“The Bots and the Bees”
The new season of “Futurama” premiered tonight and before the title screen of the first episode had even finished, there were laughs to be had with the hilarious intro slate saying “Not sure if new episode or just rerun of episode I watched drunk.” The text was accompanied with a picture of Fry in the background squinting his eyes skeptically, as if he were the one thinking the phrase. Of course this joke replicates the popular meme that circulated the Internet while the show was off-air.
As “The Bots and the Bees” begins, there’s an instant reminder of one of the reasons that “Futurama” continues to be so damn funny. When Professor Farnsworth puts out the call for the team to return to Planet Express, we briefly see two startled pedestrians who have brains on leashes as pets. Only in the twisted universe of “Futurama” will you see people walking their pet brains.
As the Planet Express beacon lights up the skies, beckoning the team back home, it’s a fun little nod to the similar reunion of superhero teams of decades past. The team reunites for Professor Farnsworth’s big announcement, which he claims is the biggest news since the beginning of Planet Express. Unsurprisingly (but definitely not humorlessly) the big announcement is that the group is getting a brand new soda machine. Instantly Fry becomes addicted to the constant availability of the toxic tonic called Slurm.
In addition to feeding Fry’s unhealthy habit, the soda machine butts heads with Bender, who is angered by the machine’s lack of alcoholic beverages. The soda machine, who calls herself Bev, even makes a jibe at Bender’s antenna, which he insists is a “grower not a show-er.” Part of Futurama’s hilarity has always come from the fact that the robots on the show act almost identically to humans, just with a robotic twist. “The Bots and the Bees” is one of those episodes that plays heavily on this similarity (and gets a lot of laughs out of it).
Eventually, Bender picks a fight with Bev and they tussle. But the scuffle gradually turns into a fit of passion between the two robots. The next day, Fry gets an unusual surprise in his cup of Slurm—a baby Bender. With the appearance of her child, Bev grows a new “milk” button and begins feeding her newborn, to which Zoidberg comments, “Ugh, in public!” That comment brings up another enjoyable aspect of “Futurama”—its social commentary. Even though the show takes place thousands of years in the future, the comments made by the characters, and the situations they find themselves in, are often cracks about what’s happening in the present day. Another example from this episode is Bender’s quip about his mother: “She was a religious fundamentalist but she didn’t have a mouth. It’s an unusual combination.” Zing!
When it becomes obvious that the kid is Bender’s offspring, it’s revealed that he has no idea how robot reproduction works. So the gang takes Bender to the Rosie D. and Robbie T. Robot Teen Center, where he and a bunch of robotic teenagers watch the robotic equivalent of a sexual education tape. The kind of crazy thing is that, in a weird “Futurama” way, the tape makes sense! Of course in the future robots would be designed to reproduce on their own, alleviating the need for human robot production. Genius!
With Bender now educated, he goes to Bev and informs her that he’s ditching her and leaving the kid in her care. But instead, Bev walks out on Bender, and he’s forced to raise his son himself. After figuring out how to raise a baby robot, Bender grows attached to his son and names him Ben (for the first part of his name).
In a comical father-son montage, Bender and Ben bond over activities like stealing people’s valuables, robbing the liquor store, and robbing the bank. Everything is going perfectly until they find out that Ben is physically incapable of bending metal, the way his father does. Professor Farnsworth looks inside Ben’s head and finds that he only has one data card slot, which is being used by his memory card. Bender insists that Farnsworth may know what’s in Ben’s head but he’ll never know what’s in his heart. In typical “Futurama” wit, a joke is made of the cliché remark when Farnsworth proceeds to open Ben’s chest and inform Bender that there is no bending card in there either.
To make matters worse, Bev returns right in the middle of Ben’s Bot-mitzvah. Bev takes Ben from Bender (still following?) and leaves Bender to lament the loss of his son.
Meanwhile, Fry is starting to feel the effects of his Slurm dependency—he’s started glowing an ominous green color. When Bender hands Fry some of Ben’s cherished belongings and asks him to put them in a safe place, Fry’s touch instantly incinerates the box and everything inside.
Unable to take his separation from Ben any longer, Bender kidnaps Ben back from Bev and goes on the run. It’s not long before the cops catch them though, and all seems lost. But when the robotic cop goes to take Bev’s statement, it leads to Bev giving birth to another robot baby, this time with the robot cop’s features. Now that she has a new baby to look after, Bev leaves Bender and Ben alone.
Back home, Ben is upset that he’ll never be able to bend metal like his dad. Professor Farnsworth informs Bender that there is one way they can enable him to bend—by swapping his memory card for a bender card. Bender agrees to do so, and Ben forgets about Bender being his dad. The team decides to then fly Ben to bending school, but a storm has made the weather too foggy for the ship’s headlights. But Fry steps in and saves the day, using his Slurm-induced glow to guide the ship through the fog.
“A Farewell to Arms”
“Futurama” has a knack for starting off its episodes with a quick, simple joke that primes viewers for the laughs to come. “A Farewell to Arms” does this beautifully, with a gag where a street vendor takes out an umbrella to shelter himself from the sudden storm, only to be sucked up by a tornado that goes by. The wacky weather leads into the main plot of the episode, a riff on recent “end of the world” talks spurred by the Mayan calendar ending in the year 2012.
When the Planet Express group goes chasing after Fry’s lucky pants (who continue to allude him in absurd ways), they discover an ancient pyramid buried beneath Central Park. The pyramid was built by ancient Martians, and the team finds a Martian calendar outside of it. Amy (the resident Martian) deciphers the stone and tells everyone that it predicts the end of the world in 3012. As Fry says to himself, “Why does that year sound so familiar?” Prof. Farnsworth points out, “Because that year is this year!”
Upon further investigation, the buried Martian pyramid turns out to be a spaceship that will take 30,000 humans away from Earth as the world ends. A computer is put in charge of “randomly” selecting who is allowed on board and there are some funny reasons as to why some of the Planet Express gang are allowed on board (particularly Zoidberg going well with butter!). Of course, everybody gets a ticket to board the spaceship except for Leela. Unbeknownst to her, Fry decides to sacrifice his own ticket by pasting her photo over his, causing him to remain behind on the doomed earth.
When the spaceship arrives on Mars, the humans run into one of the ancient Martian elders who built the spaceship. He tells them that they read the calendar wrong, and that it actually foretold of Mars’ destruction, not earth. As everyone freaks out, Mars erupts with gas, which propels the planet toward Earth. As it passes by, everybody jumps off of Mars and back onto earth. However, Leela cannot jump due to a leg injury, and Fry tries to grab onto her to pull her back to earth. He of course fails, causing both of their arms to be ripped from their sockets.
After Fry’s failed attempts to save Leela, Scruffy (Planet Express’ janitor) uses a ladder to get her off of Mars. The story ends with a shot of Leela and Fry’s detached arms floating off into space, revealing the meaning to the episode’s title, “A Farewell to Arms”.
“The Bots and the Bees” and “A Farewell to Arms” aren’t the best that “Futurama” has had to offer in its long history, but they’re funny episodes that hit all the beats of the style of comedy that its fans have come to love. The season seven premiere will definitely remind viewers of many of the aspects that have made the show so successful over the years and given it such a following. Don’t expect to see the best of “Futurama” in these two episodes, but do expect to laugh a lot.