As a whole, there are two primary types of Futurama episodes, and both of them have had their moments. First there’s the ones that are traditional sci-fi, “What if?” episodes. I’m not talking about the “Tales of Interest” episodes either (although most of those segments qualify), it’s the episodes asking what if Bender could self-replicate into smaller Benders or the crew could travel forward in time but not backwards. The other, increasingly more common, type of episodes are extended sci-fi homages or pop culture parodies, and this week’s “Law and Oracle” definitely qualifies as one of those.
Every once in a while, Fry hates his job as delivery boy and feels the need to try something else. It’s a bit of an old standby for Futurama, but oh well, it still works and here he decides to join the police force after noticing that they’re given at least a modicum of respect. This takes the show through a parody of normal police training and soon Fry earns himself a promotion by stopping a criminal in a Tron-influenced chase sequence. He joins a future crimes unit that’s straight from Minority Report and sets out to stop Bender from committing grand larceny in the future.
The episode’s rather slight b-story focusing on the rest of the Planet Express crew is even more reliant on straight-up parody. Fry and Bender deliver a package to Avatar’s Pandorum, a planet only that only exists in 3-D. They and everyone else are also remiss without Fry, having lost their joy in life without his zany antics around.
I almost always prefer Futurama’s real sci-fi to its large-scale parodies, not only because they’re timeless but also because the jokes don’t seem as easy. That being said, all of the parodies here worked well, even the Tron part that barely featured any jokes but was still a nifty enough bit of animation for me to appreciate it. “Law and Oracle” also had a memorable new character with the police chief and didn’t feel like it retread any ground.
A lot of Futurama’s episodes can be fairly thought-provoking beyond all of its laughter. It makes you think in the way good sci-fi always has and stretches the limits of logic and our sense of what the world is about. “Law and Oracle” doesn’t do that, but its jokes were hitting their mark all the way through and were, if not thought-provoking, still pretty clever.
• “Winners don’t play video games.” Funny, but it feels like they’ve been doing a lot of these arcade parodies.
• I’m rather fond of the Paperboy parody.
• “Life and death are a seamless continuum.” I hope we hear more from Zombie Scruffy on this subject.
• “Wow, that would be impressive if you were human.”
• “Sir, yes ma’am.”
• The throwing hats up at a graduation gag has been done like seven times by The Simpsons at this point. Groening should really put a stop to them in his shows by now.
• “I’ll be teaming up officers with their ironically matched officers.”
• “I’ve improved on Fry by sticking some wheels on a board.”
• I also rather love that the speed limit is based upon the physical laws of the universe.
• Just because the Tron parody serves no real function doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it.
• “We call him… Pickles.”
• Wait, her name is Hattie McDoogal? That’s a new one to me.
• “Hubba hubba, your pants go almost all the way to your ankles.”
• “That’s me, I recognize the face.”
• “Yes, it is I, Pickles.” What an insanely awesome sentence.
• “To know the punchline of every joke hours in advance.” “Like watching Leno.”
• “Funny thing about destiny, sometimes fate has other plans.”