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: Unpopular (?) The Comedy Central episodes have aged like a fine wine  (Read 1121 times)
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SpaceGoldfish fromWazn

Urban Legend
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« : 07-13-2020 10:40 »
« : 07-13-2020 10:44 »

For me the aggressive pop cultural references were too much at the time, but for the most part, many of them have aged well to the point that I enjoyed the CC episodes so much more after not watching them since 2011/13.  

Case in point: Susan the Boyle.   At first I wanted to throw the television out the window everytime she was there.  Now when I rewatch it, I feel much much much more sorry for Susan being on Leela's ass way way way way WAY more then the other way round.  The person who needed to learn a lesson most of all was Leela for hurting Susan's feelings so damn much and not respecting her as her own sentient being, but no, as usual Fry had to humiliate or hurt himself or give something up for a woman who shows no consideration for anyone else's feelings but her own.    Wasn't she the one who encouraged him to be that sneaky in the first place?  Fry clearly felt worse for hurting Leela's feelings out of desperation then Leela has felt for making Susan feel worthless and lonely and not letting Susan enjoy herself and doesn't seem to be aware that Susan has feelings and thoughts of her own in the slightest.

For me the CC episodes have really cemented Futurama's part of a snapshot of a bygone era in history, the early to mid 2010s, the way it captured the previous decade like a big nasty ugly beautiful bug in a lump of amber.   The problem is when they would start coming from Fry when it would be a lot more believable coming from Amy, as Fry is very not up to date with the latest trends while Amy has her finger firmly on the pulse of pop culture and passing fads to the point its surprising it hasnt had anything amputated yet.

Classic Simpsons and Futurama were far more successful in their execution of current trends, so the point that the Simpsons catalogued the life of a nuclear family in the ninties, while Futurama captured the lives of young men and women in their early twenties in the dawn of a new era in human history to their early thirties, along with co-workers, families, friends, lovers and the other people they have to interact with.  

What Futurama should really do if they ever reboot the series is expand its cast, as there were a number of intriguing side characters and potential villains, and meant that even if they felt like a depressing slog at times, I still kept up with the series even when each season felt more disappointing then the last.    And delve into the lives of these indivdiuals and allow them to shaek up the status quo.  The CC seasons just felt too much like recycled ideas from the classic run, because of their unwillingness to take any real risks, which meant things like the Fry Leela relationship felt so unsatisfying because of how wishy washy it felt, along with established canon emotionally stable characters having their personalities and arcs be massively derailed.    Sex with Zapp indeed.   There were so many ways that episode could have been handled that didn't make me dislike nearly all the characters involved, but I knew it was not going to go well when they changed the title from Blue Munda to.... Zapp Dingbat.  
David A

Space Pope
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« #1 : 07-13-2020 13:50 »

The Comedy Central episodes are awful and should never have been made.
SpaceGoldfish fromWazn

Urban Legend
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« #2 : 08-04-2020 22:34 »

Thank you for your rebuttal.   You have clearly given me a lot to think about with your excellent counterarguments. 
Gorky

Space Pope
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« #3 : 08-05-2020 00:53 »

I think the best thing you could say for the new run is that there are a handful of episodes that can stand alongside the greatest episodes of the original run--the worst you can say is some version of David A's sentiments.

I do definitely agree with your argument, SpaceGoldfish, that the new run's c. 2010-2013 pop culture references would probably seem almost quaint, a decade hence. In general, I think the problem with pop culture references in the new run has been grossly overstated. Like, the original run had a similar tendency to over-rely on then-contemporary pop culture references ("I Dated a Robot," with its send-up of Napster, is a great example of this). And I think one's ability to overlook the dated pop culture references of either era of the show is entirely dependent on one's personal affinity for the source material in question. I am a child of the late '90s and early aughts, which means the "topical" references in the original run tap into a rich vein of nostalgia for me. Not so with the references in the new run--though I've been more forgiving of them than most (see: my belief that oft-cited offenders "Attack of the Killer App" and "Yo Leela Leela" are actually not that bad, thank you very much).
SolidSnake

Professor
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« #4 : 08-05-2020 22:23 »
« : 08-05-2020 22:36 »

You're not alone. I've been rewatching some of the CC run lately, and I've been finding myself enjoy some episodes way more than when they first aired. Some of these episodes include Decision 3012, Free Will Hunting, and Clockwork Origin. Like, on one hand I can totally agree with David A when he says some episodes just shouldn't have been made. Looking back on episodes like Naturama and Saturday Morning Fun Pit, I'd have preferred those episodes just never been made to begin with. However, I can agree that some of these episodes are aging very fine. It sort of feels like during the whole CC run, the writing kept trying to find it's own footing but never quite got there until Season 7. The weirdest part for me personally, is that I find myself enjoying Season 7 episodes more than Season 6 episodes of the CC run; whereas I initially liked Season 6 more only a few years ago. So bearing that in mind, I think it's entirely possible that the writers coulda been testing the grounds with season 6 in order to know what direction they wanted to bring the show if it continued, which resulted in Season 7 being able to have much more consistency throughout it's episodes than season 6. And when I say consistency, I mean it didn't try so hard to catch up with the times. The characters in Season 7 are in a sense a bit more developed because they finally caught up with the flow of things by the end of season 6. Hence the quality of episodes remaining consistent throughout the entire season, and the character development doesn't feel as forced. Just my opinion ig. Some things in Season 6 felt incredibly forced like Overclockwise' ending and the whole Fry/peppy episode. At least in Season 7, you're able to tell if things feel rushed intentionally or for the sake of the plot.
UnrealLegend

Space Pope
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« #5 : 08-06-2020 08:14 »

I've often disagreed with the idea that pop culture references automatically doom a show into obscurity.

The most important thing is whether it stands on its own or if it needs to use the reference as a crutch rather than... actually be funny. I don't think Futurama ever fell into the latter category (or, very rarely at least).

When Decision 3012 came out, I recall some PEELers shaking their heads at the premise due to it referencing a current/recent event. The thing is... in a vacuum, that episode makes perfect sense and the reference is more like a neat bit of trivia than a detriment.
Svip

Administrator
DOOP Secretary
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« #6 : 08-06-2020 12:20 »
« : 08-06-2020 12:21 »

The CC era is definitely the weaker era of Futurama.  And while there are definitely diamonds in the rough, they are unfortunately too far apart.  The twice upon 26 episodes shows its toll on the writers.  Things that would have been left on the cutting floor now makes it to a full blown episode, because production and time.

There is also a tone in the movies and the subsequent seasons that smells of gloating and hubris.  And I don't like arrogance.  It's hard to express, but I prefer humility, particularly in the context of what happened.

I honestly have not watched the CC era episodes for years, and yes, controversially, there are episodes of that era that I have not watched at all.  They don't have the same charm that made me tune in for the next episode like during the Fox era.  I hate to say it, but the censorship by Fox helped restrict their writing and hone in their creativity.  Unrestricted writing does not necessarily lead to good.  Art through adversity and all that.

Still, I don't know, perhaps I will enjoy them more on a re-watch this time around, as my expectations are definitely much lower now than they were 6-7 years ago.  I just have a hard time to motivate myself to watch them.
Gorky

Space Pope
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« #7 : 08-06-2020 13:26 »
« : 08-06-2020 13:33 »

They don't have the same charm that made me tune in for the next episode like during the Fox era.  I hate to say it, but the censorship by Fox helped restrict their writing and hone in their creativity.  Unrestricted writing does not necessarily lead to good.  Art through adversity and all that.

This is an excellent point, Duck Man. The original run definitely had its bawdier episodes ("Spanish Fry" being an all-time favorite of mine) and its bloodier episodes (the infamously delayed/quasi-banned "A Tale of Two Santas"), but they didn't push the envelope so much as they recognized the boundaries of the envelope and found, as you say, creative ways to use the envelope (this analogy is awful, I apologize).

Or, stated differently: When the show did something envelope-pushing on FOX, it felt fresh and sort of pleasantly forbidden; when the show did the same thing on Comedy Central, it felt stale and almost compulsory. So you could make the argument that the show had always pushed the envelope, but the envelope itself was different at CC than it was at FOX, and not for the better. Honestly, the writing was on the wall for the new run from the very start, with "In-A-Gadda-Da-Leela" taking full "advantage" of Comedy Central's looser standards and practices. Naked Leela! V-GINY! Pubic Library! Yuk, yuk, yuk (by which I mean "yuck, yuck, yuck").

That said, I'm having a hard time articulating why the sexual humor in IAGDL bugs me while, say, "Why Must I Be a Crustacean in Love?"--which involves copious amounts of male jelly, much talk of doing it with crazy mud-bugs, and rotting post-coital lobster carcasses being picked apart by seagulls--doesn't. Some of it may be nostalgia, but I also think it has something to do with the storytelling more broadly. WMIBaCiL is just a funnier and more well-executed story than IAGDL, so even if its sins (too much gross-out stuff, too much sex) are similar in degree to some new-run episodes, they are not similar in kind. I think you can find multiple examples of this when you hold up new-run and old-run episodes.
Svip

Administrator
DOOP Secretary
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« #8 : 08-06-2020 13:41 »

Indeed, I think the suggestion that the problem with the CC episodes is their use of popular cultural references is a distraction, both by those making the claims, or those arguing against that strawman.  The CC episodes are generally weaker because the writing saw fewer drafts.

Figuratively speaking, of course, since I don't know the exact amount of drafts for each episode of Futurama.  But the CC era definitely feels like there were fewer iterations.  I know adage about too many cooks spoiling the broth, but we are not talking about more writers, rather producers saying the writers need to fix some stuff.  And the CC era definitely feels like there was a shorter process from idea to animation.

I know this isn't the writer's thread, but to any aspiring writer, understand the power of limitations.  It's what makes any story good.  And some have problems self-imposing those limitations.
David A

Space Pope
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« #9 : 08-06-2020 15:55 »

The pop culture references aren't the problem.

I dislike pop culture references on Futurama, but that's mostly because it doesn't make sense for the characters to make them.  It's alright if Fry makes references to things that happened before he was frozen, but why would the other characters make thousand-year-old pop culture references?  It's even worse when Fry makes references to things that happened after he was frozen; he shouldn't even know about those.
totalnerd undercanada

DOOP Ubersecretary
**
« #10 : 08-07-2020 05:32 »

The pop culture references should never have been made. The episodes would be better without them - they're essentially jokes that either don't land or are just plain bad, after they've aged a little while.

I think the CC episodes are weaker due to a lack of process and processing, as Svip suggests. But I also think that the pop culture references and the pop culture based premises (singing ass-wart, eye-phone, etc) are an aggressiv symptom of this which highlights those weaknesses following the passage of some amount of time rendering the object of the joke obscure and irrelevant.

As an example, Decision 3012 would be a decent episode were it perhaps a little broader in the scope of what it aspires to say. The narrow focus is what dates it. I don't think that UnrealLegend's glowing praise is warranted, but neither can I condemn it completely, because it does contain elements that aren't necessarily dated by the narrow thrust of the story - the "social message" aspect may not be timeless (just like some of the original run of Star Trek), but it is at least enjoyable in a vacuum even though it makes it painfully obvious which particular timeframe it was written in/about.

I guess it's that lack of subtlety that for me means rather than aging like wine, the episode has aged somewhat less badly than milk, but is still rather obviously past the best point to consume it.

What Futurama should really do if they ever reboot the series is...

Good Lord, man. Have the two revivals and the decline in run to run taught you nothing at all?

What they should do if they reboot the series is to not.

By which I mean, it is dead. Let it rest with dignity. In hindsight, I'm not entirely sure I'd have been terribly happy in anticipation of the movies or revived run (as much as I love with all my heart TLPJF and hold it to be one of the best three to five episodes made) had I realized then what we were getting.

The original run was a steak. The kind you pay a bit for.

The movies were a diner burger. The kind that comes with something wierd on the side like a whole fucking specialty pickle but is okay as long as you didn't expect a steak.

The new run was a chain fast food burger. One with either a king or a clown as the logo.

Any revival would be street food. As in, it would be a clownburger or kingburger that somebody had taken a bite of and thrown into the street, where you found it.

If you want to eat that, don't follow your dreams. See a therapist.
SpaceGoldfish fromWazn

Urban Legend
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« #11 : 10-31-2020 14:39 »

I didn't read any of that.  I'm too drunk.

But I have read a lot of other people's comments and I'm pleased to see there are people who are more objective about the cc run instead of outright dismissing them.  Personally I think they actually got a lot of stuff right and actually improved on some flaws of the original season but I found they were very overly formulaic, and some of the concepts were just plain silly.  Having Roberto melt over Babs cooking was just silly.  I could buy it making him malfunction but having him melt felt too ridiculous even for Futurama.  I also found some of the ideas felt too much like outright contradictions of previous episodes.  I can buy Bender worrying about a lack of free Weill but having no robot have any free will at all to the point it's a court loophole was just stupid as the robots in the show constantly demonstrate free will to the point that Angelyne had a guidance councillor and is clearly experiencing complete lack of purpose in her life and dissatisfaction with it.  Why would anyone engineer and mass produce bending units to be lazy sociopaths?  I don't buy the Countess sacrificing herself simply because of the first law of robotics, she was clearly terrified and very much did not want to die, but just like Marilyn of the Cold Equations, she chose and accepted death to not only save the passengers because she loved Bender that much.  Ruth and Esther went to college and very much seem like they don't know what they want to do with their lives.  The Crushinator refuses to help her father kill Bender because quote I love him end quote.  The idea that not a single robot in the entire show of not having any free will to the point that Bender needs the only unit inmexistance... I can only buy that if it's jusr the stupidity of the Futurama Verse denizens as pretty much robot in the show is demonstrated as having complete free will over their actions to the level that two mass produced robots off the same batch can demonstrate different personalities, liked and dislikes and contrasting views on any aspect of politics or morality.  Amy does raise the point that organic life might have as much free will as robots which Bender dismissed because we all know the boy is a drama queen.
UnrealLegend

Space Pope
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« #12 : 11-01-2020 04:35 »

I don't think that UnrealLegend's glowing praise is warranted

I actually barely remember that episode; I was just picking out tiny memory snippets from the brain of my 2012 self. For all I know, D3012 is a pile of doo-doo since my opinion of CC era episodes fluctuates so much. It may also be the Citizen Kane of comedy; who knows.

I really should watch the whole show again, particularly season 7. I was burned out on Futurama back when it ended, but that was 7 years ago now.
newhook_1

Urban Legend
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« #13 : 12-14-2020 20:28 »
« : 12-14-2020 23:13 »

There's a great documentry about South Park's production where Trey Parker describes the beats that make a good South Park episode. Here's him talking about it in another interview:

Quote
Trey Parker: Each individual scene has to work as a funny sketch. You don’t want one scene that’s just like, what was the point of that scene?

We found out this really simple rule that maybe you guys have all heard before, but it took us a long time to learn it.

We can take these beats, which are basically the beats of your outline, and if the words ‘and then’ belong between those beats, you’re fucked. Basically. You’ve got something pretty boring.

What should happen between every beat that you’ve written down, is either the word ‘therefore’ or ‘but’. So what I’m saying is that you come up with an idea, and it’s like ‘so this happens’ right? And then this happens,’ no no no no, It should be ‘this happens, and therefore this happens. But this happens, therefore this happens.’

Literally we’ll sometimes write it out to make sure we’re doing it.

We’ll have our beats, and we’ll say, ‘okay this happens, but then this happens’ and that effects this and that does to that, and that’s why you get a show that feels like this to that and this to that but this, here’s the complication, to that.

And there’s so many scripts that we read from new writers and things that we see ...

Matt Stone: Fuck that I see movies, fuck man, you see movies where you’re just watching, and it’s like this happens and then this happens, and this happens -- that’s when you’re in a movie and you’re going what the fuck am I watching this movie for?. Its just like this happened, and then this happened, and then this happens -- that’s not a movie. That’s not a story. Like Trey says it’s those two, ‘but’ ‘because’, ‘therefore’ that gives you the causation between each beat, and that’s a story.

What's the point of me posting this? IMO, what they're talking about here is the bulk of the problem with most of the CC run.

 Now look at the plot summary for Attack of the Killer App.

Look at how random the major plot points are, I'm not talking about throw away jokes or whatever, but stuff like the inciting incident and the act one and two turning points. Major plot points are introduced out of the blue with no lead up and no cause and effect relationship with the rest of the episode. The little recycling plot and the eyephone plot are not really connected at all. They go have a separate adventure and then and eyephone commercial comes on. It's like two different unrelated plots clumsily linked together. They just reveal that Leela has a singing Boyle randomly. Nothing that come earlier causes it. They wanted Fry to have an embarrassing thing to record to drive a conflict, and just go "and then Fry records this singing Boyle that Leela has."

Compare that to say, The Birdbot of Ice-Catraz. There's an inciting incident, the crew is asked to go on a controversial mission, and all the major plot points share a direct cause and effect relationship with that inciting incident. Leela refuses to participate because she has moral compass, this leads to Bender being made captain of the ship, this leads to Bender developing an ego, this leads to Bender and Fry's falling out, this leads to Bender getting "drunk" and crashing, spilling the dark matter, this leads to Bender being sentence to community service which leads to him malfunction and think he's a penguin. The spill also leads to Leela falling out with the environmentalists after the dark matter makes the penguins breed too fast, and therefore the environmentalists emerge as antagonists as Leela is clearly the protagonist here. Both these threads converge at the climax of the episode.

If you took out any of those beats the rest of the plot in Birdbot would not make sense because it is well written. You could remove the entire first act and it makes little difference to the rest of Attack of the Killer App because it is poorly written. This is the same problem that led to the Simpsons decline. A well written story is not just a bunch of random shit. Even in a wacky off the wall sci-fi adventure, there has to be some internal logic to the plot.
Svip

Administrator
DOOP Secretary
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« #14 : 12-14-2020 21:56 »

Yo yo, better link to the Infopshere instead, now that we share servers.
newhook_1

Urban Legend
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« #15 : 12-14-2020 23:13 »

Yo yo, better link to the Infopshere instead, now that we share servers.

Sarry. Fixed.
Svip

Administrator
DOOP Secretary
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« #16 : 12-15-2020 12:30 »

Muchas gratias.  I don't actually speak Spanish.
David A

Space Pope
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« #17 : 12-17-2020 23:34 »

Links aside, I think this is a great post that makes a great point.

I mean, there are a lot of other things wrong with the Comedy Central episodes too, but this is probably the main problem.
Gorky

Space Pope
****
« #18 : 01-06-2021 17:53 »

I find this idea fascinating—I’m a big ol’ narrative theory nerd, so exploring how structural choices impact the overall effectiveness of a work of art is right up my alley—but while I suspect it’s true in some specific instances that new-run episodes are shoddily constructed on a scene-by-scene basis, I’m not sure it’s universally true, and I’m not sure that those few new-run episodes that are widely recognized as being up to original-run standards (“The Late Philip J. Fry,” “The Prisoner of Benda,” “Reincarnation,” etc.) reproduce the overall structure of original-run episodes.

In fact, the three examples I’ve cited are decidedly episodic/vignette-like in nature—this is obvious of “Reincarnation,” but true also of TLPJF, much of which bounces from time period to time period through a series of rapid-fire scenes and montage, and TPoB, which follows the story arcs of many different characters through a series of shortish scenes. If anything, those episodes have the most in common, structurally, with something like “300 Big Boys,” which is not generally considered a top-tier episode of the first four seasons.

I’m mostly just thinking out loud here, and I’m not specifically disagreeing with anything newhook is saying—mostly, I’m just intrigued by this theory about the new run and interested in exploring it further. Thanks for the food for thought, sir!
David A

Space Pope
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« #19 : 01-06-2021 22:10 »

"Reincarnation" is like the "Anthology of Interest" episodes; it's three separate short stories rather than one half-hour episode.  I don't think it's a good example of what Newhook is talking about, unless you feel that the individual segments suffer from this problem.
Gorky

Space Pope
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« #20 : 01-06-2021 22:52 »

Fair enough—“Reincarnation” may not be the best comparison point. For what it’s worth, I actually think each segment of “Reincarnation” is (by necessity and design, due to the self-imposed time constraint) very well-paced and tightly-structured. One might even argue that the anthology-style episodes are the most expertly-plotted episodes because each segment is so short and there can be no room for excess storytelling flab.
SpaceGoldfish fromWazn

Urban Legend
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« #21 : 01-08-2021 21:05 »
« : 01-08-2021 21:13 »

I think the problem is with the three non canon episodes is they are often of varying quality by individual segment.   The Robonikah segment for example was fantastic, but was dragged down by the other two segments (despite the melody-less song).  The Scooby Doo was unfunny despite the low hanging fruits which made it worse, and oh did you know that sugary cereals marketed to children are not healthy and are actually bad for them despite what the toys and lunchboxes and cartoon series insist is part of a "balanced breakfast"?  Well we hope you like that joke because you are going to hear it repeatedly for the next seven minutes or so.

Lord Loquat was so huggable though.   Reincarnation was fine, I loved the second one, and Action Delivery Force was great but honestly the deviantart style didn't really work for me and it really felt like an anime episode written by people who have only really heard about anime but haven't really watched much of it, and the second segment.... there was nothing about its plot that felt videogamey whereas the other two's animation styles were integral to their plots and setting, whereas the videogame aspect felt like window dressing rather then anything that felt like it belonged in videogame land.  Oh some pixels and Mario jump noises.   Okay.   But what makes it videogamey plotwise?  Still I think Reincarnation and to a lesser extent Naturama are far more successful then the other two.

I think a major problem of the new run series, is that their plots often felt just too ambitious for the twenty minute timing, and thats why a lot of them end up feeling half baked or undercooked on some level.   I think the reason why the movies are not as good as they can be is because their pacing is just all over the place: like Bender and Fanny have a great storyline that ends up going absolutely nowhere.    How much of Benders Game is actually spent in Cornwood?    The pacing problems are just a fortelling of what stops a lot of the CC episodes from really being the classics they could have been and sometimes were on the verge of being.    Because they often are cramming too   in twenty minutes, that is why we end up with the rapid fire montages.     A lot of episodes just don't have breathing room, it just ends up with a lot of dissatisfaction or anticlimatic endings.

I really think Futurama would really benefit from being forty minutes, or at the very least for episodes like The Late Philip J Fry and Meanwhile and The Bots and the Bees. 
David A

Space Pope
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« #22 : 01-08-2021 22:55 »

Reincarnation was fine, I loved the second one, and Action Delivery Force was great but honestly the deviantart style didn't really work for me and it really felt like an anime episode written by people who have only really heard about anime but haven't really watched much of it,

It felt to me like it was written by people who had watched anime that was shown on American television in the '70s and '80s, but hadn't really seen anything more recent.  Lots of references to stuff like Speed Racer, Gatchaman, Voltron, and Robotech, but nothing later than that, aside from Amy as Sailor Moon.

I agree about the art style, though.  Instead of just drawing the characters in an animesque art style, it's like they took the usual Groening art style and tried to make it look more like anime.  They didn't really succeed.

Quote
and the second segment.... there was nothing about its plot that felt videogamey whereas the other two's animation styles were integral to their plots and setting, whereas the videogame aspect felt like window dressing rather then anything that felt like it belonged in videogame land.  Oh some pixels and Mario jump noises.   Okay.   But what makes it videogamey plotwise?

The second segment was by far the weakest of the three.  Aside from a few throwaway gags, it didn't make use of the videogame medium at all.  Such a waste.
zappdingbat

Bending Unit
***
« #23 : 01-17-2021 01:56 »

Speaking for myself, the pop culture references in TOS (if we can call it that) jarred me at the time. I Dated A Robot is an example of that.

The difference between those episodes and some pop culture heavy Comedy Central episodes is that the TNG episodes had more substance that wasn't reliant on a direct link to some specific cultural icon. Take The Deep South. There's a pop cultural reference that's front and centre, but it's not central to the plot. The deeper (pun inadvertent?) jokes about sci fi tropes and the dilemmas of being undersea take up most of the conceptual space.

I do agree in general with the original post, though, in that the Comedy Central episodes do seem to get better with time.
newhook_1

Urban Legend
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« #24 : 01-19-2021 14:09 »
« : 01-19-2021 14:17 »

I find this idea fascinating—I’m a big ol’ narrative theory nerd, so exploring how structural choices impact the overall effectiveness of a work of art is right up my alley—but while I suspect it’s true in some specific instances that new-run episodes are shoddily constructed on a scene-by-scene basis, I’m not sure it’s universally true, and I’m not sure that those few new-run episodes that are widely recognized as being up to original-run standards (“The Late Philip J. Fry,” “The Prisoner of Benda,” “Reincarnation,” etc.) reproduce the overall structure of original-run episodes.

In fact, the three examples I’ve cited are decidedly episodic/vignette-like in nature—this is obvious of “Reincarnation,” but true also of TLPJF, much of which bounces from time period to time period through a series of rapid-fire scenes and montage, and TPoB, which follows the story arcs of many different characters through a series of shortish scenes. If anything, those episodes have the most in common, structurally, with something like “300 Big Boys,” which is not generally considered a top-tier episode of the first four seasons.

I’m mostly just thinking out loud here, and I’m not specifically disagreeing with anything newhook is saying—mostly, I’m just intrigued by this theory about the new run and interested in exploring it further. Thanks for the food for thought, sir!

I would argue that there is a difference with experimenting with narrative structure because you have a novel sci-fi conceit such is the case in The Late Philip J Fry, and what's going on in an episode like Attack of the Killer App. You would probably have to rewatch the entire run with plot in mind to really see if the theory holds up.

I used Attack of The Killer App because it's one of the most blatant ones and stands out in my head. However, there are also episodes that I would argue attempt to connect acts with turning points but the connective tissue is very poor and hinges on stuff like poor characterisation and wild logical stretches, such as Neutopia. If you take the top 25 or 30 episodes from the original run, I feel like there were moments where they tossed established characterisation out the window for the sake of a joke or one-liner, but I don't think it drove the plot very often. I stand to be corrected, of course.

Neutopia is also unfortunate because it features an underlying theme that was handled better in the original run in Amazonian Women in the Mood.

Speaking of Amazonian Women in the Mood, that's an original run episode where the underlying plot is kind of weak if you think of cause and effect. The act one turning point, the restaurant crashing, was a result of everyone abandoning ship because of Zapp's singing. That's a pretty big logical jump. I think the episode makes up for it with the number of really great jokes it has, but that's entirely subjective.

It'd be an interesting project, one that I don't have time for, to compare both runs and see how many episodes in each feature strong turning points at the end of each act and how many feature turning points based on wild logical leaps or just an unrelated thing happening, and maybe look into the idea of the original doing a better job of covering those weak turning points with better jokes.

I know it's a really big problem in post golden era Simpsons where sometimes all three acts would be totally unrelated, I'd be curious if it holds true for Futurama.
Gorky

Space Pope
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« #25 : 01-19-2021 16:55 »

Damn, newhook, you're practically drafting my doctoral dissertation for me. :p

For real, though, I am currently in a PhD program puzzling over a lot of these narrative and structural questions in literature and pop culture writ large--I'm totally serious that this may be something I'd like to pursue more deeply at some point.

Speaking of Amazonian Women in the Mood, that's an original run episode where the underlying plot is kind of weak if you think of cause and effect. The act one turning point, the restaurant crashing, was a result of everyone abandoning ship because of Zapp's singing. That's a pretty big logical jump. I think the episode makes up for it with the number of really great jokes it has, but that's entirely subjective.

I strongly suspect that there are more original run episodes than we might think where the plot hinges on coincidence, exaggeration, or tremendous logical leaps--but, to your point, the overall character-level writing and jokes are expert enough that we either don't notice the shoddy plotting or don't care. "War is the H-Word" is one example that immediately comes to mind: somehow war were declared just as Fry and Bender decide to join the military to enjoy a discount on porcine chewing gum? In "Time Keeps on Slippin'," the Globetrotters just happen to invade thirty seconds into the episode to challenge Earth to a basketball game?

Part of this is just about the animated sitcom as a genre--it's wacky by default, and the inciting incident is often overly-broad--but I do think it's true that Futurama leans into the wackiness more often than not, in both new run and old.
newhook_1

Urban Legend
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« #26 : 01-19-2021 18:05 »
« : 01-19-2021 18:17 »

I did a creative writing diploma at the same time I did my bachelor of arts. There was a lot of overlap, so taking something like "Creative Writing: Poetry" gave me three credit hours toward both my degree and the diploma. I enjoyed those courses and I needed credits regardless, so the diploma was basically a freebie that got tossed in with my degree. Anyway, one of the courses was a fourth year course called "Advanced Creative Writing: Screenplays." The professor made us read this book and hammered us on its content so much I can't watch movies or TV anymore without thinking about it. It's the worst thing anyone's ever done to me. It's like in the Matrix where the guy just sees code everywhere he looks.
Tachyon

DOOP Secretary
*
« #27 : 01-20-2021 07:17 »

And that's exactly why I go out of my way to avoid discussions about movie tropes, or how one movie or series is almost exactly like another, because of some mirroring of core structure or whatever. I just want to suspend disbelief and become completely immersed in the world and story and characters and live in it, for a short while.

Just leave me with my happy ignorance.

totalnerd undercanada

DOOP Ubersecretary
**
« #28 : 01-20-2021 09:19 »

I strongly suspect that there are more original run episodes than we might think where the plot hinges on coincidence, exaggeration, or tremendous logical leaps

Almost all sitcoms depend on ridiculous chains of events playing out in order to get from PLOT BEGINS to RESOLUTION. But animated sitcoms seem to be more egregious than most, and I think you're right about Futurama having masked this to a certain extent with good writing for characters and being pretty funny. But Futurama also masked this by the nature of the premise.

A thousand years into the future, the Harlem Globetrotters invading Central Park to set up a basketball game is normal shit. So is a time-displacement crisis inadvertently caused by mining exotic resources so as to win that game.

There's a theme park on the moon. Wars are declared arbitrarily and often. Space restaurants exist. Abandoning ship because the singing is awful is no less wacky than this idea. The whole thing exists in a sort of equilibrium state where the baseline level of improbable and contrived reality is somehow not less than the level required to progress through the plot points that comprise the episode, so we don't notice it as badly.

Disbelief was thoroughly suspended the moment we began the episode. It's not going to come crashing down just because we see something a little unusual.

Unfortunately, I think that a lot of the second run episodes don't get that equilibrium quite right, and disbelief does come crashing down when robots are shown to work in a way not consistent with previous canon, or you have two headed vomiting goats and singing pimples competing for the attention of the planet as the most addictive form of entertainment.
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