep throat last week, I’m back to CartoonClack. Huzzah, huzzah. Futurama ended its season (although really it was a half season, since they’ll be back in just a few months), and the last two episodes that made up the finale night couldn’t have been more different.
The first episode, “31st Century Fox,” was honestly the worst episode of the whole season … which was not the best way to start the evening. Bender takes up arms against fox hunting, but only after he discovers that the fox used is actually a robot. But they’ve already done a few different versions of this story before — they’ve had Bender outraged at robots being used for human whims and they’ve had multiple episodes involving the treatment of animals. For both of these focuses, the previous episodes worked far better than this one. The episode went into several directions with really poor pacing and worst of all, the jokes weren’t very funny. I can only think of one joke that made me laugh out loud — Bender telling Judge Whitey he’d seem him in court only to cut directly to Judge Whitey being the judge and throwing out the case — while most episodes of this show have me laughing consistently through. So yeah, not a good way to start off the finale.
However, the second episode was a huge improvement. Like “Tales of Interest” and their old-timey/8-bit/anime episode, “Naturama” was a set of three tales with a theme — mating rituals in nature! Cue every prepubescent audience member giggling. What a lot of people don’t know about Futurama is how many of their writers and producers hold math and science degrees. I mean, executive producer David X. Cohen has a masters in computer science and both of his parents are biologists, so I’m not at all surprised that the facts behind the three stories are more or less accurate … with some jokes thrown in. Salmon really do die right after mating; that breed of tortoise does have that much trouble thanks to its speed (and sadly, the last Pinta Tortoise died earlier this summer, which makes the middle story that much more somber); and elephant seals really are jerks.
“Naturama” works because they were able to balance interesting, real information (narrated by Phil Lamarr doing a spot-on Morgan Freeman impersonation) and funny jokes, and mixed in the actual characters as the animals. The one that worked the best was the salmon story, because we got to see a really engaging story using Fry and Leela finding love, but they also didn’t sugarcoat the facts about their mating habits — the salmon die, and the dark humor in their deaths works. If you can say anything about the episode, it’s that it wasn’t afraid to shine a light on the morbidity of these nature shows. Also, if you don’t think Fry is adorable as a happy hopping finch, then you might not have a soul.
This season was a mixed bag of really good episodes and just alright episodes. Most of them were just OK with some funny moments here and there, but stand-out episodes like the surprisingly sweet “Fun on a Bun” and “The Bots and the Bees” made the season well worth it. Another shout out goes to “Zapp Dingbat” for allowing Leela’s mom some depth and dignity as a character with a real story arc while keeping it funny. The next season is already in production (I’ve heard rumors of Patrick Stewart guest voicing), so look forward to that going into 2013.