Futurama: "The Thief of Baghead" (7.4)
The best thing about Futurama remains that its science fiction universe is flexible enough to always grow, adding new characters and concepts rather than sticking with what’s familiar. The death of The Simpsons came after years of fleshing the city out meant that every joke became a phoned-in, pre-prescribed Simpsons note, and every character someone we already knew or a celebrity guest. Luckily, Futurama can, when it remembers to do so, always feature more aliens and different kinds of robots and every other science fiction concept ever made, and what’s more it should.
“The Thief of Baghead” begins particularly well in this regard. Part of why Fry, as a character from today, was such a great concept is that other than firsthand experience, he seems unwilling to learn about the world around him. Every visit to the aquarium or anything else is as new to him as it is to us, even 12 years after he first left New York for New New York. The future, having long since become his home, still holds wonder for him.
However, the episode’s first act, in traditional Groening style, has little to do with the rest “The Thief of Baghead,” which becomes about Bender’s work as a paparazzi. It’s a typical “Bender’s selfish and wants to try some new scheme” sort of plot, which is familiar, but still works because it’s both short and genuinely up his alley. The paparazzi world isn’t one filled with familiar characters, with the lone exception being Calculon. The celebrity he becomes obsessed with photographing, Baghead (or Langdon Cobb, as he’d presumably like to be called), is completely new despite being apparently famous. And while that may sound like a retcon, that’s a really good thing, since it doesn’t mean the show is constricted to 800 plots just about Calculon, going to just him every time they need an actor.
The joke of the greatest actor in the world doing all of his work with a bag on his head may be a little bit too on the nose, but it also never stops being funny and entertaining, offering the animators numerous opportunities to show how this would work out. The id and ego of his alien race may also be too spot on, but it’s also funny and for whatever reason just works.
That’s the thing about “The Thief of Baghead,” it’s not extraordinary, but it’s one of the more consistently enjoyable episodes Futurama has had in a while. Its core concept wasn’t the show’s strongest, but it had so many good jokes that didn’t really matter. The entire episode played a bit like it was from the first or second season, featuring the type of wonder about the crazy world of the future, with its aliens and robots and swimming dinosaurs, that it sometimes forgets to feature, and the result was an episode that felt fresh despite coming in the middle of the seventh season.
•Shatnered should be a synonym for quality acting. For irony’s sake.
•“August is shark week.”
•The t-rex doggy paddling was a wonderful visual. Had me laughing way too hard.
•Us People – The magazine more women deny reading.
•Sooo that alien’s a giant penis, right? I realize his name is Larvae Levin, but still.
•"Souls? Don’t be ridiculous, it’s their life forces that have been robbed."
•The smizmar thing is a weird callback to a previous misuse of the word (in “Raging Bender”) before it was decided that’s what it’s the word for a lover in the amphibiosan culture. Yeah, I’m a dork like that.
•On a more personal note, my neighbor’s cat looked an awful lot like that ego.