Telespection: The Luck of The Fryish!

Hello and welcome to a new section of The Reviews of Cinema!

This new section is called Telespection, a cross between television and inspection for those wondering. With this, the plan is to focus on episodes of T.V which I find to be the greatest the show has to offer and delving in deep as to why I love it.

For the first entry I thought none other than Futurama, especially since Hulu announced a continuation of the series.

Futurama was created by Simpson creator, Matt Groening, and aired two separate times before it’s cancellation. The show originally ran for four seasons on two channels during 1999 and ending in 2003, it was then picked up again on Comedy Central from 2010 to 2011.

Futurama’s premise is essentially a man from the 2000s is frozen until the year 3000 where he finds his world isn’t as he remembers it. He joins a delivery company along with a robot named Bender and a mutant named Leela.

Now the episode I want to focus on comes from season 3, a season full of many great episodes that it was hard to pick just one. But for the first article in this series, I had to go with The Luck of The Fryish.

The Luck of The Fryish revolves around Philip J Fry and how he just isn’t lucky since he’s been in the future, what he’s really missing is his seven-leafed clover that made him lucky back in the 2000s.

This all starts because of a series of unfortunate events that cause Fry to go in search of his clover, the jokes at the racetrack are great and really encapsulate why Futurama was such a successful and remembered show.

Hermes: “Baby needs a new pair of shoes!”

Zoidberg: “To hell with your spoiled baby! I need those shoes!”

I love Zoidberg, he’s possibly my favourite character from the show, and his best moments are when he misinterprets a line. His humour mainly comes from slapstick moments and the occasional funny one-liner, but with jokes like this it’s just fun to see how words can be interpreted.

We see Fry has such desperation that he’s willing to get electrocuted twice just to keep a $1 bill, not only does this show Fry as slightly incompetent, as realistically no one would do that. Yet, there’s this charm about him, showing he will go to whatever lengths for something he wants.

Fry: “If you think bad luck can defeat me then you don't know my name is Philip J.--”

The episode flips between flashbacks and the future, I.e., present day. We get to see more of Fry’s family and life in the past that impacts his character in the future. We’re introduced to Fry’s older brother Yancy, who’s shown to be quite a jerk in these flashbacks.

Also voiced by the dashing Tom Kenny, more popularly known as the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants.

He’s always copying Fry and stealing his stuff and ideas, because we see all this happening from Fry’s view, we grow a hatred for Yancy without truly knowing the guy. With the past giving context as to why Fry hates his brother, it’s only further rubbed in when Fry believes Yancy stole his lucky clover.

So, the only logical thing to do is to travel to the ruins of Old New York City and find it, obviously.

There’s this line from the Professor that I always find funny, even if it isn’t. Fry is replying to Zoidberg about his clover, saying that it could be helping an ant, or some dirt be better dirt, then the Professor replies with: “Dirt doesn’t need luck.”

I’m not sure why it always brings a laugh from me, maybe it’s the simplicity of the line or the voice delivery from the great Billy West; but it always gets to me.

So anyway, we skip to when Fry, Bender and Leela enter Old New York through the sewers. Another great joke is just there for the taking, Fry is stood on presumably a ladder, though we can’t see it, and proclaims: “From this moment on, I declare my bad luck officially over.”

He then immediately falls.

It’s just stuff like that which gives a show charm as well as it’s characters, you want to laugh at Fry but at the same time sympathise with him.

We get some fun, light moments when they enter Manhattan and some staples from that time that, unless you were there for, wouldn’t really make sense now days. It’s fun seeing the old New York especially when at this point in the show, we see a lot of alien planets and future tech; it’s nice to see something simple and recognisable.

The episode goes into another flashback, once again showing Yancy as this evil older brother who steals everything Fry does. For some reason the boys want to join a dance battle to help a group of teens out, hey it’s the 80s so why not?

From Fry’s nickname alone we see that he’s always had a fascination with space, being called Outer Space and having moves like the moonwalk, the zero G and the robot. It discreetly sets up the way the episode will end, clearly showing Philip J. Fry dreamed of being in space.

Fry: Why do you always have to steal everything from me, Yancy? Find your own life and live it.

Fry and the gang travel to his house via Bender, which is a nice little gag on its own. I really love the joke about Fry’s house not changing one bit, even when the rest of Old New York is battered and bruised.

Bender’s line delivery is solid as well as the cross fade to the past where we see Fry’s house in the exact same condition: “Man, Father Time really took a bat to this place.”

It cuts to another flashback that continues on from the dance battle, a sentence I never thought I’d type, but here we are. During the episode we see Fry’s parents not really bother about their children, case in point, Fry’s mother smashing her ‘world’s best mom’ mug while Fry tattles on Yancy for stealing.

Futurama really follows the old Hollywood saying of show don’t tell, and a lot of jokes work better because of it.

It’s revealed where Fry hid his lucky clover, so Yancy doesn’t find it, mixed with some conversations with his father. I wish we got to see more of Fry’s dad in the series, because I would love to know more about this monkey war he believes so much in.

The fade ins and outs of the flashbacks works so well, it’s possibly the best transitions I've ever seen. And I don’t mean that the fading effect is great, it’s pretty standard with all considered, but where and when we’re taken to is what I’m talking about.

The flashback of Fry hiding the clover ends and the present scene is then Fry finding the clover, supposedly, it fits so well and that’s why I like it. A lot of times flashbacks can be rather clunky, a modern example would be The Book of Boba Fett.

While the flashbacks serve as an important aspect of the show, there are too many of them that take up a majority of the episode. There’s also the problem that the flashbacks are often than not, more interesting than what’s actually happening in the episode.

Compare that to just this episode alone, really shows how each studio perceives the term flashbacks. The Luck of The Fryish uses flashbacks throughout the episode, not just one chunk of an episode. They also help clear up the mystery set up in that episode, why is Fry so unlucky? Well, it’s because he doesn’t have his lucky clover.

Where is his lucky clover? Well, if you see this flashback, you’ll know it’s in the Breakfast Club vinyl case.

The flashbacks are used to progress the story and add heart to the episode, unlike The Book of Boba Fett where they’re used to explain what happened to the character but don’t really serve anything else.

But I digress, this isn’t a rant about The Book of Boba Fett, though I can speak for ages about it.

Back to the episode, it’s revealed that the clover isn’t in the vinyl cover and therefore Yancy must have stolen it. You feel like Fry, you feel these ruthless emotions towards this guy that you’ve never met, he doesn’t even exist in the real world, yet you hate him.

Fry: The whole place has been cleaned out! Yancy stole my clover! That thief!”

I also love this exchange between the core gang:

Leela: How do you know it didn't disintegrate?

Fry: Everything else in here held up OK.

Bender: Except Sports by Huey Lewis.

Trailing outside, Fry uncovers a statue of Philip J. Fry the first man to land on Mars. Clearly outraged that not only did Yancy steal his dream and his clover, but also his name; Fry seeks to reclaim what was his.

It’s a big reveal but not the biggest in this episode, and it was a bold move on the writing staff to then include a flashback of the same scene. We see Yancy trying on his father’s suit about to be married, for once we see the parents actually care about their missing son, Philip.

Mr. Fry: Yancy, that tux got me through 'Nam in style. [He sighs.] I just wish your brother were still around to see this.

Mrs. Fry: I'll never forget the day Philip disappeared. Wisconsin won the Rose Bowl 17-9. Oh, I miss him.

In an effort to include Fry in his wedding, Yancy goes to Fry’s vinyl collection and finds the clover. The scene ends there, and we return back to the future where the Planet Express crew are discussing the Philip J. Fry.

Even though this episode aired in the early 2000s, the jokes about technology listening to you still holds up. The line from the Professor about his computer searching up the word ‘fry’ after hearing him say it is scary as that’s out present right now.

It cuts to this video on Philip J. Fry, the first man on Mars, the leader of the Leaf Seven rock band, a philanthropist, entrepreneur and a great man truly worthy of narration.

Yancy has done so much with his life, but he stole Fry’s dreams, his name and his clover, the thing that made it all happen in the first place. So, it’s decided, Fry is going to get his clover back from his no-good brother.

I love in this little information video we get of Yancy; the narration says: “Today, Fry spends most of his time in his grave in Orbiting Meadows National Cemetery, buried with the trademark seven-leaf clover that will bring him luck in the next life, perhaps some Egyptians believe.”

I just love Futurama’s take on those museum-like videos or celebrity documentaries where it always ends with a random voice saying, ‘and you can find them today at home baking cookies with their grandkids’ or ‘their famous leather jacket at a Hollywood Planet restaurant’.

So here it is, the end of the episode. Fry, Leela and Bender are at the cemetery with shovels in hand ready to dig up the fake Philip J. Fry. They find his body buried in the world hero's section and start digging, the scene is tense.

Again, the dialogue is just so good. Even during such a sombre moment there is still room for comedy.

Leela: “They buried your brother in the World Heroes section? I'm impressed.”

Fry: “I should be the one in that grave!”

I truly believe Futurama wouldn’t be nearly as good without its amazing voice cast.

Fry is full of so much rage and hatred against his brother that he is willing to dig up his grave to retrieve what is rightfully his. It’s a full circle of how determined he can be, going back to that $1 bill at the beginning of the episode.

The gravestone says: Philip Fry, the original Martian.

Fry: “It's all lies, every word of it! He wasn't original, he wasn't a Martian, he wasn't Philip Fry and since when is he a the?”

Bender: “You're twice the the he ever was.”

Fry: “It's clovering time!”

Did I mention how good the dialogue is in this show?

As the gang starts digging, Fry’s shovel knocks away some of the moss and dirt that covered the rest of the grave. The camera is on Fry’s eyes, watching as he reading something the audience can’t see.

For a final time, the flashback focuses on a much older Yancy with his wife and a baby boy. Yancy holds his child in his arms and presents to him the seven-leaf clover: “Do you know what it is? [He pulls the clover out of his pocket.] It's a lucky clover that can help you be successful whatever you do -- even breakdancing -- and it once belonged to someone very special.”

Yancy stares at his son, the perfect name in mind.

Yancy: “Son, I'm naming you Philip J. Fry in honour of my little brother, who I miss every day. I love you, Philip, and I always will.”

You suddenly feel this remorse, this deep regret. Throughout this episode we were led to believe that Yancy was a bad guy, that he stole from Fry, he was the bane of his existence. And yet, at the very end, none of it was true.

Yancy kept the clover as a reminder of his younger brother, he kept the crude drawing Fry did at age 20 of his dream; to go to space. And since he wasn’t around to live it, Yancy’s son, Fry’s nephew, lived that life for him.

We cut back to the future, Fry is on his knees, reading aloud: “Here lies Philip J. Fry, named for his uncle to carry on his spirit.”

It’s such a beautiful moment, the entire episode has built up to this moment. The plot twist works so well, allowing us to see everything from a one-sided viewpoint only to reveal the full picture at the end.

Just like Fry, you feel like crying. Seeing this character show such malice and disdain for his older brother, felt this jealousy that he stole his life. But it wasn’t. Yancy never stole Fry’s life, if anything, he helped him live it.

Fry always loved space, well now people will know that Philip J. Fry was the first man on Mars. Fry loved music, well Philip J. Fry was in a band and so on. Fry lived his dreams through his nephew without even knowing it.

The scene ends with Fry leaving the clover to his nephew, the song ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’ playing over the scene as the camera zooms away. Not only is this an obvious call back to the Breakfast Club, but it also reflects Fry.

Fry went missing in the year 2000, he left behind his friends, his dog, his job and his family. He presumed his family would’ve forgotten about him since they seemed to care little about him, hence why he thought Yancy stole his name. But in the end, Yancy never forgot him, nor did his parents; they did remember him.

And he will always be remembered as Philip J. Fry.

Roll credits!

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