This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the TV show being covered here wouldn’t exist.
As its name implies, one of the core tenants of Futurama as a series is looking at current day absurdity to predict the future of absurdity. That’s a difficult trick to pull off on occasion, such as with cousin series The Simpsons and its future predictions. That makes it a testament to the quality of the bulk of Futurama that most of the series manages to accomplish this goal. “How the West Was 1010001” does not hold up to that standard; to the point where the episode may have committed a grievous sin. This episode makes Futurama down right anachronistic.
“How the West Was 1010001” combines the historical California gold rush with the concept of Bitcoin mining as the Planet Express crew departs for California to mine for processor minerals for profit. The comparison between the two is pretty obvious, but could be ripe for comedy. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for “West” because Futurama has missed the gold rush of jokes about crypto and its wild west pastiche is just as lacking.
In fairness, the humor that does get a chuckle comes from the very nerdy humor that helped create some of the most classic Futurama gags. Professor Farnsworth’s scheme to mine for processor chip material to sell to the crypto miners opens the door for several Periodic Table jokes such as shooting bullets that are lead molecules and a character called “The Borax Kid.” No jokes yet that earn a belly laugh, but these are at least jokes that belong in Futurama instead of being on loan from Rick and Morty. Other recurring jabs at Westerns, like a saloon owner with mood swings and a returning Roberto the stabbing robot fall completely flat.
The weakest part of “How the West Was 1010001” is its crypto angle, however. At first I had a hard time grasping what was so off with this angle until Hermes’s son (who is also here for some reason) makes a joke about Apple Maps getting a stagecoach lost. Apple Maps jokes haven’t been relevant for ten years, and that demonstrates the problem with this episode’s angle. It is as if the script for “West” was written and – rightfully – shelved during Futurama‘s run on Comedy Central. Everything is rooted in Bitcoin mining specifically, seemingly unaware of how dynamics in the crypto space have radically changed over the past several years. Even low-hanging fruit like the laughable rise and fall of NFTs goes uncommented on. Somehow, “How the West Was 1010001” took Futurama out of time in a completely different way than intended.
As a result, there isn’t much else to say about “How the West Was 1010001.” The entire cast is left adrift and the story is entirely unremarkable. Had this aired a decade ago it would have been just as uninteresting, but I could find a joke about finding Etherium instead of Bitcoin somewhat funny and topical. Despite trending upward last week, Futurama has yet to justify its revival. It might be time to leave this series to the past that it is trapped in.
Futurama is available on Hulu.
Featured image via Hulu
‘Futurama’ 11x03 - 1/10