Futurama had the task of following The Simpsons. No big deal, right?
When it aired in the UK on Channel 4, they didn’t know what to do with the show. It looked like The Simpsons, but it wasn’t The Simpsons. It was bounced around the schedule and stuck on at the weekends at 2 am. Futurama was not The Simpsons.
Futurama was a different beast entirely.
The show was too silly for adults with its sci-fi setting making it a bit niche. Lacking the grounded relatability of The Simpsons. At the same time, with phone booths being replaced with suicide booths, it was too dark for kids. The show fell between two chairs. Futurama felt like a show specially made for me. It’s so stupid only genius could write it. Futurama has the right amount of heart and adventure that it kept me hooked for the first four seasons.
I hope this post makes you consider giving Futurama a watch at some point. If you find it funny, then you might enjoy the storylines and some of the sci-fi. It would also be useful if more of you understood my references. Are my references too specific? No, it’s other peoples frame of reference is too narrow.
I made a list
There’s an episode of Futurama where Fry, our hero from the year 2000, goes to a museum. One of the items in this museum is a car from the 1990s. Leela asks him if he knew how to drive, his response:
“No one drove because there was too much traffic.”
That’s Futurama summed up in a single line. There’s a skewed logic behind it, but it’s stupid.
Now, you may not laugh, in fact, it feels like there’s something lost in translation. If you can appreciate the line, then you might end up loving Futurama as I do.
I have made a list of five episodes. I picked these episodes for you. Yes, you, specifically.
Think of the five as an amuse-bouche for the first four seasons. You can watch them in any order. These episodes are a fair representation of the show as a whole. You have two laugh factory episodes as in you’re getting machine-gunned with laughs. You have an emotional episode because Futurama excelled here. I included an episode with a more experimental structure. Why, because Futurama, when it wanted, does fantastic science fiction.
5 Futurama episodes for your consideration
The Series has Landed:
After an introductory episode, this is the second. The show found it’s voice early on and has a clear sense of identity. Fry goes on his first delivery job to the moon only to find it has become Disneyfied. Fry sets out to find the “real” lunar experience. It has a good joke to story ratio with some heart towards the end. A great example of a robust early episode. Good jokes with a hint of the emotional undercurrent that carries the show.
This episode could be watched alongside Homer Goes To College. Futurama takes the concept and exploits it for full comic potential. The episode is part Franz Kafka’s A Report To The Academy, part Flowers For Algernon and part Animal House. This episode shows off the broad appeal of the series. You don’t have to be aware of the references to find it funny. The parody of frat-boy comedies in this case “Robot House” is so well observed. At one point some people fall off a boat and it makes no sense yet is so well done you cannot help but laugh.
The Deep South:
This episode is a laugh factory episode. It is just gag after gag after gag. Not all jokes land but when they do, you’ll be in hysterics. There are a couple of episodes that could on this list, but I picked this one because it keeps me laughing every time. There are so many gags some of them slip from memory. Another reason this episode is on the list is there is a running gag about taking a pill, it’s so funny, I have ripped it off. Even as you’re reading this, there’s a chance I’m remembering and sending myself into a kink. Before you ask, yes, I am easily amused.
Luck of the Fryish:
This is an episode with an emotional punch. Now, you would probably more likely put Jurassic Bark here. People love dogs. To be honest, this episode gives me more of a feeling. In Jurassic Bark, a dog misses Fry, and that’s it, which is fine. In Luck of the Fryish there’s an emotional journey, there’s change. It’s a more resonant episode in my humble opinion. I’m not going to give too much away. The episode reveals that under Futurama’s metal cynical shell, the tinman has a heart.
Time Keeps on Slipping:
This is Futurama at it’s most experimental. This predates Rick and Morty by several years. It’s good science fiction and has fun with editing. The episode is like Momento in reverse, does that make sense? Time gets knocked out of shape. Time skips ahead, people live out entire lifetimes in a few seconds. Relationships begin then end. It’s a series of cuts only the characters are aware of the jumps. Again there are other episodes in this vein. There’s one were Bender becomes a god springs to ming. Throughout Futurama, there is fantastic science fiction.
Would you mind watching Futurama?
This is a good few episodes to start you off with. You can choose to watch them in whatever order you please. You can also choose not to watch them at all. If you like the Simpsons and Rick and Morty you should at least consider giving it a watch.
There are so many episodes that could have went on this list. I didn’t even include any Zoidberg centric episodes. My goodness, is this my first mention of him in this post? You’re in for a real treat.
If you do only watch the first four seasons. It comes to a natural conclusion, and there’s no need to go beyond. Arrive late leave early.
All episodes of Futurama are available to watch on Amazon Prime.
Futurama had to follow on from The Simpsons. How do you follow that? It feels like it was doomed to not live up to expectations. The passage of time will hopefully be more kind to Futurama. Once you forget the hype preceding the show, you’ll find a lot to enjoy.
Enjoy or bite my shiny metal ass.