“Futurama” and Me


I am a fallen fan. It’s not that I don’t like the show anymore, it’s just that I’ve grown up and I don’t have all the time to watch. Kids come, responsibilities come, and things fall by the wayside. Until it appeared on Netflix streaming, I didn’t even know a 6th season had even occurred, or if I had known, I didn’t work to follow up. This distance has allowed me a healthy perspective on the show and given me a realization: the episodes focusing on Bender generally stink.

“Stink” being a relative term. There are still obviously funny bits and moments and ideas in those episodes, but in general, if the episode focuses on Bender, it’s boring and repetitive.

Explain yourself, you tweet. And so I will. As “Futurama” goes on, the characters get bigger and more broad. This happens with every long-running sitcom. Homer gets dumber, Sam Malone gets more sex-crazed, etc. It happens. But Bender’s character development is problematic for the success of the show, because he started out as, in his words, “the loveable rascal” who often spoke of killing all humans and stole things from his friends. Where does he go from there? He goes bigger and bigger. Consequently, “Futurama” asks us to believe that humans and humanoids would tolerate a character of pure selfish malevolence.


I know, it’s nitpicking, but that’s what the internet is for.


I don’t have a problem with villainous or selfish characters, per se. What I have a problem with (in a comedy) is rehashing bits and stale jokes, and that’s what Bender has become. Every episode (even the ones where he is a side character), he now refers to himself in the third-person, sings a song about how “Bender is great” and generally commits crimes. The character has stalled, and his relationships with the other characters have become unbelievable and thus without stakes. Even when Bender creates a legion of tiny replicant Benders that could destroy the world, we don’t really care because the character and situation is completely unrelatable.

I wonder if this is par for the course with cult comedy. “Futurama” struggled to find a big audience, and when it was removed from the air, a group of loyal internet-based fans showed their love and resurrected the show. It stands to reason that the producers of that show would look to that group of savior fans and ask, “What do you like about this show? Because YOU saved it, it’s now partially yours” (not literally, but sorta). And if those people loved “Futurama” without question, then they would be fine with endless parody episodes and inconsequentially large stories about Bender becoming a god, or a Pharaoh or… a god again… and the producers would have to comply. The show struggled before because it couldn’t find an audience. Now the producers KNOW who their audience is, so they must cater to it. The same thing happens with “Community” and the character of Pierce — an unlikable person who fans of the show (for some reason) like, on a show with a dedicated yet small fan base.


Once more, this is only my opinion. But if you think about the greatest episodes of “Futurama,” I would wager that most of them are Fry-centric (the true lead character and center of the show — he’s the literal fish in this “out-of-water” story). “The Devil’s Hands Are Idle Playthings,” “Jurassic Bark,” “Fishful of Dollars,” “Where No Fan Has Gone Before,” “the Late Philip J. Fry,” “Roswell That Ends Well”… even the best of the “Tales of Interest” (the one with Al Gore and the Vice-Presidential Rangers) centers around Fry. What’s more, the best average episodes are stories of Fry, such as “The Day The Earth Stood Stupid,” “How Hermes Requesitioned His Groove Back” (which is ironic, since Heremes is the titular character),” “Future Stock” and even the late-in-the-game fun of “Law and Oracle” bouey Fry’s average.

Now think of the least-greatest episodes. I’d argue fare such as “The Honking” and “A Pharaoh to Remember” would be joined by other Bender-centered episodes.


So there you have it. Science.


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