558. Simpsorama

Original airdate: November 9, 2014

The premise:
The Simpsons are visited by a lovable robotic sociopath and his 31st century pals, trying to prevent them from inadvertently being the direct cause for destroying their future.

The reaction: It’s probably no surprise that Futurama is very near and dear to me, probably as much as The Simpsons. And I’m incredibly pleased that in its multiple revivals, even though it lost a bit of its luster in its Comedy Central run, the series was still mostly very entertaining and inventive up until the very end. Then, one year after the show’s fourth and final (for now) cancellation, we get this, the crossover that apparently somebody asked for. First, let me get my nerdlinger shit out of the way: exactly how does this crossover make sense? Did they cure jaundice over a thousand years? Was Fry considered an albino having lived in the 20th century in the Simpsons world? They could have had the characters arrive from another dimension, that would have solved it. But nitpicky stuff aside, this story just don’t make no sense. New New York City is under siege by a ravenous race of unidentifiable creatures, whose biological origins trace back to 21st century Springfield, so Bender is sent back in time to kill their ancestor, Homer Simpson. Halfway through the show, we see what happen; they’re a result of a toxic stew created in a time capsule buried at Town Hall, a combination of a lucky rabbit’s foot, Bart’s mucus when he blew his nose into a sandwich (which Skinner and Chalmers just let him put in the trunk for some reason), and a healthy pool of toxic waste that appeared when they dug the hole, and then just plopped the time capsule in the ground anyway without question. By the third act, the Simpsons are transported to New New York, and help gather the creatures into Madison Cube Garden and shoot them into space, solving our conflict incredibly simply in less than a minute of screen time. But the show isn’t about that, it’s mashing these two worlds and their characters together, just like you always wanted, right? Except, they barely even do that. Bender and Homer bond over the first act, which is kind of cute, I guess, but the rest of the show just amounts to Futurama characters showing up to say lines and make fan service references. Does Fry make any sort of comment about him returning back to his own time? Or Leela scoffing at the primitive ways of the past? Nah. Similarly, the Simpsons don’t seem to have much to say when they’re transported a thousand years into the future, they just behave as normal, for the most part. The episode opens with a Futurama title, with the chyron “A Show Out of Ideas Teams Up With a Show Out of Episodes,” and that’s pretty much what it is. There’s no real desire to explore how the characters react or interact to the personalities and world of the other show, this episode was just to cram as many Futurama references in as possible, regardless if there’s actually any humor to speak of. Which there wasn’t much of.

Three items of note:
– Bongo Comics actually did two Simpsons/Futurama crossover comics that were way more entertaining and creative. The first involved the Planet Express crew being transported into Fry’s Simpsons comic book by the Brain Spawn, and the second had the town of Springfield in New New York, and the Professor proposing that since they are fictional characters, they can be used for slave labor. The dual references, the character moments (Leela and Lisa bonding over being social oddballs was kinda sweet), the jokes, they were all done incredibly well. That’s why I could care less about this garbage, I already got a clever and smart crossover in comic-form over a decade prior. You can find that hardcover edition for pretty cheap used on Amazon, I highly recommend it.
– No one seems to give that much of a shit that Bender the magical robot is walking around Springfield, most of all Lisa, who for whatever reason disdainfully asserts she doesn’t believe he’s from the future (“Robotic technology today is very advanced!”) Advanced to the point that a walking, talking, swearing, alcoholic robot that belches fire is something you don’t even bat an eye at? What? Well, I guess this is the same world that last season featured Professor Frink developing perfect clones of Homer in our canonical present, so maybe she’s onto something. But, again, between her blase attitude and the Simpsons not seeming to care much when they’re in New New York, what’s the point of crossing these two over if the characters don’t seem to even care about it themselves?
– So the show is littered with fan service moments: speaking appearances from most of the major Futurama cast, cameos by Hedonismbot and the Hypno Toad, Lisa using a holophoner saxophone, and so on. It’s transparent pandering, yes, but it’s done with almost no attempt at a joke. The biggest example of this is when walking about town, Homer, Fry, Leela and Bender walk past Panucci’s Pizza with poor little doggy Seymour sitting there, complete with a somber musical sting after they pass. Now, let’s just forget about how it makes no fucking sense for Panucci’s to be in Springfield, that doesn’t matter, even though it irks me anyway. But there’s no joke to it. None at all. It’s not even that the dog acknowledges Fry and yips for him and he doesn’t notice, like Fry loved that dog so much and didn’t even notice he was there, like play it off as dark humor. But there’s none of that. There’s nothing. It’s not even a reference to laugh at, were they just trying to emotionally manipulate fans that lose their shit thinking about “Jurassic Bark”? Is that it? Or are they supposed to feel good because, hey, I recognize that thing on the screen. Well, for the thousandth time on this show, a reference is not a joke or a parody. It is merely a reference.

One good line/moment: Hearing the Futurama cast again is always a treat, even when they have no real material to work with. The Professor probably comes off the best in terms of actually having some decent lines, particularly his sheer disdain toward Frink (“Maybe if we teamed up, we could figure something out.” “Okay, but remember, to me, you’re incredibly stupid.”)


12 responses to “558. Simpsorama

  1. Aaron Grierson

    Please don’t mention “Jurassic Bark”. It only fuels my hate in relation to the Simpsons episode it lost to in the Emmys.

  2. Ererrrrrrrrrrrr

    Is it not obvious? This is Fox eating its words about kicking out the show and letting Comedy Central enjoy its revived success. But yeah, a lot of this episode is blatant fanservice for… whoever the hell asked for this now. I saw it in a scene where they draw Bender and point out how similar he looks to Homer. And, I know it may screw with the canon in the other show, but instead of having Bender sleep for 1000 years, couldn’t they just have him use the time travel code from “Bender’s Big Score” to have him go back?

    “A Star is Burns”, as bad as Groening thinks it is, did the crossover subject much better, making biting meta jokes at the laziness of the idea (“I love your show, and I think everyone should watch it! *shudders* Suddenly I feel so dirty.”) And so did The Simpsons Guy, and that should really say something. Hell, even the Bender scene in “Future Drama” had more teeth than anything in this (“Alright! You guys are my new best friends!” and then he’s thrown out). Hell, FAMILY GUY’S CUTAWAYS had better bite! (“Well, at least they’re a jury of our peers!” “I don’t think they see it that way, Peter.”)

  3. Was it really that hard to simply simpsonise the futurama world for this episode? At least that would’ve looked visually interesting.

  4. Mike, as a Futurama fan, have you ever watched this crossover before doing this review?

  5. This episode was a big disappointment.

    The first 30 minutes (you know why) of “The Simpsons Guy” were much better.

    • The Anonymous Nobody

      As much as everyone hated “The Simpsons Guy” (then again, No Homers was kind to it), it was a way more interesting and entertaining crossover than this one. It actually felt like it had a purpose. I mean, I’ve never watched an episode of Futurama, but even at the time, I was thinking that they did barely anything with the crossover aspect. Only Bender and Professor Farnsworth really had a reason to be there. And like Mike said, even when the Simpsons get to New New York, it’s like they don’t even care that much.

      But I do like this Bart line: “Remember when this country didn’t suck? ‘Cause I don’t.”

  6. I have to admit, Farnsworth’s prayer from this episode is one of my favorite lines from post classic Simpsons. “Nobody’s father who art nowhere…”

  7. Well, this was it. The last Simpsons episode I ever watched, Good riddence.

  8. I’m glad you mentioned the Bongo Comics crossover in this review. That I felt had a lot more effort put into it, mainly due to the fact they go the multiple universe route. I remember in the intro to the compilation book Matt Groening mentioned that the main reason they didn’t do a crossover earlier in the show is because Simpsons is a show in the Futurama universe and vice versa. The comic did it’s best to take advantage of that on the Futurama side of things (even if it does leave plot holes on the Simpsons side but those are easy to ignore here).

    The first sign I knew that no effort was gonna be put into this animated crossover was the fact they took the lazy route and just said that the Simpsons and Futurama take place within the same universe (which raises way too many questions). The Moment I heard the plot I was just like “I think I’m fine with just the comic.”

    To be honest I think the comic books do a better job with Simpsons stories nowadays than the actual show does.

  9. I have to agree that Bender and Farnsworth were the only saving graces and provided some rare laughs for the series, but the plot committed a very serious Futurama sin — it made zero sense. Part of the appeal of the show was that no matter how crazy things got, there was some sort of internal and sometimes nerdy logic to it. Nope, here, there just wasn’t much effort here and to add insult to injury, the comedy was either half-hearted or nonexistent most of the time.

    I also thought The Simpsons Guys was more entertaining overall and had more fun with the concept.

  10. Kaiju no Kami

    I actually didn’t hate this episode as much as you guys. Maybe it is because I never watched the Futurama revival (I lost interest after the first two meh movies), but I found myself laughing a few times during this episode. Most of it revolved around Bart when they discover the creatures were like mini-Bart monsters.

    However, the whole Bender in the basement bit was pretty dumb and the way they travel through time was kind of stupid too. It’s The Simpsons and Futurama though, so I’ll buy it since these are not real worlds anyway.

    BTW, Futurama was not canceled because it was canceled. It was canceled because the writers did all they could with it. Better to end the show while it is funny than to let it drag on and on until no one cares about it anymore.

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