“Space. It seems to go on and on. But then you get to the end and a gorilla starts throwing barrels at you.”
Rarely does any TV Show begin with such a hilarious line, let alone TV comedies. Usually memorable opening lines are reserved for movies. Here, it serves as a sample of the relentless, bizarre and hilarious humour Simpsons creator Matt Groening has in store for us with the iconic sci fi comedy Futurama.
By now, first episode “Space Pilot 3000” so ingrained in fans mind they can recite it line by line. New York delivery boy Philip J. Fry (voiced by Billy West) accidently gets frozen for 1000 years. Wakes up in New New York in the year 3000. Befriends ass kicking one eyed alien Turanga Leela (voiced by Katey Segal) and selfish, thieving robot Bender Bending Rodriguez (voiced by John DiMaggio). Yada yada yada. They end up working at Planet Express, run by Fry’s only living relative Professor Farnsworth (also voiced by West).
“Space Pilot 3000” is the example of a perfect pilot episode. Nearly every element of the episode works to perfection, from the animation design to the writing. Kind of unusual because TV comedies usually struggle to find their voice in the first season, praying they don’t get cancelled. As a result, the characters and deliveries can be a bit off compared to later. Futurama dives in with full confidence in itself.
Writers Groening and co-developer David X. Cohen pull off the difficult task of setting up the rest of the show while telling a self-contained story. After seeing Fry’s dead end life in the first season, you can’t blame him for beaming when he wakes up in the year 3000. When he wakes up, Fry channels childlike wonder for the future. Then the episode turns into a chase when Fry refuses to be forced into being a delivery boy by the state. In a comedic twist, it’s not because of the moral implications of state-forced occupation but because the chip inserting device looks scary.
The voice actors deliver big time. Though Fry’s a dimwitted loser, West brings out a sweet natured innocence in him without losing the hilarity. Sagal delivers another iconic character in Leela, who’s an awesome yet empathetic badass. She’s a great straight woman by Sagal still delivers a funny line here and there. But it’s Bender who steals the show just from his catchprase “Bite my shiny metal ass.” We don’t quite get the unrelenting selfishness and criminal behavior we’d come to love later, but DiMaggio still shines with his surly, drunk-like delivery.
The result is unforgettable hilarity. A variety of jokes come fast and furious, each one different in style and delivery. Whether it’s one liners (“Pizza delivery for uh…I.C Wiener?”) or slapstick (the malfunctioning automatic doors), pop culture references (celebrities appear as heads) to dark humour (the suicide booth), relentless gags appear in a variety of forms. The visual gags in particular give the environment so much personality you have to hit the pause button to take all the Easter eggs. Like the Simpsons, Futurama never lets the jokes get in the way of the story.
Futurama never loses its confidence throughout the series, which is ingrained itself in pop culture with unforgettable characters (John F@$#ing Zoidberg) and memorable lines (“Shut up and take my money”). In time, it would find a balance between dark humour (insert Bender scene here) with heartfelt moments (Jurassic Bark). When the show ends, there’s no doubt fans would want to go around again.
PS: Anyone notice strange shadows under the desk?
 Alongside Peggy Bundy and Gemma