In the midst of all the holiday hullabaloo, the good folks at Comedy Central gave us an early present in the form of a ‘Futurama’ Christmas special. Like that gift you get every year from your out-of-touch aunt, the intention was good even if the delivery was a little off.
‘The Futurama Holiday Spectacular’ may not be spectacular, but it sure is holiday themed. Instead of focusing on a single story this year, the episode takes the style of the ‘Simpsons’ Halloween specials by breaking off for three shorter stories.
The first segment is the strongest of the three, and sets the tone for the rest of the episode. It all starts out with an attack by Santa that leads the Planet Express Crew with the desire to grow a real pine tree. It’s not exactly clear why, but a pine tree appears to be what’s needed.
Things go horribly wrong, of course. The pine trees end up being weaponized, growing out of control and taking over the Earth. Al Gore appears to let us know that the trees are reversing the damage that humans have done to the planet, but they end up raising the planet’s oxygen levels to the point that the atmosphere becomes flammable. We find this out when Bender lights a victory cigar and everybody dies.
The second segment details the story of Robanukah, the made-up holiday that Bender uses to get out of work. The crew ends up having to drill for precious petroleum oil – an extremely rare substance in the year 3000 – into which Bender will have floozies oil wrestle in the finest traditions of the holiday. The ship drills down to the molten core of the earth and everybody dies.
The first two segments are decent, though not particularly great. There are a few good gags, like Al Gore asking for change for a Nobel Prize, Hermes’ Ice Cream Manwich, and Leela’s repetition of “This could be a good thing.” But they both feel pretty weak compared to a full episode.
The third segment just lost me.
The Planet Express Crew is over at the home of Hermes and LaBarbara to learn more about Kwanzaa, but end up incredibly confused, as does the viewer. There’s a lot of misinformation about Kwanzaa being spread by Kwanzaa-bot, who clearly doesn’t understand the holiday either.
As a dude who doesn’t celebrate Kwanzaa or know anyone that celebrates Kwanzaa, I have no way of knowing what’s true and what’s not. It’s one of the problems that ‘Outsourced’ runs into as well. I can’t be asked to laugh about something that I don’t understand – it doesn’t work.
Fry, Leela, and the rest of the crew head out to get beeswax for the traditional beeswax Kwanzaa candles and encounter the deadly space bees from ‘The Sting’. You can probably guess how it ends. No? Everybody dies.
The constant death of all the main characters is a cute running gag, though it isn’t an effective one.
In the end, I found myself disappointed in ‘The Futurama Holiday Spectacular’. The songs aren’t catchy, the gags aren’t funny, and the storyline doesn’t advance. It’s nice to revisit the characters again, but I could have held out until 2011.