I love Futurama. Growing up, Futurama was my go-to show, and I’ve seen every episode at least four times with commentary–watching them regularly, I have no idea how many times. I’ve always been a fan of how the writing balanced jokes, social commentary, and character growth. I love the absurd amount of detail that goes into even the tiniest background joke. I love the attention to in-universe continuity and logic. I love how much the show loves its medium. When I think of things I’d call myself a fan of, Futurama is neck-and-neck with podcasts.
I am, somehow, still not a fan of Futurama‘s two-episode audio drama podcast, “Radiorama!” or, maybe, “Futurama: Worlds of Tomorrow: Radiorama!” or, perhaps, “The Nerdist Podcasts’s Futurama: Worlds of Tomorrow: Radiorama!”
The two-part episode runs approximate 45 minutes and has two main storylines: in one, Bender is returning to a podcast reprisal of All My Circuits; in the other, Fry and Leela have once again broken up, this time because of a seemingly-thoughtless gift given by Fry. Bender’s storyline hinges on his relationship with his robotic arm mother, which he has neglected for years. Fry and Leela’s story focuses on Fry being an idiot bad boyfriend, a usual arc in the scope of the show.
Aside from a few decent jokes (that Borax chemical formula jingle felt iconically Futurama), the podcast is a trying drudge through self-loathing writing, painful editing, breakneck pacing, and forced emotional conclusions.
The first problem with the show is how extremely dated it feels. The referential jokes feel uncomfortably out of place, the sort that an uncle who just discovered memes would make at his teen neice or nephew in a desperate attempt to sound hip. At one point, Leela literally says that they should “drop it like it’s hot,” which is the most blatant offense. The references to podcasts, though, are the most painful. The show, for instance, references Serial as though it’s a witty and with-it topic to bring up, as if Bojack Horseman and even Saturday Night Live hadn’t already filled that joke niche. The timing of a Serial reference is just embarrassing at this point–does anyone know if Serial is even still running?
In that same vein, these episodes seem to actively hate podcasts. Being critical of a medium is something Futurama has always done, but at least with the show, it was also a love letter to the form. The audience can see it in the gorgeous backgrounds and hear about it when the animators talk about how proud they are for certain shots in the commentary. The resolution of these episodes are largely the punchline that podcasts, which already have such an over-saturated medium, are all long-form discussions about nothing. This might have landed as a joke were it not for how, again, over-done it is, or how pained the actors’ performances were. Nothing about the episodes suggests it’s a fun jab of a thing they appreciate. It feels genuine, and it feels markedly more cynical than the show ever seemed to get.
It doesn’t help that the episodes are also just bad podcasting. The switches between dizzying breakneck speeds and slow, dragging segments. The fast pacing isn’t just given to jokes; it’s given to almost all plot developments, making everything blur together. The slower moments are for the jokes they really (unfortunately) wanted to savor and the ham-fisted, forced emotional climaxes. The editing is jagged, making even foolproof jokes like Zoidberg being hit with a banjo sound dull. How did they accomplish making the sound effect of Zoidberg getting hit by a banjo sound so underwhelming?
The episodes were not only bad podcasting–they were also bad Futurama. The show’s known for its in-universe logic, which makes Bender’s storyline with his mom baffling. Bender references his mom once or twice in the show, mostly because he–like all other robots–has been programmed to care about Mom. The storyline feels as incongruous with the show as the Hermes/Bender backstory episode in the show’s revival. Amy gets some nice focus, but she’s largely used as a translator for Bender’s mom instead of getting enough jokes or story to make her presence seem balanced. Fry and Leela’s story was extremely stale and was executed better in countless episodes of the show. Nobody’s stories felt genuine, or even like they were given much thought.
This podcast was an effort to market the app game Futurama: Worlds of Tomorrow, and it shows. This is a podcast that seems to hate podcasting and hate itself–and really, I can’t blame it. I hated it, too.