"A Head in the Polls"
is the third episode in the second production season of Futurama
. It originally aired in North America
on December 12, 1999 as episode seven in the second broadcast season. The episode was written by J. Stewart Burns
and directed by Bret Haaland
. Claudia Schiffer
makes a guest appearance as herself. The title is a joke misspelling of the common phrase "Ahead in the polls
The election race for President of Earth is in full swing, with two clones as candidates and the Planet Express crew registers to vote. Meanwhile, a mining disaster sends the price of titanium through the roof, and Bender seizes the opportunity to make a quick buck by pawning his 40% titanium body.
As a head with a pile of cash, Bender begins enjoying his new lifestyle. During a trip to the Hall of Presidents in the New New York Head Museum, Richard Nixon's head ruins Bender's illusions about the glamor of a life without a body. The next day Bender heads off to the pawn shop to retrieve his body, but it has been sold. Later, Nixon's head announces its candidacy for President of Earth, using Bender's body to escape a constitutional provision that "nobody can be elected more than twice".
Fry, Leela, and Bender take off to Washington, D.C. to stop Nixon and recover Bender's body. Directly confronting Nixon fails to recover Bender's body, so the crew infiltrates Nixon's room at the Watergate Hotel. Leela successfully separates the sleeping head from the robot body, but Fry accidentally wakes Nixon. Confronting the intruders, Nixon begins ranting about his future plans for Earth. However, Bender records the conversation and knowing that the tape would ruin his election chances if released, Nixon trades the body for the tape.
On election day, Nixon wins by a single vote. He regained the robot vote by replacing Bender's body with a giant war robot while Leela and Fry forgot to vote against him. The episode ends with Nixon on a rampage through Washington D.C., escorted by Secret Service agents into the White House.
In Doug Pratt's DVD
Pratt noted that this episode was one of the "less inspired" episodes of the second season.
This episode is the first to heavily feature the character of Richard Nixon's head
. Although Nixon is often remembered only as "Tricky Dick" the writers for this episode not only mocked his "ruthless drive" but also showed his resilience and relevance. This episode also showcases the show-within-a-show The Scary Door
, a parody
of The Twilight Zone
featured in multiple episodes. At the beginning of this episode the classic Twilight Zone
episode "Time Enough at Last
" is spoofed.
This episode contains numerous references to Richard Nixon's presidency:
- The Watergate Scandal: When Leela is breaking into Nixon's room, Fry asks why he's staying at the Watergate, and Leela responds "They give you a discount if you've been here before", referring to the Watergate scandal. (Nixon, however, was not part of the group that broke into the Watergate complex.)
- Nixon says later, "Don't expect me to grant a pardon like that sissy Ford," a reference to Gerald Ford's pardoning of him of the Watergate scandal.
- When Nixon discloses what he plans on doing when he is sworn in as president, Bender records it on audio tape, which is a reference to the Watergate tapes.
- Foreign Relations: Nixon tells Fry, Bender, and Leela to leave his room "before I get Cambodian on your asses", a reference to tense American-Cambodian relations during his presidency. He also repeatedly refers to them as hippies and Communists. Leela also mentions his re-opening of relations with China.
- The head of Checkers, his dog, is on the wall of his dressing room.
- During the debate, Richard Nixon begins to sweat (even though he is in a glass jar) profusely due to the sensitive nature of the question. This is a reference to Nixon's first televised presidential debate of 1960 against John F. Kennedy. Nixon's appearance in the 1960 televised debate caused him to look old and sweaty.
References to other aspects and events in the American political system are also made:
- The names of the two clones' respective parties, the Tastycrats and the Fingerlicans are obvious parodies of the Democrats and the Republicans.
- The head of Gerald Ford says, "Frankly, I've never felt voting to be all that essential to the process," to which Richard Nixon's head replies, "No kidding, Ford." This is a reference to Ford being the only U.S. president and vice-president to never be elected into office.
- When explaining why they could not allow Bender to move in at the Head Museum's Presidential head exhibition, the head of George H. W. Bush expresses that they cannot allow "every Tom, Dick and Harry to move in" before immediately apologizing to the heads of Jefferson, Nixon and Truman, referring to their first names.
Other cultural references include:
- While dreaming, Nixon references Betty Friedan, an influential feminist.
- As the group is walking in the head museum, Leela and Bender's head pass by a section with the heads of TV stars, one of which is Katey Sagal, best known as Peg Bundy on Married...With Children and the voice of Leela on this show.
- In Bender's dream, a two does appear in the lower right part of the screen. The binary code in the final frame before the bigger numbers appear can be translated into the sentence "get a life".
- When Amy goes to the hemp booth, the hippie says "Dave's not here, man." This is a reference to the stand up comedy duo Cheech and Chong.
- During his speech, Nixon sings the song White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane.