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Welcome to the world of tomorrow
on 2 February 2003
Most people assume that the future will be better than the present. Not so in Futurama. Even a thousand years from now, politicians are still crooked, the Internet is still full of porn and people are just as stupid as they ever were. Maybe even slightly more so.
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!