Quick Take: Futurama, "The Birds and the Bots"
"For your information, madam, I'm a grower not a shower." - Bender
Review: Futurama, "The Birds and the Bots"
(S0701) For the past six seasons, Futurama hasn't just been entertaining us, they've been teaching us - tackling those important questions we have about the future, like "How many Slurms until it induces radioactivity?" and "Where do robots come from?"
One of the running gags before last season's "Lethal Inspection" was the ambiguous nature of Bender's origins. Prior to the touching revelation that Hermes shirked his bureaucratic duties in order to save Bender's life, the shiny metal bending unit told us that he had parents and a family. But never in a million years did he think that he'd ever become a parent himself – or even think it was possible.
When the Professor buys a new "Bev"erage robot for the Planet Express, she and Bender first bump heads, and then bump uglies (while bumping heads, incidentally). When she gives birth to their child in one of Fry's drinks, she runs out on Bender and the baby "Ben" – named after the first half of Bender.
Even though Bender wants nothing more than to be a deadbeat, uninvolved father, Ben's resemblance to him rouses his not-so-latent narcissism. This leads to those integral father-son moments in a robot's life, like their first bike-ride together, first bank-robbery, and second bank-robbery.
As explained by the outdated, robot sex-ed film about "The Bots and the Bees," Ben inherited his software from his mom-bot, and therefore entirely incapable of bending like his dad. Well, not entirely. The slot occupied by Ben's memory chip can also be used to upload a bending program, leaving Bender no choice but to sacrifice his son's mind for his happiness. Robots are weird...
... But not as weird as the faux-Christmas story development resulting from Fry drinking the popular alien drink, Slurm. After ten too many radioactive drinks, Fry is exiled from the Planet Express for being too bright. With the registration date at bending college close to cut-off, Bender and the rest of the crew must navigate the Planet Express through an opaque fog, giving Fry the opportunity to become Rudolph the Hulk-green fog-light, winning over the hearts of the crew once again.
The big reveal that robots are manufactured to be capable of reproduction explains why there are both upgraded versions of the same robots and robot families, and why we've never actually seen Bender's parents, even though he does talk to them – this very episode, in fact. Since Futurama's return, I've read complaints aimed at the show having ruined certain elements that made it funny before it was canceled. After so many potential conclusions to the series, the writers have taken some chances with the new episodes, like giving Scruffy more than one line every few weeks, and making Bender uncharacteristically nice.
You won't find any complaints about character development or new gags from this end, though. Futurama is set to run through 2013 over two instalments of thirteen episodes each, and even if it doesn't get renewed (right away), the writers have had a great deal of experience writing dual-functioning finales, just in case.