You have to love “Futurama.” It’s the third millennium, sentient robots co-mingle with humans, and according to the season 2 episode “A Clone of My Own,” even the speed of light has been increased — by government order in the year 2208. Yet in this wild, futuristic utopia, there’s an actual place called “Space Italy.”
“Listen up threeple, you’ll be delivering this package to Space Italy!” simulation Hermes (Phil Lamarr) announces to the 8-bit crew. “Space Italy?” real Amy (Lauren Tom) asks incredulously while observing the simulation, to which the Professor responds, “I know, it’s an embarrassingly lazy name. But when you’re creating an entire universe from scratch, you can’t make up a believable name for everything. Sometimes you just have to go with ‘Space Italy.'”
The episode doesn’t just toss off that meta joke about the exhausting work of inventing an entire universe from scratch — a nod to both Farnsworth’s creation of the simulation and showrunners Matt Groening and David X. Cohen’s creation of the series itself — they actually send the 8-bit crew to an NES-style version of Rome. Rather than climbing the Spanish Steps to deliver the package, Bender tosses it carelessly behind him. It hits and knocks out the Space Pope. “Pappa Pia! He hitta the Space Pope!” an 8-bit Papal Gentleman cries out. Bender is carted off to jail, so Fry and Leela see the sights: an 8-bit version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, an 8-bit version of the Venetian canals, and an 8-bit version of Michaelangelo’s David — “so lifelike!” Leela exclaims.
This kind of stupid genius is the true ingredient X in the potion that is “Futurama’s” potent, long-lasting appeal. And it gets stupider! The show has actually taken us to Space Italy before.