Well tonight begins the end of an era…again. Yes, Futurama’s been cancelled so often at this point that the whole ordeal is starting to grow tiresome. While I would love to see more of the Planet Express crew, maybe it’s time they go out now rather than continue to forever be on life support, creating a seemingly endless number of potential finales in its wake. If creator David X. Cohen is to believe though, this one is the real one—and Comedy Central sure is hyping it up as such. I’ve been seeing commercials all the time on the network promising a “groundbreaking” final season. And well the jury’s still out on that one, I still figured that this would be as good a time as any to get all squishy and nostalgic with this frequently hilarious, often brilliant show. Without further ado, here are my ten favorite episodes of Futurama.
But before we delve into the main ten, let’s get some honorable mentions out of the way. In no particular order: “The Farnsworth Parabox”, “Bender’s Big Score”, “Hell is the H-Word”, “Insane in the Mainframe,” and “Leela’s Homeworld.” And with those out of the way, let’s jump right on in, shall we?
10. “Where No Fan Has Gone Before”
I’m far from a fan of Star Trek, but even I can admit that “”Where No Fan Has Gone Before” is one gigantic geek-gasm of an episode. Being the non-Trkkie I am, I’m actually pretty surprised that this made my list, but honestly you don’t have to be a Star Trek fan to enjoy this episode (though it certainly helps). It’s funny in its own right, and just seeing the entire original cast so game in their performances is a true delight. Plus Welshy. Never forget Welshy!
9. “The Why of Fry”
One of my favorite aspects of Futurama is that, despite being an animated workplace sitcom, the show takes its mythology very, very seriously. Futurama knows its audience, and understands that that they like ongoing storylines built up from previous events that occurred in the show. “The Why of Fry” is in every way a follow up to the Season 2 episode “The Day The Earth Stood Stupid,” and directly correlates with not just events that occured in that episode, but the series overall. The secret role of Nibbler, the reason Fry was frozen in the past, and even Fry’s previous past nastification with his grandma are all brought up throughout “The Why of Fry” with spectacular results. But those mythology bits aside, “The Why of Fry” is still a very funny and very touching episode about Fry trying to find his place in the universe and understand what’s truly important to him.
8. “Roswell That Ends Well”
It should come as no surprise that Futurama has covered time travel quite well throughout its 140 episode run. Hell, the premise of the series itself is based upon the idea of a man being frozen in time and being teleported a thousand years in the future. And though “Roswell That Ends Well” isn’t the best time travel episode the show has ever done, it’s still a highlight of the series. Pretty much every character gets something delightful to do in “Roswell That Ends Well,” from Fry’s manic quest to “save” his future grandfather, Bender’s journey to retrieve his body back, and Zoidberg’s hilarious capture by the United State government, “Roswell That Ends Well” is one of the series funniest episodes. And it taught me never to put Jiffy Pop in the microwave. Thanks, Futurama!
7. “The Luck of the Fryish”
This was one of the first Futurama episodes that tried to be more than funny, and it’s clear from the rest of this list that the gamble paid off spectacular. The tale of Fry and his older brother Yancy is both poignant and sweet, and builds to one of the show’s best moments ever as Fry learns the real truth about his brother’s love. And like other more emotional episodes like this, it uses the flow of time very well to ultimately present its bittersweet message. Such a wonderful episode, and I can’t think of another film or TV show that used “Don’t You Forget About Me” in a better way. Nope…not a one.
6. “The Late Philip J. Fry”
Futurama has caught a lot of flack in recent years for coming back from the dead and not being anywhere near as good as it was before. But in my mind, the revival was worth it for what is one of the show’s most brilliant episodes, “The Late Philip J. Fry.” Not only is it a sweet Fry/Leela episode (most of the show’s best episodes are), but it also contains the show’s token oddity and original use of science to pull the story forward. I can’t imagine any other show in existence that would have three of its main characters sit back, drink beers, and watch the universe end, but that’s Futurama for you—there’s simply nothing else like it on television. And when the show’s on fire, it’s REALLY on fire.
Speaking of crazy episodes, here we have possibly the craziest of them all—”Sting.” The episode starts out relatively simple as the Planet Express crew goes out to retrieve ordinary honey from a gigantic bee hive in the middle of space. But as we soon find out, this isn’t just ordinary honey. Futurama always plays fast and loose with the mortality of its characters, but having an episode built around the main character dying and another main character going insane with guilt about it is still a risky venture. But “Sting” more than delivers, giving us an incredibly strong Leela episode that gives a lot of great stuff for Katey Segal to do throughout. And even if you’re against the Fry/Leela relationship (how is that even possible?!), this episode stand on its own as a very sweet look at the strong bond between them.
This is a personal favorite episode of mine, even if I don’t hear it mentioned nearly as often as it should be in other Top 10 lists for the show. I absolutely love “Godfellas” as both a meditation on the ideas of religion and higher faith, and as a wacky Bender episode in which he gets to intentionally massacre dozens of tiny people on his stomach. Well Bender can often be a crutch for Futurama in the same way Stewie is for Family Guy or Roger is for American Dad, he’s used pretty fantastically in “Godfellas,” as we see both the hilariously cruel and surprisingly sweet and lovable nature of his character. And his final conversation with “God” at the end of the episode will forever remain one of my favorite Futurama moments ever. Just further proof that this show is more than your standard Sunday night fare.
3. “Time Keeps on Slippin”
Here we have another fairly standard Futurama trope—something insane and high concept occurs with science, and the crew has to both figure out how to fix it and deal with their own personal problems at the same time. But for me at least, “Time Keeps on Slippin” sets the standard for both types of episodes. The time skips are used brilliantly in this episode, and the inclusion of the Harlem Globetrotters as alien super beings is a joke that keeps on giving. But what really makes this episode so wonderful is indeed the Fry/Leela relationship—this is one of the first times the idea of Fry and Leela as a romantic item was brought up, and it definitely let us know this storyline would play out quite well throughout the rest of the series. This episode also ends with one of the saddest scenes in Futurama history, as Fry finally realizes what he did to make Leela love him right before it’s too late. Such emotional devastation from what’s often one of the funniest shows on television.
2. “Jurassic Bark”
And speaking of emotional devastation, here’s the mother of them all. At this point, the kick in the nuts that is the end of “Jurassic Bark” is pretty well known, especially around TV fans. And if you’ve seen this episode (which I certainly hope you have if you’re reading this), “Jurassic Bark’s” inclusion on this list shouldn’t really need much explaining. I’ll just leave this here to make you remember the sadness though. Hope you weren’t having a splendid day or anything…if so, I’m sorry.
1. “The Devil’s Hands Are Idle Playthings”
Honestly, I had a lot of trouble choosing my all time favorite episode of Futurama. The Top 5 especially could be easily interchangeable and not miss a beat, as those five episodes are pure perfection by not just Futurama standards, but TV standards as a whole. But I guess for the readability of this list, a “winner” has to be crowned in some capacity. And what better choice than the show’s first and best series finale, the simply extraordinary “The Devil’s Hands Are Idle Playthings?” This was an amazing finale at the time and, though I’m happy the show didn’t truly die after this one, it certainly would have been an amazing way to go out. The Fry/Leela relationship takes center stage here, and it’s handled beautifully throughout. The opera sequence that acts as the climax of the episode is probably my favorite moment of the entire series, and Dan Castellaneta’s return as the hilarious Robot Devil also benefited the episode greatly. And the final line is my favorite of maybe any series finale ever—even if it ultimately didn’t pan out the way the creators thought it would at the time. Still, an amazing finale and an amazing episode.
And that just scratches the surface of amazing Futurama episodes really. I’m sure there’s a ton here that I didn’t get a chance to mention, so be the internet and snootily correct me on my omissions. What are your favorite episodes of Futurama? And don’t forget to check back late tonight for my review of the hour long final season premiere!