The Comedy Central seasons of Futurama have been caught between the episodic nature the show was initially founded on and the heaping pile of continuity that’s been building into that show after more than 100 episodes. The show wants every episode to stand alone and to start and stop in the same place, in the typical sitcom manner. But the science fiction trappings of Futurama hate that and really want to build a universe for these characters to live in. “Fun on a Bun” is an episode that’s really caught between that conflict and does a good job making fun of this problem without really solving it.
For pretty much no reason whatsoever, the Planet Express crew heads to Oktoberfest, only to find that in the intervening 1000 years it’s become a quiet, cultural gathering. Fry wants to drink and make an ass of himself, but everyone else is against this. Meanwhile, for also pretty much no reason whatsoever, Bender decides he wants to enter a sausage competition and that the best meat he could use would be mammoth meat. He and Fry set off to obtain some, and Fry drunkenly gets trapped in his sausage maker. While he actually enters into a neanderthal realm and begins a revolt against humanity, everyone else thinks that he ended up in the sausages, and Leela believes that she ate him, to the extent that she gets her memories of him erased Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind-style.
The neanderthal realm Fry fell into, trapped beneath the ice to live forever in the same way, is a pretty clever metaphor for how sitcoms work in general, and of course in order to necessitate this he suffers from amnesia. Earlier on in the episode, he’s reminded that Leela’s actually dating him, even though what this means exactly has never been explored by the show since it’s been announced. His exclamation about not knowing this is another self-reflexive parody, this time of the central part of the show’s continuity that continues dragging Futurama down.
The episode ends with a rather awesome and hilarious climactic battle between the neanderthals and the humans, in which the neanderthals repeatedly route Zap Brannigan, but a truce is reached once Fry and Leela reach each other. Their memories are restored, and they’re once again a couple, getting us back to where we started from at the beginning of the episode, but without the promise of continuing their relationship. It’s a strange feat, and despite the clips from old episodes representing Leela’s memories, it doesn’t really quite ring true because we know that next week they may very well not act like a couple at all.
Still, it has to function this way in order for the episode to work well, and as a self-contained story “Fun on a Bun” is excellent and goes to another corner of science fiction the show hasn’t touched on previously. And with Leela embarrassing herself by doing the chicken dance solo at the episode’s closing, maybe there’s some growth after all, even if it’s extremely slow.
•”Most people just call me ‘Orange Joe.’”
•Even Grundy looked sad about not being turned into sausages. Also, am I mistaken or did they just take the pig model for The Simpsons movie and give it a different name?
•”The last thing I remember is losing all my memories.”
•It may be a stupid joke, but I have a certain love for having men as ballast in unmanned drones. It’s a perfect Zap premise.
•Quite a few Princess Mononoke references in the art, eh?
•I feel like it would be irresponsible of me not to mention the way Bender is, at this point, just going around murdering people and no one really cares. Weirdly, I don’t seem to have any opinion on this one way or another. It doesn’t seem like a large leap for the character. I guess they just wanted to see how far they could take him without losing fans?