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Recap / Futurama S 1 E 12 "When Aliens Attack"

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Bender: ♫Single Female Lawyer, fighting for her client
Wearing sexy miniskirts, and bein' self-reliant!♫
Hey, I'm pretty good.

Proudly made on Earth

Airdate: November 1999.

In 1999, Fry brings a pizza to the master control room for WNYW-TV New York City (a Real Life FOX affiliate) during the season finale of Single Female Lawyer, an Ally McBeal-esque legal dramedy. While hanging out with the operator, Fry spills beer on the control, knocking WNYW off the air. The operator panics, but Fry assures him that no one on Earth cares that the FOX Network is gone.

However, 1000 years later, the leaders of a far-off planet called Omicron Persei 8 are watching Single Female Lawyer and are livid when it goes off the air (replaced with 8 animated shows in a row) and launch an invasion in retaliation.

Back on 31st century Earth, the Planet Express crew take a trip to Monument Beach for Labor Day, where most of the world's monuments have stood since the 27th century (thanks to the activities of New New York's first supervillain governor). The Omicronians attack Monument Beach, and then New New York City. Lrrr demands that the Earth produce "the one called McNeal". Coincidentally, the president of earth has the last name McNeal. He orders Zapp Brannigan to lead an assault against the alien invaders. Brannigan enlists all available ships, including the one operated by the Planet Express crew. He also turns on the patriotic chips in the robots, just after Bender mentions to the crew that he is a conscientious objector (a fancy way of saying "a coward"). The Planet Express ship manages to destroy a saucer-looking ship...only to have a bigger ship suddenly appear. It seems as if Zapp and his army just took out the Hubble Telescope rather than the mothership from Omicron Persei 8. Noticing the other ships getting blown up, the crew returns to Earth to get killed there rather than in space.

Earth's government decides to hand over President McNeal. Lrrr announces that he is the wrong McNeal, and vaporizes the President. Lrrr shows the world a photo of the McNeal they want, and Fry recognizes her as Jenny McNeal, the title character from Single Female Lawyer. The Omicronians demand the broadcast of the television show, or they will destroy the Earth by raising the temperature by one million degrees. Fry suggests giving the aliens the video of the final episode, but, according to Farnsworth, all videotapes were wiped from existence during the Second Coming of Jesus in 2443. The crew decides to make their own episode, with Fry as head writer (being the only human in the era to have seen the show).

During the filming, Fry's script comes up short, and Leela (as Jenny), is forced to improvise, and proposes marriage to the judge (played by Professor Farnsworth). During a commercial break, an aggravated Fry tells Leela that people don't watch TV to see clever and unexpected things, as Viewers Are Morons and they feel better when they see something that's been seen on other shows 1000 times before. Lrrr makes a public statement backing up Fry's assertion. Fry quickly writes an ending in which the judge (Farnsworth) dies, leaving Jenny McNeal as a single female lawyer again. The Omicronians, satisfied with the ending, leave Earth to watch a one thousand year old Jay Leno monologue, saying the show was good enough for them to spare the planet, though not good enough for them to give humans their secret to immortality (Fry blames it on Zoidberg's overacting).

The episode ends with Fry stating that the secret to a successful television show is that everything ends up back to normal at the end of each episode. Ironically, the camera pans out to a view of New New York burning in ruins (though, surely enough, it is restored in subsequent episodes).

This episode contains the following tropes:

  • Alien Invasion: The Omicronians assault Earth with a wave of flying saucers in response to the cancellation of their favorite FOX show.
  • Aliens Steal Cable: The people of Omicron Persei 8 (a planet that, according to Professor Farnsworth, is approximately 1,000-lightyears away from Earth) regularly watch Earth-TV from the late 20th/early 21st-century—although Lrrr refuses to watch any animated shows.
  • Amateur Film-Making Plot: The last third of the episode has the Planet Express crew film their own episode of Single Female Lawyer to please the Omicronians.
  • Armed Farces: Zapp’s army of conscripts utterly fails to fend off the Omicronians and manages little more than destroying the Hubble Telescope. And they take significant casualties even doing that.
  • Asshole Victim: No one will be mourning for President McNeal after he gets disintegrated by Lrrr.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Fry's take on Single Female Lawyer, with Professor Farnsworth reading "Cough, then fall over dead" as character line.
  • Bad Boss: The Professor wastes no time in hiring a new crew after Fry, Bender and Leela get drafted into defending Earth, and after they come back, tells the potential recruits to check back in a few days ("a week at the most"), given the low life expectancies of his crew.
  • Bag of Kidnapping: Zap Brannigan uses this method to transport President McNeal to the Omicronians.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Hermes asks why Fry and Bender aren't doing anything. Fry points out it's Labor Day, and Hermes gets angry.
    Hermes: Labor Day? That phoney-baloney holiday crammed down our throats by fat-cat union gangsters?
    Fry: That's the one.
    Hermes: Hot damn! A day off! (takes off his shirt and sits next to Fry and Bender)
  • Beach Combing: Hermes is seen combing the beach with a metal detector. It turns out that he was using it to play hide and seek with Bender.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: FOX is repeatedly the target of jabs in this episode and throughout the series. Such as this exchange:
    Fry: Wow, so this is a real TV station, huh?
    Technician: Well, it's a Fox affiliate.
    • Fry then spills his drink on the control console, knocking the station off the air. The technician panics, but Fry is confident that nobody will notice.
      Technician: Oh my God. You knocked FOX off the air!
      Fry: Pfft, like anyone on Earth cares.
  • Characterization Marches On:
    • Lrrr and Ndnd are naked in their casual living room, only getting dressed when they go to bitch to Earth about one of their favorite shows being interrupted. Later episodes, while retaining their interests in Earth media, have them in their royal garb constantly and play up their evil overlord statuses, caring about significantly more important issues.
    • Zapp is still being written with his early characterization as a sex-obsessed General Ripper, rather than the complete incompetent he later develops into. Albeit we do get some signs of the more familiar Zapp, such as his using up most of his forces against what he thinks is the Omicronian mothership, only to discover they actually destroyed the Hubble Telescope.
    • Fry turns down an offer from a professional beach bully to help him impress Leela, and encourages the guy to take Leela if he wants.
  • Continuity Nod: The pilot shows us that there was an apocalypse between Fry's accident and revival. The official story as per this episode is that it was The Big One, but the viewers know it was an Alien Invasion caused by a time traveling Bender.
  • Cue the Falling Object: At the end of the episode, Fry remarks that the key to a good television show is having everything back to normal by the end. Then the camera zooms out to show New New York in ruins, the Statue of Liberty in the foreground as her torch falls over.
  • Dirty Coward:
    • President McNeal's plan for everything is to surrender. Until he thinks the aliens specifically want him. Then he's willing to go to war. Even then, he's willing to let Earth be destroyed than even consider handing himself over.
    • Bender also invokes this when he refuses to fight. Unfortunately, he wasn't counting on his patriotism chip being activated.
      Bender: I refuse to fight! I'm a conscientious objector!
      Fry: A what?
      Bender: You know, a coward.
  • Dirty Old Man: Professor Farnsworth was really looking forward to the forced mating.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: After losing their Earth signal, the Omicronians attack Earth, and later threaten to raise the planet's temperature to upwards of 5 million degrees F if they don't get to see the rest of Single Female Lawyer.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Zoidberg captured in a lobster cage demands Bender "spring" him, and that he'd "never survive" in it.
  • Draft Dodging: Bender tries to do this, calling himself a conscientious objector - "You know, a coward." Unfortunately for him, Zapp turns on the patriotism circuit of every Earth robot.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • For Futurama fans who are used to seeing the head of Richard Nixon as Earth's President, this episode is going to feel odd, as a man only known as McNeal is seen as Earth's President. The fact that he gets killed off by aliens does set up the events seen in season two's "A Head in the Polls."
    • Also, Bender uses his head as the camera to shoot a photo at the beach and to record Fry's fanmade Single Female Lawyer episode, while in later episodes, Bender uses a different camera that's not built into his head.
  • Epic Fail: Zapp's Army, after massive amounts of casualties, takes out the Hubble Telescope instead of the Omicron Persei 8 mothership. Oddly, the Hubble looked a lot like the mothership.
  • Evil Is Petty: The Omicronians send out a miniature saucer which destroys Fry's sand castle.
  • Exact Words: "Like anyone on Earth cares."
  • Fake Danger Gambit: A professional beach bully does this by hitting on a guy's girl, then pretending to go down when they fight for fifty bucks. When Leela asks for an actual date with him, he even bluntly tells her he's gay.
  • Fanservice: The scene where Amy Wong gets her bikini top eaten by Nibbler and the professor hands her a can to spray a new one on.
  • Firing in the Air a Lot: This is part of Zapp Brannigan's plan to defend Earth.
    Zapp: Anyone without a ship should secure a weapon and fire wildly into the air!
  • First Contact: Involves first contact between Earth and the people of Omicron Persei 8.
  • Foreshadowing: Fry saying Leela isn't his girlfriend. His desire to win her love would become a major plot line later on in the show.
  • Funny Background Event: During the Single Female Lawyer production.
    Farnsworth: "For you see, I'm dying! Cough, then fall over dead."
    Zoidberg: "My God, he's dead!"
    Farnsworth: (checks his own pulse)
  • General Failure: Zapp Brannigan. This line sums it up nicely:
    Zapp: When I'm in command, every mission is a suicide mission.
  • Got Volunteered: Bender and all other robots have their patriotism chip activated so that he will be forced to join the army and carry out any order that was given to him.
    *Zapp Branigan presses a button on a remote and activates Bender's patriotism chip*
  • Hand-or-Object Underwear: Amy uses hamburger buns after Nibbler steals her top—and her burger.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One:
    Amy: [after spraying on a new bikini] How do I look?
    Farnsworth: Like a cheap French harlot!
    Amy: [offended] French?!
  • It's All About Me: President McNeal insists that the people of Earth should prefer total annihilation to him handing himself over.
  • Mars and Venus Gender Contrast:
    Lrrr: If McNeal wishes to be taken seriously, why does she not simply tear the judge's head off?
    Nd-Nd: (rolling eyes and sighing) It is true what they say: "Women are from Omicron Persei 7, men are from Omicron Persei 9".
  • Mixed Metaphor:
    Zapp: The alien mothership is in orbit here. (points to map) If we can hit that bullseye, the rest of the dominoes will fall like a house of cards. Checkmate!
    Kif: (sighs)
  • Monumental Damage: The alien invasion at Monument Beach, where a former supervillain governor of New York left his collection of stolen world monuments, complete with the White House, are blown up by an alien saucer in a parody of Independence Day. The aliens then go on to destroy Fry's sandcastle with a tiny saucer to complete the parody.
    • The Hubble Telescope is accidentally destroyed by Zapp Brannigan's army after confusing it for the mothership.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Before sitting down to watch Single Female Lawyer, Lrr commands his fellow Omicronians in his usual dramatic tone of voice to "prepare the water cooler, so that we may stand around it later and discuss things!"
  • Never My Fault: Unsurprisingly Fry blames not getting the secret to immortality entirely on Zoidberg.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • Fry's father was fired from working at McDonalds. What he did to get fired, we never know.
    • The Second Coming of Jesus in 2443 causing most of the videotapes of the world to be destroyed (which doesn't explain why Fry had videotapes of Sanford and Son in "A Fishful of Dollars," unless the Sanford and Son tapes were among the few VHS-tapes to be spared).
    • Professor Farnsworth mentions an unspecified time in the recent past when aliens invaded and forced the best of the human race to mate. No other information is given, but it's implied that Farnsworth was a part of it.
  • Not So Above It All: Hermes Conrad, the resident no-nonsense workaholic, Obstructive Bureaucrat refers to Labor Day as a phony holiday made up by unions...before excitedly joining in with his coworkers for their day off, after having previously scolding them for slacking off.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted. Both the protagonist of Single Female Lawyer and the President of Earth have the same last name (McNeal), which causes war to break out when the Omicronians demand McNeal and the president thinks they're talking about him.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The Omicronians lay siege to Earth, killing a great deal of people and even murdering the president, before they even explain what their problem is.
  • Pop-Cultured Badass:
    Fry: While other people were out living their lives, I wasted mine watching TV, because deep down, I knew it might one day help me save the world. Plus, I would have lost my Workman's Comp if I had gone outside.
  • Prison Rape: When Zoidberg claims he's "too pretty" to survive in a lobster cage.
  • Redshirt Army: As with all things related to Zap, he declares that regardless of what color they are, they're all going to die. Which they do.
  • Replacement Goldfish: After coming back from their recruitment, the crew finds the Professor has found a new delivery boy, captain, and "foul-mouthed, alchoholic chain-smoking robot". He's surprised to find that the main trio are still alive, and tells the replacements to check back in a few days, "a week at the most".
  • Rule of Funny: The only way the joke about the Hubble Telescope works, since it looks nothing like the Hubble. The writers basically own up to this on the commentary track, blaming it on "upgrades."
  • Rushmore Refacement: The stolen Mt. Rushmore monument by the former supervillain governor, who added his face in it as shown in a sight-gag.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: Faced with the Omicronian spacecraft gunning down everyone else, Leela decides to get the hell out of there.
    Leela: This is hopeless! If we're gonna get blown to bits, we might as well do it in the comfort of our own homes!
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Omicronian saucer blowing up the White House is an homage to a similar scene in Independence Day.
    • Star Wars:
      • The shot of the Planet Express Ship flying by is based on an identical shot in the re-released Star Wars (time 11:47).
      • Fry wears a Rebel Alliance X-wing starfighter pilot's helmet.
      • The battle planning session (and battle) is very reminiscent of the scene in Episode IV: A New Hope.
    • Star Trek:
      • When Bender frees Zoidberg from the lobster cage, the red alert sound plays.
      • Fry references Uhura, and Captain Janeway.
    • Xena: Warrior Princess: Fry also namedrops Xena.
  • Shown Their Work: Not only is the Omicron Persei system real, it really is approximately 1000 light years from Earth. Although it's (currently) unknown how many planets are in that star system (assuming there are any).
  • Snap Back: Lampshaded. After convincing the Omicronians to stop attacking Earth with a fake 1999 TV broadcast, Fry says it's a law of television that "At the end of the episode, everything's always right back to normal." The camera then shows an external shot of the building, with surrounding New New York in flames and the Statue of Liberty crumbling. Despite this, by the next episode, everything is back exactly the way it was.
  • Something Else Also Rises: While the filming their version of Single Female Lawyer:
    Fry: Camera 1?
    (Bender's right eye zooms out and whirs)
    Fry: Camera 2?
    (Bender's left eye zooms out and whirs)
    Fry: Camera 3?
    (something offscreen zooms out and whirs)
  • Sorry, I'm Gay: Parodied with a stereotypical musclebound beach bully that picks on Fry while flirting with Leela. Leela actually agrees to go with him, only for the bully to explain that he's a gay "professional beach bully'', meaning he picks on weaker guys and then throws fights against them for money, allowing the guys to impress their dates.
  • Status Quo Is God: Parodied; at the end of the episode, Fry sits back with a beer and happily explains how, just like on TV, everything is back to normal by the end of the episode. Zoom out to reveal a ruined and still burning New New York, with the arm dropping off the Statue of Liberty.
  • Strictly Formula: Parodied.
    Fry: Married? Jenny can't get married.
    Leela: Why not? It's clever; it's unexpected.
    Fry: But that's not why people watch TV. Clever things make people feel stupid, and unexpected things make them feel scared.
    Lrrr: Attention, McNeal. Your unexpected marriage plan scares us.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Fry unwittingly sparked the conflict between Earth and Omicron Persei 8 in 1999.
  • Verbal Backspace: The Professor has a moment when the crew walk in while he was in the middle of hiring their replacements (having quickly given them up as KIA).
    Professor Farnsworth: Oh God, you're alive! I mean, thank God you're alive!
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: When Brannigan proposes a ridiculous idea for a suicide mission, Fry believes a better idea would be to send (expendable) robots first, prompting Bender to strangle him silly.
  • A Wizard Did It: Parodied when the Professor tries to give Fry a perfectly straightforward explanation for why an alien civilization about a thousand light-years away could just be receiving Earth's broadcasts now, and Fry dismisses it with "Magic, got it."
  • Zerg Rush: Brannigan's attack plan against the Omicronians.
    Zapp: Now, like all great plans, my strategy is so simple an idiot could've devised it. On my command, all ships will line up and fly directly into the alien death cannons, clogging them with wreckage.

Bender: ♫Single Female Lawyer, havin' lots of sex!♫


Video Example(s):


Bite my red hot glowing ass

While grilling burgers, Bender notices that his ass is burning and runs to the ocean.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / RumpRoast

Media sources: