But there is no problem with everybody knowing Scruffy in one episode for a change, to be given "Who the heck are you" "Scruffy...the Janitor" treatment the next episode again.
That said, though, my complaint with how Scruffy's been used in the new run has little to do with the fact that the crew now seems to know who he is; it's more that he's been appearing too frequently, when his shtick to me has always seemed to be as the hidden-in-the-shadows (or, you know, the boiler room) character who only emerges when you least expect it, therefore inspiring many a laugh.
Absolutely. Scruffy works best when he's essentially a random variable. He comes out of left field, does something that's funny to relieve tension, and disappears without having impacted the plot. I suppose he would also work fairly well as the character that in one episode comes out and maybe tightens a nut somewhere on the ship, casually and without saying a damn thing, which fixes whatever problem has been plaguing the crew, before disappearing back to his hidey-hole with a porno magazine.
Scruffy is a chaotic event in one sense, rather than a character. To turn him into one by force will most likely cheapen him, possibly destroy his value to the show's dynamic. With that dynamic already destabilised by a lack of the polish and detailed nuances established in earlier seasons, it could conceivably lead to a completely terrible episode. I don't see how it'll lead to a great episode, as much as character development is one of the great strengths of Groening and his team.
Character growth for Scruffy will probably kill off part of his charm: inscrutability. You can never tell when he'll pop up, or exactly what he'll say or do. It's not necessary or relevant, and he's normally not there for long. If he starts popping up constantly, maybe delivering a typical Scruffy-ism or a catchphrase, that's going to feel a little forced. The plotline occupied by Scruffy in TPoB was a brilliant one, and I think it's about as deep as they can dive into Scruffy without disturbing the delicate balance that comprises what the audience loves about him.
Oh, and we've had this discussion before.
The same things were said by the same people. Interestingly, the page linked to has a quote from myself defending Season 6 against accusations of being ruined, and plenty of graphs (not by me) showing that Season 6 was comparable in terms of excellence to the original run.
Go back to the previous thread
for a moment, and look at the discussion as to whether Season 7 represents a decline, and you'll see that the arguments made in defense of Season 6 (and not just by me) in the "everything is worse now" thread are rather harder to apply to Season 7A.
This, coupled with what's supposedly coming up in 7B is actually making it easy for me not to care that Futurama's been cancelled. It was great whilst it lasted, easily better than 90% of TV on a bad day, the best thing that you could hope to channel-surf across on an average day, and the height of popular entertainment on a good one (it's got more of those than bad ones, too). But the direction taken between the return of the show and the beginning of the last season by the production staff hasn't really paid off.
To go back to the glory days, DXC and MG would need to hire back the whole writing team, go with more of the fancier animation that they had going in Seasons 3 & 4, grovel to Christopher Tyng and present him with an even bigger orchestra (the shift from an orchestral score is quite noticeable when you compare something like WMIBACIL to TBaTB, for example), have whichever network is showing it invest in promoting the shit out of the show, and stop pandering to whatever demographic loves pop-culture references that'll be dated in six months. They'd also have to build in more of the rich detail and web of background jokes that characterised Seasons 1-4 (along with much of the movies' run and some of Season 6), they'd have to continue the grand plot arcs that they started or come up with new ones, and they'd need to employ at least one person full-time simply to keep track of continuity.
Which is a roundabout way of saying that the show's going to need a cash injection in order to get back on track, and that cash injection isn't terribly likely. If Futurama hadn't been cancelled whilst it was still good, then it would have ended up declining to Family Guy's level, and probably staying there. If it comes back, it'll come back somewhat reduced from the current capabilities of the staff (and they're currently somewhat reduced from what they could do back in the days of Season 1).
As it is, Seth McFarlane's next project will probably be "Future Guy", the tale of a moron who was catapulted through time, and now makes a living giving wildly inaccurate lectures on galactic network TV about what life was like in the dim and distant past. There'll be a wisecracking alien, a beautiful cybernetic woman, and an old man with a sexually colourful past to flesh out the cast, and there'll be a robot which tells jokes and goofs off.
90 percent of continuity I really don't care about.
You are a terrible person. Seriously, you are awful. You are moral excrement. Continuity is important. Growth, development, and emotional resonance are all enabled by strong continuity. Look at Stargate: SG1, which built up a rich continuity that meshes with and twines around every episode. It was on the air for ten years, and it was when continuity started to go to hell that ratings dropped so far that the plug was pulled (basically after Season 8, when a huge chunk of retconning was dropped in). Look at Red Dwarf. The first six seasons had excellent continuity, which tied together what were in some cases simply collections of unrelated jokes into an epic quest to get back from Deep Space to Earth. When continuity received a destabilising kick to the arse in Season 7, it started to flag. When Season 8 decided to rape continuity with a sledgehammer, the show never really recovered.
Continuity is what builds a universe that you can count on, something that you can care about. It's what gives characters a history with one another, and it's what allows previous events to mean something presently. It turns episodes
into arcs, seasons
into stories, and the whole show into a tapestry rather than a series of isolated sketches.
The joke was always "wait, who is he and why is he here?" so the way they've been using him recently is just a natural extension of that idea.
No. The joke wasn't that nobody knew who Scruffy was and why he was there, the joke was the unpredictability of it. Scruffy would be off-camera until Scruffy was required to deliver his line, and then he would leave again. Scruffy was known to the crew, and his presence unquestioned - but at the same time, a relative unknown to the audience and thus able to provide a moment of dissonance (always useful in comedy). Scruffy was enigmatic, but at the same time a known quantity. Scruffy could be relied upon not to resolve the plot as some kind of deus ex machina, but at the same time help the episode along (usually by providing a counterpoint to building drama or tension. Dissonance again).
To have Scruffy laid bare will strip him of much of his mystique, his undefinable allure. To have Scruffy visible in establishing shots, or standing in the background robs him of that special quality he had: always being on-hand when it was time to say something, but never being obvious. Now the unpredictability is gone. When Scruffy is there, you know he'll eventually say something or have an impact (and if he doesn't that's anticlimax. Not even the good kind, that's used effectively for humour. Just anticlimax). Beforehand, there was no telling if he'd even show up in an episode. It added something exciting and special to each appearance. Twist? There wasn't any fucking need for one, because he was used effectively and creatively. There's a difference, by the way, between doing this and "putting a twist on it".
Besides which, "a new twist" on something every five minutes is arguably far more tedious than a properly-executed and well-timed running joke.
Fry having both Scruffy's home and mobile number in BWaBB was one of my favourite Scruffy moments, strangely.
Yeah, some of the best Scruffy moments have some of the least Scruffy in them. He really is a character who works best by being absent most of the time. Scruffy's charm is entangled with his enigma, and I fear that to dissolve one will unravel the other.