Season One

Starring: Billy West, Katey Sagal and John DiMaggio
20th Century Fox
Certificate: 12
Available now

Pizza delivery boy Fry is inadvertently frozen in 1999, and reawakened 1000 years later. In this exciting future, Fry has the chance to meet aliens and robots and explore strange worlds as part of his new job - as a delivery boy...

Good news everyone! All 13 episodes of the first season of Futurama are now available in this box set.

While not quite as anarchic as Matt Groening's more famous animated show, The Simpsons, Futurama is still pretty darned funny. Being a sci-fi spoof, this series has a more focused agenda than the present-day exploits of the denizens of Springfield, and its cast of recurring characters is not as broad (at least, not yet), but then The Simpsons has had more than ten years to establish itself.

Having said that, Fry is very much a younger, thinner version of Homer Simpson, possessing the same lazy, couch-potato attitude and basic lack of common sense. Purple-haired one-eyed alien babe Leela finds herself alternately criticising and coming to the rescue of Fry, interacting with him in much the same way that the blue-haired Marge does with her husband Homer. However, there is as yet no romantic relationship between Fry and Leela (well, maybe just a hint of a spark in A Flight to Remember).

Futurama comes into its own with its other major characters: Bender, the hard-drinking, kleptomaniac droid with attitude; Doctor Zoidberg, the crustacean physician with a woeful lack of knowledge about human anatomy; and the elderly Professor Farnsworth. The Professor is, in fact, my favourite character. The decrepit old codger's harmless-looking exterior belies his utter moral bankruptcy. "Why, why," he yells, when his primate protégé Gunther escapes in the episode Mars University, "why didn't I break his legs?"

Many of the better episodes are movie spoofs. A Big Piece of Garbage apes Armageddon; Mars University is a homage to National Lampoon's Animal House; Fry and the Slurm Factory is an exquisite pastiche of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, featuring a decent impersonation of Gene Wilder; while A Flight to Remember is based upon Titanic.

The latter episode is one of three in this season that feature the self-obsessed starship captain Zapp Brannigan: an obvious, though irresistible, lampoon of Captain James T. Kirk. Brannigan could well have become tiresome had it not been for the presence of his long-suffering second in command, Kiff, who is treated more like a manservant by his conceited commander.

There are also plenty of computer-based jokes, especially in Bender episodes, transposing the familiar features of present-day software into a futuristic setting. For instance, Fear of a Bot Planet shows a robot judge crashing in mid-judgement, while Mars University has the greatest library in the known universe stored on just a couple of CD-ROMs.

One thing that Futurama definitely has over The Simpsons is the quality of its animation. This series uses some impressive perspective effects on its tracking shots of ships and landscapes, affording a suitably slick look to this depiction of the future.

Provided you like sci-fi, or even have only a passing familiarity with the genre, then you will find this series consistently entertaining.

Richard McGinlay

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