DVDs in Review #74: Futurama: Season One

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"Space, it seems to go on and on forever... But then you get to the end and a gorilla starts throwing barrels at ya!"

While I did write a review of the complete Futurama collection a while back I was never really satisfied with it. Futurama is probably the TV show I've watched most of all because it functions both as a show I adore and moving wallpaper - so when I'm not sure what I want to watch while I do something else, it's Futurama which goes on.

I think by now most people should be more than familiar with Futurama, the science fiction/comedy cartoon from Matt Groening (creator of The Simpsons if you've been living in a cave for the past few decades), and it's particularly rough ride through the world of television. It's one of those shows which has always been treated badly by Fox, despite the obvious quality of the show, and as such it's already managed to be cancelled once, return as a series of made for DVD Movies and then get renewed - a story which should sound familiar for fans of Family Guy because it's more or less the same thing repeated there.

Futurama stars Billy West as simple-minded Phillip J. Fry, a pizza delivery boy who at the turn of the century gets accidentally frozen in a cryogenic tube. Awakening at the turn of the third millennium, he discovers that he's now a million thousand years into the future, alive long after all his friends and family have passed on. Also joining him are John DeMaggio as Bender; a foul mouthed, angry kleptomaniac robot, the lovely Katey Segal as Leela - a one eyed woman with a penchant for martial arts and the temperament to use it. Often.

There are two versions of the first season boxed set, the earlier version is larger as it uses traditional DVD cases to house the three discs containing the thirteen episodes which make up the first season. The second version is about half the thickness as it uses the later slim-line DVD cases, if you have that version I'm infinitely jealous of you as I'd love to get it, but can't justify buying something I already own.

The boxed set itself is an exceptionally fun item, the external sleeve is made of plastic and has Fry, Bender and Leela along with a pair of windows which show a bit of the interior art. The box inside has a detailed cityscape scene of New New York which homages the Futurama opening credits, and if that wasn't enough each individual DVD case has original art inside and out. It's an impressive piece of production which really adds to the experience of owning this set.

But wait, there's more! The lavish production standard doesn't end there, once you boot up the first DVD you're treated even further. The root menu is an amusing scene depicting Fry crashing through a sign - and there's an Easter egg here, you can select the flying limousine by pressing across, once clicked it'll show you a cinema poster for 'Planet of the Clams'. The sound loop on the root menus are a little rough, they doesn't loop very well at all and the older version of this set lacks the essential "Play All" button.

Additionally each individual episode has it's own unique menu art and the language/chapter selection menus are fantastic as well. It's surprising how much effort has gone into the Chapter Selection menu in particular as it's not one you'll use too often.

As for the show itself, well I think my feelings are pretty clear by now. I absolutely adore Futurama and pretty much can't get enough of it. That said, the first season is not really my favourite one - in fact it's probably my least favourite by a long margin.

Space Pilot 3000 opens the series exceptionally well, it's got great pacing and it introduces all the main characters in a memorable and enjoyable fashion. Episode Two: The Series Has Landed, slows things down a little and introduces the second string characters of Amy, Hermes and Zoidberg - the episode itself is based mostly on the moon and has some beautiful shots contained in it. I, Roommate is another great episode which is slower paced than the previous two and deals with Bender and Fry's burgeoning friendship - it also introduces 'All My Circuits' one of the shows within the show. Love's Labours Lost in Space is probably the best of the episodes on the first disc, it introduces the spectacular Zapp Brannigan and established that no character in the show was exempt from humiliation, it also brought us Nibbler, a character I'm somewhat ambivalent about - I like the episodes he's involved in but I'm not that fussed with him as a character.

The second disc has the fun Fear of a Bot Planet which gave us the fun of shouting "SILENCE" before every sentence (that's still enjoyable to do even now). Then there's A Fishfull of Dollars, an episode which honestly irritates me no end, there's a certain kind of comedy (generally derived from giving a character everything and then ripping it away from them through their own stupidity) which really annoys me - and this episode uses it in spadefuls. I actually skip it on occasion. Likewise I'm not so keen on My Three Suns, which isn't as annoying but just sort of occupies time and space without really having anything great about it. Fortunately A Big Piece of Garbage and Hell Is Other Robots more than make up for these two weaker episodes and then some.

The Third Disc contains the fun Titanic spoof A Flight to Remember which has pretty much the entire cast involved in several storylines, it's amazing how much is crammed into twenty minutes here. Animal House Mars University is a definite favourite of mine, Gunther the monkey might be an annoying whinge but he's hilarious when he's trying to put on the hat. When Aliens Attack brings us Lrrr and Ndnd and finally Fry & The Slurm Factory spoofs Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, bringing the season to a satisfying close. It's definitely Space Pilot 3000, A Big Piece of Garbage and Hell is Other Robots which are the best three episodes in the season.

I'd also be commiting a crime against culture, television and comedy if I didn't mention the fantastic commentary present on every single episode in the season. It's so good you might well find youself listening to multiple times. I'm yet to find a show which comes close to this level of quality for commentary.

While the later seasons are much better, this freshman collection still swings above it's weight and provides an entire Planet Express ship full of laughs.

Apart from the aforementioned Easter eggs and the amazing commentary there are a host of other extras located on each disc.

Disc One:
Animatic from Space Pilot 3000
Space Pilot 3000 Script with notes from David X. Cohen
Space Pilot 3000 Storyboards
Deleted Scenes from: The Series Has Landed, I, Roommate and Love's Labours Lost in Space
Easter Egg - Hidden Cinema Poster for "Planet of the Clams"

Disc Two:
Trailer for Futurama Season One
Deleted Scenes for My Three Suns and Hell Is Other Robots
Easter Egg - Hidden Cinema Poster for "Quizblorg Quizblorg" (Select the Slurm Truck)

Disc Three:
Featurette (Matt Groening talking about the show, details of the animation and 3D scenes)
Deleted Scene for When Aliens Attack
Image Gallery
Easter Egg - Hidden Cinema Poster for "Buff-Bot: The Human Slayer" (Select the Police Car)


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