After 14 years, 7 seasons, and a series of improbable resurrections, Futurama—the animated series that embodied the 31st century (and arguably the 21st)—comes to an end this Wednesday, September 4th.
The end of the show comes with some amount of guilt. We can’t have been the only ones who cheered the show’s return and then...dutifully failed to watch it. Should we feel guilty that it’s being cancelled due to that neglect? Should we feel even more guilty that we still won’t get around to watching these new episodes until they’re available in a binge-ready package on Netflix?
Probably not. Futurama is not a show designed to instill feelings of inadequacy. Rather, it’s there to fire you gleefully out of a tube, past Hypnotoads, soap operas with all-robot casts, and the original cast of Star Trek in head-jar form. (Even if Zoidberg insists that our creative endeavors are bad and that we should feel bad.) So upon the eve of its final episode (for real this time!) let’s recount the Futurama moments that will stick in our head forever.
The entirety of “The Luck of the Fryrish”
A year before Seymour’s devotion dropped a train on our hearts, Futurama sideswiped us with this sympathetic look into Fry’s childhood, showing us the relative normalcy of his Brooklyn upbringing and contrasting it with his current life in the future. At the time, it was surprising to see the show taking its characters so seriously, but as the episode unfolded that surprise became utter glee as your new emotional commitment to Fry’s story grew alongside his insane quest for a seven-leaf clover.
Anchoring the episode in two different eras also allowed for a much larger variety of sources to mine for jokes, and “Luck of the Fryrish” doesn’t disappoint. The Fry family’s idiosyncrasies, the 1980s New York jokes (Bender’s “B train” spiel kills me every time, John DiMaggio really nails the urgent-yet-disaffected tone of NYC subway conductors), Bender’s casual grave robbing, Philip and Yancy’s sibling rivalry...it all hangs together seamlessly.
The episode finds a lot of rich material through its use of music, both in its gags (“That’s a number one record.”), its abuse of Huey Lewis (“Everything else held up in here okay...” “Except Sports by Huey Lewis.”), and in the episode’s climax. There, Fry’s realization that his family really did miss him after he was gone is keyed to “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” possibly the only genuine use of the song since The Breakfast Club. Thus, the episode’s greatest gag also becomes its most touching moment.
And only moments after Bender steals John Larroquette’s spine! –Chris Lough
Just a fembot in a manbot’s manputer’s world...
The season 3 premiere of Futurama, “Amazon Women in the Mood,” brings the battle of the sexes to the planet Amazonia, where the crew encounters a tribal society of female warriors ruled by an all-knowing Femputer. The ridiculousness that ensues is utterly inspired, from Zapp Brannigan and Fry at their most delightfully boorish to a twist right out of (a kinky, R-rated robotic version of) The Wizard of Oz.
Featuring some fantastic karaoke (Morbo sings “Funkytown”!), plenty of Star Trek references, and a joy-inspiring guest appearance by erstwhile SF icon Bea Arthur, it’s no wonder this episode was Emmy-nominated in 2001, and remains a fan favorite over a decade later. Futurama can be an incredibly smart show when it wants to be, but “Amazon Women” is more silly than cerebral—still, any episode that combines the Kinks, Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” and Bea Arthur as a frustrated fembot is pretty much guaranteed to make me happy, every single time I see it. –Bridget McGovern
“Something’s wrong. Murder isn’t working and that’s all we’re good at.”
My favorite Simpsons moments are almost all scattered across different installments of the “Treehouse of Horror” series—the way the series spiraled off into pure, joyful anarchy every Halloween made sense to me. So maybe it was inevitable that all of my favorite Futurama moments are packed into “Anthology of Interest #1.” (That would be the one where Professor Farnsworth invents the What-If machine to show him what would happen if he invented the Finglonger.) Since none of this is canon, the writers are free to do whatever they want, and it leads to Bender going full Iron Giant and Leela murdering most of the Planet Express crew, and more shockingly, sleeping with Fry. But it’s “The Un-Freeze of a Lifetime” that I still quote on an almost daily basis.
- Mr. Panucci telling Fry there are only three monsters: “Dracula, Blackula, and Son of Kong”—why those three? I have spent years now revisiting that line, and I still don’t have an answer.
- Al Gore apparently recruiting Gary Gygax for the Vice Presidential Action Rangers, despite wife Tipper’s vocal opposition to D&D.
- Gygax himself rolling a pair of dice to determine whether or not it’s a pleasure to meet Fry.
- Of all the Star Trek actors they could have invited, they chose Nichelle Nichols to join the Action Rangers.
- The utter ineptitude of the Rangers themselves. Even with Deep Blue and Steven Hawking on board, they accomplish nothing, and lead directly to the destruction of the Universe.
- But most of all, I love Al Gore’s petulant response to being asked where they all are, as they float in a featureless void: “I don’t know, but I can tell you where we’re not. The universe.”
And then they all play D&D for a quadrillion years, which as end-of-the-universe scenarios go, is a win. –Leah Schnelbach
The arrival of Harry S. Truman
As much as I love the humor in individual lines (to the point where many have wormed their way into my everyday speech), and appreciate the emotional depth of particular episodes, my favorite moments from Futurama will always be the small visual gags that are only possible in animation. The fatal attack of boneitis; the Robot Devil sneaking up the aisle following the end of Fry’s opera; pretty much anything during the “basketball match between space clowns and atomic monsters.” The list, of course, goes on.
But the 3-second clip of animation that never fails to incapacitate me with laughter pops up right in the middle of an already jam-packed episode: “Roswell That Ends Well.” During the subplot where the US military examines and interrogates Dr Zoidberg, the general calls in President Truman. But this being a top secret meeting, Truman can’t exactly drive up to the base with fanfare and a cadre of secret service. Instead, a crate marked “Canned Eggs” is wheeled out of a cargo plane and tipped upright just before the President bursts out of it in the most absurd, Frankenstein-esque way possible. From Truman’s gritted teeth and flailing limbs to the scattering wooden shards, the whole sequence is absolutely brilliant. But the best part? He’s impeccably dressed in a double-breasted suit, and his hat isn’t even askew; clearly he travels this way pretty frequently. –Sarah Tolf
As with any recollection, starting with one memory soon reveals many, many others. Who could forget the fate of Welshy in “Where No Fan Has Gone Before”? Or how the head of DOOP’s heart was full of neutrality? Or Bender’s forever-unrealized dream of being a Globetrotter?
We could go on forever. Which is ultimately why the end of Futurama arrives as such a wonderful, guilt-free experience. Everything we could want from this show—its unique perspective, the unabashed geekiness, all the weird little moments that we’ll quote to our co-workers forever and ever—has already been given to us. We’ll be randomly singing “I’m Walking on Sunshine” long after people will be able to determine what we’re referencing. And that’s great.
Besides, we’ll always have Zoidberg. WE’LL ALL ALWAYS HAVE ZOIDBERG.
Stubby the Rocket is the mascot of Tor.com, looks more than a little like the Planet Express ship, and is pretty sure one of the crewmembers is some sort of crab-monster doctor.