So, part of the deal to get Futurama back on the air was that David X. Cohen and Matt Groening had to find a way to cut costs. I'm sure there are all sorts of clever ways to do this—no matter mercury baths for the cast, no more building real robots to see how to properly animate genocidal rage, maybe bringing the soda cans to the store for the deposit, you know, if you got a minute, and would it kill you to turn off the lights once in a while? In case you haven't noticed, the show has also been narrowing it's focus of late, and while animation means the plot can still span the world and those beyond, there's not as much money for guest stars. This has worked out pretty well so far, since it's given us a couple of character pairings I don't think we've ever seen before: first Hermes and Bender teamed up a couple weeks back, and in "That Darn Katz!", we get Amy and Nibbler trying to save the world against a race of planet-destroying cats. So, y'know, cats. Like anyone would be surprised.
After a couple of weeks that did a nice job of blending the funny and the awwww, "Katz" is a return to pure wackiness, and it's a nice change of pace. The joke-to-laugh ratio this time felt as strong as it has since the season started. Amy's one of those characters I'm not sure the show always knows how to use. Leela is the standard issue "sane woman in a house of lunatics" character that most every sitcom has, but Amy was conceived as basically a female equivalent for Fry: cute, sure, but also clutzy and prone to bad decision making. It's a type that you don't see enough of, but most of the Amy episodes we've seen have centered on her romantic relationships, whether with Fry, or Kif, or, briefly, Bender. We've known she was a grad student since she was first introduced, but I can't remember the last time that had anything to do with the plot (did it ever?), so it's good to have her driving the plot, not really worrying too much about the love stuff (Kif appears at the beginning at the end, but, apart from puking himself onto the floor, he doesn't do a whole lot), and actually being a student for once. It makes for good character development, and it also helps make someone we've seen on the show dozens and dozens of times in a new, and interesting, context.
Also cool is having her work with Nibbler, someone who's been the focus of some great episodes, but who also feels a little underused at this point. Now that everyone knows he can talk, it only makes sense that he'd take a more active role, but until "Katz," he mostly just served to punctuate the occasional cute pet poops/eats gags. I mentioned character development before, and I'm not saying that I expect Futurama to construct richly realized individuals. But adding some depth is important, sometimes for emotional resonance, and sometimes because depth is a great way to get new stories out of familiar faces. This series has always had a terrific world to build from, and by using its supporting cast in new ways, it expands that world while still keeping true to the original spirit.
And hey, kitties! Positing that felines are really members of an alien race who want to use our planet to revitalize there own is kind of a lazy gag (cats are basically comedy gold), but it's the kind of lazy gag the show can do well, and they pulled it off here. (As a counter example, the parody elements in "The Duh Vinci Code" took aim at a similarly easy target, with less successful results.) About the only gag that didn't really land for me was the "cute talk," which got old without ever hitting the next level, but it wasn't annoyingly old, unlike, say, the eco-feminists from Into The Wild Green Yonder. The rest was gold, from the design of Thuban 9 (Thuban's actually a real star) to the cute-off between Nibbler, and the dance team of Mr. Winkles and Smudge-Smudge. And the can-opener gag was just brilliant; not entirely new, but done with the kind of enthusiasm and timing we've come to expect.
Other than that, there's not a whole lot to say about "Katz," apart from the string of quotes that will inevitable pop up in Stray Observations. It may seem a little odd to suddenly return to Amy's thesis after seasons of forgetting she was a student, but it works nicely. (It also marked the triumphant return of Ethan "Bubblegum" Tate, and introduced us to Professor Fisherprice Speckenshpell, long may he moo.) The resolution fits the show's ethos: there are solutions to every problem, but they're never perfect solutions. That's just the way life works. We can demonstrate the passage of time through entropy, and that entropy means that the status is never permanently quo. But just because a krazy kat manages to stop the Earth's rotation doesn't mean we have to just burn to death like some dumb dog.
- Points here for not actually bringing dogs in to fight the cats. It's been done. It didn't really work out.
- I miss having a cat. Is it weird that this episode made me miss having one even more than I already did?
- "The leg bone's connected to the CASH BONE!"
- "The magma P.I. is 10,000 degrees selleck!"
- "Sorry, I hooked up with Bender last night. Dude was all over my snooze button."
- "The horse says, 'Doctorate denied.'"
- "I'm going to apologize and hope for a pity pet."
- "What do cats need with that much yarn and cobalt?"
- "Now come on, Bender. Something sinister won't build itself."
- "The conclusion is as inescapable as it is moronic."
- "He's one of those dog operate puppets that's been designed for use by a cat!"
- "Say, do you know Obliteron? He pretends to be a hamster, but-"
- "Amy, technology isn't intrinsically good or evil. It's how it's used. Like the Death Ray."
- "You can't simply know something by assembling a committee of words! That's it! I'll assemble your comittee!"
- "Yay, I'm finally done with school! How's the job market?" "Ruff."