Futurama: Volume One
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Set in the year 3000, Futurama is the acme of sci-fi animated sitcom from Simpsons creator Matt Groening. While not as universally popular as The Simpsons, Futurama is equally hip and hilarious, thanks to its zippy lateral-thinking contemporary pop cultural references, celebrity appearances (Pamela Anderson and Leonard Nimoy are among a number of guest stars to appear as disembodied heads in jars), and Bender, a distinctly Homer Simpson-esque robot. Part of Futurama's charm is that with decades of sci-fi junk behind us, we've effectively been living with the distant future for years and can now have fun with it. Hence, the series stylishly jumbles motifs ranging from Lost in Space-style kitsch to the grim dystopia of Blade Runner. It also bridges the gap between the impossible dreams of your average science fiction fan and the slobbish reality of their comic reading, TV-watching existence. Groening himself distinguishes his two series thus: "The Simpsons is fictional. Futurama is real."
The opening season (premiered in 1999) sees nerdy pizza delivery boy Fry transferred to the 31st century in a cryogenic mishap. There, he meets the beautiful, one-eyed Leela (voiced by Married with Children's Katey Sagal) and the incorrigible alcoholic robot Bender. The three of them join Fry's great (great, great, etc.) nephew Professor Farnsworth and work in his intergalactic delivery service. Hyper-real yet strangely recognizable situations ensue--Fry discovers he's a billionaire thanks to 1,000 years' accrued interest, Leela must fend off the attentions of Captain Kirk-like Lothario Zapp Brannigan, and Fry accidentally drinks the ruler of a strange planet of liquid beings. --David Stubbs
- 13 episodes on 3 discs
- Commentary on all episodes
- Animatic, script, and storyboards for "Space Pilot 3000"
- Deleted scenes from six episodes
- Concept art gallery (videos and stills)
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The show's premise concerns Fry, an aimless pizza delivery man, who is accidentally frozen cryogenically in 1999 and awakens in the year 3000. He seeks out his only living relative, Professor Farnsworth, an inventor and owner of an interstellar delivery service. Farnsworth hires Fry to be part of the crew, along with Fry's new friend, the foul-mouthed robot, Bender. Fry and Bender are well matched and make life difficult for everyone around them, especially the one-eyed captain, Leela.
Episodes during season 1 usually involve the crew making deliveries to various bizarre planets. The animation even in the first episode is spectacular; it must have been a huge challenge constantly creating new worlds and alien life forms. Many of the long-time supporting cast members are introduced almost immediately, including Amy Wong, ship's physician Dr. Zoidberg, Hermes, Zapp Brannigan and his side-kick Kif, Nibbler, and Mom. Highlight episodes include "Fear of a Bot Planet" (the crew deliver a package to an all-robot planet), "A Flight to Remember" (a clever take-off of Titanic), and "Love's Labours Lost in Space" (the crew meet Zapp Brannigan while saving a collapsing planet).
Unlike "The Simpsons," "Futurama" seems better suited for an adult audience, which is probably why it was such a smash in reruns on Cartoon Network's nightly Adult Swim block. I should note that my five-year-old nephew loves the show, especially Leela. When he visited me, he watched the show and then spent the next several days imitating Leela's karate kicks. However, I don't think he really understood the plots or the humor of the series.
As with the DVDs for "The Simpsons," all episodes of "Futurama" feature a commentary track with various producers, directors, writers, and stars. Unfortunately, I simply don't enjoy the commentaries here that much. In particular, I dislike any of the tracks with John DiMaggio, who voices Bender; he can be extremely annoying by interrupting the flow of the conversation and laughing too loudly. Overall, though, this package is really excellent.
Keep in mind that this set comes in cardboard packages, and will not hold the disks without damaging them eventually, though they should be just fine when you first get them. You should move them to a safer storage item as soon as possible.
Bought this for my dad for his birthday. He should love it, if he would give it an open-minded chance, since he loves science fiction and loves movies, and should love the constant references to so many things, but he's an old curmudgeon and I don't think he liked it, mostly because we told him he should like it.
What more can I say? Maybe he'll pass it on to me. They say the best gift is something you would like to have yourself!