This week in Sci-Fi Time Capsule, the best sci-fi cartoon ever: Futurama. When you’ve created a cultural icon with the weight of The Simpsons, sometimes it’s best to just take a bow and wander off into the sunset. Thank you, Matt Groening,for taking another at-bat and hitting back-to-back home runs. This is the smartest, funniest, and more heartwarming (and occasionally heartwrenching) show ever painted onto celluloid and blasted out over basic cable.
I only picked the pilot episode because there were too many candidates. I’m probably going to come back to this series, so consider this laying a groundwork.
(WARNING: Spoilers begin below)
Pizza delivery boy Philip J. Fry gets a crank call delivery to a cryogenics lab and ends up deep-frozen for 1000 years. Waking up on New Year’s Eve 2999, his first reaction is elation. He’s free from his boring, dreary life, and gets to see the future.
Of course, his career assessment tells him that he’s fated to be a delivery boy in the future too, and he can’t deal with being sucked back into the life he left. He runs, and career assignment officer Leela chases after him. While on the run, he befriends a suicidal robot named Bender and convinces him to help Fry escape.
In the end, it’s Fry who gets Leela to abandon her career, and they end up tracking down a distant nephew of Fry. Professor Hubert Farnsworth owns a delivery service, and needs a crew. Fry gets to be a delivery boy, but since it involves flying around on a spaceship, now he’s fine with it.
Why Is This a Classic?
This is where it all started. A corny, goofy, satirical view of a future that in a lot of ways looks suspiciously like the present (the head museum filled with 20th Century icons, for instance, as well as New Yorker attitudes). The time loops, the impossible inventions, the snu-snu and the Harlem Globetrotters, the Robot Devil and the Star Trek homages. Good news, everyone! It all started here.
“At least here you’ll be treated with dignity … Now strip naked and get on the probulator.”
Bender: You really want a robot for a friend?
Fry: Yeah, ever since I was six!
Welcome to the world of tomorrow!
How it Holds Up
It’s Futurama. It’s 14 year’s old and still kicking around. Though it’s on hiatus at the moment, I wouldn’t bet against someone reviving it again. But like any long-running series, the early episodes are where the real classics lie.