Recently, I wrote a list of the best Futurama episodes for Suite101. That site requires that you write in the third person, which was difficult for this particular article. You have no idea how hard that was for me. Futurama is probably my favorite show, and not being able to make the list more personal killed me. So, here’s the list with the original copy and my additional thoughts in italics. And, my policy is: if for any reason you are not completely satisfied with my picks, I hate you.
See what I did there?
#5 War is the H-Word
This episode is great for so many reasons, but mainly, it’s because of Zapp Brannigan, the totally unaware, incompetent captain and Kif Kroker, his sad-sack sidekick.
It’s also a great take on war in pop culture with parodies of Patton (Zapp delivering a speech in front of the Earth flag), M*A*S*H (the robot surgeon iHawk that has a irreverent-maudlin switch) and Starship Troopers (the brain balls as the bugs).
Fry and Bender are sent to war on Spheron 1 after enlisting in the army for a military discount on gum. Apparently, Zapp started a war despite the planet being “devoid of natural resources and possessing no strategic value.” Leela, not wanting her idiot friends to die, poses as a man and enlists, which causes some “weird and deeply confusing” feelings in Zapp. Along the way, Fry, predictably, acts like a coward and Bender, surprisingly, saves the day.
Like I said, Zapp and Kif really make this episode. Zapp Brannigan might be one of my favorite characters of all time. He’s part William Shatner, part Adam West and part Lionel Hutz. He’s clueless mostly, but always hilarious.
This episode earned a spot on the list partly because it has two of my favorite Zapp-Kif moments of the entire series:
Zapp: “I suffer from a very sexy learning disability. What do I call it, Kif?”
Kif: *sigh* “Sexlexia.”
Zapp: “I’m de-promoting you soldier. Kif, what’s the most humiliating job there is?”
Kif: “Being your assistant.”
Zapp:“Wrong. Being *your* assistant!”
#4 The Luck of the Fryrish
Futurama is known for its absurd humor and nerdy references, but it also has the ability to be quite touching. This happens to be one of those episodes.
This episode starts out goofy with lots of great gags while the Planet Express crew is at the racetrack: a pint-sized, sleazy jockey hitting on Amy, Bender fixing a race and Fry losing his last dollar and getting struck by lightning. The last incident results in Fry vowing to find the lucky seven-leaf clover from his childhood.
While Fry, Leela and Bender go on a search to find the clover, the story cuts back and forth between the past and present. We see the clover grant Fry miraculous luck; we also see Yancy, Fry’s slightly jealous brother, copycat him every step of the way. After some investigating, Fry believes his brother stole his clover, his identity and his dream (to be the first person to land on Mars). Only during the very last scene does Fry realize that it was in fact his nephew who landed on Mars with the help of the clover. Yancy named his son Philip J. Fry because he missed his brother so much.
It’s really a credit to the writers that they were able to make this episode so funny and moving without being too sappy or heavy-handed.
The great thing about Futurama is that, even when an episode isn’t that funny, it’s still engrossing and entertaining. It’s still engrossing and entertaining because the show is built around characters, characters that you care about and can relate to. That’s where, I think, a show like Family Guy falls flat. There’s no character development. If asinine plot points and cut-away jokes don’t work, then the entire episode is shot.
That being said, there are several “tear jerker” episodes I could have chosen: “Jurassic Bark” (“the sad dog” episode as my friend Mike calls it) or “The Sting,” for example. But, I chose “The Luck of the Fryrish” because I have a brother. We don’t always get along, but if he disappeared I don’t know what I would do. The ending really affected me and revealed a side of me that I often choose not to show. Maybe that was a good thing, though.
#3 Roswell That Ends Well
This episode won an Emmy, and for good reason. The story is smart and well crafted; there’s not one wasted joke; Fry’s actions add to the Futurama mythology and then there’s Harry Truman. Who doesn’t love seeing a former president bust out of a shipping crate and get indignant with an alien?
The story starts when the unfortunate combination of a super nova and a microwave sends the crew back in time (of course). They crash land at Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. Bender is mistaken for a UFO, Zoidberg is taken prisoner as an alien invader, Professor Farnsworth demands that the crew preserve causality and Fry tries to keep his Golmer Pyle-esque grandfather, Enos, from dying to avoid a grandfather paradox. In a comical serious of events, Fry becomes his own grandfather, proving an ontological paradox and foreshadowing future episodes.
Every character is great in this episode but Zoidberg and Fry are the best. Every time they’re on the screen it’s a guaranteed laugh.
In college I lived with a couple other Futurama enthusiasts. Whenever this episode was on TV, we dropped whatever we were doing to watch it. Zoidberg’s scenes were, by far, our favorite. I think this exchange between Zoidberg and President Truman was the best of the best, though:
President Truman: “Bushwa! Now what’s your mission? Are you planning on making some kind of alien-human hybrid?”
Zoidberg: “Are you coming one to me?”
President Truman: “Hot crackers! I take offense to that!”
Zoidberg: *Coyly* “I’m not hearing a no…”
“I’m not hearing a no…” became a house catchphrase. If, at anytime, we suspected someone of keeping something from us or beating around the bush, that line was immediately quoted.
Zoidberg’s scenes packed enough laughs for the whole episode, but Fry was great as well. He has one of my favorite sight gags of the series. When he sneaks on to the Army base to find Enos, he uses an “all-purpose spray” to spray on a uniform. Every time I watch that scene it reminds me of Tim Meadows’ “shirt in a can” sketch on SNL.
I also like the scenes where it’s insinuated that Enos is gay. While sitting in the diner with Fry, Enos asks, “Do you ever feel like you’re just going with girls because you’re supposed to?” Under the circumstances, Fry responds with an appropriate “WHAAAT!?”
Oh yeah, and Fry boinking his grandmother is pretty funny in a sick sort of way.
#2 The Why of Fry
This episode isn’t the funniest on the list, but the story more than makes up for that fact. It manages to tie together several episodes and preserve the show’s continuity in a very interesting way.
Fry starts to feel worthless after Leela and Bender go on a successful mission without him. His worthlessness is further proved when Leela goes on a date and asks Fry to take care of Nibbler. Nibbler reveals that he is more than just Leela’s pet and takes Fry to his home world, Eternium. There, Fry finds out that he is the only one who can stop the evil Brain Spawn because he lacks the delta brainwave (“The Day the Earth Stood Stupid”), which is possible thanks to Fry being his own grandfather (“Roswell That Ends Well”). He also finds out what really happened the night he was frozen (“Space Pilot 3000”). Fry goes on a mission to the Brains’ base, the Infosphere, and saves the universe.
At the end of the episode Fry has his memory wiped but also finds out that Leela cares for him, even if he is “not the most important person in the universe.”
One of the things that makes Futurama great is how well each episode, and, indeed the entire series, is crafted. Eagle-eyed fans most likely noticed that in “Space Pilot 3000” Nibbler’s shadow is visible in the cryogenics lab. It’s amazing to me that this episode was planned so far in advance, but I appreciate that dedication.
Earlier, I mentioned the uniform in a can sight gag. That was good, but my favorite sight gag has to be the video of Fry trying eat a pineapple on a string. It plays while Nibbler explains Fry’s immunity to the Brain Spawn. I can’t tell you why it’s funny; it just is. I also like the shot they take at The Dave Matthews Band:
Fry: “So I really am important? How I feel when I’m drunk is correct?”
Nibblonian: “Yes. Except The Dave Matthews Band doesn’t rock.”
#1 Amazon Women in the Mood
This episode earns the top spot because it’s impossibly funny and infinitely quotable. Once again, Zapp and Kif really make this episode, especially in the first act.
Kif is smitten with Amy but has trouble expressing his feelings. When Zapp finds this out, he sets up a “half” double date with Leela and Amy. At dinner, Zapp gives Kif his personal book of pick-up lines, which goes about as well as you would expect. When Leela and Amy demand to go home, Zapp ends up crashing into the “uncharted” Amazonia. Fry and Bender go to rescue them and find the planet is inhabited by gigantic, prehistoric-looking women…and no men.
The men are taken prisoner, while Leela and Amy are set free. Despite their predicament, they still manage to crack wise about women’s basketball, female leaders and nagging. The men are sentenced to death by snu snu (sex) but are saved when Bender seduces the Amazonians’ leader, Femputer.
You know how I know this is a good episode? One night I was on Facebook chat and half watching TV. I turned the channel to Comedy Central and what do ya know? This episode was on. Two minutes into it, three different people messaged me to tell me it was on. That’s how I know it’s the best episode. It’s also how I know I need a girlfriend.
This is another episode that Zapp makes. The pick-up lines that he gives Kif are priceless. Who thought a line like, “If I said you had a beautiful body would you take off your pants and dance around a little?” wouldn’t work? Not me. Then there was the karaoke. The writers managed to reference William Shatner’s rendition of “Rocketman” and The Kink’s “Lola” in the same scene. It was so beautiful I didn’t whether to laugh or cry.
The episode reaches a whole new level on planet Amazonia. The guys can’t shut their mouths for their own good, which is a feeling I’m familiar with. There are a lot of great lines, but these are my favorite:
Thog: “Here live vengeful, all-knowing leader. She decide men’s fate.”
Fry: “Is she hot?”
Thog: “That not important. She all-knowing.”
Fry: “In other words, no.”
Thog: “This is our comedy club. Humor here funny in different way.”
Ornik: “It not reinforce stereotypes.”
Kug: “Comedy come from character, real situations. Not abstract craziness.”
Bender: “Translation: boring!”
Thog: “Here stadium, where our women basketball team play.”
Kug: “We no can dunk, but good fundamentals.”
Org: “That more fun to watch.”
Zapp: *Laughing* “Oh, God, you’re killing me!” *Amazonian bashes his head* “Oh, God, you’re killing me!”
Leela: “Where are all the men in your society?”
Ornik: “Men die out many year ago.”
Bender: “With all these women around they were probably nagged to death. Are you with me, fellas?”
Femputer: “After lengthy femputions, I, Femputer, have decided the fate of the men. Femputer sentences them to death…By snu snu!”
Fry, Zapp and Bender: “Yeah! Woo-hoo!” *Kif whimpers*
Zapp: “What are you, gay?”
There you have it, the best of the best. It was hard to choose, but those are my picks. If you’re wondering what episodes barely missed the cut, here are my honorable mentions: “The Sting,” “Mars University,” “Brannigan Begin Again,” “Anthology of Interest II” and “Jurassic Bark.”
What are your favorites?