[adult swim] had one of the best episodes of [em]Futurama[/em] tonight: the Emmy Award winning "Roswell that Ends Well". For the uninitiated, [em]Futurama[/em] is an elaborate parody of the sci-fi genre. The premise being that a delivery boy gets himself chriogenically frozen and wakes up 1000 years into the future. They use the premise to do all sorts of sci-fi comedy, but the show also had a lot more heart than people gave it credit for. While it didn't have the family dynamic the protect it from its cynicism like The Simpsons, there is real honesty to the lead character Fry and his crush on the lead female character Leela. They pulled out some amazingly emotional, honest, but funny cartoons involving his unrequited love and his feelings of detachment from his old life. I'm really impressed at how they can so brilliantly capture some complex stuff and make it damn funny but touching at the same time. Once or twice, its down right sad. It takes a lot of guts to do a cartoon that has such a wide range of emotions, and I give them credit for that.
"Roswell that Ends Well" is not one of those emotional funny episodes, though. It's pure screwball comedy and just hits all its marks. I especially like that its a send-up of time-travel stories. Indeed, it specifically parodies the obligatory time-travel episodes of so many sci-fi shows. Lots of levels here. It acknowledges all the usual time-travel cliches on its way to completely destroying them. Naturally, Fry is admonished to avoid doing anything to affect the past in harsh tones. Naturally, he screws things up. How he screws up and the results, though, are pure comedic gold. Much it revolves around the obligatory meeting of a relative, his grandfather. Fry becomes insanely protective so as his grandfather doesn't die before he can have sex with his grandmother. Its all the usual slapstick stuff, too, until the grandfather says the funniest line ever on the show....
"You ever get the feeling you're just going with girls cuz you're supp'sed to?"
The best part is the reaction shot of Fry. Its this blank horror that is absolutely perfect for the scene. I just love that line. It manages to be sublte and blunt at the same time, the way it talks around the issue while still making the joke perfectly clear. Its also the funniest take on insuring your eventual birth in a time travel story. And the committment to the joke displayed with the few seconds of expressionless shock from Fry ties it all together.
Naturally, Fry does get his grandfather killed. He then proceeds to get it on with his grandmother when he rationalizes that they must not be his grandparents since he didn't disappear when his grand-dad died. Of course, this is faulty reasoning, so we end up with the most bizarre incest story even imagined that results in Fry being his own grandfather and earning the disgusted scorn from all of the other characters. After so completely screwing up the timeline, the rest also decide to just go for broke and forget about protecting the past. "Screw history" are the exact words. Its just such a funny way to wrap up the story. It obviously respects the sci-fi tradition in order to hit all these points, but its love is reflected in its unquenchable desire to pervert the traditions. It has all the little touches, too. The "explanation" for Roswell, Alien autoposy, even a little homage to the Hitchhiker's Guide (or Star Trek: TNG) with the robot getting buried in the past only to be recovered when everyone else ends up back in the future. Just pure concentrated funny. Its a real shame Futurama ended after only 4 seasons.