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Binder

Starship Captain
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« : 09-14-2013 13:10 »
« : 09-14-2013 13:14 »

So last night I was hanging out with a friend of mine. He asked how the Futurama finale was, and before I answered I asked if he had even seen the series. He had not. After a bit of arguing, mostly about how telling him what happened in the finale would mean nothing to him given he has never even seen the show, he agreed to watch 10-12 episodes and then the finale. Sort of a 13 episode truncated version of the series.

I've attempted a list, which I'll post below, but I need advice. I've tried to cover the big arcs, like Fry being sent to the future, the brain spawn, Fry and Leela's romance, and a few standout episodes. I also stuck in three episodes that ill note as being optional. I mainly chose them because I think they'll appeal to him.

1. Space Pilot 3000 (Sets everything up, essential viewing)
2. Hell is Other Robots (great episode, and essential for understanding The Devil's Hands)
(I didn't choose any season 2 episodes, any suggestion for at least one?)
3. The Luck of the Fryish
4. The Day The Earth Stood Stupid
5. Roswell that Ends Well
6. Jurassic Bark
7. The Why of Fry
*Where No Fan Has Gone Before (Optional episode - he's a big Star Trek fan, but mainly TNG)
8. The Farnsworth Paradox
9. The Devil's Hands are Idle Playthings
*Bender's Big Score (Optional - I told him about the four movies, if by this point he wants to see one, this is the best of the four)
*Attack of the Killer App (Optional episode - not a great episode, but he is a fan of Apple products so I'd think he'd personally enjoy this one)
10. The Late Phillip J. Fry
11. Meanwhile

I'm either open to a season 2 episode that will really be essential viewing, or moving Where No Fan Has Gone Before into the 11 episodes. Or both?

I've noted that I cover a lot of the past and time travel. Perhaps a season 2 episode that really shows off the secondary characters of the PE crew and New New York?

Thoughts? Anybody have their own list?
Beamer

DOOP Secretary
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« #1 : 09-14-2013 14:10 »

The AV Club did a "ten episodes that represent Futurama the best" article recently. I agree with some of it, though would need to give it a good think before writing my own list. :)
Binder

Starship Captain
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« #2 : 09-14-2013 15:47 »

Thanks for the link! My only issue with the AV Club list is that it contains a few less than stellar episodes, and Reincarnation really only makes sense when watching it after ITWGY. It isn't really Futurama virgin friendly with the intro eps either.
Beamer

DOOP Secretary
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« #3 : 09-14-2013 17:44 »

True. But I guess there's a dividing line between introducing the show to someone with some small semblance of familiarity with the show, and someone who knows nothing about it whatsoever (in the case of the latter, you would pretty much need to show them a decent portion of season 1, since it establishes so much).

Futurama's top qualities lie with its premise, its futuristic setting, its penchant for sci-fi storylines, its characters, its emotional depth, and of course, its humour. The one Futurama outing that I think hits all those marks would be Bender's Big Score, but it's also a huge no-no for Futurama virgins, as they would need prior knowledge of the Nibblonians, Robot Santa, and Fry's extensive past among other things. In terms of regular-length episodes, I think the one that comes closest to meeting the all-around criteria would be Parasites Lost (which doesn't require TOO much knowledge of the mythos, either).

As for the rest of my list, I'd pick some individual episodes that meet at least one of two of that criteria. Definitely The Late Phillip J Fry, for its awesome sci-fi storyline and its big emotional punch. And you'd definitely need one relentlessly funny episode, to showcase the great comedy of Futurama... Maybe War is the H-Word, which also contains some great Zapp & Kif moments, and falls into the "adventure on another planet" category too, of which I think you should include at least one. But like I said, I'll jot up a full list once I've mulled it over some more. It's an interesting task to ponder. :)
Mr Zoidberg

Delivery Boy
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« #4 : 09-14-2013 18:20 »

I've noted that I cover a lot of the past and time travel. Perhaps a season 2 episode that really shows off the secondary characters of the PE crew and New New York?
How Hermes Requesitioned His Groove Back

I like your idea of a sort of condensed "best bits" season. Good luck!
Binder

Starship Captain
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« #5 : 09-14-2013 19:58 »

So right now I'm considering (season and episode numbers correspond to Netflix, for his convenience):

1. Space Pilot 3000 - Season 1, Episode 1
2. Hell is Other Robots Season 1, Episode 9
3. War Is The H-Word - Season 3, Episode 1
4. The Luck of the Fryish - Season 3, Episode 8
5. The Day The Earth Stood Stupid - Season 3, Episode 12
6. Roswell that Ends Well - Season 4, Episode 7
7. Jurassic Bark - Season 5, Episode 2
8. The Why of Fry - Season 5, Episode 8
9. Where No Fan Has Gone Before - Season 4, Episode 12
10. The Farnsworth Paradox - Season 5, Episode 10
11. The Devil's Hands are Idle Playthings - Season 5, Episode 16
12. The Late Phillip J. Fry - Season 7, Episode 7
13. Meanwhile - Season 10, Episode 13 (not yet on Netflix)

Optional episodes:
Bender's Big Score - Season 6, Episode 1
Attack of the Killer App - Season 7, Episode 3

I figure it covers the first and last episode (#1 and #13 on the list), introduces the Robot Devil (#2) which makes it easy to understand who he is in The Devil's Hands (#11), offers up a few very funny mission episodes (#3 and #9), offers up the big emotional episodes (#4 and #7), has a couple of crazy time & space bending episodes (#6, #10 and #12), and answers the big "was Fry's trip to the future an accident?" question (#5 and #8).

Then, like I noted, he said he might watch one of the movies so I chose the best one, and I threw Attack of the Killer App in ONLY because he is a big Apple fan so he might get a kick out of it. But I'll preface that it isn't there because it is great or essential in any way.

If he wasn't such a Star Trek fan, I'd have replaced "Where No Fan" with "The Sting".
SolidSnake

Professor
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« #6 : 09-14-2013 20:06 »

I don't think 10 episodes is nearly enough to represent the series. I'd say around 25-30 does the trick. The top 25 episodes I think best represents the series before Meanwhile aired is listed below. These episodes are pretty much essential for understanding some of the series' continuity, and other major facts of the show.

1. Space Pilot 3000
2. The Series Has Landed
3. I, Roomate
4. A Head in the Polls
5. Xmas Story
6. A Bicyclops of Her Own
7. War is the H-Word
8. Parasites Lost
9. The Day the Earth Stood Stupid
10. The Luck of The Fryrish
11. The Cyber-House rules
12. Time keeps On Slippn'
13. Roswell that Ends Well
14. Leela's Homeworld
15. Jurassic Bark
16. The Why of Fry
17. The Farnsworth Parabox
18. The Devils Hands Are Idle Playthings
19. Lethal Inspection
20. The Late Phillip J. Fry
21. The Prisoner of Benda
22. Reincarnation
23. Fun on a Bun
24. Vivas Mars Vegas
25. Murder on The Planet Express
Binder

Starship Captain
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« #7 : 09-14-2013 20:45 »

I don't disagree, but the 10-13 number came from my agreed upon number with my friend. So I was restricted to that number.
cyber_turnip

Urban Legend
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« #8 : 09-14-2013 20:49 »
« : 09-14-2013 20:50 »

It's tough to try and distill it down to so few.

1. Space Pilot 3000 (obviously, it's the pilot and it establishes things)
2. The Series Has Landed ("Meanwhile" has a lot of callbacks to it and it establishes a lot of other things)
3. Parasites Lost (the first really emotional episode and one of the first real developments of Fry and Leela's relationship)
4. The Luck of the Fryrish (just plain fantastic and the first episode to really deal with Fry's past)
5. The Day the Earth Stood Stupid (deals with Fry's grand purpose in the universe and sets up "The Why of Fry")
6. Roswell that Ends Well (generally considered to be the best episode)
7. Leela's Homeworld (establishes that Leela is a mutant, rather than an alien - and a great episode)
8. Jurassic Bark (probably the most notorious episode - and a great episode, too)
9. The Why of Fry (further deals with Fry's grand purpose and one of the real hints at things to come with him and Fry and Leela)
10. The Farnsworth Parabox (I'd say that this is the best example of an episode with no goal other than to be hilarious)
11. Bender's Big Score (I'd say it's the best of the movies)
12. The Late Philip J. Fry (a phenomenal episode, the best of the revived run and the first time we've really seen Fry and Leela properly interact as anything resembling a couple)

13. Meanwhile


Although, if he's a big Star Trek fan, you definitely want to swap one of those for "Where No Fan Has Gone Before".
Binder

Starship Captain
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« #9 : 09-14-2013 21:24 »

I might add "The Series Has Landed" and hope he'll accept a 14 episode list. Thanks!
totalnerd undercanada

DOOP Ubersecretary
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« #10 : 09-14-2013 21:27 »

Turnip's list works pretty well for me. It covers the major points of Fry's overall arc, as well as the Fry/Leela relationship. But I think that I agree with Snake. You need at least fifteen to make a decent stab at encompassing the series as a whole (and I'd slap Teenage Mutant Leela's Hurdles in there, along with The Devil's Hands Are Idle Playthings.

Given twenty-five episodes, I think that you could pretty much sum up the entire show, whilst including at least one episode from each season, and thus get a newcomer to the series well and truly introduced to the Futuramaverse.
Monster_Robot_Maniac

Liquid Emperor
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« #11 : 09-14-2013 21:57 »

Here are my picks, in no paticular order.....

1)SP3K
2)A Tale of Two Santas
3)Roswell that ends Well
4)The Why of Fry
5)Leela's Homeworld
6)The Farnsworth Parabox
7)The Devil's Hands are Idle Playthings
8)The Prisoner of Benda
9)Overclockwise
10)Meanwhile
cyber_turnip

Urban Legend
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« #12 : 09-14-2013 23:56 »

Here are my picks, in no paticular order.....

1)SP3K
2)A Tale of Two Santas
3)Roswell that ends Well
4)The Why of Fry
5)Leela's Homeworld
6)The Farnsworth Parabox
7)The Devil's Hands are Idle Playthings
8)The Prisoner of Benda
9)Overclockwise
10)Meanwhile


What is this? Some kind of Monster Robot Maniac Fun Collection?
UnrealLegend

Space Pope
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« #13 : 09-15-2013 01:33 »

It's tough to try and distill it down to so few.

1. Space Pilot 3000 (obviously, it's the pilot and it establishes things)
2. The Series Has Landed ("Meanwhile" has a lot of callbacks to it and it establishes a lot of other things)
3. Parasites Lost (the first really emotional episode and one of the first real developments of Fry and Leela's relationship)
4. The Luck of the Fryrish (just plain fantastic and the first episode to really deal with Fry's past)
5. The Day the Earth Stood Stupid (deals with Fry's grand purpose in the universe and sets up "The Why of Fry")
6. Roswell that Ends Well (generally considered to be the best episode)
7. Leela's Homeworld (establishes that Leela is a mutant, rather than an alien - and a great episode)
8. Jurassic Bark (probably the most notorious episode - and a great episode, too)
9. The Why of Fry (further deals with Fry's grand purpose and one of the real hints at things to come with him and Fry and Leela)
10. The Farnsworth Parabox (I'd say that this is the best example of an episode with no goal other than to be hilarious)
11. Bender's Big Score (I'd say it's the best of the movies)
12. The Late Philip J. Fry (a phenomenal episode, the best of the revived run and the first time we've really seen Fry and Leela properly interact as anything resembling a couple)

13. Meanwhile


Although, if he's a big Star Trek fan, you definitely want to swap one of those for "Where No Fan Has Gone Before".

This list is pretty much perfect.

It's a shame that almost all the great episodes are about Fry, because this selection sadly has little character variety.

If you MUST have a season 2 episode, I'd chose either:

-Brannigan Begin Again (arguably one of the funniest episodes, but might not be as good without seeing LLLIS)

-Xmas Story (a reasonably well-known classic that features some of the earliest Fry/Leela shippiness)

-Why Must I be a Crustacean in Love? (makes great use of Zoidberg, unlike most of the good episodes. Also has a lot of Fry)

-Put Your Head on My Shoulders (another funny episode that makes great use of Amy)

-How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back (One of the only Hermes episodes that's genuinely great)
totalnerd undercanada

DOOP Ubersecretary
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« #14 : 09-15-2013 01:41 »

Of those, I think WMIBACIL is probably the best for giving a flavour of Futurama. It's got most of the crew doing at least something for at least one scene, and it's absolutely hilarious almost all the way through.

It's definitely a good example of the heights that the show's capable of reaching. Although, the other suggestions are too.
cartoonlover27

Professor
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« #15 : 09-15-2013 01:56 »

Of those, I think WMIBACIL is probably the best for giving a flavour of Futurama. It's got most of the crew doing at least something for at least one scene, and it's absolutely hilarious almost all the way through.

It's definitely a good example of the heights that the show's capable of reaching. Although, the other suggestions are too.

I agree. WMIBACL is one of my favorites. Some more that are good for representing the show are The Deep South and The Prisoner of Benda.
Monster_Robot_Maniac

Liquid Emperor
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« #16 : 09-15-2013 02:12 »

I always though A Farewell to Arms was pretty good at representing the show. It involves every main Crew member, along with most of the Secondary characters, and had a very large and interesting plot.
Anna3000

Starship Captain
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« #17 : 09-15-2013 19:49 »

I think cyber_turnip's list is basically perfect, but if I were forced to choose one single episode to represent the series, it would be a toss-up between X-mas Story and The Prisoner of Benda. They may not be as excellent overall as episodes like RTEW or TLPJF, but I do think they give a better flavor of what the series is as a whole while still being great episodes.

Both of them involve each Planet Express employee in some manner and give a fairly thorough idea of what every one of them is like, including the less-prominent characters, Hermes and Amy. They also give a good image of how life in the future is, whereas TLPJF and RTEW have settings that are pretty far removed from the average Futurama episode.
Beamer

DOOP Secretary
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« #18 : 09-16-2013 01:21 »

cyber_turnip's list is great, though it's a little too heavy on the "significant" episodes - you don't want to spoil all the big moments of the show for someone in an introduction. Leela's Homeworld, for example, has a much more satisfying emotional pay-off when aired in its intended place in the series because we've been through so much of Leela's hardship up until that point. We've learned all about her past in the orphanarium in The Cyber House Rules, we saw how desperate she was to learn her origins in A Bicyclops Built for Two... Not to mention the pay-off is underwhelming without prior knowledge of the mutants and the their role in the show. I would cut down on episodes like this and maybe just put in at least one "space adventure" episode, and at least one with Zapp and Kif.
cyber_turnip

Urban Legend
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« #19 : 09-16-2013 09:30 »

You know what? I totally agree with Beamer.

Swap "Leela's Homeworld" for "Where No Fan Has Gone Before", seeing as they're into Star Trek.
Beamer

DOOP Secretary
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« #20 : 09-16-2013 09:45 »

Plus, Where No Fan Has Gone Before also meets the criteria for a "space adventure" and has a decent amount of Zapp & Kif. ;)

It definitely wouldn't be in my list unless I was showing it to a trekkie, but yeah, if that's the case, I think Mr. Turnip has just about nailed it. I wouldn't show them Bender's Big Score without showing them at least one Xmas episode though, that whole third act is just going to leave them mystified.
Gorky

Space Pope
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« #21 : 10-20-2019 23:33 »

Not-sure-this-is-the-best-thread-for-this-post-but-it's-the-thread-I'm-choosing *BUMP* of ambivalence...

I came across a pretty compelling argument for "A Head in the Polls" as the best episode to introduce a new viewer to the show because it embodies (heh) so much of what makes Futurama great without getting too mired in the myth arc-type stuff that would probably alienate a first-time viewer.

It's a fair enough take, but "A Head in the Polls" is a pretty wacky episode and I think there's potentially an argument to be made that an episode with a bit more heart is actually more representative of the show as a whole. I think I've always defaulted to "Xmas Story" for that reason: it's satirical, it's goofy, but it also has genuine pathos that doesn't lean too heavily on an existing knowledge of who the characters are (I mean, Fry blatantly names the dynamic between him and Leela--"I miss my family, but you never even had a family"--for the benefit of any first-time viewer).
UnrealLegend

Space Pope
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« #22 : 10-21-2019 07:11 »

I misread "A Head in the Polls" as "All the Presidents Heads" and was super confused at that choice, and began a plan of punching my computer screen. Luckily, I did a double-take.

On topic: I still pretty much stand by what I said in 2013. However cyber_turnip's list needs more Robot Devil. Specifically, "The Devil's Hands are Idle Playthings".
zappdingbat

Bending Unit
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« #23 : 03-07-2020 02:27 »
« : 03-07-2020 02:31 »

S01E03 - I, Roommate (very good establishing episode)
S03E01 - Amazon Women in the Mood (funniest?)
S03E19 - Roswell That Ends Well (best time travel)
S04E04 - Less Than Hero (most carelessly fun)
S04E08 - Crimes of the Hot (best enviro episode)
S04E10 - The Why of Fry (best mythology episode)
S04E15 - The Farnsworth Paradox (best sci fi episode)
S05E03 - Bender's Game (best movie)
S06E07 - Late Philip J Fry (best sentimental)
S06E26 - Reincarnation (best of the 3-parters)
S07E24 - Murder on the Planet Express (best homage?)
DannyJC13

DOOP Secretary
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« #24 : 03-24-2020 15:20 »

S05E03 - Bender's Game (best movie)

A controversial opinion! :eek:

Why do you like Bender's Game the best, zappdingbat?
Gorky

Space Pope
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« #25 : 03-25-2020 23:26 »

Yes, please explain yourself! :p

Anyway, here are my 10-12 episodes:

1. "Episode Two: The Series Has Landed"
Establishes one of the big emotional through-lines of the series--that, for however well-suited Fry may be to the 31st century, he is still A Man Out of Time and he's missed out on a lot being frozen for a thousand years. Also introduces the secondary cast of characters at Planet Express, which seems important.

2. "Xmas Story"
Builds on that same emotional through-line noted above, and establishes some of the more dystopian elements of the year 3000.

3. "The Problem with Popplers"
Probably the best Omicronian episode, and also the introduction of the Waterfall clan.

4. "Amazon Women in the Mood"
Quite possibly the best episode that takes place on another planet, and certainly the best episode featuring Bea Arthur as a fembot-masquerading-as-a-femputer-overlord.

5. "The Luck of the Fryrish"
The first and best of the flashback-to-Fry's-pre-frozen-life episodes.

6. "Godfellas"
Absolutely the best Bender-centric episode, and an example of how formally/thematically daring the show can be at its best.

7. "Roswell that Ends Well"
From top to bottom, I think this may be the best episode of the series--inventive story, cool exploration of a well-worn sci fi trope (i.e., time travel), stunning animation, and absolutely hilarious.

8. "Leela's Homeworld"
Such a satisfying resolution to one of the series' longest-running mysteries.

9. "Teenage Mutant Leela's Hurdles"
One of the best episodes that sort of showcases the entire Planet Express crew, plus an example of how masterfully the show can take an objectively wacky premise and transform it into something with genuine emotional resonance.

10. "The Why of Fry"
Agreed with zapp--this is the best mythology episode.

11. "The Sting
Another truly inventive episode, and probably my personal favorite of the series. (Also one of the best shippy episodes.)

12. "The Late Philip J. Fry"
Because I guess you have to acknowledge the new run, and this is the best episode of the bunch... ;)
zappdingbat

Bending Unit
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« #26 : 03-25-2020 23:42 »

I was just typing up my response! Here it be:

I think it's mainly that it plays like an extended episode of the original run. The main storylines are all additions of what we've already seen:
- An exploration of the mind of Bender (and robots in general) with the imagination plot
- The history of the Nibblonians and dark matter, both 1st season topics
- More history behind the Professor and Mom

The main new part is the sequence in the D&D world, but I found that quite funny (the wizard is casting a powerful spell! tedious debate!). The animation for that was nice, as well.

Contrast that with the other movies.
Bender's Big Score: the revisits to the cryo lab and Fry's search for Leeloo are good, but the Nudar storyline is preposterous. It's hard to believe all Earthicans would be so stupid as to fall for their tricks, and, even after falling for their tricks, that they wouldn't just become a mob and throw the Nudars out. In other words, it's hard to suspend disbelief when 3 people working out of an office building in a city take over a planet, and that's the main storyline.

The Beast with a Billion Backs: The Yeevo takeover parts are a bit disgusting, but worse than that, the voice acting for Yeevo doesn't ring true for me; it just sounds like David Cross. The story fits together well, but it seems like there's less story; the main plots as I recall as just the Yeevo plot and the League of Robots plot, the latter of which is fairly thin.

Into the Wild Green Yonder: Probably my 2nd favourite of the movies. My main complaint with this is that the two storylines seem tacked together; there was no particular reason why the Femenistas had to go after Leo Wong; any other environmental villainy would have done just as well. And, as far as environmental villainy goes, building a golf course isn't as big a target as they've tackled in the past.
Gorky

Space Pope
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« #27 : 03-29-2020 17:31 »

Ah, so it sounds like what you appreciate most about Bender's Game is its relative cohesion: even if there's that protracted interlude in the fantasy world, said interlude follows naturally from the movie's other established plot points (the dark matter stuff, Bender in the asylum) and/or incorporates and resolves them (Leela's temper, Igner's parentage). I can get on-board with that, in theory, but in practice I find the movie kind of...boring, I guess? The jokes are sort of lazy to me, but I'll readily admit that I'm no fantasy buff so that part of the movie definitely loses me.

I've always felt that The Beast with a Billion Backs, for all its flaws, is the most movie-like in scope. (BBS also has the scope thing going for it, but I agree with you that the scammer stuff is pretty insulting to the audience's intelligence, not to mention the characters'.) My favorite movie remains ItWGY, though: it's not perfect by any means (the entire Bender/Fanny subplot takes up a quarter of the movie and adds nothing), but it hits the right notes for me in terms of humor (I find it to be the most quotable of the movies) and heart (even if the Fry/Leela stuff comes out of nowhere after everything that went down with Colleen and Yivo in Billion Backs).
zappdingbat

Bending Unit
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« #28 : 04-07-2020 01:18 »
« : 04-07-2020 02:17 »

Alongside the cohesion is that, to me, it had the same feel as much of the original run. A sense of exploration and discovery. I've always been partial to the David X Cohen episodes, as well. I will say that the biggest thing I didn't like about Bender's Game was the opening demolition derby; that was totally out of character for Leela. Otherwise, though, the characters generally remained true to themselves.

ItWGY  has the same tone, too, especially the sharp satire surrounding the Femininstas and the Mad Fellows. I just find it hard to get past the miniature golf part of the story. On paper I can see how it would make one chuckle - it is comically absurd - but it doesn't bear any sort of scrutiny. The place they ended up, the issue of species extinction, was an appropriately weighty topic. If only they had gotten there with a story about deforestation, for example.


Gorky

Space Pope
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« #29 : 04-08-2020 00:44 »

Alongside the cohesion is that, to me, it had the same feel as much of the original run. A sense of exploration and discovery.

Ah, that's such a lovely way to describe the vibe of the original run--I really dig that. I'm not sure I see "Bender's Game" in quite those terms, but I can certainly appreciate where you're coming from and am no longer quite so disturbed by your affinity for it. :p

Though, oddly enough, I actually do enjoy the demolition derby set-piece--conceptually, at least, if not in execution (I cringe just thinking about Leela wailing over being beaten by REEEEDNECKS!).

I've always been partial to the David X Cohen episodes, as well.

DXC is definitely one of my favorite writers on the show, as is probably evident from my list above (both "Xmas Story" and "The Why of Fry" are Top 20 caliber episodes to me), but he damn near lost me with the shit-show that was "Free Will Hunting." :hmpf:
zappdingbat

Bending Unit
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« #30 : 04-09-2020 01:48 »

Eh, Free Will Hunting was uneven, for sure, but at least it was addressing a tough question. As the man himself paraphrased (in the commentary to The Deep South), if you're not going to catch a fish, you might as well not catch a big fish.
totalnerd undercanada

DOOP Ubersecretary
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« #31 : 04-11-2020 08:47 »

FWH was clumsy. That's the main problem.  Like much of the resurgent series,  it tried to take on a bigger fish than it could successfully land.

Futurama was always at its best when taking a scifi concept and then using that as a platform for storytelling, rather than attempting to be philosophical or deeply meaningful.

Take ISTE. Rather than explore too deeply the question of emotion and whether robots can experience it,  this is merely the setup for a whole lot of craziness that ends with the concept being used for one final joke. It's a much stronger episode,  and yet doesn't attempt to do anything more with the central question than ask it.

Futurama wasn't supposed to be about answers.  Successful scifi rarely is.  Successful scifi asks questions and leaves them for the audience to ponder.
UnrealLegend

Space Pope
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« #32 : 04-11-2020 13:21 »

The derby scene in Bender's Game reminds me a lot of early episodes of Futurama (and the Simpsons, too) in that there's this funny little scene in a unique setting to start the episode (movie, in the case) that doesn't actually hold any real importance to the plot except to introduce some kind of conflict that kicks off the meat of the story. In this example, it's Leela's temper.

Other classic examples include the blernsball game in "Fear of a Bot Planet", the beach scene in "When Aliens Attack", the internet scene in "A Bicyclops Built for Two", or the basketball scene in "Time keeps on Slippin'".
Gorky

Space Pope
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« #33 : 04-11-2020 23:47 »

Agreed, UrL. Oddly enough, all the Vegas stuff in ItWGY doesn't fall into that category for me, maybe because it drags on too long (20-odd minutes) or attempts to set up too many plot-relevant threads (Fry's psychic abilities, Leela's environmentalism). The only throwaway stuff from the first quarter of the movie is Bender's affair with Fanny and the poker tournament, and while I actually find the latter somewhat amusing, it's nowhere near as good as the other set-pieces you cite.

On a related note...

"A Bicyclops Built for Two"

This one almost edged out "Amazon Women in the Mood" in my 10-12 episode list; it's definitely my second-favorite of the "hijinks ensue on a strange planet" genre, and that first act with all the internet stuff is fantastic. It also has a slight undercurrent of Fry/Leela shippiness and a stealth emotional ending (that music cue at the end of the episode gets me every time), and I think it's definitely representative of the show at its best.
zappdingbat

Bending Unit
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« #34 : 04-15-2020 03:44 »

My only issue with the derby scene was the setup; it's an almost exact mirror of the setup for Parasites Lost. In Parasites Lost, it was Fry who lost his temper with Sal, and Leela who told him to calm down. In the movie, the opposite. I suppose it makes sense if Leela has a Scotty like temper, only losing her cool when her ship is insulted, but it really seems like the don't-react-to-bullies part of her character was clearly established.

I don't think the problem with FWH was that it landed on some answer - look at how it questioned whether humans have free will, and whether Bender already had free will before getting the free will unit. Instead, I think the main problem is what you mention earlier, the lack of storytelling on top of the science fiction device. There was no B story to speak of, and the A story went back to the question of free will too often.

As for what makes good science fiction.. investigation into the play between technological change and social/personal change seems widespread (using one or the other as the starting point). If you have all that as a background to a good story, and include lots of jokes, baby, you got yourself a Futurama episode!
Gorky

Space Pope
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« #35 : 04-15-2020 21:18 »
« : 04-15-2020 21:21 »

I don't think the problem with FWH was that it landed on some answer - look at how it questioned whether humans have free will, and whether Bender already had free will before getting the free will unit. Instead, I think the main problem is what you mention earlier, the lack of storytelling on top of the science fiction device. There was no B story to speak of, and the A story went back to the question of free will too often.

I haven't rewatched "Free Will Hunting" recently enough to be able to comment on the specifics of its plot structure, but I will say that, thematically, what annoys me is that the show had already set a very high bar for episodes that use Bender's robot-ness to explore larger philosophical or moral questions about humanity with "Godfellas" and "Lethal Inspection." I can see the ways in which FWH is trying to fit into that same mold, and on that score it just falls so short to me. I know it's not necessarily fair to assess one episode in relation to others, not on its own merits--but I'd argue that the merits of FWH are themselves pretty lacking.
totalnerd undercanada

DOOP Ubersecretary
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« #36 : 04-17-2020 12:54 »

I don't think the problem with FWH was that it landed on some answer

thematically, what annoys me is that the show had already set a very high bar for episodes that use Bender's robot-ness to explore larger philosophical or moral questions about humanity

Yeah, the problem is not the fact that an answer was obtained so much as they set out to obtain one, and having obtained one it was a cheap, crappy, answer rather than anything to compare with the questions raised by episodes from the earlier run.

Setting out in search of an answer, I think, rather than simply exploring the question and raising others, was the downfall of this episode, because they obtained as a result an answer that was unsatisfying (after a rather lacklustre search).

That's what I meant when I said the episode was clumsy, and that successful sci-fi is more about exploring questions than getting answers.

Answers are often too simplistic and somewhat unsatisfying when it comes to the big questions and themes that sci-fi explores. Best to avoid them, and ask questions. Incidentally, this is what I think contributed to Star Trek Voyager being less satisfying than other Trek series like DS9 or TNG. They went for definite answers more than they explored questions, and the exceptions (such as the holographic doctor exploring what it means to be a person rather than simply a program) are some of the best episodes of that show.

Futurama fell, IMO, into the Voyager trap for this episode.
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