This week's Futurama was all about celebrity culture, a relatively easy target for the show, but one that possessed a few good laughs (even if my favorite moment had very little to do with the actual satire) and gave some screen time to one of my favorite Futurama recurring characters: Calculon.
The episode starts with some of Calculon's fine acting on All My Circuits, before the Planet Express crew decides to go to the aquarium. A random Jurassic Park reference and some camera lens humor later (including an amusing appearance by the “Twilight Zone One Minute Into the Future” lens but, surprisingly, no Instagram reference), and Bender is harassing our favorite actor/robot. At the urging of Zoidberg, Bender goes to Hollywood and sells his pictures to Us People Magazine. Bender ends up taking a job as a paparazzo, but faces his greatest challenge with Langdon Cobb, the greatest actor in the world. Cobb has never shown his face in public, so Bender figures that if he can sneak into Cobb's home and get a picture of his face, he'll make a ton of money (he was also clearly watching last week's Newsroom, since he defeated a 50 foot wall with a 60 foot ladder).
If this seems like a lot of business, you're not alone. And, surprisingly, we're only halfway through the episode. Structurally, this felt like an episode where the writing staff didn't quite know what direction they wanted to go in, a problem that a lot of modern Simpsons episodes suffer from too. However, what happened next kind of redeemed it for me. After successfully taking the picture, Bender showed it to Fry who immediately and randomly vaporized in a green light. I'm not sure why I laughed so hard at this, but the suddenness with which it happened took me totally surprise. And then Bender's insistence on showing the picture to more and more people, just to make sure that it was the picture causing this to happen, was just really, really funny.
Anyway, it turned out that Cobb is alien who lives on the adoration and ego-stroking of others. Looking at his face causes him to steal the looker's life-force (and not, as Profressor Farnsworth repeatedly reminded us, the looker's soul), but he realized that he can gain the same ego boost on Earth by being an actor and constantly getting praised by people. Bender and the gang try to bring Fry (and Amy and Hermes) back by draining Cobb's ego in an acting contest but, despite an inspiring performance from Calculon where he literally gives his life for his art (hopefully not permanently), Cobb wins. Things seem hopeless until Cobb sees a photo that Bender took, and how great he looks in it, and his ego inflates until it bursts.
I'll keep this short since I'm sure you've all got fireworks to watch, but whether its the spirit of the holiday or the amiable silliness of the sequence where Bender tears through half of Planet Express, I enjoyed this episode. The satire was too easy and the story was kind of scattered, but it was funny enough to cover for a lot of those other flaws.
SumOlogy: Actors are self-centered egomaniacs. Who knew!