Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Futurama, mk 2

I finally saw the two newest episodes for Comedy Central's "Season 6.1" Can't say I'm that impressed.

Episode 6.1 - "Rebirth"
The crew dies, then each member is brought back by the use of stem cells. Only, Leela is in a coma. They create a robot clone of Leela, who falls in love with Fry, only for the real Leela to come back.

This episode felt like the bastard child of the episode where Fry falls in love with the Lucy Liu robot and the episode where Leela gets stung by the giant space bee. It wasn't a remarkable return to form; a subplot where Bender has to party and dance to keep his new power supply - a doomsday device - from exploding felt merely tacked on to provide an unnecessary excuse to show Bender dancing and shaking his ass for no solid reason. Add to this the recurrent assertions, for various reasons and by various characters, that the show had returned, or that the crew had returned, or that the cast had returned, and some of the corniest one liners this side of the most lacking "Simpsons" episodes (a back-and-forth between Farnsworth and Zoidberg that describes a wormhole as a "comedy central channel" is enough to induce aneurysm-provoking eye rolls), and you have a very dubious beginning, promising only the most diminishing of returns.

Episode 6.2 - "In-A-Gadda-Da-Leela"
Zapp Brannigan: "Mr. President, what the hell?"

Zapp and Leela engage in a suicidal mission to attack a death sphere, named V-GINY (Really? *sigh* ...), only to find themselves attacked, battle-damaged and stranded on a forbidden planet. The opening segment, a dream sequence where Brannigan envisions re-hooking up with Leela, and a third-act denouement of Brannigan's manipulation of his and Leela's circumstances are the only saving graces of this ep.

Two episodes in, it's quite evident that the reported decreased writing staff assembled for this revival is having a profound effect on the quality of the show's future (HAW!). Clever comedy or plotting is sometimes eschewed in favor of, or taken over by "geek pandering," i.e. the sacrifice of story development for the sake of making "Easter egg" references or asides to past episodes or major prior events, that in turn have no impact to the story.

An example of this may be seen - and I hope I'm wrong - in the third episode, "Attack of the Killer App." The story will explore what happens to the social networking sites Myspace, Facebook, and Twitter in the future of the Futurama universe. And this is one concern I have; since this was a show set in the future, these would have (should have) been issues that had been developed, heard of, and used well before the year setting of 3000. However, why introduce these things now, in season 6, when they've been virtually ignored in the previous seasons? This is a similar complaint I had with Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Strikes Again," the sequel to the vastly superior 1985 comic "Dark Knight Returns." "Returns" was set in a dystopian future, while being written in 1985; "Strikes Again," written and released in the 2001-2002 time frame, takes place just a couple of years after the events of "Returns." So why does the internet feature so prominently in "Strikes Again," when it wasn't an issue in the "Returns" storyline? It's a jarring juxtaposition, and one that serves to take a fan out of a storyline, when years (and even decades) separate parts of a storyline's continuation, especially when the same talent is involved and the effort to remain relevant to today's fan is made.

The bottom line, for me, is that the "Futurama" squad was stretching close to shark-jumping territory with each direct-to-DVD movie that hit store shelves a few years ago. Season 4 was fine enough of an ending; the movies gave the Planet Express crew a decent (if underwhelming) send-off; now, we have season 6, like it or not, and so far, there's not much to like.

1Apparently, the four direct-to-DVD films - "Bender's Big Score," "Beast with a Billion Backs," "Bender's Game," and "Into the Wild Green Yonder" - comprise the show's fifth season. At least, that's what Wikipedia would have you believe.

No comments: