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August 29, 2015

Futurama: Mars University

by Joel Keller, posted Aug 13th 2006 8:33PM
Futurama: Mars University(S01E11) Is it me or does it seem like a lot of television comedies -- especially cartoons -- do parodies of Animal House? I mean, I've seen that movie's ending scene, where each main character gets freeze-framed as a caption describing what happened to them after college flashes on the screen, mocked a number of times. But, as the old adage goes, it's not the topic, it's the writer's take on the topic that counts. The writers of Futurama do a decent job of making their own version of the venerable movie... complete with a chubby robot with the oh-so-simple name of Fatbot.

Oh, and there's a talking monkey in a bowler. But that's a whole 'nother story.

Gunther, the hyper-intelligent monkey that was Farnsworth's prized experiment, has always been one of my favorite one-off Futurama characters. He's so conflicted because, well, because he's a monkey; he doesn't know whether he wants to study quantum physics or fling his own feces. He says he'd rather eat "banana-flavored energy bars made from tofu," but he secretly loves the real thing.

So he tosses his little intelligence-giving hat, but later puts it back on to save Fry, Leela, and Farnsworth from a steep drop over a waterfall. In the process, he hangs over drop by a thread. "I've got nothing to live for," he says. "I was miserable as a genius, and as a monkey, I was so dumb I tried to wear a hat on my butt. There's just no place for me in this world." Then he brightens up and says, "Although, on the other hand--" just before the thread breaks and he falls. That to me was the funniest moment in the episode... well, that and what Farnsworth wanted to do with Gunther's remains. Thank goodness he was ok, even if he wanted to go into business school after his fall.

Speaking of the hat, when Fry asks Farnsworth if Gunther is genetically engineered, here's the professor's response: "Oh, please! That's preposterous science-fiction mumbo-jumbo. Guenter's intelligence actually lies in his electronium hat which harnesses the power of sunspots to produce cognitive radiation."

Ok, on to Bender and the boys at "ROOOOBOOOT HOUUUUUSEE!" as Dean Vernon called them. We'll just print the conversation Billy West and I had about it in this week's edition of:

Billy West's take: There was like college pranks... there was a frat organization in college?
JK: Yeah, Epsilon Rho Rho, ERR, like in error.
BW: I think Rho like the 17th alphabetical denomination of the Greek alphabet (he's right... I looked it up).
JK: You probably know better than I was, and I was in a fraternity.
BW: Yeah?
JK: Beta Theta Pi. It was more of a geek fraternity, it wasn't a uh...
BW: Oh I didn't even make it to college. I just didn't. (laughs) I almost quit high school. Because I was a musician and I didn't give a crap about high school. I felt that I learned everything I needed to know by the ninth grade. And pretty much I was right.
JK: Yeah, you don't need calculus to make sure your checks go into the bank.
BW: Yeah, they said you were either going to need a cotangent or a co-median, so I became a comedian.

Very punny. Anyway, you can see pieces of different college-themed movies in the ERR scenes, but most of it is stolen from Revenge of the Nerds and the aforementioned Animal House. To me, it was a funny little diversion, but there wasn't much to it. Even the obligatory Macintosh placement -- Bender and the boys ogle it during their panty raid of a girl's dorm -- wasn't as funny as it could have been.

Some other notes:
  • The saga of the "Financial Aid Dorm" was funny, first with the permanent sign falling down, then a cardboard sign falling down, then an even less-permanent sign staying up... while a goat eats the cardboard sign.
  • Dean Vernon was named after John Vernon, who played Dean Vernon Wormer in Animal House. Wow. That was even confusing to type. Vernon was voiced by the ever-versatile David Herman.
  • Billy West did the voice of the John Houseman-like professor of 20th century history. It's amazing how different that voice was from Billy's natural voice, and the producers complemented him on it during the commentary on this episode.
  • A more realistic-looking monkey was created for the Gunther character, but it was scrapped because it looked too creepy.
  • Frank Welker is back; he does the monkey voices in this episode. Apparently, he's the master at doing animal voices for cartoons. And here I was, just thinking that all he did was Freddy...
  • And, the reason why there's a lambda in Chrissy's phone number? Just so the writers could avoid putting in a "555-" fake number. So there.

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There is a little-known rule that whenever an animated show has a college episode, they have to do a parody of Animal House. This is similar to the rule that whenver they go to an insane asylum, they have to do a parody of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's nest.

August 15 2006 at 10:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

#3 - this is the only episode (barring the pilot) in which Zoidberg doesn't appear. Tells you something doesn't it...?

August 15 2006 at 9:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Professor Farnsworth: Please, Fry, I don't know how to teach! I'm a professor!

August 14 2006 at 10:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This episode suffers from fatally low levels of Zoidberg.

August 14 2006 at 5:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Toby OB

I think 'Animal House' was itself mocking that type of ending because it was done with 'American Graffitti', wasn't it?

August 13 2006 at 9:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Michael Shapiro

I have to correct an earlier post.. Futurama is not the worst animated series on TV.. It's "where my dogs at".. Just being objective here.. Futurama still sucks though and is on the same level as 12oz mouse and that shitty new Death Metal show on adult swim

August 13 2006 at 8:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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