Futurama is a show known for mixing its more over the top plots in with subtler, satiric jabs. It is never afraid to lampoon the conventions of the Sci-fi genre in which it finds itself, or to draw parallels between the far-flung future and our here and now. I was curious though, as much as Futurama seems like its always winking and nodding at it audience, how much does it actually rely on reference humor to accomplish its comedy. And what better episode to put up as a sample then the Emmy-award winning season 4 premiere. As always bold numbers represent the episode time at which the reference happens and Spoilers are most definitely ahead for this episode and most likely a few other films and TV shows as well. Scroll down at your own risk.
3:07– In response to being told to buckle up. Bender says “seat belts kill more people than they save”. In the Season 9 episode “Reality Bites” of The Simpsons(1989) Homer says the same thing when he buys Snakes car. Being as the shows share a creator and multiple writers it seems unlikely that this is just a coincidence.
3:20 The changing colors of the vortex are reflected in the Professors eyes. This is similiar to the end scene of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
3:30 Leela gives orders the the crew which happen to coincide with the names of two of the most famous Jazz songs ever written: “Pick up the Pieces” (Average White Band, 1974) and “Take Five” (Dave Brubeck, 1959)
4:00 The crew has time traveled back to Roswell, New Mexico. Long held as the site of a massive government conspiracy to cover up the crash landing of a manned extraterrestrial spaceship.
6:10 The crew need a microwave to recreate the accident and get back to their proper time. The supposed Roswell cover-up occurred in 1947, the same year that the microwave was first patented. Meaning the crew has landed months before the microwave would become the common household appliance it is today.
7:41 Enus, Fry’s grandfather, its based on Gomer Pyle the titular star of the Gomer Pyle: USMC hit TV series that ran from 1964-1969. Before that the character appeared as a regular on The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968)
7:59 Fry tries to save his Grandfather from being hit by a car, this is a reference to Back to the Future (1985) where Marty prevents his father from being hit by a car. The attempt backfires in both cases.
9:22 Zoidberg goes crazy for a buffet in his observation cell. He presses his face against the glass in a way reminiscent of the captured aliens in Independence day (1994). That scene also occurred at Roswell Air Force base and Independence Day leans heavily into the Roswell mythology.
12:49 The Professor asks for some Soylent Green and other made up Soylent foods.Referencing the film Soylent Green (1973) in which everyone is forced to eat Soylent Green after a world wide famine. Its revealed at the end of the movie that Soylent Green is actually made out of people.
21:28 After Bender’s head get’s left in the past, the crew digs it up in the future. This is a nod to the exact same thing happening to Data’s head in the Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994) episode “Time’s Arrow”.
00:00 Fry’s subplot, trying to save then ultimately killing his grandfather, then sleeping with his grandmother; is a subversion of the Grandfather Paradox of time travel which explicitly states you can’t go back in time and kill your own grandfather. The story also bares a close resemblance to two time travel movies Back to the Future , which I listed above, and the 1982 time travel movie Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann in which the main character sleeps with his great-great-great-grandmother and becomes his own ancestor.
Honestly not as many references as I thought. But I caught a few nobody else on the internet has yet, so I’m going to count this edition of Reference Humor a success. Until next time Reader.