By Rob Bricken and Chris Cummins
Since making its debut a decade ago, Futurama has surpassed The Jetsons and Galaxy High School to become the funniest sci-fi cartoon ever. Series creator Matt Groening gets the bulk of the credit for making the show so entertaining, but Futurama's true strengths are its cadre of gifted voice actors and a scary smart writing staff who can make jokes about physics that are both funny and scientifically accurate. It's been well documented how Fox's constant scheduling changes doomed the show to an early grave. But, like Star Trek before it, fan outcry was so great that it was given a second chance and reborn as a series of four straight-to-DVD films. While the last of these -- the recently released Into the Wild Green Yonder -- offers a fitting finale to the Futurama saga, rumblings are that we'll be seeing the Planet Express crew back on TV again soon. Until then, let's check out this list of the show's best and worst episodes.
5) Roswell That Ends Well
What it's about: A freak microwave accident sends the Planet Express back to 1947 and Roswell, New Mexico, where Zoidberg is captured by the military and a disassembled Bender a U.F.O. As the crew tries to recover their friends, Fry tries to keep his imbecilic grandfather long enough to sire his father, which only results in home getting caught in an atomic bombs test. Fry, jubilant to find himself still existing, has sex with his grandmother in celebration, and thus becoming his own grandfather.
Why it's great: Futurama won a few Emmy's in its time, but "Roswell That Ends Well" won for Best Direction, and it shows. It's fantastically paced, and Fry's obliviously suicidal grandfather and Zoidberg's attempt to buddy up the military (even while being vivsected) are hilarious. Plus, the reveal that Fry was his own grandfather actually becomes a major plot point in several later Futurama eps.
Memorable quote: "That's no flying saucer! That's my ass!"
4) Anthology of Interest I
What it's about: When Professor Farnsworth dusts off the What-If Machine, Bender learns what life would be like if he were 500-feet tall (he causes mass destruction and fights a giant Zoidberg), Leela learns what life would be like if she were slightly more impulsive (she murders the entire Planet Express crew), and Fry sees what would have happened if he didn't get frozen (he's hit with tennis rackets by an elite nerd task force including Nichelle Nichols, Gary Gygax, Stephen Hawking and then Vice-president Al Gore, and then causes the end of the universe).
Why it's great: Futurama's two "Anthology of Interest" episodes were the equivalent of The Simpsons' annual "Treehouse of Horror" installments -- a chance to take a break from the routine and explore new environments and situations. All of the stories featured here are memorable, but Fry's adventure with Al Gore's space/time continuum-protecting nerd team is golden, especially Gore and Stephen Hawking's self-parodies.
Memorable quote: "Hitting people with tennis rackets isn't working, and that's all we're good at!"
3) Where No Fan Has Gone Before
What it's about: After learning that Star Trek is banned in the 31st century, Fry discovers that the last-remaining copies of the series' episodes are located on the planet Omega 3. Crash-landing there, he is shocked to discover that the entire original cast of the show--except for Scotty--have been reincarnated and forced to act out their iconic roles for the amusement of an energy being named Mellvar. When Fry challenges Mellvar's Trek knowledge, the stage is set for a Shatnerian smackdown.
Why it's great: The episode stands alongside of Deep Space Nine's "Trials and Tribble-ations" as a loving tribute to the first Star Trek series. With the exception of a couldn't-be-bothered James Doohan and a dead DeForest Kelley, each of the Trek cast members provided their own voices. Countless self-effacing jokes abound, and Mellvar is a perfect riff on Trek's Balok-esque villains. The episode's moral that no show should take the place of actually living is a sly commentary on the obsessiveness of all cult TV fans--and a great throwback to Shatner's classic "get a life" sketch from Saturday Night Live.
Memorable quote: "Weelllllssssshieeeeee!"
2) Fry and the Slurm Factory
What it's about: Fry wins a contest to visit the Slurm factory and discovers that the secret ingredient in the highly addictive soft drink is slime excreted by a giant worm. Yet he still can't stop drinking it.
Why it's great: A Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory parody that also spoofs Spuds MacKenzie and Aliens, this is the definitive Futurama episode. It's also one of the most hilarious. Each character gets a chance to shine here, from Professor Farnsworth's disgust with the Grunkla Lunkas (and their incredibly terrible songs) to Bender's misuse of the F-ray visibility device. As for Slurm itself, it's the perfect drink to wash down a nice helping of Bachelor Chow with.
Memorable quote: "Tell them I hate them!"
Hit the jump for the 5 worst Futurama episodes ever made.