Fox // 2002 // 414 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Eric Profancik (Retired) // October 13th, 2004
Good news, everyone!
Sorry, Professor, but things aren't quite so good; for in May 2002, the inevitable happened: Fox officially cancelled Futurama. In perhaps one of the oddest timelines in television history, though, it was August 10, 2003, before the final episode of the subversively funny show aired. Who ever heard of a network canceling one of its shows but then letting it air, off and on, for the next sixteen months?
In this site's previous reviews, the hideous treatment of this show has already been documented. If that history is unknown to you, please check out one of those other reviews. In this one, I'm just going to give a sad farewell to a show that deserved better, for it was consistently funny and widely entertaining. To the workers at Planet Express, you did your best.
Volume 4 presents the remaining 18 episodes of the series. Originally aired on Fox in 2002 and 2003, these episodes span the show's mutilated fourth and fifth seasons:
* "Kif Gets Knocked Up a Notch"
Professor Farnsworth says: "It's a space ship dammit, not a prom limousine! Uhhh! If anyone needs me, I'll be in the angry-dome."
Kif becomes pregnant, but is Amy the mother of the child he's carrying? Amy must come to terms with the budding responsibility of their relationship as the Planet Express crew helps get Kif to the sacred ancestral birthing grounds of his family.
* "Leela's Homeworld"
Professor Farnsworth says: "If you think that's anything, you're a suspicious idiot!"
Leela returns to the Cookieville Minimum Security Orphanarium where she is honored for her success in life. While there, Fry helps Leela unlock some of the secrets of her past, including the identity of her real parents.
* "Love and Rocket"
Professor Farnsworth says: "With that big new Romanticorp contract, I've been able to make those government mandated upgrades you've all been suing me about."
Bender becomes involved with the new female personality of the Planet Express ship. Things quickly get ugly when the ship discovers Bender has been cheating on her.
* "Less Than Hero"
Professor Farnsworth says: "Bad news, nobody! The super-collider [from pi-kea] super-exploded. I need you to take it back and exchange it for a wobbly CD rack and some of those rancid meatballs."
At the end of a long day's work, Fry and Leela are stiff and sore. Zoidberg prescribes some ointment that endows them with superpowers. Bender joins them, and the three go off to fight crime.
* "A Taste of Freedom"
Professor Farnsworth says: "Of course, it wouldn't be Freedom Day without the traditional [naked] Freedom [Hot] Tub[bing]!"
On Freedom Day, Zoidberg expresses his freedom and eats the Earth flag. The world is aghast, and they want his head. Zoidberg runs to his embassy for sanctuary, and eventually agrees to stand trial. After he's found guilty, Zoidberg's people attack Earth and enslave its people.
* "Bender Should Not Be Allowed on TV"
Professor Farnsworth says: "Aw, don't feel bad. We can celebrate the day I extracted you from the cloning tank. Or the day I scraped your DNA from that growth on my back."
After a young star on "All My Circuits" explodes, Bender is hired as the replacement. His raunchy and bold personality makes him an instant hit. But Fathers Against Rude Television protest the robot's shenanigans as a bad influence on children.
* "Jurassic Bark"
Professor Farnsworth says: "Let this abomination unto the Lord begin!"
Fry's old pizzeria is unearthed. During a visit, Fry finds Seymour, his old dog. The petrified pooch is taken back to the Professor, who tells Fry a clone of the pup can be made. Fry is excited at the chance to get his dog back. Bender, on the other hand, gets insanely jealous over the possible competition.
* "Crimes of the Hot"
Professor Farnsworth says: "Yes! There is no safer occupation than mining. Especially when you are perched on a snowball whipping through space at a million miles an hour. Whoohoohooohooohooo! Safe."
Global warming is rampant, and the usual fix -- dropping a big ice cube into the ocean -- isn't working. Al Gore leads an emergency summit where we learn that robot flatulence is causing the problem. Earth conjures up a drastic solution.
* "Teenage Mutant Leela's Hurdles"
Professor Farnsworth says: "Driving gloves. Driving goggles. Driving thong."
The gang at Planet Express is tired of the Professor's crotchety ways, even if he is 161 years old, and they decide to take him to get youth-a-sized.
Professor Farnsworth says: "Oh, I don't have time for this. I have to buy a single piece of fruit with a coupon and then return it. Making people wait behind me while I complain."
While there, an accident makes everyone younger.
Professor Farnsworth says: "53 years old?! Aww, now I'll need a fake ID to rent ultra-porn."
As Leela enjoys the childhood she never had, everyone else is ready to get back to his or her normal age. But there's another accident where the age reversal process won't stop, and it's up to the Professor to save everyone before they don't exist.
Professor Farnsworth says: "Hehe, you? A woman [drive]? I'm trying to catch a monster, not find the quickest route to the mall!"
* "The Why of Fry"
Professor Farnsworth says: Nothing. He has no lines in this episode!
Was it really an accident that Fry ended up in the year 3000? No! Fry was purposely frozen to save the universe. But by whom?
* "Where No Fan Has Gone Before"
Professor Farnsworth says: Nothing. Once again, the Professor is mute. Regardless, the episode is highly quotable.
While renting a movie, Fry suggests a Star Trek film. But he doesn't know that all things Trek are illegal. To resurrect the classic series, Fry visits the head of Leonard Nimoy, who informs him that all of his fellow stars are on the planet Omega 3. Fry, Leela, and Bender travel there and find that William Shatner, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, George Takei, DeForest Kelley, and Welshy have been ensnared by a malevolent energy creature, which isn't all that malevolent but is the universe's biggest Trek fan. Or is it?
Nichelle Nichols says: "By the 23rd century, Star Trek fandom had evolved from a loose association of nerds with skin problems into a full-blown religion."
* "The Sting"
Professor Farnsworth says: "Bad news, everyone! You're not good enough to go on your next mission."
The Professor sends the crew to retrieve space honey from the vicious space bees: the same mission that led to the death of the last crew. But Leela has no fear of bees, and she leads Fry and Bender to the space hive. Things quickly turn bad when Fry is stung by a bee and killed. When they return to Earth, Leela has visions of him. So is he really dead?
Professor Farnsworth says: "Of course he still exists -- as a frozen corpse in outer space. Oh...I made myself sad."
* "Bend Her"
Professor Farnsworth says: "Bender, a robot sex change is a complex and dangerous procedure. Replacing your testosteroil with fembot lubricants can cause wild mood swings. And the effects may be irreversible. Well, let's get started."
At the 3004 Robot Olympics, Bender finds himself jealous of the medals his fellow robots are winning. But he knows he doesn't stand a chance against the malebots, so he enters as a female robot and sweeps all the categories. To keep his medals, Bender has the Professor turn him into a fembot. Soon thereafter, Calculon falls in love with the female Bender, but does Bender love him back?
* "Obsoletely Fabulous"
Professor Farnsworth says: "You whanged my ship, you walnut-paneled robot!"
At the annual robot trade show, Mom introduces Robot 1-X, a robot that emits no noxious fumes and actually obeys commands. Robots around the world fear the new bot, including Bender. He goes for an upgrade so he won't fear the robot but changes his mind at the last minute. He runs away and ends up on an island of antiquated technology. Over time, Bender learns to hate technology, gets a downgrade, and attacks the city, destroying all forms of technology.
* "The Farnsworth Parabox"
Professor Farnsworth says: "Buddha, Zeus, God! One of you guys do something!"
The Professor conducts an experiment so hideous that it must be destroyed immediately, but the only way to do so is to hurl the box into the sun, which they'll do tomorrow. Leela is charged with guarding the secret experiment; she caves to temptation and looks in the box to discover there's an alternate universe inside.
Professor Farnsworth says: "Help! Satan! You owe me!"
* "Three Hundred Big Boys"
Professor Farnsworth says: "It has become too hard of a chore for me to clean out my wrinkles each day."
After the war against the Arachnids, Earth has a huge silk surplus. President Nixon issues a $300 refund to everyone. How will everyone spend their money?
* "Spanish Fry"
Professor Farnsworth says: "Well, there's no sense fretting. Good lord, you're ugly."
The gang goes camping, and aliens abduct Fry. They return him to the planet, but not before stealing his nose. It turns out that a human nose is a powerful aphrodisiac to many alien races. Missing his nose, Fry goes with Leela and Bender to the galactic black market to retrieve it. They learn that the leader of Omicron Persei 8 has it, and that he hopes to use it to revive the passion in his failed marriage. He will return Fry's nose if Fry can arrange an evening of bliss for the dysfunctional couple.
* "The Devil's Hands Are Idle Playthings"
Professor Farnsworth says: The Professor has only two lines in this show, both of which are completely uninspired.
Wanting to impress Leela, Fry takes up the holophone. Unfortunately, Fry has stupid fingers and can't play a lick. On Bender's advice, Fry visits the robot devil and the two exchange hands. Fry's new devil hands are working out perfectly for him, but the devil can't stand those lumps of flesh and so begins a sinister plot to get his metal hands back.
Another classic science fiction show cancelled before its time.
From the first episode, "Space Pilot 3000," I was hooked on Futurama. I instantly loved the characters, the setting, and the irreverent humor sprinkled throughout each episode. I've always found that humor to be the best feature of the show; the characters can be talking about one thing and suddenly this terrific joke comes out of nowhere. It happens in every episode, catches you off guard, and gives you a great laugh. I can't think of any other show with such a consistently dry wit.
The epitome of that humor comes from the elder statesman of the show, Professor Farnsworth. I love that cranky old man! Forever loudly speaking his mind (with an irascible smile on his face) and often not knowing what he's saying, Farnsworth can make even the most mundane of lines hilarious. He speaks with such conviction and honesty that you can't help but love his carefree style. The fact that he's 161, a genius, a distant relative of Fry, and owner of Planet Express is irrelevant next to the power of his quips. He stands just a bit above everyone else, which is a tremendous feat considering the well-crafted cast of characters.
Watching Volume 4, I expected to find many episodes that I had missed because of Fox's vile airing schedule. I figured I had missed a good half a dozen or so, but I was surprised to learn that I had missed only three. One of the episodes that I saw for the first time, "Jurassic Bark," deserves some special discussion. I must admit that if it weren't for Judge Ryan making note of this episode in his Volume 3 review, odds are that I wouldn't have mentioned it. But thanks to his courage, I shall stand tall and follow suit. But first, let's go back three spaces.
This episode focuses on cloning Fry's dog from the 20th century. Fry can't wait to spend time with his dog again, but in the end, he decides not to allow the cloning to proceed. At the last moment, we learn that Seymour lived to be fifteen, even though Fry was frozen when the dog was only three. Fry, believing that Seymour lived a full life without him, thinks he will barely remember his old master. Then we see what happened to the dog for those twelve years after his owner disappeared: Seymour sat outside the pizzeria waiting for Fry to come back. That's it.
As a pet owner myself, my heart was torn open when I saw poor Seymour just sitting there. It was so painful, so remarkably sad and poignant, that I cried. This show hit a raw, sensitive nerve, and I let the tears flow freely. I never expected this humorous show to take such a dramatic and unexpected turn in the final minutes of the episode. Futurama is all about the humor, but this episode stunned me with such a depressing ending. It was astounding. In fact, every person I've spoken with about this episode finds it remarkably sad as well, and I even get a little teary just talking about it. Call me a wuss, but I simply cannot express how unusual this ending is for the show. I felt so sad for Seymour and Fry. If they only knew the joy they could have brought to each other if they had gone ahead with the cloning. It wouldn't have erased the pain Seymour experienced, but the second chance would have made it all better.
I know it's just a cartoon, but this time it really pushed my emotional buttons. What an incredible episode.
Of course, I cannot in all good conscience let this review go by without making a special mention of the episode "Where No Fan Has Gone Before." This Trek-based episode is, "surprisingly," one of my favorites. Not only did they get the entire original cast -- except James Doohan, who, I would presume, was sick at that time -- but the show also got the cast to utter the most outrageous lines, poking fun at Star Trek, each other, themselves, and Trekkies. Well done!
The transfers for the last release of Futurama are television standard. By that, I mean if you've seen one TV show on DVD, then you've seen most. The full-frame video is a touch better than average, thanks in part to the fact that it's a cartoon. Colors are bold, popping off the screen; blacks are deep and well defined; and detail is excellent -- you can easily see all the in-jokes. The only problem I had, which may be a result of a slight defect in the disc, is a spot of shimmering in an episode. I had this same problem with Volume 1, except it was there throughout all the discs. This time, it's a brief hiccup and nothing to worry about too much. For the audio, you get the standard Dolby Digital 2.0 mix that gives you no problems whatsoever: Dialogue is crisp and clean, and there is no distortion or hiss at any point. I believe Futurama would have done well with an upgrade to a 5.1 mix, but we weren't so fortunate.
A plethora of bonus materials awaits you, sprinkled throughout all the discs. They follow the same pattern as the previous volumes:
* Audio Commentary on all Episodes: (Pay attention all other television shows!) Every episode gets its own commentary track (with two for "Jurassic Bark"), though the commentators change. Staples include some of the voice talent, Matt Groening, and David X. Cohen. While entertaining, they usually didn't really talk about the parts of the show I wanted to learn more about. Further, I often found myself tuning them out, trying to watch the much funnier show.
* Deleted Scenes: Usually these are just brief scene extensions, but there's an occasionally amusing bon mot thrown in for good measure.
* 3D Models from Rough Drafts: Most of the show is standard 2D animation, but some scenes have fully rendered 3D objects. You can watch the genesis of eleven such objects.
* "How to Draw" Bender and Professor Farnsworth: For those with a modicum of talent (or at least some derring-do), here's how to draw two of the fans' favorite characters.
* Pencil Tests: As the name implies, these are rough pencil tests of various characters. This exercise is akin to creating a cartoon by flipping the corner of a stack of paper.
Rounding out the goodies are animatics, international clips, storyboards, a still gallery, and some Easter eggs. (I know there are more hidden on the discs, but there are so many menus, I tired of looking for them all.)
Wow! That's a lot of good stuff!
Is there hope for Futurama? Does Futurama have a future back on one of the "big" networks? Recently, Groening was asked in Entertainment Weekly magazine if Futurama might get a second life, like Family Guy. His response: "We're trying to figure it out. If we can do more episodes, we'd love to. David and I worked for a couple of years [planning the show] before we even pitched it, and we haven't revealed all of the secrets that are embedded in it. There are even characters that we created back in the beginning of the series that we never got around to introducing."
Like the secrets revealed in "The Why of Fry," who knows what other clever twists these guys have up their sleeves. We want to know!
See you on another channel.
In a sad one-two punch, "Spanish Fry" and "The Devil's Hands Are Idle Playthings" were two weak episodes that didn't utilize the environment or the characters. Instead of going out with a bang, Futurama fizzled out. Regardless, the show still has a strong cult following of loyal viewers. When Fox graced us with episodes, it was one my favorite shows. It was a perfect way to start a Sunday evening, bolstering me for another week at work. The suits never got it, never understood it, and they robbed us of a great pleasure. In syndication and on DVD, maybe Futurama will be given a second chance. One can only hope that we'll get lucky and get fresh, new episodes one day, but I doubt that fans of animation will have lightning strike twice.
Futurama is acquitted of all charges.
Fox is hereby found guilty of canceling a show well before its time. They can bite my splintery wooden ass!
Review content copyright © 2004 Eric Profancik; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Golden Gavel 2004 Nominee
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 414 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Audio Commentary on Al Episodes
* Deleted Scenes
* International Clips
* 3D Models from Rough Drafts
* "How to Draw" Bender and Professor Farnsworth
* Still Gallery / New Character Artwork
* Pencil Tests
* Easter Eggs
* Can't Get Enough Futurama