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Futurama gets a current event just right

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"The Inhuman Torch" shows off how fun Futurama is when it features a great parody of current events. It stumbles, a little, when it comes to the relationships in the show — but at least it has Zapp Brannigan.

It starts with Zapp showing off his trademark incompetence as he collapses a mine shaft into the sun. (Miners there are excavating "birthday grade helium," which is a nice shout-out to the upcoming helium shortage.)


The episode is at its best in the breathless news reports about the trapped miners, who "may never again not see the light of day." When you hear the desperate voices screaming "We're in agonizing pain," in a silly helium-voice, you laugh as hard as the Planet Express rescue crew does. The entire mine sequence is great.


Bender becomes a hero, and puts out fires at a bunch of comedy locations, including Count Bankula, a vampire bank. The crew grow suspicious, wondering why fires always start wherever Bender goes. This could work as an emotional core to the episode. Even the flame creature that's actually guilty of all the arson is pretty funny, with its grandiose dreams of being an "supreme alderman." The weak point of the episode is Fry, who. because of running time, has to slalom between believing in Bender's innocence and being sure that he's a liar again and again. The emotional turns are too quick for us to follow them, so the emotional arc falls apart.

That being said, there are still fantastic moments of comedy. When at a ceremony to honor Bender, the podium catches fire, a woman screams, "My baby's in that podium!" The professor swiping Zoidberg's ice cream and dumping him in lava is pretty great, as is the moment when the professor puts on the fing-longer and uses it to point to the basement. And Fry's blank-faced astonishment when he's confronted with the alien alderman is fantastic. There's a lot of good stuff to watch for — just not the central relationship.