These past few episodes I’ve been trying to put my finger on what makes for an interesting Futurama episode and what makes for a forgettable one. Unfortunately, last night’s “The Silence of the Clamps” landed pretty firmly in the later camp, and I think there’s a number of reasons why.
The episode begins with the crew doing a quick earth delivery to the Don Bot on the occasion of his daughter’s wedding. Due to the all the robot celebrities inside, plus free food, Bender sneaks in and soon hits on one of the Don Bot’s other daughters. While sneaking off with her, he also catches the Don Bot and his cronies seriously hurting Calculon, which he confesses to when offered a $50 reward for the information.
The case against the Don Bot fails and he sets out to get revenge so Bender goes into the witness protection program. Clamps joins the Planet Express crew in order to find out where Bender is and they soon end up on the moon with hicks where a robot who appears to be Bender lives with the Crushinator. Clamps tries to kill him but is defeated by Zoidberg in a showdown before we zip back to Earth to find Bender’s been working at the pizza parlor across the street all along.
I think the main problem I ended up having with this episode is that aside from locations being on the moon and characters being robots, which have no real effect, this is a story that could have been done in any sit-com. In fact, as usual something close to it has occurred in The Simpsons (both the relocation and the witnessed crime) already, because this isn’t really a Futurama plot. There’s no real consideration of science-fiction concepts, instead it’s just taking a modern day story and putting it into the future. This makes it incredibly predictable and just not all that interesting, even if the Futurama characters are being used well.
The second problem with this episode is that it bases much of its story on what is probably the least interesting character in its universe, Clamps. Clamps is a one-joke character, and while I’m impressed that they tried a montage of clamping moments, it’s still just the same joke. All of the robot mafia tends to be pretty uninteresting, but Clamps in particular leaves nowhere to go to. So much time on him meant no real character relationships. This makes some sense given that just two episodes ago we had a different Fry/Bender episode about the two being separated, so mining that for pathos is a big retread, but since that’s the case clearly it’s time for the show to spend time with other characters.
That isn’t to say that “The Silence of the Clamps” was a total failure, especially when it came to individual joke-writing. Bender was as sharp as ever and it was nice to see references to old episodes like the reappearance of the Space Pope and the pizza parlor across the street (the detail of ordering out for a pizza while sitting in there may be completely lost on less-obsessive viewers). But the foundation was weak, making for the first forgettable episode this season.
• “Who likes good news? Everyone? Well good news, everyone!”
• “Oww, quit it earth.”
• Blood should always be called “snitch juice.”
• YES, THE SPACE POPE!!! Ahem, that is all.
• “We ain’t got nobody here by that alias.”
• “I don’t want to hit on anybody I already had sex with.”
• What are “sea oats” and why do we see them on a sign?
• “There’ll never be another like him… let’s hire someone better!”
• Once again, we see that Bender robots somehow never have a problem sleeping with their method of transportation. I always find that rather strange. Also rather appreciate that the Crushinator has a serious thing for Bender robots.
• “I knew Bender would show up purely by coincidence.”
•The Crushinator’s daughter is really cute, but is there any resemblance to Bender at all? I also like how little sense her existence makes.
• “Stop talking like that, you live on the moon.”
• “You sure you don’t want to kill all humans?”
• “John fucking Zoidberg!”
• “Bender was a helluva squealer. Maybe the best there was.”
• “So that mon hillbilly who got murdered was just an innocent husband and father. Yay!” – On that note, my girlfriend was incredibly sad at the end of the episode that the Crushinator’s baby has no father. Me, not so much.