Fry and The Slurm Factory
“I could fit if I didn‘t have these damn arms!”
The last episode of Season 1 (going by the box sets, not the actual aired order) is nominally a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory parody, but the writers seem to realize that even with Futurama’s usual Sci-Fi twist it is a tired concept. Instead of being the bulk of the episode, the parody bits are squeezed into a few scenes in the middle of the episode, with more emphasis placed on the early antics of Fry and Bender and the later conspiracy/escape stuff.
The episode begins with something Futurama does particularly well, fake television. First is a brief appearance of history’s greatest acting robot, Calculon, followed by the Slurm commercial that sets up the entire episode. The commercial is a gentle, but not toothless satire of advertising; it combines genuine energy with an upfront portrayal of the product. Slurm is “highly addictive” and your odds of winning are “mathematically insignificant.” It is definitely gentle satire, but it is still quite funny. It also provides an amusingly flimsy excuse for the rest of the episode. Fry’s quest to win a chance to party with Slurm mascot Slurms MacKenzie, as well as a tour of the Slurm bottling plant, are aided by a convenient malady for Bender and an even more convenient invention of the Professors (which he lampshades). So Fry and Bender take the “F-Ray” and do an ordinary montage of poor decisions and general mayhem, all of which helps Fry win the contest. It is certainly amusing and the writers are smart enough not to let it go on too long. There is surely more material of our moronic protagonists playing with the Professor’s toy, but only the best bits were fit in.
After Fry finds the grand prize bottle cap, it’s immediately time for the Willy Wonka parody. The parody is cut to its barest of bones and that works in its favor. The episode hits the required notes, singing Oompa-Loompas, a Wonka stand-in and a boat ride but nothing else. It also twists the story a bit; instead of the tour being the prize, it is an obstacle to be endured. What Fry really wants is to party with Slurms, the hilariously tragic hard-partying mascot. The crew tolerates the tour for a while, but soon Fry, Leela and Bender end up separated from the group.
This leads to Act 3, the mystery of the Slurm Factory. Gone is any appearance of the parody, which only lasted about 5 minutes, and now it is just comedy Sc-Fi. After finding out Slurm’s horrible secret, the crew fails to escape. Fry then overcomes his gluttonous nature (somewhat) to save his friends and with a tragic sacrifice by Slurms MacKenzie they escape. They basically crammed an entire action movie into the back half of this episode without losing any of the comedy. And the kicker to the whole thing is that Fry never understood the implications of their actions, as he stops the Professor from having Slurm outlawed at the end.
Fry and the Slurm Factory is not quite one of the classic Futurama episodes, but it is close. Every joke hits, everything in this episode just flat out works. Each of the three acts feels like it could have been twice as long and still not have run short of material. This leaves an episode crammed with the best jokes from a concept that could have been two. But the episode is short that one transcendently great moment or idea to put it over the top. At its heart, this episode is still a played out parody. And as funny as Slurms is he doesn’t have the legs of the better side characters. Of course, as a slug he has no legs at all. This is just another typically great episode.