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Hell is Other Robots

July 14, 2012

Original airdate: May 18, 1999

Written by Eric Kaplan; Directed by Rich Moore

I said “Fear of a Bot Planet” was the weakest/least great of the season, but I may have to backtrack and give that unfortunate title to “Hell is Other Robots” instead. And I really didn’t expect that. It’s another Bender-centric. I’ve said everything which needs to be said about Bender at this stage of the series, and he isn’t the issue here. As strange as it may be for an episode about drug abuse and hell, my problem with this episode is that… it’s really boring. Watching it back, I was really quite surprised at how little I enjoyed this one. Well, the first two acts at least.

So, at an after-show party after a Beastie Boys concert, Bender becomes addicted to “jacking-on” – getting high by plugging himself into an electrical source. His various trips are kind of good, but his sober binge in “I, Roommate” was funnier. Indeed, Bender does everything to excess already; having him get addicted to something else isn’t really very interesting. He’s addicted and suffers withdrawal symptoms when he isn’t doing it – that’s all that happens in the first 6 minutes. This comes to a head when the crew return from a delivery of subpoenas to the mob planet Sicily 8 and Bender nearly kills them by diverting the ship into an electrical storm so that he can be repeatedly struck by lightning. Bender feels he’s a lost cause and to be saved from the horrible fate of Robot Hell, he joins the Temple of Robotology. They force him to surrender his entire life of debauchery, including drinking, smoking, porn and all the other activities that make us love him so much. In fact, while the new Bender is certainly a lot nicer, he’s too nice, to the point where he becomes totally insufferable.

The crew resolve to get the old Bender back, by taking him to Sleazeville USA a.k.a. Atlantic City. The temptation proves too great and Bender abandons his faith. What follows is the episode’s undoubted highlight and saving grace: our first trip to Robot Hell. Yes, the punishment for sinning as a member of Robotology is a trip to a very literal hell. As the most evil robot of all, Bender gets a series of delightfully ironic punishments. This is shown through the show’s fantastic first original song – a suitably jaunty satanic tune and a wonderfully animated sequence that it was well worth sitting through an episode which otherwise can best be described as mediocre. Despite having Ken Keeler on staff, Futurama doesn’t exactly have many musical numbers. Or at least many memorable ones. There’s this one, there’s the one in “A Tale of Two Santas” and there’s… um… But anyway, this one’s great. After Bender endures many levels of punishment for his countless crimes, Fry and Leela turn up to rescue him. The only way out is for Leela to best the Robot Devil in a fiddle contest. There’s no way that’s going to happen, so she just bashes him over the head with it. Bender steals a pair of robot wings (from one of the Robot Devil’s robot butterfly… things) and the trio fly out to safety, with Bender pledging to never be too good or too evil again.

So the third act saves this from being decidedly forgettable. The Robot Devil is yet another fantastic Futurama character. He may be Satan, but his plans are always foiled and he’s just a loser like everyone else. But the rest is nothing that special or funny.

Trivia and Quotes

  • I know nothing much about the Beastie Boys, so the opening scene goes over my head, but I’ll assume it’s funny if you’re a fan and they’re pretty good value. “You know, we’re really not that interested in meeting them.”
  • This episode has the start of Hermes’ brilliant irrational hatred of Zoidberg, who he blames for the company’s increased electricity usage; he opts to get rid of the company’s salt water cooler as a cost cutting measure.
  • “I know Big Vinny said he was giving me the Kiss of Death, but I still think he was gay./Did he use his tongue?/A little.”
  • Bender in the gutter and opting for a new path – jacking on to the Church of Robotology sign – is a great screw the audience joke.
  • And the standard falling through a glass skylight – are windows really that weak?
  • I say that Robotology is a parody of Scientology, but really it’s just the name. Most of the Robotology stuff is just robot equivalents of typically evangelical Christian things. Overall, it’s a fairly good religious satire (a theme this show rarely touches) showing that religion has its benefits, but that the ultra-religious are in some ways often just as bad/annoying as the people they aim to save. But, again, this is the kind of thing which the show has never really focused on doing.
  • “If only he’d joined a mainstream religion, like Oprahism, or Voodoo.”
  • “But I don’t belong here, I don’t like things that are scary and painful.”
  • Reckless Ted’s Funland
  • “Who would’ve thought hell would really exist, and that it’d be in New Jersey?”
  • “Their tormenting me with up-tempo singing and dancing!”
  • 2275 “Fairness in Hell Act” – “Wouldn’t a solid gold fiddle weigh hundreds of pounds and sound crummy?/Well it’s mostly for show.”
  • “What happens if we lose?/You’ll only win a smaller, silver fiddle. Also, I guess I’ll kill one of you, er, him./We’ll do it!”
  • Dan Castellaneta is 100% solid gold as the Robot Devil. His cowardly yelps as Leela whacks him with the fiddle are great.
  • “Don’t worry guys, I’ll never be too good or too evil again. From now on, I’ll just be me./Er, do you think you could be just a little less evil than that?/I don’t know. You think you could survive a 700 foot fall?”
  • Ha, I’ve never noticed it before, but Nibbler leads Fry and Leela to Robot Hell, and then just disappears and they leave without finding him.
3 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike Amato permalink
    July 15, 2012 7:52 am

    “Who’s that guy?”
    “Your mama. Now shut up and drag me to work!”

    The bureaucrat song also deserves a mention for memorable songs. And the opera too.

  2. July 24, 2012 2:18 pm

    Robots on the show in general have a very blackploitation feel to them. So the religion is more a parody of black southern baptists than anything, I think. Bender is certainly a no drinking no smoking no porning teetotaler.

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