FUTURAMA: VOLUME 8
MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
Billy West as PHILIP J. FRY
Katey Sagal as TURANGA LEELA
John DiMaggio as BENDER BENDING RODRIGUEZ
Billy West as PROFESSOR HUBERT J. FARNSWORTH
Billy West as DR. JOHN A. ZOIDBERG
Lauren Tom as AMY WONG
Phil LaMarr as HERMES CONRAD
Created by: Matt Groening
BY KEVIN CARR
In many ways, I will always remember “Futurama” as Matt Groening’s “other show.” After all, considering the cultural icon that “The Simpsons” has become over the last 25 years, it’s unlikely that anything else Groening does will match it in popular culture.
Still, “Futurama” is a show that should be watched, and over the years, it has developed into something that won me over. You see, with the exception of “The Simpsons,” I’ve never been a big fan of Groening. I always thought his “Life in Hell” series was terrible. Similarly, when “Futurama” started many years ago, I thought it simply tried too hard.
After being canceled by Fox, “Futurama” found new life on Comedy Central. It’s first season there was a bit rough, but soon the series found new footing. Rather than trying to be overly topical (and with their animation schedule as it was, becoming obsolete before the computers started rendering), it managed to tell wacky stories with wacky characters, saving its satire for more broad strokes.
Another feat of “Futurama” has been the quality of animation. Where “The Simpsons” started off very rudimentary, “Futurama” had a duty to be… well, futuristic. By the time the show reached the end of its run, it had fully embraced digital technology and was delivering some of the best looking weekly animation on television.
The final season (which is season 10, if you’re keeping count) is now available on DVD and Blu-ray, conveniently labeled “Volume 8.” Thirteen episodes of the series are included on two discs, including the epic series finale (one that actually feels pretty final, which is more than can be said for the previous series finale it had).
Once the show shed the burden of being topical, it opened up many worlds of possibility. By the end of its run, “Futurama” was able to tackle storylines that fit better in its science fiction nature. It also managed to wrap up the stories of the characters for a strong swan song without feeling the weight of pending dread that saps the strength out of so many other series’ final year.
Volume 8 includes some fun send-ups of classic stories like “E.T.” in “T.: The Terrestrial” as well as Saturday morning cartoons in “Saturday Morning Fun Pit.” There’s also a nice riff on classic actors like William Shatner in “Calculon 2.0.”
This volume also sees some nice one-off stories of the various characters. Bender gets a chance to be a hero in “The Inhuman Torch,” “Zoidberg manages to find someone to love him through his odor in “Stench and Stenchibility,” and we get some closure with Fry and Leela in both “Fry and Leela’s Big Fling” as well as the series finale “Meanwhile.”
In some ways, “Futurama” achieved more in its short decade on television than “The Simpsons” had, at least for me. Where I’ve liked “The Simpsons” from its inception, “Futurama” had to win me over. And these final few seasons did so.
The Blu-ray comes with a nice selection of special features, which I’ve come to expect from Groening’s team. There is an audio commentary on every one of the 13 episodes (which is rare to find for any season of a show), including a bonus animator commentary on “Game of Tones.” You’ll also find a slate of deleted scenes in various stages of completion
Additional behind-the-scenes featurettes include a 25-minute, in-depth look at the animation process in “Futurama University” as well as a 10 minute look at the writer’s room in “Inside Futurama.”