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Fry and the Slurm Factory

July 24, 2012

Original airdate: November 14, 1999

Written by Lewis Morton; Directed by Ron Hughart

And so we reach the end of Futurama season one and they’ve saved the best till last. While pretty much every top Futurama episode list differs when it comes to the number one position, “Fry and the Slurm Factory” is almost always well up there.  It’s a perfectly weighted plot and parody and, like the previous episode, it’s a non-stop raft of brilliant, absurd jokes. As far as I’m concerned, this is indisputably one of the show’s absolute best episodes ever.

In terms of plot events, there is less going on than the previous episode, but it’s still action-packed. Fry becomes addicted to the soft drink Slurm. He and Bender attempt to win a trip to the Slurm Factory and a chance to party with Slurm spokesworm Slurms Mackenzie, a prize on offer to those who find a golden bottle cap in one of the Slurm cans. The Professor foolishly entrusts them with his new invention, the F-Ray, which at the cost of being highly radioactive, allows you to look through anything, even metal. Fry and Bender, very slowly, realize they can use the F-Ray to find the golden bottle cap. Fry eventually finds/inhales the bottle cap and the staff jet off to the planet Wormulon for their tour.

The episode’s second and third acts are what ensure its greatness. As the title suggests, “Fry and the Slurm Factory” becomes a warped parody of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (probably the show’s best parody) with the Willy Wonka-esque tour guide Glurmo and the Grunka Lunkas. This is mixed with a mystery plot, as Fry, Leela and Bender discover the hilarious conspiracy behind Slurm. Slurm’s secret ingredient is green goo from the end of a giant “Slurm Queen” worm. In fact, this is the only ingredient and the demonstration process on the tour is just a front. The final act provides some nice stuff for the core trio: much like the show as a whole, the focus of the story is Fry (and his addiction), but Leela and Bender come along for the ride. This is literally the case with Bender because – when a Slurm-thirsty Fry falls into the Slurm river and Leela naturally has to jump in and save him – Bender literally just jumps in after them because “everybody was doing it”. The writers wanted Bender in the rest of the story, so just have him essentially appear out of nowhere. But in this case it’s funny precisely because it’s so stupid.

The conspiracy uncovered, the Slurm Queen prepares to execute the trio so they can’t ruin the company (“Ah this trip is turning into a big letdown”). Fry manages to overcome his Slurm addiction long enough to save his friends and they make a break for it. They are chased by the Slurm Queen, leading to possibly my favourite Futurama ending of all. Slurms Mackenzie, tired from forty years of forced partying, saves the trio (and his babes) the only way he knows how: by partying. This is obviously not as deep as other emotional moments in the show, but it’s as sincere as a jaded worm partying to stop a larger, evil worm can possibly be (“Party on Slurms/Party on contest winners. Party on.”). Slurms dies a hero as his hard partying causes a cave-in, crushing him, but trapping the Queen. The crew flee and celebrate in the only way Slurms would have wanted: PARTY!

So this is another piece of classic Futurama. While The Simpsons obviously didn’t get into its stride until season two, or even season three, Futurama hit the ground running. Season one has some of my all-time favourites (This episode, “A Fishful of Dollars”, “A Big Piece of Garbage”, “Love’s Labours Lost in Space” and “When Aliens Attack”) and its worst episodes (“Hell is Other Robots”, “Fear of a Bot Planet”) are not so much bad, as the least impressive in a sea of quality.

Trivia and Quotes

  • “You may be my evil half-brother, but there’s no law against murdering the other half!”
  • Slurm “It’s Highly Addictive!” – This is a proper product parody. Not Mapple and all that shit.
  • “Look at that worm go, who says there are no more heroes?”, “Odds of winning mathematically insignificant/I like those odds!”, “Rats, just another tooth.”
  • “This is nothing, back in high school I used to drink a hundred cans of cola a week. Right up until my third heart attack.”
  • Bender’s illness provides some great bits from all the characters, especially the faux-caring, penny-pinching Hermes and incompetent Zoidberg (“Really? I thought you were the robit”)
  • “Hey, what’s rattling around in there?/It may well be the cause of Bender’s illness. But more importantly, it’s a flimsy pretext to try out my latest invention. To the laboratory!”
  • I love how incredibly dangerous the F-Ray is (“Ow, my sperm!”). And of course, the Professor has next to no concern for his employees’ safety, so saves all the meaningful protection for himself.
  • This isn’t a totally flawless episode: the pre-op transsexual robot thing is pretty painful. It feels like something from an Adam Sandler film.
  • Fry and Bender’s F-Ray montage is great: they steal a small child’s Slurm can so they can check if the bottle cap is in there. That’s funny already, but then they give it back to him and he drinks from it. In other words, a kid is shown drinking from a now entirely radioactive can of Slurm. I bet the censors wouldn’t have even thought about that. It’s wonderfully dark. And then they burst his balloon.
  • Something I’ve never really thought about, but they don’t overuse the ‘package delivery’ plot or set up. In fact, the delivery of Günter to Mars aside, the crew haven’t actually done any work/delivered a package since “Hell is Other Robots”, and that was just a set up for Bender to get struck by lightning, because the delivery isn’t shown. They were on holiday, then Fry went back to college, then they had another day off/alien invasion, and now they are on a day trip again. “The Series Has Landed”, “Fear of a Bot Planet” and “My Three Suns” are the only fully shown, proper deliveries all season. Which explains why the company is in financial ruin.
  • “Welcome my friends, to the wondrous world of whimsy that we like to call: Slurm Centralized Industrial Fabrication Unit!”
  • “Who are those horrible orange creatures over there?/Why those are the Grunka Lunkas. They work here in the Slurm Factory./Tell them I hate them!”
  • “We add the secret ingredient that makes Slurm so deliciously addictive./So, what’s the secret ingredient?/It’s whatever your imagination wants it to be!/Oh, but what is it really?”
  • Unlike the Professor, I love the Grunka Lunkas. What’s not to love? They’re singing about murdering people for asking too many questions. And of course they’re an excellent source of slave labour. “Grunka Lunka dunkadidarnguards/Shut the hell up!”
  • “So you’re telling me I could fire my whole staff and hire Grunka Lunkas at half the cost?/That’s right. They think they have good union but they don’t. They’re basically slaves.”
  • “My God, what if the secret ingredient, is people!/No. There’s already a soda like that: Soylent Cola./Oh. How is it? It varies from person to person.”
  • Fry continuing to drink the Slurm after discovering what makes it, not once, not twice, but thrice, is great. As is Bender requiring payment for his bridge-making services.
  • “We’ll market it as New Slurm. Then, when everyone hates it, we’ll bring back Slurm Classic, and make billions!”
  • “I can’t see what’s happening, are we boned?/Yeah we’re boned.”
  • Slurms Mackenzie (his name alone cracks me up) is one of the best one-time characters. His fate – that he’s forced to party all day every day or else will be fired – is funny already, but that nobody seems to understand just how much he hates partying is even better. (“Yeah, that Slurms sure loved to party.”) Whimmy-wham-wham-wozzle!
  • Fry’s addiction (“Oh yeah, I’m never going twelve minutes without a Slurm again.”) is funnier than Bender’s in “Hell is Other Robots” because that felt, not intentionally, but it felt like it was played more straight. Fry attempting to gnaw off his own arms to get to some Slurm is pretty far from that.
  • And to hammer home how disgusting this episode is, the delightful shot of the Queen feeding herself Slurm. But her point about the extraction method of milk and honey is valid.
  • The Bureau of Soft Drinks, Tobacco and Firearms’ attempted banning of Slurm is short-lived due to Fry’s intervention: “Don’t pay any attention to him Sir, Grampa’s making up crazy stories again./I’m not your Grampa, you’re my uncle, from the Year 2000!/Okay Grampa, we’ll take care of the ‘bad worms’, don’t you worry.”
2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 7, 2012 10:18 am

    No question, one of the best episodes of the series, though I always thought it was a season 2 episode… why are there episode guides so wonky?

    • August 7, 2012 4:32 pm

      Well Fox aired the first 9 episodes, then after about a three month gap aired the remaining 4, which then went straight into the run of season 2 (I’m getting some numbers wrong there but that’s basically the case). So in broadcast sense, this is a season 2 episode. But it’s the season 1 finale on the DVD, and the DVD makeup is controlled by the staff.

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