Futurama: Monster Robot Maniac Fun Collection

Futurama: Monster Robot Maniac Fun Collection (2005)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: John DiMaggio, Billy West, Katey Sagal
Extras: Inroductions, Cast & Crew Commentary

For a station that is known for its weekend football coverage, Fox seems to like fumbling a lot. They dropped the ball on "Undeclared" and "Wonderfalls". They had a fumble recovery with "Family Guy", which almost cost them the game. Now you can see them trying to turn the ball over with "Arrested Development", which has been given some extra time on the play clock to redeem itself. With "Futurama", though, things were different. More commonly referred to as 'not "The Simpsons"', these tales are hilarious looks at how things will be in the year 3000. The "Futurama Monster Robot Maniac Fun Collection" is a quick look at four of the best episodes as chosen by executive producers Matt Groening and David X. Cohen. With a little love on DVD, Fox may be able to score that touchdown after all.

The episodes included are "Hell Is Other Robots", "Anthology Of Interest I", "Roswell That Ends Well", and "The Sting". There are all sorts of situations for Fry, Bender, Leila, and the rest of the gang to fly in and out of. We see Bender's electricity addition, a trip back to 1947 Roswell, the shocking 'death' of a major character, and a 'What if….' scenario that will leave you in stitches. Sure we all have our most beloved episodes, but these certainly are some of the crème de la crème. I don't know if I could even pick a favorite from this group of four. With a runtime comparable to a movie, these episodes will provide many laughs for all fans.

"Futurama" never had a chance to succeed. Nestled in the time slot just after the NFC football games are scheduled to end, Matt Groening's sci-fi cartoon was continually disrupted. Whether it was a game that had too many penalties or the obligatory post game show, "Futurama" fans were destined for episodes cut in half, if they were even aired at all. And Fox wanders why it has problems with ratings? Had it been given a decent timeslot, I am confident it would still be on the air. After overcoming the struggles of being compared to "The Simpsons", Professor Farnsworth's collection of misfits managed to separate themselves from a shadow of greatness. With Bart and Homer, we are placed in situations that are familiar. Issues with friends, work, bosses, and bullies all take place in Springfield, a city which could be placed anywhere, making "The Simpsons" much more approachable for audiences. "Futurama" forces us to play by their rules. The look and feel of New York City is totally different from what we know. Placed in the year 3000, we are learning about our advanced world as we chuckle at social commentary we can relate to.

I have always loved the animation in "Futurama". In watching old episodes of "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy", you can see where the animation was a bit rough and characters weren't clearly defined. In "Futurama", the look remains fairly constant throughout the entire five season run. This defined look is showcased in this collection with a 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio. For those who already have the respective seasons on DVD, these classic episodes are given the same beautiful look. The animation is fluid, free of bleeding reds or jagged lines. The clarity of the picture will wow those who only saw the series on standard television. The benefits of DVD will provide a clear, unblemished look at a series ahead of its time.

Sound is another area where "Futurama" has bettered its peers. Placed in the future, there are various cars, ships, and lasers that hover and blast across the screen. Unfortunately, a Dolby Digital 2.0 surround is all we have, though the episodes bring as much life as they can to your living room. The sound stage works overtime trying to bottle up the dialogue, effects, and music to the limited area it has to roam. Don't get me wrong, we have a great mix that is certainly better than what was originally broadcast (for most). A 5.1 soundtrack would have been a great addition to the collection though. "The Simpsons" got a 5.1 mix, and it is barely noticeable. "Futurama" would have utilized the channels and given even more back to its loyal fans, but this is another example of a show continually fighting an uphill battle. Additional Spanish and French Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks are included as well.

There are introductions to each episode by Series Creator Matt Groening, Executive Producer David X. Cohen, and miscellaneous cast and crew members. The intros are brief, but give a snapshot as to what set these episodes apart from the others to merit inclusion in this collection. "Hell Is Other Robots" gets a full length animatic and optional commentary to provide insight to the classic episode. For those who don't know, an animatic is basically a storyboard. The commentary is interesting since it provides remarks from Matt Groening, David X. Cohen, Claudia Katz, Rich Moore, John DiMaggio, and Billy West.

Let's be honest, most "Futurama" fans already own the entire series on DVD. For those who haven't gotten around to picking up the box sets, this is a great way to get some of the best episodes. There is no problem with the transfer and there are some minor extras to balance out the disc. Here's yet another vote hoping "Futurama" will find the same love bestowed upon "Family Guy". It is an underrated series that deserves a chance to shine.