I’ve written a lot these past couple weeks about how different the character pairings we’ve seen in Season 6 of Futurama have been, but I don’t think anyone really saw an Amy/Nibbler one coming. Or, for that matter, one with anyone and Nibbler. But as the show’s reached a certain level of depth and maturity, it feels fine to leave Fry, Bender and Leela for a while to explore some of the less-developed characters, just so long as things don’t develop the way they did in the later seasons of the Simpsons and reach the logical endpoint of an entire episode about the news monster (although on the other hand, what does Morbo do when he’s off the air?).
So as “That Darn Katz!” begins, Amy is finally about to defend her dissertation in hopes of a Ph.D in applied physics. Those attempts are foiled by both Amy’s drunkenness the night before and the cantankerous Professor Katz, a stereotypically grumpy member of her jury whose cat interferes with her presentation. Amy’s distraught, but far more so when she notices the rest of the crew is being manipulated by cats into doing their evil bidding, something she’s largely immune to due to allergies. At the same time, Nibbler is fed up with still being treated like a pet by Leela and demands his rights as a full crew member. He’s soon replaced by cats and finds himself jealous of the attention they’re getting for cuteness, so he bands together with Amy to find out what the real story is behind those cats.
It turns out that the cats are aliens who came to Earth in order to solve the rotation problems of their planet in a wonderfully ludicrous fashion. After hearing Amy’s defense, one of them realizes that what she mentioned could in fact set their world spinning again—at the expense of the Earth. Nibbler and Amy try to stop this cat and his gang of adorable feline friends but find themselves no match for the rest of the crew, who’re being held under the cats’ control. But once the cats leave, they just use the device again and, though it means the Earth now spins in the opposite direction, everything else is just fine and dandy—why exactly the cats wouldn’t have immediately snipped the wire connecting their planet with ours is just one of those plot holes you have to ignore.
The entire episode hinges on two of the show’s least developed characters but that doesn’t slow things down in the slightest. Other than in her frequent Kif sideplot, Amy has largely just been in the sidelines of the show and has rarely been developed beyond being a klutzy party girl. Although she’s nominally been a grad student working under the professor since the second episode, it’s an aspect of her character that’s long been lost; she’s been called an intern numerous times since, as everyone seems to have forgotten why exactly she’s hanging around. Not only does “Katz” clear those matters up, it also forges the way for interesting possibilities with her in the future. At this point, she’s just as qualified as the professor to come up with crazy inventions, or alternately she may find some new path to tread. In any case, her future’s now suddenly open and a whole different aspect of her personality feels like it’s been unlocked.
Likewise, Nibbler’s a weird problem that Futurama’s been ignoring for a long time now. He showed his true intelligence in the first movie (and then promptly left the universe—I guess he could come back just as easily?) but since then he’s continued to largely just act as Leela’s pet. This made a fair amount of sense in the movies, as there really wasn’t room to address this mess, but for the past seven episodes it hasn’t felt right. Where he stands at the end of the episode isn’t particularly clear, but at least we can see that the show won’t be ignoring him any longer. I’d actually be quite happy for him to remain a full-fledged member of the crew, kind of like their Spock but in an adorable sailor suit.
Of course, character-broadening ambitions alone don’t make an episode great, but when things are funny it’s hard to find much to say other than, “Wow, that was some funny stuff,” and it sure was. Like last week the show’s pacing and hit-to-miss ratio of jokes was excellent. Even the wave after wave of cat puns somehow didn’t get annoying. Admittedly, your enjoyment of “Katz” is probably at least a little dependent upon your feelings about cats themselves, but as a cat lover (some might say fanatic: I am in fact writing this review with my cat resting on my arm) I could find almost nothing wrong. Everything about the episode, from the wacky far-fetched nature of the plot to the freeze-frame gags, were doing their parts, making for another instant classic.
- Why yes, I do have too many bones and not enough cash—how did you know? On a related note, I’m happy to see another of Futurama’s wonderful fake commercials kicking off the episode.
- I’m a bit fan of all introductions being done in descending order of drunkenness. We need to institutionalize that.
“Do you mind?” “Miss Wong, I mind everything.”
“Please. I’m trying to run a business … so I get to hold kitty.”
- Given Futurama’s explanation of the existence of cats on earth, can anyone explain to me about where big cats fit into all of this?
“The conclusion is as inescapable as it is moronic.”
“So you called my thesis a fat sack of barf and then you stole it?” “Welcome to academia.”
- While this is the first episode of the show written by Josh Weinstein. He’s long been around it as a “consulting producer,” along with his writing partner (ex-writing partner?) Bill Oakley. The two of them were show runners for the Simpsons during its fantastic seventh and eighth seasons and then went onto creating the brilliant but short-lived show Mission Hill. They’re also two of my favorite TV writers out there, so though we’re down the great Ron Weiner, it’s nice that Weinstein’s around in full capacity. Now if only he’d make up with Oakley and bring him on board as well….