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.”)