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"Made From 100% Recycled Pixels"
Futurama finally returned last week and to kick off the long awaited seventh season, Comedy Central went with a back to back, two episode premiere. And what a premiere! Both "The Bots and the Bees" and "A Farewell to Arms" were excellent examples of the series' ability to blend the ridiculous with an overwhelming about of heart to great success. Tragic, beautiful and, most importantly, hilarious they were the perfect way to start the new season. But not every episode of Futurama needs to feature such a touching emotional story and this week's "Decision 3012" forgoes the sentiment in exchange for all out political satire.
"Thank you, Senator. A thoughtful and lucid answer. You will be destroyed! Question two. The environment, yes or no?"
For the first time I can remember (and I'm sure I'll be corrected if I'm wrong), the title sequence transitions right into the beginning of the episode with 'Free Beer' on the video billboard prompting Bender to jump ship. After crashing into a few things on the way down, including Coward Man, Bender finds the source of the free beer (and a Love Boat inspired robot bartender) which is, well, was being given out at President of Earth Nixon' campaign rally. Let the satirizing begin! Mentioned in Nixon's speech are the usual targets at any Republican stop - Space Aliens, Earth jobs, border fences, the poor - and, because she couldn't disagree more, it inspires Leela to take an interest in politics and attend the 3012 debate.
Morbo serves as the perfect moderator and the sequence introduces us to the Barack Obama stand-in Senator Chris Zaxxar Travers. Amidst the other candidates and their soundbites, Travers stands out as a voice of reason and is immediately booed. I particularly enjoyed the 'boo' that followed the mere mention of 'reputable scientists' but at least the smart and idealistic representative from Hawaii was able to make an impression on Leela and she soon pays a visit to his campaign headquarters, formerly the location of One-Hour Hotdog. Don't worry, you can still grab a dog there if you're willing to wait. Leela's put in charge of his presidential run and, after a tidy montage, Travers comes out of The Choosening with his Party's nomination. And an understudy in case he's caught with a dead girl, live boy or sexy space ghost.
"We don't want a foreigner, we want someone born here!"
Of course, Bender can't let Leela have all the fun and he's soon offering his underhanded services to the incumbent. After making sure he's only 40% wire, Nixon (one of my favorite characters, Futurama's answer to Mr. Burns) brings Bender aboard to help give Travers the old McGovern treatment and the first step includes digging up a little dirt. After a record 13 sleazy strip club visits, a tremendous urine sample and an All The President's Men inspired meeting with 'Big Throat' (played perfectly by Hedonismbot), Bender still can't seem to find anything they could possibly use to tarnish Travers' name. Except, well, his name. Too bad he wasn't a sex-dodger but his alien-sounding name will suffice. Time for a jowl movement.
At the next town hall, Bender calls out the candidate for having an exotic middle name like Zaxxar and demands to see Travers 'Earth Certificate' so he can immediately claim it's fake. The rest of "Decision 3012" becomes focused on satirizing the 'birther' movement in particular and Futurama couldn't do a better job. Just when Bender manages to raise suspicion about the Senator's place of birth, aided by the rumor hounds over at Fox quote unquote news and redneck hollerin', the robot unselfishly crosses party lines and put his differences aside to aid in a break-in. Leela decides to expose Travers medical records, even though he specifically asked he not to, in order to put the non-sense to rest and that means Giraffe-ing their way into the hospital in Kenya where he was born. Tomorrow. That's right, Christopher Zaxxar Travers is from the future.
"Mankind entrusted me with its last remaining suit and tie and sent me back in time."
It's a delicious science-fiction twist that allows Futurama to take the 'Earther' joke to its extreme. Instead of showing the doubters the long form certificate of birth, the series decides to show the rednecks, yokels and would-be revolutionary robots the candidates actual birth. First, there's the quick joke about the Lion and the 'zebra entrance' (which made me laugh hysterically) before the Senator begins his flashback to the future explaining his mission. Although the sequence contains more than a few good lines, the brief bit where Travers tells his tale is probably the weakest part of the otherwise fantastic episode. It's fun watching Bender's future ascent to power by leading a robo-revolt but it wasn't as clever or well crafted as the rest of "Decision 3012."
Like Fry, the ultimate representative of the dumb demographic, says, "if it's on TV, then it has to be real," so the Travers campaign decides to broadcast the birth live in order to finally put the issue to rest. The way Futurama portrays the media circus is perfect: the reporter announcing the candidate's crowning before cutting to Morbo 'down at the pelvis' with the yokels watching it all unfold live on the big screen. And despite the crowds' doubts, they do witness a birth and, wouldn't you know it, he has his eyes! The event puts the man who travelled back in time ahead in the polls and Travers is soon elected the next President of Earth. But don't get too excited, Bender quickly exposes the paradox of politics, I mean, time travel and that nothing is going to change because if Nixon never won then Travers never came back. It's Politics 101.
"Wow. It really doesn't matter who you vote for."
Forget Politics 101, "Decision 3012" was Futurama teaching satire 101 and all other comedies should take note. The series once again showed that they have some of the smartest writers on television (this episode penned by Patric Verrone, who's been with the show since the first season) and pulled off another brilliantly Swift-ian installment. Everyone always mentions the sentimental episodes when discussing the most memorable of the series but something has to be said for the ones that instead focus on skewering a specific subject and/or just shooting for laughs. "Decision 3012" probably won't be talked about as one of the all-time greats - and both of last week's shows absolutely belong in that discussion - but it was an immensely satisfying parody of the United States' political process.
Futurama returns with “The Thief of Baghead,” Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET on Comedy Central. It stars Billy West, Katey Sagal and John DiMaggio. It was created by Matt Groening and David X. Cohen. NIXON ALWAYS WINS!