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"One of the 7? Wonders of the Future World"
Futurama returned for the second half of the seventh season last week and, just like the premiere for the first (also known as 7A), did so with a one hour special airing back-to-back episodes. Unfortunately, the two installments chosen to kick off Season 7B, "2-D Blacktop" and "Fry and Leela's Big Fling," weren't nearly as special as "The Bots and the Bees" and/or "A Farewell to Arms." By no means terrible, just not the quality fans have come to expect from Futurama, especially when it comes to premieres or finales. Of course, the recent news that this upcoming half-season's finale would also be the critically acclaimed animated comedy's last might have persuaded Comedy Central to schedule the remaining shows in descending order according to quality (like say, saving guest spots from stars like Emilia Clarke and Seth MacFarlane until the end). It's a countdown to cancellation. Well, another (and hopefully temporary) cancellation. After "T.: The Terrestrial," there are only ten episodes of Futurama, one of the 823543 wonders of the future world, left.
"Go on. Ring the bell and invade them."
It's doomed. Doomed! And it's really too bad because "T.: The Terrestrial" is a perfect example of why the show is still too good to be going to way of the dodo. Especially if my 'countdown of quality' theory is correct with the sixteenth installment of the seventh season (or third of 7B, if you prefer) not only already a step up from last week but also easily at home amongst the series' endless amount of solid episodes. I can't wait for next week! I think I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. "T.: The Terrestrial" opens on the distant planet of Omicron Persei 8, a location that's always exciting because that means Lrrr will likely be the antagonist for the Planet Express crew. Only this week is a little different in that we actually get to spend more time with the Omicronians than we do the main cast with Futurama's parody of E.T. - hence the title - putting young Jrrr in the starring role. Shifting most of the attention to a few of the show's recurring characters - the star having only appeared in one previous installment ("The Problem with Popplers") - would be an almost unthinkably bold move for your standard sitcom and yet the animated series pulls it off easily.
"Home, eh? That's where I live."
I can't think of another comedy that could put the bulk of an episode on such minor characters' shoulders and still have it work out so well. Things aren't going so well on Omicron between Lrrr, supreme ruler, and his son Jrrr. We open with Lrrr being too busy with his Earth-made TV shows to play with Jrrr. But can you blame him? Who could possibly peal themselves away from The Finder Outer? Lrrr does eventually put down the remote to see how his boy-scout son is doing in the badge department and instead of letting him go after a girly one like skull arranging (and definitely not patricide), the father and son plan a planetary invasion. Just to make things easy on the boy, they shoot for the easiest one in the galaxy and it only takes a bit of fatherly encouragement for Jrrr to conquer Earth by knocking on Nixon's door. Oh, and killing Agnew's body. Too bad for dad that the act of aggression against our planet results in a cultural embargo against OP8, meaning no more of his favorite television shows will be exported to his TV screen. Not even Hot in Cleveland. Meanwhile, as the situation worsens between the two planet-nations, the Professor is also is a bad way because he's all out of good news, which apparently is his brand of medical marijuana.
"First law of robotics, baby."
He's in desperate need of some relief from the pain but the only place where they can find his, uh, supplements is Gary, Indiana. Wait. That's not right. It's on OP8! So not that bad. With the Planet Express crew embarking on such a dangerous journey, breaking the embargo and possibly facing the angry Omicronians, it's important that they come up with someway to ensure everyone's safety and what's better than the buddy system? And just when you thought that Hermes had drawn the screwed end of the straw (Zoidberg), it turns out that Bender isn't the one you want to have in a jam. Even with Asimov's three laws of robotics. At the first sign of 5-0, that's five Omicronians, the robot rushes back aboard the ship without Fry and then lies to the rest so they can cheese it without waiting for him. The Omicronians arrive in a bunch of pick-ups, like the scene in No Country For Old Men, and don't spot Fry despite stepping on his head. Shortly after is when the parody of E.T. kicks into high gear with Fry and Jrrr meeting the same way E.T. met Elliot. Well, I don't remember any turds being eaten in Steven Spielberg's film but you get the idea. Jrrr and Fry quickly bond, the former sharing all the baggage about his overbearing, terrible father.
"Okay, stop loving me so much so we can land."
Back on Earth, Fry's actually 'doing' the best work he's ever done with Bender having to constantly make up work related reasons for his absence before eventually resorting to an answering machine message to keep up the charade. It's like Bender's pulling a Weekend at Bernies by way of Ferris Bueller. But eventually, just as the loneliness of being away from home starts to weigh on Fry, the guilt of having left his best friend behind is becoming too much for Bender to bear. He almost wastes a beer! Good thing he breaks the bottle though because that allows him to spot Fry's S.O.S., the only letters that he knows. And his rescue attempt couldn't come too soon since Fry is then discovered by Lrrr and sentenced to death. To make his son a 'man,' Lrrr decides to have Jrrr carry out the execution but thanks to some love powered bicycles, the young Omicronian and Fry, whose health has been steadily deteriorating, are able to make a run for it and wind up at the planet's doctor, Drrr. Not that he helps the human, but his office does offer as good a place as any for the Omicronian father and son to resolve their masculinity and cape issues. Oh, and Fry's not actually dead. Hurray! Think of all the work accolades waiting for him at home.
"He's alive! At least his butt is..."
Futurama returns with Episode 17, "Forty Percent Leadbelly," next Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET on Comedy Central. And, if you haven’t seen it already, be sure to check out the sizzle-reel for the rest of the seventh season.