Futurama: Volume Six DVD Review - a confusing yet charmed run

Futurama has had one of the strangest television runs ever. The show debuted on the Fox Network in 1999, and its original run ended in 2003. Reruns were shown on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block of programming from 2003 to 2007. That in itself is not unusual -- shows get dropped all the time. The odd thing about Futurama is the second life the show has found. 

This began with the straight-to-DVD market. Four two-hour sets of these were made, which were later broken up into 16 half-hour episodes and shown on Comedy Central during 2008-2009 as Season Five. Season Six aired during 2010-2011, with a total of 26 episodes. For the DVD market, 13 were released in December 2010 as Futurama: Volume Five. The remaining 13 shows have just been issued on the two-DVD set Futurama: Volume Six. As I said, very confusing. 

The good news is that Futurama has lost none of its charm through all of this. Fox has never really explained why they cancelled it in the first place, but it happened during a time when a lot of things were changing at the network. In the late '90s, Fox had a real grip on Sunday night TV, led by the evergreen Simpsons. Futurama was created by Simpsons guru Matt Groening, and although it had a completely different focus, the two shows seemed to compliment each other quite well.

Fox’s “Animation Domination” on Sunday nights is still anchored by The Simpsons, but “Mr.“ Family Guy Seth MacFarlane is the network’s new knight in shining armor. 

So, what does all this mean to us fans? In a way, nothing at all -- except for all of the confusion. Simply put, if you liked the show before, you will be happy to know that little has changed. One of the funnier episodes of this set is titled “The Silence of the Clamps” and finds everybody’s favorite robot, Bender, testifying against the “Robot Mafia.” I thought the whole parody of the famous opening wedding scene of the first Godfather film was hilarious. 

“Yo Leela Leela” is another one that “caught my eye.” I’m sorry, I just couldn’t resist that one about the one-eyed animated hottie Leela (voiced by Katey Sagal). She volunteers to read to the children at the Minimum Security Orphanarium where she grew up, but all the books are gone. “Sometimes you have to make a choice between books and eating,” explains the principle, “So they ate the books.”

But there is always the TV, right? The kids tune into the Tickleodeon Network for their favorite show Popular Slut Club, and Leela is appalled. They also have shows such as Extreme Toddler Wrestling, and an Aqua Teen Hunger Force take-off titled Captain Mega Meat and Bottomless Boy. 

Gee, one has to wonder if it were these sort of dead-on parodies that gave Fox fits in the first place. Anyway, Leela comes in and acts out a bit of a puppet show which goes over big with the kids, and she is suddenly all the rage.
The final episode of the set, “Reincarnation” is not to be missed either. This is the one that got everybody’s attention, with good reason. It is a fairly pedestrian story, but done in three formats: the first is old-school black and white - along the lines of "Steamboat Willie" or something. The second portion presents the characters as if they had just stepped out of a mid-eighties  Nintendo NES system. Finally the gang come to life in anime form. Pretty cool stuff.

There are also a fair number of extras. These feature full commentaries on every episode; a piece called “Professor Farnsworth’s Science Of A Scene,” “Frequently Axed Questions,” and unfinished deleted scenes.

As a Futurama fan from the beginning, let me just close by saying that the show is as funny as it ever was. And “Reincarnation” alone is worth the price of admission. 

By Greg Barbrick

About the author

Greg Barbrick has been watching TV so long he remembers watching first run episodes of Star Trek.

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