Showing posts with label Futurama. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Futurama. Show all posts

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Television - Futurama '31st Century Fox / Naturama' mid-season finale review

The strength of the first half of Futurama's seventh season (sorry, but that's the least convoluted phrasing I could come up with) has been consistency. Flashes of genuine inspiration have been in short supply, but the laughs have been coming at a steady enough rate to justify continued viewing. The writers evidently have evidently given up on devising coherent stories, but a few episodes have elevated themselves on the strength of individual gags. Fun On A Bun represents the high point for humour, while Near Death Wish showed the series still had some heart to accompany its increasingly cartoonish absurdism.

'31st Century Fox' and 'Naturama', unfortunately, bring the season to its midway break with not only its two worst episodes, but two of the worst the series has ever done. '31st Century Fox' scraped together a handful of chuckles, but its gags felt too forced to compensate for a meaningless, scattershot narrative which only seemed to exist to justify the lame 'joke' in the title. 'Naturama' took that same pointlessness and multiplied it while subtracting all the laughs.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Television - Futurama 'Viva Mars Vegas' review

Futurama may not be as inventive as it was in its pre-Comedy Central heyday, but this season has seen the series' writers settle into a comfort zone allowing them to produce consistently solid episodes, occasionally elevated by the characters' inherent comedic strengths. Futurama's cast is more outwardly ridiculous than that of The Simpsons, perhaps explaining why the latter has so completely gone to pieces, forcing its characters to act in ways increasingly outside their established norm for the sake of generating storylines. Futurama is also a much younger series, of course, but eight seasons is nothing to be sniffed at these days.

'Viva Mars Vegas' was one of the season's less interesting episodes, especially following last week's sweet 'Near Death Wish', but managed to get away with its bonkers premise because of the inherently ridiculous rules on which Futurama is based.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Television - Futurama 'Near Death Wish' review

'Near Death Wish' represented an anomaly among this season's episodes of Futurama. Where most have sacrificed coherent storytelling for one-liners and ridiculous sight gags, sometimes successfully and sometimes not, this episode downplayed the ridiculous humour in favour of something approaching a narrative. The result was a half-hour which never threatened to be among the year's funniest, but hit the right character notes and felt more gratifying as a result.

At this point, we've known these characters long enough that there's only so much new that can be revealed about them without seeming like arbitrary detail, added in for the sake of filling an episode before moving on without another word spoken. The revelation that the Professor's parents were still alive, albeit in a comatose state in the Near Death Star, will almost certainly never be mentioned again and at first seemed an excuse for the show to fall back on fan service in lieu of any original ideas. Fortunately, the detail added to the Professor's back story fitted in nicely with what was already known, while adding just enough to earn its sentimental climax.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Television - Futurama 'Free Will Hunting' review

Not many shows would have the audacity to end on a main character celebrating a conviction for attempted murder, but it's one of the ridiculous sight gags which Futurama has been doing particularly well this season, often salvaging episodes which offered little as a whole. 'Free Will Hunting' was one of those, with barely enough plot to fill five minutes, let alone the running time's twenty-one, and relying on its individual jokes to get through. That's not always a bad thing, as proven by last week's often hilarious 'Fun On A Bun', but considering what a terrific premise was in place for this episode, the meandering felt like a missed opportunity for an entertaining exploration of a big philosophical concept.

What little genuine reflection there was translated into a handful of jokes probably funnier on the page than in action. Bender went on a search for free will because a judgment against him ruled his decisions were solely the result of his programming, but along the way was seen making a number of independent choices. The philosophical question remains open enough that some could argue this in itself was satire - it doesn't matter if we see Bender's choices or not, as there's no really saying whether or not it's still just his software talking - but given how the episode reduces the concept in one of its last and most successful gags, of Bender trying to shoot the professor, it seems unlikely the writers were trying to engage the question on any deeper level than was immediately apparent.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Television - Futurama 'Fun On A Bun' review

A disregard for anything approaching coherent or logical plots has diminished Futurama since its move to Comedy Central, making episodes feel as though the writers couldn't care less about the integrity of the series' world or its characters, but 'Fun On A Bun' took that problem to such an extreme that it turned around and became funny again.

I still live in hope that, one day, the show will return to being able to channel its trademark absurdism through something approaching a coherent narrative - 'The Devil's Hands Are Idle Playthings' remains my favourite example of Futurama telling a completely bonkers story in a tight, logically structured manner, without veering off on ridiculous tangents for the sake of a few cheap jokes - but it's hard to complain when an episode starts with an Oktoberfest fallen victim to the unfortunate German urge to make things disciplined, respectable and cultured, before ending in a battle between spaceships and mammoth-riding neanderthals, firing sabre-tooth tigers from catapults and unleashing a giant sloth against a Jamaican bureaucrat (a fine example of an ancient joke being redeemed by brilliant timing).

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Television - Futurama 'The Six Million Dollar Mon' review

I wasn't planning on reviewing this season of Futurama, given how disappointing the series has been since its move to Comedy Central in 2010 (or 2008 if you count the movies), but while the first six episodes of this seventh season are still some way from the delightful insanity that marked the show's heyday, they have been consistently amusing and unexpectedly dark.

Case in point: 'The Six Million Dollar Mon', whose plot was almost certainly built out of an excuse to use that face-palm of a pun, centred around Hermes' desire to increase his bureaucratic efficiency by becoming a robot. Nothing particularly dark there, until jokes from the second act onwards start focusing on backstreet surgery, skin peeling, epidermicide (my new favourite crime) and the reconstruction of a human being from individual parts stored in a bloody paper bag. The show also appears to have killed off its second robotic supporting character in the space of under half a season (following the demise of Calculon in 'The Thief Of Baghead') in the shape of the stab-happy Roberto.

Friday, 9 September 2011

A Thousand Times Blorg: Futurama review


FUTURAMA: 'Reincarnation'

Futurama's sixth season ended on a high note with 'Reincarnation', a return to the anthology-style episodes that haven't been seen since the second season, before the programme was revived on Comedy Central, despite having previously produced some of its most memorable work. As with 'Anthology of Interest' Pts I and II, 'Reincarnation' was divided into three very loosely related segments, this time tied together by the recurring motif of a diamond comet. Either this episode was produced very late - possible, given how last week's 'Overclocked' was written to be a season finale in case of cancellation - or the writers just struck incredibly lucky, as a planet believed to be made of diamonds was discovered only two weeks ago.

Instead focusing on telling individual stories, as per previous Anthology episodes, 'Reincarnation' instead presented three different styles of animation: the first reminiscent of Fleischer Bros rotoscoping, the second in the style of 8-bit videogames, and the third a parody of bad Japanese anime. Story-wise, a lot of it didn't make an ounce of sense, but where a lot of this Futurama season has been marred by what has felt like narrative difficulties driven by a lack of inspiration, 'Reincarnation' seemed to have the programme's creative team correctly realising that enjoying themselves with the animation would produce much greater results than trying to shoehorn in some sort of story as well.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Clearance Sale: Futurama review


FUTURAMA: 'Neutopia'/'Benderama'

'Benderama', the second of Futurama's two-episode summer premiere, functioned as an accidental analogy for where the programme seems to be heading. As with Bender last night, the show started out as something great, but gets lesser and lesser, lazier and lazier, each time a new version is created. Its first run, on Fox, ended on an all-time high with the glorious opera 'The Devil's Hands Are Idle Playthings', which was as silly as it was tightly written and surprising. When the programme caught a reprieve and returned with four mini-movies, their quality was noticeably weaker than that which everyone so fondly remembered. The full season subsequently commissioned by Comedy Central started last year with thirteen episodes that had their high points - 'The Late Philip J. Fry' was a cracker - but mostly came out flat, doing far too much recycling for its own good. That's a trend which last night's episodes showed no signs of halting.

Matt Groening's shows have long employed lazy humour ironically, expecting its audience to laugh at how tired the jokes are rather than the jokes themselves, but there's a point at which you have to wonder whether the writers are even sure which parts they want you to laugh at anymore. The Simpsons at its lowest was a particularly depressing example of this (having since levelled out at just 'underwhelming'), and 'Neutopia''s use of gender humour last night, an obvious attempt to recapture the spirit of 'Amazon Women In The Mood', was not quite that painful but toed the line at times.