November 14, 2019

Love, Death & Robots “When the Yogurt Took Over” Review | Off the Beaten Path

So in the last 5 episodes, we’ve seen balls to the wall action, thrilling suspense, humanistic drama, and classic horror. It’s about time then we return to some light but hilarious sci-fi comedy in episode six, When the Yogurt Took Over. This episode is as ridiculous as it sounds, is a blast to watch, and is easily my favorite comedy both when I first watched the show and now after my rewatch. The question now is, will you think so too?

Based on the short story by John Scalzi (who also wrote Three Robots), the story of When the Yogurt Took Over starts off simple enough; some scientists experiment with bacteria used to ferment yogurt. After numerous failures some yogurt is taken home by a researcher for her morning breakfast. The next morning she finds out that during the night the yogurt had achieved sentience, and immediately began solving world issues. The yogurt is taken to the president where it makes a single request in exchange for solving the problems of the country; the state of Ohio. Once firmly established in the buckeye state, the yogurt continues to evolve, and offers a swift solution for the national debt for the president with one caveat; follow the instructions exactly, or the world’s economy will collapse. Naturally the humans mess this up, and the world falls into financial ruin, except for Ohio. The yogurt uses this opportunity to officially take over the world by offering to fix everything in exchange for supreme executive power (could this have been the plan all along?), and the humans acquiesce. A decade later, despite some initial protests, humanity is happier and richer than any time in human history. The episode ends with the yogurt beginning its colonization of the cosmos, leaving humanity nervous about being left behind.

Man do I love this episode. If you haven’t watched it, please do yourself a favor and do so, it’s such a fast watch (even with credits it’s only 6 minutes long). So, what’s to love about it? Well for one, there’s the animation. Provided by Studio Blow (also the animators of Three Robots), it’s a treat to look at. If I had to describe it, it’s essentially claymation done entirely with CGI. It’s not as good as the animation of Sucker of Souls and Suits, but it doesn’t need to be. If anything, it fits the story perfectly: it’s quirky nature compliments the quirky nature of the story; it provides some great background humor; and it has no true direct comparison to the other shorts heightening its uniqueness. But what made me love the episode is the writing. Seeing as they’re both comedies and based on stories written by the same author, I end up comparing this to Three Robots quite a bit, which might be a bit unfair for Three Robots. With Three Robots, we get a brief microscopic look at a world with equally brief glimpses and hints towards a macroscopic universe (see my review of Three Robots for more on that topic). When the Yogurt Took Over takes an almost inverse approach. It starts off at the macroscopic by chronicling the rise of the yogurt and the fall of mankind, only delving to the microscopic with small comments and personal observations, all provided by the narrator (voiced by Maurice LaMarche of Pinkie and the Brain fame). Both approaches work in their own ways, but of the two episodes When the Yogurt Took Over was better at deriving humor than Three Robots was. 

Which brings us to the comedy itself, which is incredibly tight. Almost immediately the narrator comments on how wildly absurd the premise is (all of his puns about yogurt overlords had me rolling on the floor with laughter), but then goes to show just how such a dumb premise could happen. Everything that happens next is a series of absurdities, but it’s all done in a way where we just lean in and accept everything without question. It reminded me of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in the best of ways, using sci-fi as a vehicle to create absurdist humor in exceedingly mundane yet creative ways impossible otherwise. Benefiting from its short run time, the episode creators stuffed this to brim with jokes, both provided by the narrator and the background players and events, to the point where you could easily be laughing non-stop until the credits roll. The episode also greatly benefited from not having any elements that really stuck out, like the cat in Three Robots. Instead it started with a mad sprint, and maintained the same pace and consistency of humor till the end. 

So in the end, the rewatch didn’t really add anything new to why I loved this short. That said, I still very much loved the rewatch because it gave me the excuse to experience this episode all over again. If I had anything to complain about, it would be that the episode was too short, but I’m also glad it’s as long as it is; I’m afraid an increased runtime might ruin the joke. I also get the feeling there’s something thematic going on about the wildly different and self-defeating nature of man compared to the uniformity and successful yogurt, but it’ll take another rewatch or two to fully pin it down. So yeah, watch When the Yogurt Took Over, preferably while eating some breakfast. As of now, it’s easily the apex of comedy within LDR, and shows just what greats heights sci-fi can take comedy.

Final Review: A-

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