Futurama's Best Episode: The Problem With Popplers

By Jesse Carp 2011-11-14 18:45:46 discussion comments
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Once again, we're tackling another show in TV Blend's weekly series "___'s Best Episode." Each week a different writer will pick out a different episode of a TV show and argue why it is definitively, absolutely the best thing the show ever did. Arguments will be started, tears may be shed, but we're here to start some conversations and make some arguments for really, really good TV. Mack took on Freaks and Geeks’ best episode last week and this week Jesse continues things by looking back at Futurama. Read below, argue with us in the comments, and enjoy the new series!


Good news, everyone! Even though picking the best episode of an entire series has no easy solution and can seem quite the daunting task, there are several compelling reasons why the best episode of Matt Groening's Futurama is “The Problem with Popplers.”

First and foremost, the fifteenth episode of the second season stands above the rest because we are talking about an animated comedy and I truly believe that it is the funniest. There isn't another episode of Matt Groening's animated series that packs as many laughs into twenty odd minutes as 'Popplers.' It is fantastically written, and almost every line of dialogue or every little plot point makes me laugh out loud. The episode opens with the Planet Express crew returning from a mission to the Moocher Planet and therefore, find themselves with no food left. Starving, they are forced to land on a remote planet where they find something that resembles ditches of fried shrimp... or holes of fried prawns (depending on who you ask). Of course, these are the popplers of the episode's title and the crew soon starts selling the unknown morsel for a nice profit. And when I said that the episode is the funniest, that is not to diminish how intelligently the show comments on - or in this case satirizes - our culture, which should be the desire of any truly great work of science-fiction.

No one was more concerned with using the genre to those ends than the creator of Star Trek Gene Roddenberry and “Popplers” even incorporates a nice shout out to the science-fiction TV legend. While searching for food, Leela notes how they're on "a Type M Planet, there should be Roddenberries."

On Star Trek a 'Class M Planet' as one that can sustain carbon based life-forms and therefore a perfect place to find a new snack right? Why stop to consider that since the planet can sustain life that some, say the popplers, may be intelligent? Of course they are intelligent, turning out to be the young of a species from Omicron Percerii 8, one who had appeared in, or should I say invaded, the series once before. This time they bring with them not only the vegetarian debate of what species, if any, are acceptable to eat but they also highlight the importance of knowing what's in our food and not just being mindless consumers. Rampant consumerism is also tackled by the episode representing the two extremes (and ripe for ridicule) are 'Fishy Joe' Gillman and Free Waterfall Junior with Leela moderating as the voice of reason. Of course, the voice of reason must be the one sacrificed as penance to the Omicronians and the whole event is sponsored by Fishy Joes, the very corporation responsible for the widespread consumption of the alien babies.

Futurama has won two Emmys for Outstanding Animated Program. It first took home the award for “Roswell That Ends Well” and then again last year with “The Late Philip J. Fry.” They are both truly outstanding episodes and a testament to not only how good the series is but how difficult it was to come to a decision. One of the final deciding factors why I chose 'Popplers' as the best episode over those two, or other phenomenal favorites like the emotional “Jurassic Bark,” is that we get to see of a ton of the series' characters in small but memorable parts. On top of the laughs, on top the the biting social commentary, Futurama, like any great show, is about spending time with the characters we love and this show has an entire universe of them. Literally.

“The Problem with Popplers” does a great job of incorporating not only all of the Planet Express crew but also many of the best recurring characters - like Lrrr, Zap Brannigan and Kif - and all to hilarious effect. When selecting the best episode of the comedy, it only made sense to choose the funniest, but since “The Problem with Popplers” also includes so many of the series best characters as well as intelligently satirizes both sides of our consumer driven culture, well, it made the choice a little easier.

This argument was sponsored by Molten Boron. "Nobody does it like Molten Boron."
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