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Futurama DVD: Season 4 Review

FOX Home Entertainment (2003)

Release Date: Nov 24, 2003
Length: 389 mins.
Rated: Age 12+
Format: 4 x 3 Fullscreen
Audio: English Surround 2.0
Subtitles: English, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish
Region: 2 (Europe, Japan)
4 (Australia)
List Price: £40
Buy Online: $35 at amazon.com (Aug 24th)
£30 at amazon.co.uk
User Reviews:98.2%


Review time! Much to the dismay of most Americans, English-savvy Futurama fans in Europe and Australia this last Monday (November 24th, 2003) got the chance to complete their 72 episode DVD collection with the Futurama Season 4 DVD set. Yep, that's well before the US got Season 3. Why? Because Europe doesn't have that 3-tier Network/Syndication/DVD money making system. So stop yelling at the Europeans!

So, there they are. The last Futurama episodes sitting in a neat black box. This one is in fact neat enough to deserve some extra attention. First the bad news: It again comes in a rather thin carton with a flimsy transparent plastic cover prone to being damaged if you keep sliding it on or off. So, maybe don't do that. Also, you shouldn't touch the underlying matte black box much either as scuffing, bending marks and pizza greased finger prints will show quite distinctively.
Now, you might ask why they went with it then. Well, because it really looks cool and somewhat noble with Leela, Fry and Bender floating in a void. And ... it glows in the dark! Really now. Under the plastic slide-off you'll find the black box having white wireframe-like and detail-spiked characters in a light emmitting phosphorescent color. If you still don't know what I mean, just look at the pictures to the right. Lovely, aren't they?

Just like the previous 3 European DVD releases, the 4 discs each get their own (non-slim) jewel case with the covers creating a panorama with elements from the different episodes showing. The discs themselves are kept rather dark, matching the box theme. Disc three is different there and at first looks like a production error but have a look at the part of the case below the disc and you'll get it.


Inserting the first disc, you see the legal warnings for the UK, Ireland and Australia. Yes, Australia on UK discs. Luckily, this has a reason. They again seem to be encoded in both region 2 and region 4, so they should play just fine in Australian DVD players. After the Season 3 fiasco down under, it might well be worth getting them imported now instead of waiting for the local release there.

A FOX logo later, the episode selection menu is introduced by either Bender, Mom, Zoidberg or Zapp Brannigan zooming in on the Planet Express building and its inhabitants' activities.

A selection screen
Executive producer X. Cohen spoke about these menus with much enthusiasm before and I have to agree here. Each of the zooms and menus comes with randomized and freshly recorded voice tracks. Do yourself a favour and wait a little after womanizer Zapp is done with his first few wise cracks. As the animation repeats, you'll get different tracks. So, 8 points on my 8 finger scale for the menus. Rumour has it that the US season 3 DVDs will get their menus changed to something similar.

Going through the menus, there are the episodes (well guh), a play all feature, special features (more later), and the audio opions including subtitles in Danish, Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian and English for the elderly. The sound is English only like it used to be with the Season 1 and Season 2 DVD sets.

Jurassic Bark Where no Fan Has Gone Before Teenage Mutant Leela's Hurdles The Why of Fry The Sting The Farnsworth Parabox The Devil's Hands are Idle Playthings Love and Rocket
So, after playing some with the menus and waiting for Mom to insult our remote handling skills, the episodes are next.
Production Season 4 created some mixed feelings among our viewers. With 18 episodes, it was 4 episodes short of Season 3, but the average episode rating was a bit higher coming to currently 81.7%.

episode ratings
It was also more stable regarding hits and misses. I can't help but think that the erratic airing order established by FOX with 3 Bender centric episodes towards the very end didn't help much. In the whole run there was only one time when more than two episodes aired in their intended order. But I digress. Why'd you buy these DVDs? For the almost legendary and Emmy nominated "Jurassic Bark", the Slim Shady remix by William Shatner in "Where No Fan Has Gone Before", the cute "Teenage Mutant Leela's Hurdles", the epic and Futurama fabric weaving "Why of Fry", the shippy "Sting", the parallelly fantastic "Farnsworth Parabox" and of course the grand final opera of "The Devil's Hands Are Idle Playthings". No need to worry that you won't get your share of of golden Futurama moments with these DVDs.

The picture and sound quality are superb during all the episodes. With the digital era having had its impact on the Futurama creation process, colours are colourful and lines are clean. Didn't see any compression artifacts or other bothersome things. If you want to see what digital production and storage can do for a TV show, have a look at the deleted scenes which seem to come from plain old tapes.

Buy for $35! 30% off
The sound is stereo only again. But that's to be expected seeing that it's just how Futurama was done for television to begin with. For a TV cartoon you still get an unusually dense sound setting with Tyng's themes and other licenced songs fitting to the episodes.

I just mentioned the deleted scenes of which there are roughly 15 minutes on the discs. Time to have a look at the other extras.

A deleted scene
The best thing we already got treated with in the earlier season releases and which you don't want to miss are the full length commentaries accompanying each and every episode. Not only that, you also get an extra one for "Jurassic Bark" which focuses on the writing process. John DiMaggio is less present on this set, but Maurice LaMarche and others make up for it. Generally they seem to have filled the room with even more people to avoid long silences. It just stays constantly entertaining for all 7 hours of commentary. Also, Ayep, if you are reading: David Cohen quoted the review you posted for Jurassic Bark on this site.
In addtiotion to that, disc one got a clip from "Love and Rocket" in 4 different languages and the story board for "Kif Gets Knocked up a Knotch". Disc three includes an animatic (raw animated version) of "Obsoletely Fabulous" with many extra scenes. Now, disc four is just loaded. There are 11 animated 3D models in different rendering stages, guides how to draw Bender and the Professor, a very early form of motion trials called pencil tests, a still gallery with different character sketches, the trailers for the three previous DVD sets and then one for the video game. The trailer for Season 4 is missing, but you can watch it on FOX's site.

And if you think that's it, then you are wrong again as you haven't found the hidden easter eggs yet. Don't want to spoil this for everyone, so here goes in "highlight to read" mode:

  • I forgot where, but there is a message written in Alien Language 1 targeted at the internet dwelling nerds among us. You can find the picture and translation on PEEL.
  • On disc 3, go to "Where No Fan Has Gone Before", go to Home, click right, wait, click enter and see a panel for the Star Trek episode held by writer David Goodman who also works on the current "Enterprise" and John DiMaggio who voices Bender.
  • On disc 4, go to The Devil's Hands, press Enter, press up, wait 2 seconds till the Devil's hands appear, press enter. Now you can listen to a table read of the episode (audio only).
  • Disc 4 again, go to Spanish Fry, Scene Selection, hit left, wait, hit enter. You'll get a great lot of different non-used Episode starting captions.
  • As a conclusion: Buy these DVDs. You won't regret it. It feels especially gratifying if you already own Season 1 to 3, but there's so much intrinsic fun in this DVD set that I don't know why you'd read this review up to here and then not buy them. If you want to do us and yourself a favour, check amazon.com for their current offer on them. As of July 31st, the Futurama Season 4 set is available at 30% off for $35.

    -- [-mArc-], November 30th 2003 (Pricing update on July 31th, 2004)



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