Despite the wonderful science fiction base of the show, ‘Futurama’ tends to go for the low hanging fruit. Sometimes, like in ‘Attack of the Killer App’ two weeks ago, that fruit is full of sweet nectar that can be refined into comedy gold. This weeks’ episode, ‘The Duh-Vinci Code’ was the other kind. It was like the apple you get that’s wonderful and ripe on one side and bruised on the other. ‘The Duh-Vinci Code’ isn’t the kind of apple you’d eat fresh. It should have been made into a pie, bread, or Waldorf salad.
To say that this week’s episode is all bad would be a lie, but it was definitely the weakest of the new season. Doing a ‘Da Vinci Code‘ themed episode in 2010 is asking a lot from the audience already, but the biggest problems are pacing, continuity and content.
The first five minutes of this episode move way too fast. Exposition is thrown out as quickly as possible with no regard for storytelling, which hurts a comedy far more than it helps it. Just because we’re already on board with these characters doesn’t mean they don’t need to be paid attention to.
It’s Fry who presents the most problems. The writers are falling down the Homer Simpson trap of making Fry too dumb. He’s not the smartest guy around, but he’s able to function in the future society. He’s the everyman and he’s supposed to be the character we identify with.
Taking Fry down to the level they do here, the writers insult the audience. If we’re supposed to identify with Fry, and it takes Fry hours to figure out that he’s in Rome after being expressly told that’s where he’s going, then what does that say about us? Also, why does Fry think that a beard is Nibbler? Nibbler is black and has short hair. The beard is white, long, and is clearly a beard.
The first two episodes of the season had heavy involvement by creator Matt Groening and the absolutely brilliant and perfectly cromulent David Cohen. The most recent episode was penned by Maiya Williams, whose main writing credits include ‘Mad TV’ and ‘The Wanda Sykes Show.’
That’s probably why the characters seem a bit off, and definitely why the show seems to lack that extra oomph. ‘Futurama’ is one of the few shows that actually caters to real nerds. But in keeping with the theme, this episode seems to have been dumbed down just a bit too much.
‘The Duh-Vinci Code’ won’t go down as the worst episode of ‘Futurama,’ but it was far from the best. There are a few great gags, but most of it is unmemorable.