Godfellas

Godfellas

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"Godfellas" is the twentieth episode of the third production season of Futurama
Futurama
Futurama is an American animated science fiction sitcom created by Matt Groening and developed by Groening and David X. Cohen for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The series follows the adventures of a late 20th-century New York City pizza delivery boy, Philip J...

. It was first shown in North America on March 17, 2002, as the eighth episode in the fourth broadcast season. The episode was written by Ken Keeler
Ken Keeler
Kenneth "Ken" Keeler is an American television producer and writer. He has written for numerous television series, most notably The Simpsons and Futurama. According to an interview with David X. Cohen, he proved a theorem which appears in the Futurama episode "The Prisoner of Benda".-Career:After...

 and directed by Susie Dietter
Susie Dietter
Susan E. Dietter, usually credited as Susie Dietter, is an American director, known primarily for her work on television cartoons. She has directed episodes of the popular series Futurama, Baby Blues, The Simpsons, Recess and The Critic. She also worked as an animator for the modern-day Looney...

. It features Bender becoming the god of a tiny civilization, and explores various religious issues. The episode won the first Writers Guild Of America Award
Writers Guild of America Awards 2003
The 56th Writers Guild of America Awards, given in 2004, honored the film and television best writers of 2003.-Best Adapted Screenplay: American Splendor - Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini*Cold Mountain - Anthony Minghella...

 for animation.

Plot


During a noisy space pirate attack, Bender—trying to find some peace and quiet in a torpedo tube—is launched into interstellar space beyond the reach of Fry
Philip J. Fry
Philip J. Fry, known simply as Fry, is a fictional character, the main protagonist of the animated science fiction sitcom Futurama. He is voiced by Billy West using a version of his own voice as he sounded when he was 25.-Character overview:...

 and Leela. Because Bender was launched when the ship was already at its top speed, it is impossible to catch up with Bender, and he is doomed to hurtle through the interstellar void for eternity. After an asteroid crashes into Bender, a civilization of tiny humanoids ("Shrimpkins") grows on him and worships him as a god. At first, Bender enjoys his new-found status, picking a prophet
Prophet
In religion, a prophet, from the Greek word προφήτης profitis meaning "foreteller", is an individual who is claimed to have been contacted by the supernatural or the divine, and serves as an intermediary with humanity, delivering this newfound knowledge from the supernatural entity to other people...

 named Malachi and having Malachi bring "The One Commandment" ("God Needs Booze") from "Up High" (Bender's head) to the Shrimpkins, who brew what for them are vast quantities of "Lordweiser" beer (as a robot, Bender requires alcohol to fuel his power cells and remain functional). The Shrimpkins begin praying for rain, sun, and wealth, and Bender attempts to heed their prayer
Prayer
Prayer is a form of religious practice that seeks to activate a volitional rapport to a deity through deliberate practice. Prayer may be either individual or communal and take place in public or in private. It may involve the use of words or song. When language is used, prayer may take the form of...

s—failing and unintentionally harming the Shrimpkins in the process (for example, when he tries to answer their prayer for more sunlight for the shrimpkin's plantation, he causes a fire in the field, and his attempt to put out the fire by blowing accidentally flings some of them into space). Eventually, Malachi tells him that the Shrimpkins who migrated to his backside felt their prayers were unheeded and became atheists. The atheists threaten war with Bender's worshippers. Bender, horrified that his previous attempts to help the Shrimpkins so far only harmed them, refuses to intervene. The micro-civilization is destroyed when the Shrimpkin factions launch atomic weapons out of Bender's nuclear pile. Malachi remains faithful to Bender during the war and it saddens Bender when Malachi and his family are killed by a nuclear weapon.

Bender soon meets a cosmic entity who is alluded to be God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 and recounts his experiences. During this time, he tells Bender that he had much the same experience with helping those who pray to him, and has long since given up directly interfering in his worshipers lives. He instead uses a "light touch", which he compares to safecracking, pickpocketing
Pickpocketing
Pickpocketing is a form of larceny that involves the stealing of money or other valuables from the person of a victim without their noticing the theft at the time. It requires considerable dexterity and a knack for misdirection...

, or insurance fraud
Insurance fraud
Insurance fraud is any act committed with the intent to fraudulently obtain payment from an insurer.Insurance fraud has existed ever since the beginning of insurance as a commercial enterprise. Fraudulent claims account for a significant portion of all claims received by insurers, and cost billions...

. Bender asks if he can be sent back to earth, and God claims that he does not know where Earth is.

Meanwhile, Fry and Leela search for a way to locate Bender, which leads them to a sect of monks who use a radio telescope
Radio telescope
A radio telescope is a form of directional radio antenna used in radio astronomy. The same types of antennas are also used in tracking and collecting data from satellites and space probes...

 to search for God in space. Leela overpowers and locks up the pacifist monks and Fry spends the next three days searching for Bender. Leela eventually convinces him to give up the search, considering the odds of finding Bender astronomical. Fry spins the telescope's trackball
Trackball
A trackball is a pointing device consisting of a ball held by a socket containing sensors to detect a rotation of the ball about two axes—like an upside-down mouse with an exposed protruding ball. The user rolls the ball with the thumb, fingers, or the palm of the hand to move a cursor...

 and finds God by accident as he wishes out loud he had Bender back. God hears him and flings Bender towards Earth, where he lands just outside of the monastery, causing Leela to exclaim that "This is, by a wide margin, the least likely thing that has ever happened." Bender quickly recounts his tale ("First I was God, then I met God!") and Fry boasts they "climbed up a mountain and locked up some monks," which reminds Leela that they never let them out. Fry is reluctant to return to the monastery and claims that their God will surely help them. Bender tells them that God cannot be counted on for anything, and demands they rescue the monks themselves. The camera zooms out from Earth, past planets, through space, and back to God, who chuckles and repeats his earlier advice to Bender: "When you do things right, people won't be sure you've done anything at all."

Production


Billy West states on the audio commentary that the voice of "God" is based on Vic Perrin
Vic Perrin
Vic Perrin was an American actor and voice artist. He is best remembered as the "Control Voice" in the original version of the TV series The Outer Limits ....

's "Control Voice" from The Outer Limits
The Outer Limits (1963 TV series)
The Outer Limits is an American television series that aired on ABC from 1963 to 1965. The series is similar in style to the earlier The Twilight Zone, but with a greater emphasis on science fiction, rather than fantasy stories...

.

Themes


The episode touches on the ideas of predestination
Predestination
Predestination, in theology is the doctrine that all events have been willed by God. John Calvin interpreted biblical predestination to mean that God willed eternal damnation for some people and salvation for others...

, prayer, and the nature of salvation
Salvation
Within religion salvation is the phenomenon of being saved from the undesirable condition of bondage or suffering experienced by the psyche or soul that has arisen as a result of unskillful or immoral actions generically referred to as sins. Salvation may also be called "deliverance" or...

, in what theology writer Mark Pinsky referred to as a theological turn to the episode, which may cause the viewer to need "to be reminded that this is a cartoon and not a divinity school class." By the end of the conversation, Bender's questions still have not been fully answered and like many of the conversations between humans and God in the Bible, Bender is left wanting more from the voice than it has given him. Pinsky also notes that the monks visited by Fry and Leela occupy the monastery of "Teshuvah", which is the Hebrew word for repentance.

The book Toons That Teach, a text used by youth groups to teach teenagers about spirituality, recommends this episode in a lesson teaching about "Faith, God's Will, [and] Image of God".

Broadcast and reception


This episode won the first Writers Guild Of America Award
Writers Guild of America Awards 2003
The 56th Writers Guild of America Awards, given in 2004, honored the film and television best writers of 2003.-Best Adapted Screenplay: American Splendor - Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini*Cold Mountain - Anthony Minghella...

 for animation in 2003, where it competed against animated specials, long form programs and episodic animation. Series creator Matt Groening
Matt Groening
Matthew Abram "Matt" Groening is an American cartoonist, screenwriter, and producer. He is the creator of the comic strip Life in Hell as well as two successful television series, The Simpsons and Futurama....

 has cited it as one of the best episodes of the series. The Reno Gazette-Journal called the episode amazing and noted it as one of the prime episodes in season four (although the episode is actually from the third season). In 2008, Empire
Empire (magazine)
Empire is a British film magazine published monthly by Bauer Consumer Media. From the first issue in July 1989, the magazine was edited by Barry McIlheney and published by Emap. Bauer purchased Emap Consumer Media in early 2008...

placed Futurama 25th on their list of "The 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time" and cited "Godfellas" as the show's best episode.

In its initial airing, the episode received a Nielsen rating of 2.6/4, placing it 97th among primetime shows for the week of March 11-17, 2002.

Cultural references


The first half of this episode explores themes similar to "Microcosmic God
Microcosmic God
"Microcosmic God" is a science fiction novelette by Theodore Sturgeon. Originally published in April 1941 in the magazine Astounding Science Fiction, it was recognized as one of the best science fiction stories of all time by the Science Fiction Writers of America in 1970, and was named as one of...

" by Theodore Sturgeon
Theodore Sturgeon
Theodore Sturgeon was an American science fiction author.His most famous novel is More Than Human .-Biography:...

. The observatory located in a monastery is also a reference to "The Nine Billion Names of God
The Nine Billion Names of God
"The Nine Billion Names of God" is a 1953 science fiction short story by Arthur C. Clarke. The story was the winner of the retrospective Hugo Award for Best Short Story for the year 1954.-Plot summary:...

" by Arthur C. Clarke
Arthur C. Clarke
Sir Arthur Charles Clarke, CBE, FRAS was a British science fiction author, inventor, and futurist, famous for his short stories and novels, among them 2001: A Space Odyssey, and as a host and commentator in the British television series Mysterious World. For many years, Robert A. Heinlein,...

.

External links


  • Godfellas at The Infosphere.