Saturday, June 22, 2013

FUTURAMA "Fling" With Comedy Central Almost Over

Article first published as FUTURAMA "Fling" With Comedy Central Almost Over on TheTVKing.

Futurama, which Comedy Central resurrected years after its cancellation by FOX, is near the end again. Last night, the first two episodes of the back half of season seven, which will be the show's last, aired. Like much of the cable run, they were very mediocre, occasionally funny, and still bitter sweet, with the ending in sight by fans, though not the players.

The first half, "2-D Blacktop," is part Fast and Furious parody, part adventure in two dimensions. Not liking the car racing flicks, the first part of the episode, where Professor Farnsworth (voiced by Billy West) soups up the Planet Express ship and joins a drag racing gang, feels kind of flat. Yes, we see Farnsworth behaving in an amusing way, but it's not the type of story that really fits his role, nor does it tie into much that we've seen from him before.

Worse, there is a supporting character tossed into "2-D Blacktop" who complains about being emotionally abused by her father, who apparently didn't say certain things to her. This is a recurring plot throughout the half hour, culminating in her seemingly getting a call from her dad that makes it all right. It's not funny, doesn't fit, and makes little sense in the scheme. We'll probably never see the character again, thankfully, but she is pointless here.

Then the Planet Express ship crashes and Farnsworth, Fry (also West), Leela (Katey Sagal), and Bender (John DiMaggio) are transported into a literally flat universe. Ironic, considering that that's the part of the episode that jumps up and gets interesting. I wish more time was spent in this realm, as playing with the physics and rules of the new universe is enjoyable and part of what Futurama does in its best days - geeky humor.

"2-D Blacktop" would have been redeemable has the new Planet Express ship stuck around past the end of the thirty minutes, but inexplicably it has disappeared by the next episode. Why?

Part two is entitled "Fry and Leela's Big Fling." The characters mentioned in the episode's moniker take a romantic vacation where they encounter Leela's penny-pinching ex. Many long-time fans of the show love to see the pair together, and wish the relationship would be handled with more care and consistency during the rebirth. Granted, it's not much different than in the original episodes, but that's kind of the point, since the filler movies, released after the cancellation, mature and grew this into something beautiful that has since been squandered.

Unfortunately, it's not handled super well in "Fry and Leela's Big Fling," either. At first, the pair are sneaking around, trying not to show their co-workers that they are intimate. Then, they don't care. Once on the trip itself, they seem completely stable and comfortable together, then things get awkward and tense, and it's not just the interloper that causes this, and then they go back to being solid again. It's like the entire inconsistency of the past couple of years is condensed and replayed in a half hour.

The fact that their vacation spot ends up being in an ape-run planet's zoo, with primates surreptitiously watching them make love, is absolutely perfect! I adore the Planet of the Apes take-off, a return of old characters, and tying Fry and Leela's story into several other characters' scenes. It's well crafted in such a way where one can admire the storytelling, and there are some gags that land. I especially admire the revelation that Leela and her ex are manipulated into running into one another.

The only thing that doesn't make sense are that the monkeys have old-style cameras. There are cell phones mixed in as well, but as much as the future portrayed in the show mimics today's world, having cameras there is just dumb and doesn't belong.

What's most disappointing is that nothing will likely pay-off. Animated shows take awhile to make, and going into this batch of installments, no one knew it was ending. Futurama sets itself apart from others of its ilk because the characters can actually be dynamic and there is continuity. As such, it deserves a true bookend, not just a handful of typical entries. Lackluster these past couple of years as it may be, it'll still be sad to see it go without the ending it deserves. Maybe some more films can be made?

Futurama airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on Comedy Central.

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