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HTF REVIEW: Futurama - Volume 4

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#1 of 63 Michael Osadciw

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Posted August 11 2004 - 05:14 PM

Posted Image


FUTURAMA

VOLUME FOUR






Studio: 20th Century Fox Television
Air Date: 2002

U.S. Rating: Not Rated

Run Time: 414 minutes
Genre: Television Animated Comedy

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Colour/B&W: Colour
Audio: English Dolby Digital 3.0 Surround, Spanish 3.0 Surround
Subtitles: English & Spanish
Closed Captioned: Yes
SLP: US $49.90





Release Date: August 24, 2004



Show Rating: Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image / Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

Starring: Billy West (Philip J. Fry & others), Katey Sagal (Turanga Leela), John DiMaggio (Bender & others), Lauren Tom (Amy Wong & others)

Created by: Matt Groening

Forced Trailers: None



What can I say about Futurama? When the show was first released as the television show The Simpsons were at their peak, it was promoted as being the new series from the same creators. Matt Groening and his team has done a fabulous job with The Simpsons over the years, but could this success be repeated again?

Futurama came out in 1999. The background of the story is about Philip J. Fry, a 25-year-old pizza boy who was cryogenically frozen on New Year’s Eve of 2000 and wakes up 1000 years later in New York City. His pals become a one-eyed beauty named Leela (a role Katey Sagal came into just after her final stint as Peg in the hit television series Married…With Children), a Martian human intern named Amy, and a beer guzzling, cigar smoking, and bad-mannered robot named Bender. Life in the future for Fry has become very interesting meeting scientists with insane inventions, aliens, mutants, electronic devices, and many crazy out of this world situations.

Through their fun episodic adventures, Futurama became known to both critics and fans as The Jetsons meets The Simpsons. The show reminded many people about that old futuristic cartoon from the ‘60s and saw it blend with the animation of the other Groening cartoon. The Groening cartoons are identical in style, and among other similarities are the intonation of voices and character behavior. Even the jokes and the play on situations can be quite close too. Given the moderate success of this series, could Futurama have paid the ultimate price of copy & bore because of these similarities? The show isn’t truly bad; it does have some good humor every now and then. The real problem for Futurama’s success was the fact that The Simpsons was still on the air during its release to network television. On the production side, ideas were probably spread thin between the two series in order to not appear too the same. For the television viewer, choosing which shows to watch on the Sunday night was probably the final hour – how much cartoon did one want to take in that night especially since both shows have similar offerings? My guess is that The Simpsons was still the number one choice for viewers while Futurama took the back seat. I think Futurama would have been more successful if it began its first season after The Simpsons ceased airing (whenever that may be).

There are committed fans for Futurama and its evident that the show is becoming newly found on DVD. First of all, this is the fourth volume of the series representing the fourth season. Now that The Simpsons has really run its course (because I have found that show uninteresting over the past five years), others are thinking the same thing and picking up the first few Futurama volume sets for a slight alternative since they missed it while it aired. Walking into my local DVD outlet today, I saw the earlier volumes are now on shelves for as low as CND$18.00 – truly affordable for this kind of entertainment. These shows are entertaining and I would classify them as not outstanding, but not a waste of time either. I may sound indecisive about my feelings of this show, but I will tell you as I watched it I was satisfied with the result.

So what shows are on this disc, anyways? Each disc contains about five episodes and each of them has a few special features attached that are of quality rather than being random supplements. It’s nice to see Fox put some effort into release this fourth volume to the fans with some nice extras. Clocking in at about 23 minutes per episode, here they are as they appear on the discs:


DISC 1
[*] KIF GETS KNOCKED UP A NOTCH[*] LEELA'S HOMEWORLD[*] LOVE AND[*] LESS THAN HERO[*] A TASTE OF FREEDOM


DISC 2
[*] BENDER SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED ON TV[*] JURASSIC BARK[*] CRIMES OF THE HOT[*] TEENAGE MUTANT LEELA'S HURDLES[*] THE WHY OF FRY


DISC 3
[*] WHERE NO FAN HAS GONE BEFORE[*] THE STING[*] BEND HER[*] OBSOLETELY FABULOUS

DISC 4
[*]THE FARNSWORTH PARABOX[*]THREE HUNDRED BIG BOYS[*]SPANISH FRY[*]THE DEVIL'S HANDS ARE IDLE PLAYTHING


VIDEO QUALITY Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image / Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

I haven’t seen any of the first three volumes so I’m unsure how they compare to this transfer, but all I can say is “amazing!” This is one excellent looking new animated series on DVD compared to what I’ve seen from other studios. All of the colours are perfectly saturated to jump right out at you. They never appear to be blooming or over-saturated. Whether you are using LCD, CRT, or DLP, the image is strikingly bright and vibrant with a black levels deep enough to dive into. There is no trace of artifacts that is related to the disc, although you may find your video scaler adding a few from the 480i-480p conversion. The high average bitrate is most likely due to the lack of compression artifacts (average is about 8Mbps), and thankfully there is no noticeable edge enhancement that is transfer related. Well done!


AUDIO QUALITY Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image / Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

Encoded in Dolby Digital 3.0 (front-left, front-right, mono surround), the result of a Pro-Logic II decoding is about average for a television series. It is center-heavy, so most of the dialogue aside from a few instances is placed in the center channel. In the brief moments of music, it occupies the whole front soundstage and provides subtle ambience with the surrounds. Sound effects are abundant to complement the space-age visuals in this animated series. They are placed across the front soundstage when appropriate, but for the most part they come mostly from the center channel as well.

While the soundstage of this series is not as active as I wish it were, I am happy that all aspects of the soundtrack are reproduced with a clear and defined sound. The dialogue, sound effects, and music never sound strained, overly bright, or aggressively forward. There is always a sense of space despite being center channel dominant. When a simple soundtrack is recorded clean, the program is far more enjoyable to watch.


SPECIAL FEATURES Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image / Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

The special features are scattered over the four discs. Each episode includes at least a commentary and a deleted scene, although some episodes feature up to eleven deleted scenes. Most of these scenes are extensions of scenes in the episode and so the scene is presented in its entirety. Some of these scenes are quite funny; it’s too bad they weren’t inserted for the DVD release. Since these episodes are no longer limited to the tight 22 minutes for television airing, the DVD release would be the perfect solution to add these scenes back in. For your info, each deletion on each episode is not accessible individually but presented as a continuous flow of scenes with a black pause between each new one. All of the scenes are finished in animation but appear quite ghosted that it’s bothersome. The audio consists of dialogue only and no music or sound effects.

Aside from these great features, Kif Gets Knocked Up A Notch includes storyboard images, Love and Rocket includes an international video clip with selectable audio in German, Portuguese, Castilian Spanish, and English. On disc three, Absolutely Fabulous includes animatics with subtitles similar to the episode. There is also an Easter Egg on this disc. Unfortunately I was unable to check this feature out because I wasn’t sent disc three, but according to a Fox press release it consists of a Star Trek panel consisting of three clips tied together as a single asset where writer Goodman speaks about guest voice actors and about script changes, and where actor DiMaggio discusses Bender.

Disc four has the most features of the four discs. Aside from the standard features as on the rest of the episodes, we are also treated to eleven segments of 3-D models from rough drafts with narration, two “How to Draw Characters” of Bender and The Professor (and it’s quite extensive too!), a still gallery/new character artwork, and nine character pencil test segments. All of these are fairly interesting, but I thought the “How to Draw” gallery was the best of the bunch. Also, watch the two Easter Eggs on this disc, that is if you can find them.


THOUGHTS…

While not a truly original cartoon series, Futurama does have its recycled laughs every now and then. The DVD is truly a wonderful looking transfer, so if you’d like to experience these shows better than your average awful looking cable or satellite feeds, this set is your ticket to the future.

Michael Osadciw
04.08.12
Warner Bros. Blu-ray Reviewer
Anchor Bay/Starz Entertainment Blu-ray Reviewer

THX/ISF Professional Video Calibrator
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#2 of 63 Casey Trowbridg

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Posted August 11 2004 - 06:52 PM

Thanks for the review, I've got the other 3 sets and will complete the series with this one...I love the audio commentaries on Futurama and think they're some of the best I've ever heard.

#3 of 63 Jeremy Allin

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Posted August 11 2004 - 11:16 PM

Are there still some episodes left or is this the final release?

#4 of 63 svenge

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Posted August 11 2004 - 11:50 PM

I believe that it is the final set...

#5 of 63 Craig S

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Posted August 11 2004 - 11:51 PM

This is it for "Futurama".

Three truths about movies, as noted by Roger Ebert:

 

* It's not what a movie is about, it's how it is about it.

* No good movie is too long, and no bad movie is short enough.

* No good movie is depressing, all bad movies are depressing.


#6 of 63 Joseph Bolus

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Posted August 12 2004 - 12:15 AM

Well .. this is the season I've been waiting for!

The "Where No Fan Has Gone Before" episode retires the trophy for the Best Star Trek Parody Ever!! With the voices of the original cast (minus DeForest Kelley), it almost plays as another episode of the final season of TOS!! (And Shatner hits on Leela ... Can you believe it?)

This episode alone is worth the price of admission for any fan of Star Trek: TOS!


Quote:
Are there still some episodes left or is this the final release?

This is the final release. Although the series ran for five years on Fox, the last year consisted of 8 episodes that remained un-aired from Season Four due to NFL football overruns and other preemptions.
Joseph
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#7 of 63 Chris Brunner

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Posted August 12 2004 - 01:46 AM

This will be a bittersweet set #4 indeed.

I miss this show so much already. After I see the last few episodes I missed during it's network run...

(zap)Oh GOD no!!!!(/zap)

C

#8 of 63 Aaron.S

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Posted August 12 2004 - 04:17 AM

Maybe I am in the minority, but I love "Futurama." I too have been bored with "The Simpsons" for years now. Few television shows or movies for that matter have generated as many belly laughs as this terrific series. My hope is that like "The Family Guy," this series experiences a growing following on DVD and will see new episodes or even the occasional movie-like romp. I am gonna miss Bender!

#9 of 63 David Galindo

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Posted August 12 2004 - 05:41 AM

Quote:
Maybe I am in the minority, but I love "Futurama."


I do too. I was about to say that you are not in the minority, but seeing how the show's cancelled...yeah, I guess we are in the minority Posted Image

#10 of 63 Ric Easton

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Posted August 12 2004 - 05:58 AM

Well, its a vocal minority anyway. While I was getting bored with The Simpsons, I was loving Futurama and was sorry to see it get its long drawn out FOX death.

At least I'll be able to see the few episodes I missed (never new when it was on towrd the end) and I can't wait to see "Where no Fan..." again!

Ric

#11 of 63 Jaime_Weinman

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Posted August 12 2004 - 08:09 AM

I think Futurama had some flaws -- mostly that its cast of characters was not as strong as it could have been. (Characters like Bender and Leela were excellent, but many of the characters introduced after the pilot, like Amy, Hermes, and even Zoidberg, strike me as a little bland and undeveloped.) But it was a funny show and I don't think it's all that close to The Simpsons in terms of style. (Yeah, they both have a lot of Harvard Lampoon in-jokey humor, but so does every show that has a lot of Harvard Lampoon guys on the writing staff.) It could have used a stronger guiding hand and perhaps more support from the network (the buzz at the time was that Fox was throwing its support to the sillier, cheaper Family Guy, giving it the post-Super-Bowl introduction and the post-Simpsons slot while exiling Futurama to a series of very difficult, and often pre-empted time slots). But it was a more original and interesting and better-written series than Family Guy. (Futurama will probably never get a Family Guy type revival, because Futurama is much more expensive to produce.)

#12 of 63 Jay Pennington

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Posted August 12 2004 - 08:45 AM

Quote:
The "Where No Fan Has Gone Before" episode retires the trophy for the Best Star Trek Parody Ever!!


And how!

Quote:
With the voices of the original cast (minus DeForest Kelley),


Also minus Jimmy Doohan.


"Welshiiiieeeeee!!!"
-Jay

#13 of 63 Nick_M

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Posted August 12 2004 - 09:14 AM

According to IGN's review of this set, the video quality has been drastically improved from previous sets. I can't wait to pick this one up and complete the series.

#14 of 63 Rex Bachmann

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Posted August 12 2004 - 09:24 AM

Michael Osadciw wrote (post #1):

Quote:
On disc three, Absolutely Fabulous includes animatics with subtitles similar to the episode.

Uh, that's "Obsoletely Fabulous".


Quote:
The real problem for Futurama's success was the fact that The Simpsons was still on the air during its release to network television.

The "real problem" for Futurama's U.S. broadcast, at least, was that Fox programmers scheduled it to air right after NFL football every fall, where it was sure to be preëmpted on a regular basis. And, so, it was.

Quote:
While not a truly original cartoon series, Futurama does have its recycled laughs every now and then.

Now, how many "truly original cartoon series"---or, for that matter, any other kind of television "series"---do you know of? Was The Simpsons "truly original" when it debuted? (How funny one may have found it is another matter altogether.) And, if so, in what way?


Quote:
Given the moderate success of this series, could Futurama have paid the ultimate price of copy & bore because of these similarities? The show isn’t truly bad; it does have some good humor every now and then

I would take issue with the characterization of the series as only mildly funny at times. When it started out it was quite funny most of the time. The thing about it, though, is that that program had an air of "smart humor" about it; that is, a humor that appeals to more than the bathroom level of hilarity (although it sure had its share of that, as well). Much of the humor in it is visual and you have to catch the signage and other postings on screen to appreciate all of the program's hilarity. You can't be half doing your nails or have your face buried in the popcorn or potato-chip bag while the show is going. You have to actually watch it or you'll miss things; funny things.

The spoofs or parodies the show did generally required the audience to know something beyond or besides the latest teen or rock idol's lurid tabloid sex-life accounts. So, it presented (often pre-1990s) movie and tv references (e.g., to Star Trek, 2001, opera, even Babylon 5); political references that I fear many in its young audience didn't get. Such was the Robot Devil's last act on Earth: taking President Nixon's head with him to Robot Hell in the final episode, "The Devil's Hands Are Idle Playthings". You would have to have been around and conscious in the first half of the 1970s, and perhaps even in the late 1950s, to get the joke.

And while some of the later episodes did "sag" a bit in the hilarity department, overall this series was fun for people who think.

(And, yes, it was gorgeous to look at!)

"Delenda est . . . . "

 


#15 of 63 Dustin James

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Posted August 12 2004 - 11:23 AM

.

#16 of 63 Joseph J.D

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Posted August 12 2004 - 01:02 PM

Can't wait to pick this one up and complete the set. It's a shame that it will be over though.*sniff* I actually prefer Futurama to the Simpsons.....I guess it's the Sci-fi element that appeals to me more.Posted Image
Recently watched- Star Wars: A New Hope, Star Wars: Revenge Of The Sith, Star Wars: Attack Of The Clones, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Beauty and The Beast: Season 3, Mad Max 2, Mad Max, Wonder Woman(1974), Batman: Year One, The Adventures Of Tin Tin 3D, I,Frankenstein 3D

Currently watching- Planet Earth, The Twilight Zone: Season 1, Cheers: Season 6, True Blood: Season 2, Gatchaman: The Complete Series, Simon & Simon: Season 3
 

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#17 of 63 PeterTHX

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Posted August 12 2004 - 09:12 PM

Add me to the Futurama Fan Club.

Not only was it FUNNY, but the producers always made sure there was a lot of CGI eye candy.

Besides, who can forget this priceless exchange (from Season 1, "I, Roommate")

Fry: where's the bathroom?
Bender: The what room?
Fry: The bathroom?
Bender: Bath what?
Fry: Bathroom.
Bender: What what?

#18 of 63 Robert James Clark

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Posted August 13 2004 - 04:23 PM

I most definitely disagree with the reviewers lukewarm appraisal of Futurama.

At a time when the Simpsons appeared to be in a bit of a decline, Futurama provided very fresh, funny, and irreverent comedy. If only Fox weren't the ones who keep getting these shows and screwing with them! (Firefly or Andy Richter anyone?)

#19 of 63 Bill GrandPre

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Posted August 13 2004 - 05:07 PM

There are more great episodes in the four "Futurama" seasons than there were in the first four "Simpsons" seasons, AND it was consistantly superior to the "Simpsons" episodes that ran alongside it. Given time to run, the show could have had the potential to rival the greatest "Simpsons" episodes of all time.
Don't you ever, EVER compare me to "Family Guy," you hear me Kyle? Compare me to "Family Guy" again and so help me, I will kill you where you stand!

Do you have any idea what it's like? Everywhere I go: "Hey Cartman you must like 'Family Guy,' right?" "Hey, your sense of humor reminds me of...

#20 of 63 Jim Harvey

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Posted August 14 2004 - 02:57 AM

Add me to the Futurama fanclub, as well! I found this series, even after it shakily got off the ground, to be one of the most hilarious shows on television. Not every episode was gold, but the quality was well above many other animated series at the time, including The Simpsons. I can't wait to pick up this DVD set and have the complete Futurama series on DVD.