Last week’s episode of Futurama was largely let down by its lack of quality science-fiction elements. Also, and more importantly, the jokes weren’t super funny. But since that’s always much more difficult to write about, let’s go back to the plot, since in a lot of ways this week’s episode, “Yo Leela Leela” was similar but with a wonderful science-fiction twist.
Leela visits her old orphanarium and tries to entertain them with a story. Unfortunately, she lacks even the most basic of storytelling abilities and ends up booed by the children. She resolves to return with a better one and, after leaving the office due to how loud and distracting it is, arrives with a mindblowingly good one. So good, in fact, that after showing it to the orphans, she’s given the option of turning it into a TV show.
Enlisting the rest of the Planet Express crew as cast members, Leela’s show is an instant success. The only problem is that she never actually wrote it. Instead she found a planet that had beings on it exactly like children’s cartoon characters and simply transcribed their lives. It’s a nice twist that only works in a science-fiction universe with infinite possibilities. Bender finds out about this and for a short while blackmails her with the information, but soon enough she confesses on her own. Then, in an ending that’s more Simpsons than Futurama, Leela asks to be absolved of her guilt through blame, but in fact the end of the episode works out for everyone involved, from the orphans to the space critters to the TV Network, so she’s denied her cathartic lesson.
It’s an episode that works well on a character level, since it’s a return to Leela’s anxieties about the orphanarium but not in a way we’ve seen before, and also on a science-fiction plot one. The twist means that this is a completely unique way of dealing with the problem and adds a lot of complexity to the whole story. Rather than simply being a pretty entertaining parody of children’s television, the show works as an odd commentary on plagiarism and exploitation.
Since this was also relatively fresh material, it also meant Futurama jokes we haven’t seen before. The show’s delved into television before with its “Single Female Lawyer,” but this was different enough that it didn’t feel like repetition. It also helped that we haven’t seen a true Leela episode in quite a while and the show’s slightly less frantic tone when she’s the focus was refreshing. Bender, for instance, is frequently at his best when just giving a few quips, as he did here.
The story’s structure also meant that it was a parody episode without having to turn the entire episode into a parody. At the center of “Yo Leela Leela” there’s the show Leela made, and while it’s entertaining for the three minutes of the episode it’s on, I’m very happy it didn’t end up being 10-minutes of the episode. By making this be as much about plagiarism as it is the hilarity of children’s entertainment, the episode didn’t start beating a dead horse. It hit just the right mix of pathos and hilarity, and while “Yo Leela Leela” didn’t quite stick the landing, it was still a pretty great episode.
• “Welcome back the bed-wetter of building D, Turanga Leela.”
• “Sometimes you have to choose between eating and reading, so they ate the books.”
• “I have a question: That story was bad.”
• Shouldn’t Fry have been practicing the holophoner, rather than the trombone?
• That daiquiri is brown… eww.
• “Get ready to be subjected to our new, fall shows.”
• “Popular Slut Club” is a pretty great name for a children’s show.
• Likewise, who wouldn’t watch extreme toddler wrestling?
• “The space gorilla’s just like us, ‘although I breathe chlorine.’” – My favorite lyric, although they’re all great.
• “Say, you seem like a smart mark.”
• “Don’t I need a degree to write gibberish for toddlers?”
• The “sweet, zombie Jesus” exclamation is back!
• Likewise, all of a sudden, Nibbler is back. What does this mean and why does no one on the show think this is big news.
• “If it’s alive, don’t lick it.” is a masterpiece
• “Let’s do everything we just did, two more times.” – This one line describes the entirety of children’s television.
• The “anonymous gift of” joke is pretty great
• “It’s like catching an evangelist in a whore house—that was the best Christmas ever.”
•“You’ve given us a new father, and a full-time job, which is more than most children have.”