"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
- Daily Variety, 4/21/98
Jaded types at the end of the
19th century believed that art
and literature had met with an
insurmountable obstacle: the
finite number of subjects and
plots. All the possible pictures
and stories were already spoken
for, it seemed, leaving nothing
new to paint or write. Woe
betide future generations, fated
to churn out endless variations
on the same themes!
Today our very own jaded types
chuckle with fond condescension
at such quaintly gloomy
prophecies of yesterday's
tomorrows. Oh ho ho, how droll!
And yet who can blame our
starch-collared forebears for
not anticipating such
20th-century originals as
Duchamp and Duras - if not
Vargas and Vonnegut? Who knew?
Turns out, the old-timers knew
plenty. As we commence the final
countdown to our own
the cloud cover lifts and the
rays beam down a pitiless
verdict: There really isn't
anything new under the sun.
Worse: Our great-grandparents
Consider, for instance, what
promises to be the last major
new hit TV series (phew) of the
1900s, from one of the most
unpredictable yarn spinners of
our time. As shopworn plot lines
go, Groening's Futurama setup is
second only to the
brain-switching hi-jinks of Mary
Shelley - spiritual progenitor
of Freaky Friday, Big, and that
scary scene in The Muppet
Movie, among far too many
others. Shutting down in one era
and rebooting in another is
always good for a wheeze, or at
least a gee-whiz.
If he has any respect for
History, Mr. Groening will spare
his audience all the trouble of
getting to know pesky new
versions of stock characters,
enacting yet another thinly
veiled rehash of an oft-told
tale. That's not to say he
should scuttle the project
entirely, but rather just be
honest about materials. Go back
to the original texts, Matt.
There's plenty of life left in
our pop-cultural senior citizens
- they're just waiting to be
given some meaningful work!
Herewith, four episodes offered
to the Futurama crew, completely
free of charge:
The Sleepsons, Episode One:
"Washington Irving's Rip Van
While wandering in the
Kaatskills seeking respite from
his nagging wife, the henpecked
Van Winkle quaffs a stranger's
microbrew possessing "much of
the flavor of excellent
Hollands." He promptly catches
40 winks for some 20 years,
missing the whole Revolutionary
War and then some.
The Sleepsons, Episode Two:
"Edward Bellamy's Looking
Boston, 1887: With the aid of a
hypnotist, insomniac Julian West
beds down in a subterranean
sleeping chamber built to keep
out street noise, awaking in the
year 2000 to a socialist utopia.
The Sleepsons, Episode Three:
"Woody Allen's Sleeper"
Miles Monroe is transported into
the 22nd century, where he is
called upon to settle matters of
weighty historical import.
Sleepsons, Episode Four: "Marco
Brambilla's Demolition Man!"
Cryogenically frozen since 1996,
Sylvester Stallone is thawed in
the 21st century to help nab
master criminal Wesley Snipes
and have hands-free sex with
courtesy of Ersatz