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Friday, July 27, 2012

Futurama builds "The Six Million Dollar Mon"

In the latest installment of Comedy Central's Futurama, "The Six Million Dollar Mon," Hermes (Phil LaMarr) is disgraced after being rated the least valuable employee at Planet Express and fired, replaced by a machine. It doesn't matter that he is the one who does the firing to himself, it still hurts. Adding insult to injury, Hermes is almost mugged by crazy Roberto (David Herman). To cope with these events, Hermes begins getting robot implants, until there is nothing human left about him.

"The Six Million Dollar Mon" is, overall, a very good episode. It really focuses on the characters of Hermes and Zoidberg (Billy West), exploring their relationship, and their personalities. Futurama is at its strongest when it takes the time to work with what it already has, which are fully developed, complex characters. Adventures are nice, but character exploration is what makes good television great.

The episode uses these individuals and their quirks to be funny. When Zoidberg thinks Hermes's meanness towards him is Hermes's way of showing affection, it's sweet. When we learn that Hermes really does hate Zoidberg, it informs on the way their characters interact, and is tragically amusing. Zoidberg building the Hermes puppet continues this trend, simultaneous making us laugh at the visual gag, but also feel sorry for poor, pathetic Zoidberg, knowing this is his way of coping with not truly having any friends. Many people can relate to this.

Add to that, Professor Farnsworth (also West) acting as a mad scientist, and Scruffy (also Herman) refusing to fix anything that is not a boiler or a toilet, and there are some truly classic moments. Best of all is Bender (John DiMaggio) being fascinated with a machine that bends, and appearing jealous of Hermes's shiny metal ass, a trademark catchphrase of Bender's.

There are a couple of smart plot twists in "The Six Million Dollar Mon." Once Roberto is executed, and then Mecha Hermes wants a robot brain, it's fairly predictable what is going to happen. Still, it seems clever, even if it's a trope used in other fiction, because of the sincerity it is played with. Ditto for Zoidberg rebuilding Hermes piece by piece. One can see where the writers are going, but it's still fun to be taken along for the ride. It's the seamless way it all ties together that kicks the story a notch above the norm.

Plus, Futurama really delivers the references in this episode. From the title, a play on the television show of almost the same name, Hermes getting a Cylon eye, and seeing Helper's grave in the robot cemetery, "The Six Millon Dollar Mon" has goodies for geeks galore, whether one is a fan of The Venture Brothers or Battlestar Galactica. These are more than just cut scenes, a la Family Guy, but actually add to the value of the plot here.

That being said, it isn't a perfect episode. The sequence where LaBarbara's (Dawnn Lewis) curry drips through a number of different places, finally burning the Robot Devil (Dan Castellaneta), is a throwback to the other animated shows that lack the ingenuity and cleverness of Futurama. Worse, Leela (Katey Sagal) and Amy (Lauren Tom) invite a distracted Fry (West again) to shower with them in a cheap joke that is totally out of character for all involved.

Still, Futurama delivers more consistently than most, and remains a must-watch show, even after the many years of episodes that have come before this one. Catch Futurama Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on Comedy Central.

Check out my new website, JeromeWetzel.com.  If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Article first published on TheTVKing

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