Well, here we are folks—Futurama's 100th episode has actually aired (who would've guessed that was possible back when the show was, y'know, cancelled?), and the sixth season has come to a close. "The Mutants Are Revolting" wasn't the best episode of the season—I'd say that honor goes to "The Late Philip J. Fry," with "The Prisoner of Benda" running second—but it was solid, and, given that we get not one but two awesome robot dance parties, it's a fine note to end on. After a lackluster string of straight to DVD movies, there was some concern that Futurama's return to television might damage its legacy; I'm sure all of us have watched favorite long-running hit the downward of their artistic progressions, and it's never fun. You keep tuning in, hoping against hope that some spark of creativity or vitality might return. And hell, sometimes it even does, and makes you feel, just for a moment, that your time was justified. Too often, though, once the rot sets in, there's nothing left but the increasingly desperate stunt casting, improbably back-story reveals, and characters plucked clean of their potential.
Thankfully, I think we can all agree that that isn't the case here.
Ah, who am I kidding, of course that's not going to happen. I thought this was a pretty good season for the show, not as great as where it left off, but generally good, with a few episodes on either side of the bell curve. Judging by the comments here, it looks like I'm not alone in thinking this, but it also looks like that judgment is far from unanimous. Who knows. Maybe when this season hits DVD (or Blu Ray, or whatever the hell format it shows up on—we'll probably just be downloading stuff directly into our brains at that point), I'll revisit it and realize just how lenient I've been, how my desire for Futurama to succeed made it impossible to judge critically. And at that point, I'm going to have to apologize to a lot of dead orphans, because, well, every time you grade too high, a puppy-kitty-mutant-seal-orphan dies. (Yeah, you think this job is fun? I mean, it is, but the contract they make you sign is intense.)
Like tonight's episode? Wasn't hilarious. It had some good jokes, but I wasn't busting a nut the whole time, and the story didn't really engage me until the finale. And yet, I'm still going to give it a B+. Because there were some good joke, and because the story pay-offs were cute (nothing says "adorable" like "raw sewage"), and because we got a freaking robot dance party. Plus Devo showed up, y'know? I feel like I can't really get too harsh on a show that gives us a Devo guest spot, and they're all drawn to look like mutants.
Plus, the basic plot, with Leela leading the sewer mutants in revolt against the oppressive surface dowagers, is something that should've happened ages ago. While the world of Futurama is often bleak and cynical, it never made sense that Leela wouldn't fight to see her parents restored topside, whether they wanted to be or not. So, we get that out of the way, and if we have to do yet another Titanic parody to get there, well… Okay, seriously, did we need to have another Titanic parody? Surely there are other subjects between now and 1997 that could've served as equally effective joke fodder. (Especially seeing as how the show has been to this well before.) Really, and it's the laziest kind of gag, too! See, it's the Titanic, but it's on land, so it's the Land Titanic. And it sinks when it runs into a mailbox! Gah.
Really, that's my big problem with this season as a whole. We've still got some strong emotional connections to the characters, and we've had some really great sci-fi based storylines, but the jokes haven't really been up to the old standards, and I'm not sure if that's just because of the smaller writing staff or what. If I had the power to assign homework to the show's writing staff for next season, I'd tell them to get to work on the punchlines. The heart of the show is still there, but there've been some distressing signs of writers reaching for the low-hanging fruit. An obvious joke every now and then? That's fine; part of the gag comes from us realizing how obvious it is. But you can only do that sort of run so many times before stupid-clever turns into just plain stupid. Let's tighten this stuff up, okay? The amazing voice cast can only do so much.
Back to "Mutants," as indifferent as I was to the Titanic gags, the reveal of Leela's grandmother was sweet enough, and I did like how the writers got out of turning Fry into a mutant by revealing Mr. Astor. The nod to Metropolis was cool (that big machine that mutants have to keep tending to, in order to keep it from exploding, looks like a machine the workers in Metropolis toiled away at)(hat tip to The Girlfriend on that one, as it's been a few years since I've seen the movie, and probably wouldn't caught the joke), and Devo is welcome any time. Overall, this season seemed about a B+ to me, as its highpoints were more than enough to carry the low ones. I'll throw the B+ to "Mutants" as well. I'd rather overrate the show right now than underrate it, because there's enough vitality here that I'm sure we'll get some more classics in season seven. Can't wait.
- Bender's run-and-jump during the souffle delivery was a sweet piece of physical comedy. That whole sequence was fun to watch.
- "I'm ordering a hundred kegs, a hundred hookers, and a hundred Elvis impersonators who aren't above a little hooking, should the occasion arise."
- "Souffle, madam." "I shall take it here, under my fork."
- "I can eat a hot dog underwater!"
- "Well, they're with the CHUDS now."
- Another great sight gag: Zoidberg floating slowly down into the sewers holding an umbrella. "Three dollars at the drug store!"
- "Did you guys know I have a crush on Leela?" (Another tip for next season—please settle this relationship. I know I've defended the back-and-forth, but if it's gotten to the point where we're trying to get jokes out of the uncertainty, it's time to settle down.)
- "Now here, have some more of what looks like lemonade."
- "Mom, Dad, this is where I work." "Aaaah! Was there a fire?"