Futurama Season 1
|30th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment .
R4 . COLOR . 271 mins .
PG . PAL
Considering the phenomenal popularity of The Simpsons, its creator Matt Groening was always going to be faced with a somewhat hard act to follow. However, 1999 saw the debut of the show’s successor, Futurama. Doing for sci-fi what The Simpsons did for suburban family life – essentially harpooning and lampooning every little element of it, but with love or hate wherever appropriate – it was perhaps predictable that it wouldn’t have the broad appeal of that little yellow family, as for many there was less to relate to (the fact that many champion Homer Simpson as some sort of everyman hero being an utterly frightening thing for some of us). Sadly this prediction was accurate, with the show being kicked about from pillar to post by moronic networks the world over, and the series now out of production after only a handful of seasons.
For many who missed the sharpness of early seasons of The Simpsons – before the seeming senility and savage blunting of wit well and truly set in - Futurama arrived as a revelation. Here was a cartoon series on our screens that was fiendishly clever AND funny, in its appearance – a skilful combination of traditional 2D animation and cleverly concocted 3D stuff given a look that fit in seamlessly with that around it, its lines – often wickedly hilarious and regularly double-edged, its voice cast – Billy West in multiple roles (he of Stimpy fame – we won’t mention what happened after Nickelodeon shafted John K.), Katey Sagal (Married With Children) and John DiMaggio (more animated bits and pieces than there’s space to list) just for starters, and most importantly its spot-on comedic timing. It may not be set to carry on ad infinitum like certain other series’ have, but then perhaps an escape with dignity firmly in tact is more desirable anyway?
For those unacquainted with the joys of Futurama, our hero as such is 20-something New Yorker Fry. Just kicked to the curb by his girlfriend, he’s despondently going about his business as a pizza delivery boy on New Year’s Eve 1999, when a crank order eventually results in him having a slight accident with a cryogenic freezing unit. Fast forward 1000 years and he finds himself in New New York... and needless to say life has changed somewhat. He has a run in with Leela, a pony-tailed future-babe and cop with one rather distinguishing feature – a solitary eye (hence her officer number – 1BDI). Destined to be a delivery boy all over again – these things are assigned in the future – he tries to escape, meeting up with a cantankerous robot in Bender. Fuelled by malt liquor, gambling, robot porn – all the good things in life – he’s certainly no Robby, however the two form a bond and track down Fry’s one living relative, his great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, nephew, one Professor Hubert Farnsworth, a doddery inventor who sounds perfect to mooch off.
Anyway, Fry, Leela and Bender all end up in the employ of the Professor and his Planet Express cargo delivery company, complete with a funky green spaceship reminiscent of Thunderbird 2 – but with a somewhat dramatic overbite. Here we meet the company’s manager, Rasta dude Hermes, the resident doctor in crustacean Zoidberg and the cartoon character with the best name ever – Amy – a klutzy (hey!) engineering student with rich parents – and the same blood type as the elderly Farnsworth...
Much like The Simpsons, Futurama is a veritable dream for lovers of pop culture. It’s absolutely chock-full of references – many of which aren’t necessarily evident on first viewing – from video games (does anybody fancy a spot of Gender Neutral Pac Person?) to the art of the likes of Dali and Escher to music to literature. Even guest stars have been catered for, seeing as they would all be kind of dead 1000 years from now the producers were faced with a slight dilemma until, of course, they came up with the concept of presenting them as disembodied heads in jars. It presents a possible world that is neither perfect, or nightmarish, with a strange muddle of 20th century and wildest-dream type gadgetry occupying every nook and cranny. Not surprisingly it shares a look with Groening’s other work, with humans possessing only four fingers on each hand (or for the anally retentive, three fingers and a thumb) – although this time they’re pink. Not surprisingly there are also many sly, and not so sly, references to its massively successful forerunner scattered throughout the series. A delightful case of pop culture eating itself...
Anyway, here’s what’s in store for starters...
- Space Pilot 3000
Summary: See the title? It has the word "pilot" in it. It sets stuff up - if you've read above you'll have an idea what's in store...
Guest heads: Leonard Nimoy, Dick Clark.
Classic line: "It's the future. My parents, my co-workers, my girlfriend - I'll never see any of them ever again... YAHOO!" - Fry.
- Episode Two: The Series Has Landed
Summary: Fry realises his dream of travelling to the moon, but finds its commercialisation rather disappointing. Bender meets the delightful Crushinator – she even has a gun rack...
Classic line: "Oh, no room for Bender huh? Fine, I'll go build my own lunar lander, with blackjack and hookers. In fact forget the lunar lander and the blackjack..." - Bender.
- I, Roommate
Summary: Fry’s living in the office isn’t working out, no problem though as he moves in with Bender – who’s always wanted a pet...
Classic line: "You know Fry, of all the friends I've had, you're the first." - Bender.
- Love’s Labours Lost in Space
Summary: Leela’s dating woes become more woeful after meeting up with velour-loving Captain Zapp Brannigan on a little expedition to rescue some animals before a planet kerplodes...
Classic line: "Brannigan's law is like Brannigan's love - hard and fast. - Zapp Brannigan
- Fear of a Bot Planet
Summary: Bender has to – ack – work, delivering a package to a staunchly anti-human planet founded by robot separatists. He likes what he finds...
Classic line: "My God, he's become evil! I mean eviler..." - Fry (on Bender)
- A Fishful of Dollars
Summary: Fry is horrified at the absence of anchovies in the future, however an unexpected windfall comes in handy at a retro auction. Adorable old industrialist Mom isn’t too jazzed at his purchase though...
Guest head: Pamela Anderson.
Classic line: "That stench, that heavenly stench!" - Zoidberg.
- My Three Suns
Summary: Bender earns his keep as cook, his not-so-secret ingredient being salt and plenty of it. A very parched Fry ends up guzzling an emperor in the Forbidden Zone...
Classic line: "It's just like the story of the grasshopper and the octopus. All year long the grasshopper kept burying acorns for winter while the octopus mooched off his girlfriend and watched TV. But then the winter came, and the grasshopper died, and the octopus ate all his acorns. And also, he got a race car! Is any of this getting through to you?" - Fry.
- A Big Piece of Garbage
Summary: Professor Farnsworth suffers humiliation at the Academy of Inventors annual symposium, but redeems himself when New New York is faced with a rather smelly legacy of old New York...
Guest head: Rod Popeil (seemingly a U.S. equivalent of our Mr Demtel...)
Classic line: "You young Turks think you know everything! I was inventing things when you were barely turning senile." - Professor Farnsworth.
- Hell is Other Robots
Summary: After checking out some old, old, incredibly old skool beats at Madison Cube Gardens, Bender is introduced to the seamy habit of ‘jacking in’. Can he find redemption?
Guest heads: Beastie Boys.
Classic line: "If only he had joined a mainstream religion, like Oprahism or Voodoo." - Professor Farnsworth.
- A Flight to Remember
Summary: It’s the maiden voyage of the space cruise ship Titanic, however when Zapp Brannigan opts for a route with a little chest hair there’s a little matter of a black hole to contend with. Bender finds robot lurve and Fry finds himself rather popular with the ladies...
Classic line: "If you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna pop over to the casino for the next 135 hours..." - Bender.
- Mars University
Summary: While Bender tries to make his old fraternity cool again, Fry enrols so he can drop out all over again. He never expected to be in competition with Professor Farnsworth’s monkey, however...
Classic line: "Oh, I always feared he may run off like this. Why, why, why didn’t I break his legs?" - Professor Farnsworth.
- When Aliens Attack
Summary: When the planet of Omicron Persei 8’s feed of 20th century TV show Single Female Lawyer fritzes out, they decide to go all ID4 on our asses...
Classic line: "I’ll be a science fiction hero! Just like Uhura or Captain Janeway or Xena!" - Fry.
- Fry and the Slurm Factory
Summary: Fry finds the golden bottle cap, winning him and his friends a trip to the Slurm factory and a part-ay with Slurms McKenzie. Then they discover the secret ingredient...
Classic line: "Grunka lunka dunkity dingredient, you should not ask about the secret ingredient." - Grunka Lunkas.
Anybody who has seen any of The Simpsons DVDs thus far will no doubt be fairly nonplussed with their video quality, however there are certainly no such concerns with Futurama - which should be expected as this series is much younger and brought to life completely on computer. Quite simply, this looks divine and almost perfect – much as if it dropped through a time warp from a technically advanced 30th century.
The episodes were made in a ratio of 1.33:1, so naturally that’s how they appear here, and in short everything is as solid as a planet that most certainly hasn’t been mined out. The colour palette is reminiscent of Matt Groening’s other rather successful little show (although the people here are pink), with a selection of very bright primary colours, all of which are beautifully saturated and scrub up a treat here. There are no signs of fluctuations in hues, sharpness is spot on (in 13 episodes one fleeting example of aliasing was observed), detail is almost remarkable (you can read those tiny signs so regularly littered about the backgrounds) and nasties such as compression artefacts, specks, etc – forget it, they’re just not here. Even layer changes are no concern, being placed between episodes on all three discs.
This really is superb stuff, a shining example of giving the public a cartoon series from television on DVD without all the crud we’re so used to putting up with.
Futurama was made in surround encoded Dolby Digital 2.0, and that’s how it’s delivered to us here – we can’t really complain about that. It scarcely makes aggressive use of the rear speakers, which some may find a shame, however it certainly cannot be accused of not doing its job properly – as it delivers the soundtrack beautifully clearly, and with some decent stereo effects work across the front of the room. The sound design really is quite amazing at times, with even sound effects adding to the humour of many a scene. It is all balanced expertly, you’d need cloth ears to miss a line – even from the rather mumbling Zoidberg – and lip synch, well come on now... this IS a cartoon, however what is here is perfectly acceptable – even Bender’s speech manages to seem perfectly aligned, no mean feat when he doesn’t actually have a mouth as such!
On top of the wonderful voice talent and sound effects work sits Christopher Tyng’s score. Not only did he come up with possibly the funkiest little theme for a TV show in the history of the medium (just try not to bop about to it), his incidental music adds to the show’s impact without ever shouting “hey, listen to me!”, and when he gets to play with musical numbers his work is certainly up to the challenge, as any fan of Willy Wonka should attest to after viewing Fry and the Slurm factory.
It’s been a long wait for Futurama to hit our shores on DVD, and in fact many diehard fans have already purchased it from the UK. If you have managed to be patient then you should be getting excited – very excited – for this set represents fabulous quality in every respect, from the packaging to the video transfer, to the extras and, most importantly in the end, the actual show.
If you miss the days when you could almost cut yourself on The Simpsons as it was so sharp, and when it had you so regularly in such hysterics that you missed a lot of what was going on, Futurama should restore your faith that there’s still animation out there with (over) bite.
Send to a friend.
| And I quote...|
|"What are ya waitin’ for you meatbags? Futurama’s here at last and it’s a funderful treat full of gratuitous alien nudity. Yeah, let’s get drunk!"|
- Amy Flower
| Review Equipment|
- DVD Player:
DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
- Centre Speaker:
DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
DTX Digital 4.8
- Audio Cables:
- Video Cables:
Standard Component RCA
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