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Fourth season of ‘Futurama’ remains original

Ryan Rogers | Monday, October 11, 2004

Matt Groening (“The Simpsons”) demonstrates another stroke of genius with “Futurama Volume Four,” the fourth and final season of the program.”Futurama” is an animated television series about a modern day loser, Philip J. Fry (voiced by Billy West), who is accidentally frozen cryogenically while delivering a pizza. Fry wakes up a thousand years later to find just how much or, in many cases, just how little things have changed in the year 3000. Settling into the fourth season, Fry works at Plant Express (an interplanetary FedEx, only more inept) and copes with all of the hilarious unpleasantries that come with his dead end job. The concept of this program allows Fry to go on all kinds of quirky adventures on all kinds of quirky planets.”Futurama Volume Four” features a number of memorable adventures. In “Where No Fan Has Gone Before” Fry goes to a planet run by a “Star Trek” geek. This episode is a wonderful defamation of “Trekkies” everywhere. Or “Less Than Hero,” in which a topical cream gives Fry super powers. The show even makes an adventure of each character spending a $300 government refund check. These goofy episodes are totally unpredictable and contain a lot of laughs.The cast of characters makes this program. Fry’s boss is a senile and bitter 100-year-old man with no regard for the wellness of his employees. His best friend is a binge-drinking, womanizing robot with kleptomania. Then there is Fry, who is a borderline degenerate. Although this may sound like a bit too much to handle in one show, “Futurama” elegantly weaves hilarious relationships between all of its characters. In season four these relationships have become more developed and more intense, which makes them more interesting to watch. Character interaction is the heart of this program. The futuristic setting is fun but it is often pushed to the background to focus on the characters.”Futurama Volume Four” may not be as strong as other DVD collections of this program but it is exceptional regardless. The show derives its comedy through satirical means; much like “The Simpsons” but it also plays with the viewers’ concept of comedy. What this means is “Futurama” sets up a joke with an extremely obvious punch line. However, just when the viewer thinks they know the joke “Futurama” takes the gag in a completely unexpected, yet hilarious, direction. The biggest problem with “Futurama” is that it requires very careful viewing. Due to its intelligent nature and the way that it builds jokes “Futurama” cannot be watched casually. For these reasons a good deal of viewers are turned off to the series. Fans of traditional sitcoms may find “Futurama” tough to swallow, after all the show did not have the mass appeal to stay on air for more than four seasons.This DVD looks sharp and sounds crisp. The special features are a “Futurama” fan’s dream. Each episode comes with a full length commentary and most episodes have a deleted scenes library. There are a slew of storyboards, character art and other features to satisfy all of your “Futurama” needs. Not to mention the collection’s running time is 414 minutesFans of quirky, intelligent comedy should look no further. “Futurama Volume Four” is brilliant.