The Devil's Hands Are Idle Playthings
|"The Devil's Hands Are Idle Playthings"|
Fry swaps hands with the Robot Devil
|Episode no.||Season four
|Directed by||Bret Haaland|
|Written by||Ken Keeler|
|Original air date||August 10, 2003|
|Opening caption||"See you on some other channel"|
|Opening cartoon||Futurama opening sequence|
Dan Castellaneta as the Robot Devil
"The Devil's Hands Are Idle Playthings" is the season four finale of the animated television series Futurama, and was aired for the first time in the United States on August 10, 2003, as the sixteenth episode of the fifth broadcast season and the finale of the original run. The episode was written by Ken Keeler and directed by Bret Haaland, and it guest stars Dan Castellaneta, who reprises his role as the Robot Devil. Keeler was nominated for an Emmy Award for this episode and the song "I Want My Hands Back" was nominated for an Annie Award.
It was the last episode that aired on Adult Swim on December 31, 2007 at 10:30 EST when the contract expired. It was also the last episode to be presented in standard format and also the last to feature the original version of the theme song. However, the show returned for an initial run of four direct-to-DVD films, before being given a run of at least 26 episodes on Comedy Central, with the first airing on June 24, 2010.
The episode begins with Bender walking in on Fry attempting to play the holophonor. Fry was hoping to woo Leela as he did in Parasites Lost. After a disastrous holophonor recital, Bender recommends Fry enlist the help of the Robot Devil to improve his holophonor skills. The Robot Devil makes a deal with Fry to trade hands with any robot in the world. The Robot Devil uses a carnival wheel to select which hands Fry would trade with. Though suspicious, Fry agrees, especially after Bender threatens to "Lose all respect for you and punch you." It is hinted that it was intended to land on Bender, but stops on the Robot Devil himself (much to his disbelief and horror). Fry, however, holds the Robot Devil to his own binding contract. Using his hands and a cleaver the Robot Devil switches their hands. With his new, nimble hands, Fry becomes a skilled holophonor virtuoso as well as being able to perform numerous tricks. He is commissioned by Hedonismbot to write an opera. Fry, in an attempt to win Leela’s heart, bases the opera on her life.
Upset at getting the raw end of the deal, the Robot Devil decides he has to get his own hands back. He begs Fry, but Fry refuses reminding him they made a deal. In an attempt to gain robotic hands, the Robot Devil tries to make a deal with Bender, trying to trade hands. When Bender refuses the Robot Devil then makes another deal, in which he trades Bender a stadium air horn for his "crotch-plate" so that he can annoy people. When Bender uses the air horn on Leela, he causes her to go deaf (which was part of the Robot Devil’s plan to get his hands back). His air horn also almost immediately runs out of propellant, and when the Robot Devil taunts him, there is no "shiny metal ass" for him to bite. Leela refuses to tell Fry that she is deaf because she is afraid that Fry will stop writing the opera, so she attends the premiere pretending she can still hear the performance. During the intermission, the Robot Devil offers Leela robotic ears (which previously belonged to Calculon who apparently got his acting talent from the Robot Devil) in exchange for one of her hands. Desperate to hear the opera, Leela accepts the offer.
The Robot Devil interrupts the opera, demanding that Fry give him back his hands, at the point in the opera where Fry is making the deal, during which the Robot Devil is portrayed as a comical character. When Fry refuses, the Robot Devil says that he will take Leela's hand - "in marriage". After a musical conflict, where the Robot Devil gets Preacherbot to perform the ceremony and says he will take Leela to Robot Hell, Fry decides that he has no choice but to trade the Robot Devil's hands back for his own, or else he would never have a chance to be with Leela. Upon getting his hands back, the Robot Devil then throws a smoke bomb and leaves with Richard Nixon's head. Although the first part of the Opera was enjoyed, with his own hands, Fry can no longer play the holophonor, in which Zoidberg encourages him by stating, “The beauty was in your heart not your hands!” But when Fry starts to play, it is terrible and Zoidberg shouts his iconic line, "Your music is bad, and you should feel bad." The entire audience storms out except for the sympathetic Leela, who asks, "Please don't stop playing, Fry. I want to hear how it ends." Playing an improvised finale of his opera, Fry produces crude, cartoonish images of himself and Leela. To a simplistic yet sweet bansuri tune (Lotus garden Meditation Tribe Mountains of Assam), the cartoonish Fry and Leela kiss and then walk into the distance hand-in-hand.
While this episode may not have been conceived as the final episode of the series, the production crew did include references to the series likely ending as the show had not been renewed by the end of production. The episode's opening subtitle was "See You On Some Other Channel", referring to the broadcast syndication that many shows enter after cancellation as this was the last episode at the time of production. This is the series finale that aired on The WB Television Network on June 23, 2006 at 8 p.m. ET/PT. In 2003, the series aired on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block, running until the end of 2007, and was bought by Comedy Central to air in 2008. New episodes started airing in 2010, thus making the subtitle true twice. In the audio commentary it is stated that there was a concerted effort to include the entire cast of the show and also just about all the recurring characters.
Due to the ending of the series and Katey Sagal's role in 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter, there was difficulty in recording the final line of the Fox incarnation of the series ("I want to hear how it ends"). In the audio commentary, it is stated that this single line took nearly six months to record.
Broadcast and reception
Writer Ken Keeler was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2004 for "Outstanding Music and Lyrics" for the song “I Want My Hands Back” and for an Annie Award for "Music in an Animated Television Production". The episode was ranked number 16 on IGN's list of the top 25 Futurama episodes in 2006. Science Fiction Weekly rated the episode as their "A Pick" for its original airing in 2003, calling the episode a "superbly funny ending to the series". Dan Castellaneta's performance as the Robot Devil in this episode along with the episode "Hell is Other Robots" has been described as a "bravura appearance". The episode was called an "instant classic" by a reviewer for the Asia Africa Intelligence Wire. In 2013, it was ranked number 2 "as voted on by fans" for Comedy Central's Futurama Fanarama marathon.
The title comes from the old saying "Idle hands are the Devil's playthings", which according to David X. Cohen, is rarely heard nowadays. In keeping with the episode’s focus on classical music (and particularly, opera), the plot is loosely based on the story of Faust.
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- Cohen, David X. (2003). Futurama season 4 DVD commentary for the episode "The Devil's Hands Are Idle Playthings" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- "The fish that got away took top honors at the 31st Annie Awards". International Animated Film Society. 2004. Retrieved 2007-06-28.
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- Booker, M. Keith. Drawn to Television: Prime-Time Animation from The Flintstones to Family Guy. pp. 115–124.
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- Pinsky, Mark (2003). The Gospel According to the Simpsons. Bigger and possibly even Better! edition. pp. 229–235. ISBN 978-0-664-23265-8.
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