FUTURAMA - SEASON 2

Directors: Mark Ervin, Jeffrey Lynch, etc.

Starring: Billy West, John DiMaggio, Katey Sagal, Tress MacNeille

The Futurama Season One box set contained a lot more episodes than originally aired in the show's first season, because it actually contained all the episodes that were made for the first season, but actually aired in the second season. Clear? Likewise, the Season Two box set contains episodes from the second season, and three episodes from the third season.

Whichever way you slice it, there are more episodes in the four-disc Season Two box set than there were on the Season One box, so the second set offers even better value for money than its predecessor. Make no mistake though: the sets are still rather expensive, following the UK Buffy The Vampire Slayer scale rather than the UK no-frills Ally McBeal scale (which is roughly half the price). But no matter. When it boils down to sheer entertainment value, Futurama comfortably beats both series, offering episodes that you will probably watch many times, and commentary tracks on each episode, which, although lacking the repeat viewing factor of the episodes themselves, are still well worth listening to (especially when you get the 'voice talent' chiming in with an in-character comment!) They can get a bit confusing, though, since most of them have four or five participants, often with similar-sounding voices.

The DVD transfer should be exemplary (the show is made digitally, without any intermediary film stage), and it is, more or less. The colours are vivid and solid, with good contrast and sharp edges. Occasionally there's a glitch or two which manifests itself as if someone had tapped a part of the screen, but this isn't really annoying. The 2.0 audio (at 192kbps) is robust and has good separation effects, but you can't help thinking that it would be a lot more fun with a full 5.1 remix. Bit rate averages about 6Mbps.

The standard of the episodes is remarkably high throughout. There are a couple that seem misconceived, but a lot more are joyously funny. There's even one that won an Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation (A Bicyclops Built For Two), for colour stylist Bari Kumar. Guest stars include former Vice President Al Gore, Star Trek's Nichelle Nichols and Stephen Hawking (all in the fabulous Anthology of Interest I episode - the equivalent of The Simpsons' Halloween episodes). Every episode is stuffed with references to movies like Brazil and Soylent Green and TV series like Married With Children, so the geek factor is quite high, too!

Fox have provided a lot of bonus material for this set: much more, it seems, than there was on the first box set. Most episodes are accompanied by a deleted scene or two, sometimes mere snippets - a discarded one-liner, or a plot point underlined, perhaps - but often quite lengthy chunks. There's also a complete episode presented in raw animated form (Why Must I Be A Crustacean in Love?) which is quite fascinating (it reveals a few changes to the dialogue, for example). Other bonus features include a modest gallery of character concept art; a Season One DVD advert (1'30"), a page showing the key to one of the alien languages used in the show (allowing you to decrypt various graffiti used in the episodes), a selection of clips in foreign languages (rather pointless, since the discs already have Italian and French options); and a selection of Alien Advertisements (four "Futurama is brought to you by..." pre-credits sequences). Mention should also be made of the excellent animated menus, which closely match the style and tone of the episodes themselves.

Quibbles about the pricing aside (more of a comment on the artificially-high DVD prices that the UK is lumbered with than a dig specifically at Fox), this box set is a gift to fans of the series.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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