In maybe the earliest holiday special ever televised, Futurama was back on the air last night celebrating the three major holidays of the season commonly recognized in our country. As such, rather than a normal episode they decided to split the show into three independent stories in the same manner as a Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episode or, perhaps more relevantly, the Anthology of Interest episodes we saw back before the show’s first cancellation. Of course, anthology episodes, like anthology movies, are notoriously inconsistent and this was certainly the case with “The Futurama Holiday Spectacular,” which had some nice highs but also a fair bit of disappointment.
In part one the show begins in traditional Futurama fashion with the celebration of Xmas. Fry’s lamenting that it doesn’t feel like the Christmas he remembers, people are ignoring him and a few moments later Santa comes in and shoots the place up. As he leaves, he mentions that they need to have a “pine tree that’s carnivorous” as part of a, frankly pretty lousy, Xmas song. Pine trees are now dead, so they have to go find new seeds, only they’ve been infected by a nearby germ warfare storage bunker right next to the seed storage. Soon enough, the world is destroyed. This entire first act is pretty rote and by far the least interesting of the three, but it ends with quite a shocker since there was no indication this would be a non-canonical anthology episode up until then.
Luckily, the rest of the episode is a great deal more interesting, likely because without an entire episode to take Xmas in new places, we’ve largely seen what it can do before (and the seed plot is kind of a non-starter). Bender wants to celebrate Robonukah again, and after another song, better than the first but still not so great, he begins the festivities. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have enough oil for his robot hookers to oil wrestle throughout the entire holiday, so he leads the crew on an expedition to find more. Once again they all die, but rather than just shocking, the section ends with a great joke about how through the miracle of Robonukah the hooker bots were able to oil wrestle for 500 million years.
Then we turn to Kwanzaa, which features the show’s only good song (and even here the music’s so-so, it’s just that the lyrics and their apathy are wonderful). Kwanzaa bot leaves with an exhortation for the cast to go buy beeswax candles, but bees are dying off so in order to get the wax they head out to the space bees. Turns out they’re dying off, too, but through the magic of Kwanzaa they shake off their parasites and unite In brotherhood against their intruders. Once again everyone’s screwed over, except Al Gore comes out and explains the entire episode as just an unrelated special.
I’m of two minds about the anthology in general, the first being that it was far inferior to the Anthologies of Interest that came before. But if they’re going to do one, well, this isn’t a bad idea, and even if Channukah Zombie never made an appearance, there was something nice about lampooning all three celebrations. I’d rather the plots themselves were a little more thought-out—in general it felt like recycling a lot of old show ideas—but the jokes were pretty good. In all it was a trifle of an episode and not one of the stronger ones this season, but it had its moments and I’d be happy to see this tradition continue.
• “We have to have a pine tree that’s carnivorous. “ Wait, why?
• I hate to be that guy, but, well, I am, so: There have definitely been pine trees on Futurama before.
• “Is there any chance of cross contamination?” “…no.”
• Dick Cheney as Nixon’s new vice-president is a wonderful touch. I hope to see a lot of more him.
• “Ho ho ho, everyone’s dead.”
• Gunderson’s Nuts just don’t seem all that funny to me. Not sure why? These corporate sponsorships are also becoming an overplayed joke in the show.
• “Robonukah may sound as if it’s Jewish”
• “Four and a half weeks of oil wrestling sounds like plenty.” “This isn’t a lousy reform Robonukah”
• “I don’t wrestle dry, Bender. I went to Vassar.”
• “The ship can’t undergo this much pressure. Sometimes it falls apart just sitting in the hangar.”
• “And now, the unrelated conclusion.”
• “We brought chocolate cake, but now I’m worried it might be offensive in some way.”
• “No, child, that’s not a made up character. That’s Kwanzaa bot.”
• Really, really love that Kwanzaa bot couldn’t even pronounce one of the Kwanzaa words.
• “Isn’t this the last night of Kwanza?” Kwanzaa bot: “Who the hell knows?”
• “Something’s wrong. It’s way too quiet”. “Like the deadly Prius.”
• “The crazy table-cloth man is right.”
• The show needs to work on its song-writing. There haven’t been any great ones since the original four seasons.