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11 classic 'Futurama' episodes that you should watch before the show returns
For the new season, we trust that the orgy pit has been scraped and buttered?
All together now: Good news, everyone! Futurama, the hilarious science fiction sitcom from Matt Groening and David X. Cohen, is getting another revival. Hulu is set to begin work on a new season of the animated classic, which already boasts 141 episodes.
Most of the original cast is returning too, though the involvement of John DiMaggio (Bender) is up in the air as of press time. We’re really hoping that things get resolved on that front, because there’s no show without DiMaggio getting in on the fun alongside fellow voice actors Billy West, Katey Segal, Tress MacNeille, Phil LaMarr, Lauren Tom, David Herman, and Maurice LaMarche. The show doesn’t work without the full team, and a recent revisit of the series made that very clear.
To celebrate the return of the Planet Express crew, we’re going through our picks for 11 episodes of the series that we love the most. To paraphrase a great robot, “We apologize for nothing.”
11. “A Pharaoh to Remember” (Season 3)
"Pharaoh" finds Bender worried about his legacy, so the crew puts together a mock funeral for him that fails to satisfy the surly robot. When the team is sent to Osiris IV and have to work on the funeral pyramid of Hamenthotep, Bender excels. He then maneuvers himself to become the civilization's next pharaoh, and orders a giant statue of himself to be built.
His reign is cruel and horrible, and the finished statue is eventually destroyed. Bender is still sad about his legacy, especially now that the giant statue of him has been blown up. Leela soothes him by saying that he awful actions creating it will certainly be remembered.
It's a fantastic Bender episode, one where his selfish side really comes out. That selfishness is coming from a recognizable human desire to be remembered, and it's a perfect example of how this series consistently tempers insane comedy with real emotions.
10. “The Farnsworth Parabox” (Season 4)
In this inventive episode, Professor Fransworth has created a "parallel universe box." It almost kills him, so the crew has to throw it into the sun. Leela has to guard the box, but she ends up falling inside of it. Within, she experiences alternate versions of the main cast. Her double orders that everyone from their universe comes over, too — but through another box, one that the parallel Professor created.
The major difference between the two universes turns out to be that coin flips have different outcomes; no one is suddenly evil or anything like that. Multiple Hermes and Zoidbergs cause havoc, but thankfully everyone winds up back where they are supposed to be. Fry is constantly asking Leela out on a date in this episode, and he does so again at the end. She flips a coin, but she doesn't look at the result. She just agrees to the date.
It's a loony episode with a classic sci-fi setup, and yet by the end of the episode, it tugs on our heartstrings after giving us a case of belly laughs.
9. “Prisoners of Benda” (Season 6)
"Prisoners" begins with a visit from the Emperor of "Robo-Hungary" and things devolve from there. Bender wants to steal his crown, but no one is paying him any attention. Professor Farnsworth, meanwhile, has created a mind-switching device, which he tests with Amy. This causes mayhem, and the minds and bodies of the crew are switched around in a non-stop comedy of errors.
This clever episode keeps one-upping itself, to the point where the appearance of two members of the Harlem Globetrotters elicits a "well, of course" from the viewer. One of the two ("Sweet" Clyde Dixon) is made a Duke by the end, and Bender continues to plan to steal the crown. He's learned absolutely nothing.
The writer of this episode, Ken Keeler, wrote a mathematical theorem on group theory to explain the events on display. It has since been called the "Futurama Theorem" and, in 2012, David X. Cohen mentioned that this was the first time that a theorem was proven with a teleplay. The proof itself can be seen on a blackboard in the episode, and if all of that isn't going above and beyond, then what is?
8. “Meanwhile” (Season 7)
Futurama has had more than few "series finales," but "Meanwhile" was the last official ending that aired during the most recent revival on Comedy Central. As much as we love an opportunity to go back and revisit the world of this show, fans could not have asked for a better send-off than this final episode.
Another invention from Farnsworth (one that lets someone travel back in time ten seconds) gets into Fry's hands, and of course. Fry abuses it. He does so in a sweet way, though, because he wants to prolong a loving moment that he had with Leela after he proposed to her.
Things devolve (as usual) to the point where Fry and Leela are old and walking the world alone. The universe is eventually restored to the moment right before the device was created, and Fry and Leela are back to their younger selves. Even though they've already grown old together, they decide to "go around again" and Futurama concludes (this time) with another emotionally-satisfying marriage of humor and heart.
7. “The Devil’s Hands Are Idle Playthings” (Season 4)
Another "finale" on this list, as this episode ended the show's original run on Fox. The recurring robot devil returns (voiced by The Simpsons legend Dan Castellaneta) and Fry trades hands with him in a misguided attempt to impress Leela. With his new hands he becomes a virtuoso on the holophonor, to the point where Hedonismbot commissions him to write an opera. Fry bases the opera on Leela's life, but everything gets complicated when the devil wants his hands back.
By this finale's conclusion, Fry ends up with his own hands again, but Leela wants to know how the opera ends. To show her, Fry improvises it and, with the help of some crude animations of Fry and Leela, the pair walk off together and give fans (and themselves) a happy ending.
6. “Amazon Women in the Mood” (Season 3)
The adventures of Zapp Brannigan (West) and Kif Kroker (LaMarche) are ongoing highlights of the series, and this is their most bonkers appearance. The over-the-top sexist Brannigan has such an unearned confidence that we can watch him bumble around for days, and the long-suffering Kif gets a break in this episode as he and Amy officially become a couple.
As the title suggests, the episode involves an adventure on Amazonia. The crew comes up against the Femputer, voiced by the great Bea Arthur. The episode also features Kif using Zapp's awful pickup lines, mockery of chauvanism, and Bender winding up with a pile of gold bricks.
5. “Where No Fan Has Gone Before” (Season 4)
In the world of this series, Star Trek has been illegal since it became a religion in the 2200's.So in "Where No Fan Has Gone Before," uber-Trekkie Fry has to take the head of Leonard Nimoy in order to recover the only copies of the original show and the first six movies. His mission takes him and his pals to the planet of Omega 3, where Nimoy's head is given a body and the crew is forced to live in a never-ending Trek convention.
Almost all of the original Star Trek cast appear to voice their iconic characters in this episode, save for the late DeForest Kelley and Scotty himself, James Doohan. (The actor declined to participate, so a character named "Welshie" was created). Logically, the episode is packed with a generous helping of Star Trek references and Easter eggs. But it uses jokes about the franchise and its fans not to mock them, but to celebrate them and the legacy of this classic series — all put through a very Futurama lens.
4. “Godfellas” (Season 3)
It's another episode where Bender becomes a religious icon, and it's not the only one in Season 3. It's not even the only one on this list.
After being lost in space, Bender collides with an asteroid and little "Shrimpkins" start to worship him. Things start with the One Commandment and end with atomic war between two Shrimpkin factions. Bender is lost in space again until he meets a god-like entity. He has a lot of questions for it.
"Godfellas" is similar to "Pharoah" in some ways, but the philosophical questions that this episode raises touch different nerves. The advice that the entity gives to Bender on how to be a divine being is something that we ponder often, and it's just good science fiction, full stop: "When you do things right, people won't be sure you've done anything at all."
3. “The Late Philip J. Fry” (Season 6)
"The Late Philip J. Fry" centers on another invention of the Professor's (a time machine) that Fry bungles the use of once again for Leela-related reasons involving a date with her that he was late for. Fry's tech mishap sends him back to the year 10,000 AD, and here, he must keep moving forward through this pre-historic timeline until a backwards time machine is invented. The comic journal puts Fry, Bender, and Farnsworth on a course for the end of time, where another big bang occurs that replicates the same universe. They are able to get back to their crew, and Fry makes it on time for his date with Leela. In the previous universe, Leela had mourned Fry as being dead. She also left a message for Fry that reaches him a billion years later.
The episode's plotting and animation are considered to be all-timers by fans, as the show's usually wackiness is tethered to some of the most endearing moments the core crew have ever had. But the ep also showcases the series' darker comedic side. Because Fry, Bender, and Farnsworth get back to their regular places in the new universe, but that universe already has versions of this trio. So, by episode's end, we see Bender burying three bodies under a bridge.
2. “Luck of the Fryish (Season 3)
In the 1970's, Yancy Fry is jealous of Philip, his baby brother. In the year 3000, Fry is sick of his bad luck. He wants to recover a seven-leaf clover, which "Luck of the Fry Fish" argues will help Fry turn his luck around.
Most of the episode's charm and wit come from watching Fry go back and forth between the two aforementioned time periods, as his anger grows over the face that Yancy has replaced him. And much of the episode's earned heartfelt moments come when we realize that Yancy truly missed Fry when the latter vanished from their timeline, and that Fry's nephew was named after him in his honor.
1. "Jurassic Bark" (Season 4)
Fry discovers the fossils of a dog in a museum, and realizes that it is his dog from his original time period. After he protests the museum for three days by constantly dancing The Hustle, he is given the remains of "Seymour Asses." The Professor can clone the dog, but Bender gets jealous and tosses the fossil into lava. He gets it back after giving Fry a rare apology.
The Professor discovers that Seymour lived another 12 years following Fry's movement in time. Fry assumes he found a new owner and was happy, so he halts the procedure. Seymour forgot about him and lived a good life. End of episode.
It's not, though. In a flashback, we see that Seymour did not forget Fry. He waits for him outside Pantucci's Pizza. It was Fry's last command to him, after all. He never leaves. Years pass and he stays there, eventually lying down and shutting his eyes. That is the real end of the episode.
It is one of the most heart-wrenching moments in any piece of science-fiction, and it comes from an animated comedy. Episodes like this are what make this show as great as it is, with the ending obviously proving pivotal. If anyone ever doubts the power of Futurama, then this is the episode to show them.