Futurama is Matt Groening's futuristic sci-fi spin-off of his mega popular animated hit TV series, The Simpsons. Futurama is inventive, unpredictable, and inherently darker than its older sibling, but is still able to strike the funny bone with the same wacky, off-the-wall humor. Futurama is a lot like The Simpsons except that it actually tries to follow a linear plot line, whereas on The Simpsons, anything can happen if it makes you laugh. Both shows are drawn in the same Groening style, so there's no mistaking that these shows are related. And thankfully, Futurama follows the same Groening recipe for comedy that makes The Simpsons one of the funniest shows on TV today.
The premise for Futurama is the perfect springboard for comedy. The year is 1999. The show is centered around, Fry, a 25-year-old pizza delivery boy who is your basic loser who has no real direction in life. His girlfriend cheats on him, his apartment is a pigsty, and he doesn't have any friends. One night he makes a late delivery to a cryogenic freezing facility that turns out to be a prank call. While wallowing in self-pity, he clumsily falls into an empty chamber and freezes himself for 1000 years. When he is revived, he finds himself in the year 3000, and needless to say society has drastically changed. Fry hooks up with his great, great, great, etc. nephew, Professor Farnsworth and ends up working for him. Ironically, he becomes a delivery boy for the professor, carting packages across the galaxy to strange alien planets filled with life threatening danger. Fry's partners in crime include a rude, lazy, alcoholic robot named Bender, and a tough, seductive, military-like, one-eyed alien named Leela. As I said before, this is a prefect recipe for wacky comedy.
Futurama - Volume One is a fantastic set that lets fans of this hilarious show travel back in time to re-watch the season that started it all. Arguably the funniest seasons made, this set shows you the origin of all the main characters and sets the stage for the escalating insanity to follow in later seasons. Futurama is definitely more of a thinking man's show than The Simpsons as the jokes range from obscure, to obvious, to outright raunchy. Nothing is sacred on this show, and I love it for that very reason. Futruama is fresh, witty, and one of the funniest shows to ever be televised.
Here's a breakdown of all the included episodes on this three-disc set:
Episode 1: Space Pilot 3000
Episode 2: The Series Has Landed
Episode 3: I, Roommate
Episode 4: Love's Labours Lost In Space
Episode 5: Fear Of A Bot Planet
Episode 6: A Fishful Of Dollars
Episode 7: My Three Suns
Episode 8: A Big Piece Of Garbage
Episode 9: Hell Is Other Robots
Episode 10: A Flight To Remember
Episode 11: Mars University
Episode 12: When Aliens Attack
Episode 13: Fry & The Slurm Factory
There wasn't one episode on this set that I didn't find funny. And there wasn't one episode where I didn't listen to the included audio commentary. That's right, every single episode has its own audio commentary track with the creators, animators, writers, and voice talent for the show. The commentaries are always entertaining, and offer a lot of insight as to the making of this futuristic comedy, so true fans of the show should pick up this set for that reason alone. Futurama - Volume One is a great looking and sounding DVD set that begs to be added to your collection.
Video: Futurama is presented in its original 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio. The picture quality here is generally excellent. This is the best this show has ever looked. The video is bright and exceptionally clean. Colors look fantastic, and black levels are extremely dark. The show looks absolutely wonderful.
What really separates the look of this show from The Simpsons is the use of 3D computer animation. This tool really gives Futurama a perception of depth that looks light-years ahead of what we see on The Simpsons. Also, the still frames are colored completely by computer. So color uniformity is obviously not a problem here. The animation looks as good as I could have hoped.
Every episode has a Dolby Digital 2.0 surround audio track. For a 2.0 track, the surround sound effect is surprisingly good. So every episode just sounds wonderful. All the dialogue is dubbed, so naturally it sounds crystal clear and is easy to hear at all times. For a cartoon TV series, you wouldn't necessarily think that the sound should be all that great, but thankfully the audio for Futurama goes above and beyond what it needed to do. This set sounds incredible, and I couldn't be happier with the way it turned out.
Extras: I was a little disappointed with the features given on this set. I was expecting a lot more in the way of behind-the-scenes footage. Unfortunately we really don't get any of that. There is a nice featurette included in this package, but it is way too short, coming in at under five minutes. I would have thought a comedy TV show like Futurama could come up with enough footage to fill at least a 40-minute featurette. Perhaps we will see something with more substance in future releases.
However I was thrilled to see that the Futurama team took the time to record individual audio commentaries for every single episode in this series. With many TV series being released on DVD today, often the producers of these shows only record one commentary for the first, or pilot, episode. So I was excited to see that we have not one, but 13 different commentaries on this DVD package. All of the commentaries are excellent, giving the viewer an accurate look at the true-life personalities that come to work everyday to make this fabulous show. Most of the talking is preformed by Executive Producer/Head Writer David Coen, which is actually a good thing, because he is full of interesting and humorous information. On a side note, his voice is unintentionally funny, and makes me wonder why he hasn't been used as voice talent on the show before. Futurama creator, Matt Groening is always present for the commentaries but never seems to chime in very much, which is somewhat disappointing. But the commentaries are most definitely worth a listen, and can add new life to an episode that you may have grown tired of watching on its own.
Other features include a sparse collection of deleted scenes, and a concept art gallery of videos and stills. Nothing really exciting here, but thankfully the oh-so short featurette and 13 individual commentaries lift this potentially disastrous feature package out of the dumpster.
I am admittedly a science fiction nut, so it should come as no surprise that Futurama is one of my all-time favorite TV shows. If you've seen the show, then you know why. It's hilarious, inventive, and gloriously wacky. And with the addition of the highly entertaining set of commentaries, this becomes a must-own DVD collection for any true fan of the show. The video transfer is great, the audio soundtracks are great, and the show is incredible. And if you're still unsure if this DVD set is for you, remember that it's much more enjoyable than drinking the addictive juices secreted from the butt of an enormous mother worm. Or, at least that's what I've heard. Highly Recommended