As much as it would be wonderful to write reviews in a vacuum, it’s got to be said that expectations play a large part in how anything gets received by its audience. ’ve always tried to stay away from trailers or press packets or leaks in the hopes of not changing my immediate reaction to a film, but with a TV show you have an already built-in set of expectations derived from previous episodes. Television’s typically episodic nature has a lot of positive aspects, but one thing it eventually leads to is an episode like the unfortunately-titled “Lrrreconcilable Ndndifferences,” which isn’t necessarily terrible, but is still a letdown given the preceding string of truly great episodes. It’s the same problem that plagued most of this past season of 30 Rock, where decent episodes were disappointing in contrast to the show’s earlier sublime highs.
The episode (I prefer not to call it by name) felt like a downshift to a more conventional TV show after the past few episodes’ narrative playfulness. This more traditional, three-act structure was saddled with a plot focused on Lrr and Ndnd rather than the Planet Express crew, which is not only something we’ve seen a few times before, but also tends to lead to some shabby stereotyping. At this point, the alien pair is as deep as they’re ever going to get—they’re stock characters, a midlife-crisis oaf (who happens to be ruler of the planet Omicron-Persei 8) and his nagging wife. It’s a couple we’ve seen 1000 times on TV before, just with more jokes about horns.
But while the characters are kind of dumb and lazy, the polish is still there, which makes things interesting despite themselves. Lrr never transcends his essential oafishness, but turning his fake Earth takeover into a real one is a wonderful twist regardless of who causes it. That the classic Orson Welles War of the Worlds broadcast gets remade for this purpose only sweetens the deal. Lrr and Ndnd end up exactly where they began the episode (perhaps with longer horns) but oh well, at least we got a fairly entertaining Earth occupation out the whole affair. Plus, Katee Sackhoff as the future’s equivalent of a furry was something completely unexpected.
The episode’s B-plot about Fry’s wonderfully terrible comic is 50% a non-starter and 50% genius. The irritating parts are pretty much any time that the comic is being talked about but not shown. Yup, it’s pretty lousy—riff on that for a while, characters. The actual on-screen representation, though, is perfect, right down to the unnecessary motion-comic aspects. Similarly, the reasons for its gradual changes throughout the show aren’t particularly good, but the way each change gives us a different, equally insane version of the same story makes this easy to overlook. I’d actually be much happier reading Fry’s comics than the actual Futurama comics—like the Simpsons ones, they’re only for diehards.
So it’s a good episode, in no way tarnishing Futurama’s good name, but still a letdown. It’s a tribute to the show’s return to consistent greatness that even a disappointment like this has something like Delivery Boy Man or Futurella, not to mention some of the most quotable lines of the season. I’m hoping that next week, with the show’s 100th episode, we get another instant classic. But you know what? If it’s just another “Lrrreconcilable Ndndifferences,” then that’s fine too.
“Mystery—eww.” And it’s always great to see more from the Scary Door. I want this show to spin-off.
“After I leave here I’m getting a memory enema.”
“He was bitten by a radioactive superman.” – perhaps the best single line of the season.
“Sergio Aragones, I’m a big fan of your cartoons, and your moustache.”
- I’m rather fond of the homosexual Mario announcing the costume contest.
“I built this castle with my own two slaves.”
“Lrrr demands the comfort of pop-psychological platitudes.”
“That dinner was a worthy foe.”
- Orson Welles on Orson Welles: “Damn I’m good.” Agreed. While I feel that maybe I should take some issue with how the greatest film director of all time is portrayed (yes, I’m one of those), it was just too damned funny, and any excuse to let Maurice LaMarche do his Welles impressions is a good one.