The opening series (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 (x30) nephew Professor Farmsworth and work in his intergalactic delivery service. Hyper-real yet strangely recognisable situations ensue--Fry discovers he is 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
On the DVD: As with the earlier Fox release of The Simpsons, Season 1 this otherwise excellent three-disc set is let down by clunky menu navigation. There are way too many copyright warnings, no "Play All" facility, and you have to click back and forth to begin each new episode or find the additional features. By way of compensation, the menus look great and there's a goodly selection of extras on each disc. The entertaining commentaries are by Matt Groening and various members of his creative team, including producer David X Cohen and John DiMaggio (the voice of Bender) and Billy West (Fry). There are a handful of deleted scenes for certain episodes, plus the script and storyboard for the very first episode and an interactive stills gallery. The 4:3 picture is pin-sharp as is the Dolby 2.0Surround.--Mark Walker
Futurama is Simpsons creator Matt Groening's second animated show, crashing together the worlds of Star Trek and Springfield in a fast-paced comedy that combines social satire, farce, movie spoofs and hot alien chicks. Loser delivery boy Fry is accidentally frozen on New Year's Eve 1999, getting thawed out a millennium later just in time to see in the year 3000 - in his new job as, you guessed it, a delivery boy. Hooking up with cyclops space captain Leela and surly robot Bender, as well as the other misfit employees of the Planet Express delivery service, Fry gets to experience all the malfunctioning wonders of the 31st Century.
At its best, Futurama is easily as funny as a top-whack episode of The Simpsons - hardly surprising, since many of its writers moved over from Groening's first show. The jokes come just as fast and are every bit as sharp, and each episode stands up to multiple viewings because of the sheer number of sight gags and hidden details tucked away in the background. The writers all appear to be huge science fiction fans as well - spotting every reference, from the obvious to the obscure, is an almost impossible task, but if you get them it's yet another layer of comedy to enjoy.
This boxset actually contains more than the 'official' first season of the show - the four episodes on disc three were held back until the show's second year. Their inclusion here is a definite bonus, bringing the total up to 13. The standard of the shows is so high that it would be far quicker to list the few shows that aren't quite as brilliant as the rest. But, like The Simpsons, even a comparatively weak episode of Futurama is better than 90 percent of the dreck currently found on TV.
The audio commentaries are nearly as entertaining as the episodes, as the various people involved in each are having a great time reminiscing and reliving the jokes. Groening and co-creator David X Cohen also drop in nuggets about early ideas for the show and point out hidden details that will be paid off years down the line. The deleted scenes were all dropped for reasons of time rather than lack of humour, so are worth watching. Audio is just stereo, but the picture is crystal-clear and full of vivid colours - far sharper than the first Simpsons boxset, probably down to Futurama's extensive use of computer graphics.
A lot of people didn't give Futurama a chance purely on the grounds that it's "sci-fi". In reality, there's usually more science in a L'Oreal advert - it's a comedy, and a bloody good one at that. You owe it to yourself to take a trip into the world of tomorrow!
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