Thursday, December 25, 2014

Holiday "Classic" Recap: Futurama: "Xmas Story"

“Lick my frozen metal ass.”

So I decided to switch things up a bit for the Holiday recap this year and tackle an episode of an animated show that was a college staple for me – “Futurama.” “Futurama’s” humor is quirky and irreverent, just the way I like it. While there were some very dated pop culture references in this particular episode, I still enjoyed rewatching it to write this post. There is both humor and heart in abundance as Fry and Lela realize they are kindred lonely Xmas spirits. While being chased by a maniacal robot Santa who is convinced that everybody but Zoidberg is on the Naughty List and deserves to die. I believe this was the first episode in which we saw Christmas (or Xmas as they call it in the 31st Century) on “Futurama,” and it’s easy to tell that the writers were having a lot of fun with this particular bit of world building.

One thing that I might critique about this episode is that it is a little disjointed. It seems about 50 percent joke delivery device and 50 percent coherent story arc. Given that the creative team only has a little over 20 minutes to fill, I’d like to see a bit more of the latter. Anyway, with that said, the opening sequence of the show involves the Planet Express crew on a ski trip. There’s a bit about what skiing is like in the future, where you can just say “trees up” or trees down” to make your run more or less difficult. Of course, despite this, Fry gets clobbered by a tree (twice). The Professor somehow wins a ski competition while sleeping. Which you would also probably expect, because, you know, he’s the Professor. While gathered together in the ski lodge, the crew starts talking about Christmas. Fry learns that in the future, it’s called Xmas, and he starts feeling sad that he is not going to see any of his family for the holiday this year. Since, you know, they died about a thousand years ago.

To cheer Fry up, the crew decides to get an Xmas tree for the office. Fry is surprised when they end up with a palm tree, though. Apparently pine trees went extinct hundreds of years ago. This just adds to Fry’s holiday malaise. Fry’s too wrapped up in his own sorrow to realize that Leela is having a tough time, too. Since she was raised as an orphan, she doesn’t exactly have happy holiday memories. We see her go through a scrapbook of especially pathetic pictures, and the book is labeled “happy memories.” Fry gets annoyed with Leela for not wallowing in his sorrow with him, completely oblivious to her issues. Leela gets so upset about this that she just leaves the room sobbing. Eventually, the rest of the crew point out to Fry how insensitive he has been, and he decides he wants to try and make things right.

Fry ventures out into New New York in search of an Xmas gift for Leela. What he has been told but doesn’t appreciate, however, is that if he stays out too late, he risks being killed by a homicidal Santa robot. Apparently Mom’s built the robot years ago to automate the Naughty or Nice list process, and the robot took his job a little too seriously (as robots would tend to do, I suppose). Just about everybody deserves to be on the Naughty List, in his opinion, and the punishment for that is death. Folks have taken to purchasing heavy artillery and making reinforced fireplace covers to stay safe through the horror that is Xmas Eve. Even traditional carols have been rewritten to talk about avoiding death at the hands of Robot Santa.

Fry wanders the shops of the city and can’t find anything he thinks is just right for Leela. The shops all close early on Xmas Eve in the 31st century to give people time to go home and hunker down before Santa begins his rampage. Eventually, the only shop left open is a pet store, and Fry, after much deliberation, decides to get Leela a parrot. I think I’d probably clobber somebody who got me a pet for Christmas without asking me first, but we all know Fry isnn’t good at thinking things through like that. Unfortunately for Fry, while he is heading home, the parrot escapes from its cage. He goes on a long hase up to the top of a very tall building to try and get it back. Of course, this attracts the attention of Robot Santa, who starts chasing Fry, too.

The rest of the crew tells Leela that they are worried about Fry because he left the office to try and find her a present. It is getting dangerously close to Robot Santa rampage time. Leela finds Fry and gets him out of a few tough spots, but they are chased by Robot Santa all the way back to Planet Express headquarters. Santa really wants to get into Planet Express, because he has decided everybody but Zoidberg is on the Naughty List. Mostly because, even if they’ve made amends for everything else they have done wrong that year, everybody has been mean to Zoidberg.

After Fry and Leela are safely inside Planet Express, the crew starts trying to lock everything up. They are a little too late with the reinforced fireplace cover, though, and Santa gets down the chimney and starts flying around inside the building. He gives Zoidberg a pogo stick and prepares to kill everybody else. Zoidberg, however, manages to use the pogo stick to send Santa right back up the chimney. So the Planet Express crew will live to see another Xmas. The parrot, sadly, did not survive. Bender serves it up to the crew for Xmas dinner, although Nibbler steals it all off their plates before anybody can actually eat it. Since you all survived Robot Santa’s rampage last night, I’d like to wish you a Merry Xmas!

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