Billy West …. Philip J. Fry/Prof. Hubert J. Farnsworth/Dr. Zoidberg/Additional Voices
Katey Sagal …. Taronga Leela
John Di Maggio …. Bender/Additional Voices
Phil LaMarr …. Hermes Conrad/Additonal Voices
Lauren Tom …. Amy Wong/Additional Voices
From 1999-2003, Matt Groening fans got double their pleasure. With The Simpsons going strong in its umpteenth season, Groening debuted his second animated series, Futurama. The series featured Philip J. Fry (Billy West), a 25 year old pizza delivery boy who gets cryogenically frozen on December 31, 1999. He wakes up 1000 years in the future, in a virtual Utopia, but with that signature goofy, Matt Groening slant to it.
Fry eventually meets up with his great, great, great ………., great nephew, Hubert J. Farnsworth (also voiced by Billy West). Farnsworth owns informal Fed Ex-like Company for the entire Universe called the Planet Express Delivery Service. Being a Matt Groening series, the show is filled with tons of ridiculous, and very likable characters such as Bender (John Di Maggio), a hard drinking, smoking, cursing kleptomaniac robot, whose motto is “Kill All Humans”, but for some reason really takes a liking to Fry. There’s also Leela (Katey Sagal) a kick ass, cycloptic alien chick with purple hair. Already working for Farnsworth when Fry shows up are Dr. John Zoidberg (Billy West again), a lobster like alien who’s the show’s inept doctor, Hermes Conrad (Phil LaMarr) Planet Express Delivery Service’s seemingly Jamaican manager, and Amy Wong (Lauren Tom) the company’s Martian intern.
While kind of starting slow, the series really built a lot of steam and got really funny toward the end of its four year run. Also, animation-wise the series looked fantastic as the CGI helped to flesh out the look of the show. All four seasons of this hilarious show are already on DVD, but if you’re not sure if you’d like to commit to checking out the box sets, then Fox has put together Futurama – Monster Robot Maniac Fun Collection. This DVD is similar to the sampler DVD’s of Simpsons episodes featuring the Treehouse of Horror collections and Christmas Specials.
The DVD features four classic Futurama episodes:
Hell Is Other Robots has Bender getting addicted to “Jacking On”, or plugging into any electrical device and getting high off the energy. At one point, he even sabotages the crew’s ship to fly them into an electrical field. To kick his nasty habit, Bender finds religion, joining the church of Robotology. In short, religious Bender is pretty annoying, and the group does what they can to try and get him back to good old “contemptible” Bender. Consequently, this ends up with Bender being sent to Robot Hell, where the guys have to rescue him.
This is a really funny episode, and is also notable for a number of reasons. The installment has several cameos. Dan Castellaneta (the voice of Homer Simpson) makes an appearance as Robot Satan, whose hell bent on torturing Bender for his sins. An amusing sequence has Fry and Leela attempting to rescues their friend where they end up breaking into an extended musical number. To end the episode, the Leela has to take on the Devil in a hilarious fiddle contest for Bender’s soul. The Beastie Boys also cameo in the installment, performing Intergalactic.
Anthology of Interest I is a Treehouse of Horror style episode with several different segments. Professor Farnsworth builds a “what-if” machine in which you can ask it a question and then see the fantasy scenario play out. Bender, Leela and Fry all take part in the demonstration with some pretty funny and disastrous results.
This episode also has some great cameos in it during Fry’s portion of the story. Fry asks the machine what would have happened if he would not have been frozen, which causes a rift in the space time continuum. To try and stop the rift is former Vice President Al Gore and his team of super nerds consisting of E. Gary Gygax, the creator of Dungeons and Dragons, Nichelle Nichols, Commander Uhura of Star Trek, and Stephen Hawking of “black hole” fame. All of these cameos are fantastic each take to liberty of making fun of themselves. Stephen Hawking keeps claiming he discovered everything that happens in the story, Gygax keeps rolling a D12 for every decision he makes and Nichols keeps trying to kill Fry.
The next funniest of the stories is Bender’s as he asks the all important question “What would happen if I were 500 feet tall?” Answer: he goes on a huge rampage, killing everyone in sight, including Hanson. This causes Professor Farnsworth to use is newly created “super-size” machine to make Zoidberg into a 500 foot monster to combat Bender. Bender is defeated and has a side-splitting final commendation “I came here with a simple dream. A dream of killing all humans. And this is how it must end? Who’s the real 7 billion ton robot monster here? Not I, not I…” Leela rounds out the episode by asking it what would happen if she were a little more impulsive. In a Monkey’s Paw type tradition, this causes Leela to go on a little killing spree.
Roswell That Ends Well is maybe the best episode in the series’ entire run. A mishap during a super nova sends the crew back through time. This episode is jam-packed full of jokes, complete with an awesome punchline of Fry becoming his own ancestor. This is going along with a sub plot of the military capturing Zoidberg and Farnsworth and Leela trying to get a microwave to send them back through time.
The Sting is the disc’s final episode. It deals with the retrieval of Space Honey from a gigantic intergalactic beehive. The episode is notable as it contains one of the show’s biggest highlights, the death of Fry. Leela, feeling intense guilt has a series of dreams concerning his resurrection. The episode is really funny, has a much deeper emotional core than most of the series’ installments.
While there are only four episodes here, they’re all really funny and contain some of the show’s best moments. If you’re wanting the test the proverbial waters of Futurama, this is definitely the way to go. If these episodes don’t impress you, then nothing in the series is bound to.
The show looks absolutely phenomenal on this disc. The colors are beautiful and the animation sings as spaceships whiz past. The show is presented in its original aspect of 1.33:1.
The sound here is just as nice as the visuals. The Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround is a super nice track and everything is crisp and clear.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Special introduction by series creator Matt Groening and executive producer David X. Cohen, joined by Futurama characters and crew, Episode intros, Full-length animatic of Hell Is Other Robots
Special introduction by series creator Matt Groening and executive producer David X. Cohen, joined by Futurama characters and crew: Groening and crew give a few minutes of intro to the disc. This would have been much better if they had just given commentaries for the episodes.
Episode Intros Each episode has an introduction from cast and crew. Once again commentaries would have been much better. This seems really lazy.
Full-length animatic of Hell Is Other Robots: This animatic features optional commentary Matt Groening, David X. Cohen, Claudia Katz, Rich Moore, John DiMaggio (voice of Bender), and Billy West (voice of Fry, Professor Farnsworth, Dr. Zoidberg, and more). It kind of sucks there’s commentary on this animatic and none of the episodes.