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Futurama: Volume 5
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You asked for more...and the Planet Express crew delivered! Welcome back to FUTURAMA, the light-years-ahead-of-its-time animated series from The Simpsons creator Matt Groening. Join Fry, Bender, Leela and the rest of the gang for 13 hilarious new episodes that tackle some of the most controversial subjects in the galaxy...including evolution, mind exchange, feline intelligence and robosexual marriage. Hey, it could happen!
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Show: 4/5, Image Quality: 5/5, Sound Quality: 5/5, Extras: 3/5, Overall: 4.67/5 (rounded up in total star ranking)
Looks like this show was animated in HD; the image looks darn near perfect! It's a nice clear clean image with lots of detail and sharpness. There are no noticeable signs of compression, pixilation, or anything else. Sound quality is pleasing.
This two-disc set includes commentaries on all episodes, an amusing animated comic with optional commentary (based on one of the given episodes), a music video featuring Bender (made from previous Futurama episodes), a "Behind the Fungus: Makin' a Hit Song" featurette, a 35-minute table read (cast and producers reading the script with the original animated storyboard; it's amusing, but there's a lot of laughter in the recording that hampers it a little), deleted scenes, and an episode recap.
These discs are packaged in a thin cardboard case. It has nice retro artwork with a glossy finish, but the discs are pretty flimsily held in slots in the cardboard.
After four solid seasons and four serviceable movies, "Futurama!" has had quite a turbulent run. This fifth volume features episodes from the revived televised series, and after all this time it has certainly drifted a ways from the original episodes. You can expect more zany and busy storylines, more strange wacky gags, and a little bit of gross-out humor.
But since when has that ever been a problem?
The show is still pretty darn funny, with plenty of hilarious dialogue, humorous sight gags, clever twists and turns, and lots of great parodies and homage to science fiction (classic or modern). And the show still maintains the upbeat offbeat adventurous spirit and creativity that makes the first half so much fun. Characters are still as lovable as ever before (not counting Zoidberg of course).
And to sweeten the deal, this show has clearly benefited from some upgraded animation. It shows a little more clarity and detail than before, but without going overboard or messing up the established style. Voice acting is still excellent and the music is still groovy.
Fans of the show should be pleased.
4/5 (entertainment: 4.5/5, stories: 3.5/5, film: 4/5)
What has always appealed to me about the series has been the excellent writing. Rarely, if ever, did Futurama fall back on weak comedic crutches- I very much appreciated that flash in the pan type pop culture references were largely avoided, unlike most other animated series. This lent a more timeless aspect to the show, and also meant that anyone with a sense of humor could enjoy things, without calling on knowledge of contemporary pop culture or esoteric background information. Not to say the series didn't have pop references, but they tended to be general and accessible, and carefully avoided dating the show. Additionally, as anyone who has watched the first 4 seasons will know, there is a consistent, overarching story line, and the episodes tie together in a far more cohesive manner than most shows of this genre.
So, like any fan, I was a little disappointed when the series was unceremoniously ended- and was excited, but also a little hesitant when it came back.
First, there where the movies... these were just okay... they felt a little unfocused and overcooked in some respects, but I just attributed this to the fact that they were a longer format- this kind of humor and storytelling works best in its intended format: 22 +/- minute episodes. So when I saw that a new season was coming along, I still had hope.
Now, here we finally have season 5, and it is a bit of a mixed bag for me. The short format again keeps things snappy and paced. It is great to see the characters interacting with the kinds of scenarios that helped define the series. But... there is a downside here too. The 'feel' of the show is off... something about the characters often feels like they are parodies of what we have come to know, rather than the genuine article. Something that I also found immediately disappointing was that the show now is sometimes just drowning in pop culture references. Gone are the subtle stabs at silly trends, inventions, marketing etc., as were often seen in the 'old' shows. Here, we have overtly blunt humor, such as the (entire) episode that (attempts) to lampoon the apple iphone, featuring Mom's "eyephone". It's almost like you can see the writer's working things over... but then they just take the easy way out, poking shallow fun at what is just a passing trend in the way you would expect from a home-brewed YouTube video, but not from the often clever writing/scenarios you would expect from Futurama.
For me, this sort of sums up the feel of this season. It's like the ideas are just kind of half incubated, and we are left with a series that feels like it is almost trying to spoof itself, rather than blazing a new trail. Not that there are no good aspects- there are a couple of gems here, and many small moments that will make you smile, if not laugh out loud. But it the end, things feel disjointed, and the show has a sense of having lost its stride a little.
I'll finish by saying I am not putting down the writers at all- this was just such a great series, so it is no doubt hard to keep that legacy going; the careful balance just needs to be found again.
Ultimately, if you like Futurama, I would still recommend buying this (you know you are going to anyway). It's entertaining... but it also kind of makes you just want to go back and watch the older seasons again because they are noticeably better.
Hopefully, season 6 will capture the lighting again, and we can get back to the year 30XX as we remember it...
Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go try out my new Thinglonger...
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