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Blu-ray Review: ‘Futurama Volume 8′

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F1Finally, the last episodes of Futurama have hit Blu-ray. No, seriously. The series, which was canceled on FOX, found new life on DVD and in four straight-to-disc movies, and was resurrected for a few more years on Comedy Central, has been canceled again, and Futurama Volume 8 has the very last 13 episodes of Futurama that will ever be made. For now.

Most of Volume 8 is good. Better than the other Comedy Central episodes, hands down. Something that plagued the series all during its reboot was an inability to stick to continuity in terms of character relationships, and because Futurama is more heart than laughs, that’s important. This batch, in keeping with the trend, is amusing, but not overly so. More importantly, though, even though Fry (Billy West) and Leela (Katey Sagal) finally get together just prior to the start of the CC run, the show can never seem to make up its mind if they are a couple of not. Until at the end of this set, the matter is (mostly) settled, making for better installments near the conclusion.

The episodes on the two DVDs are presented in production order, not broadcast order. This means that the two that aired first, “2-D Blacktop” and “Fry and Leela’s Big Fling,” are episodes two and four on the discs, respectively. Though, as Futurama rarely has plot that extends from week to week (with returning threads coming back much later, not in consecutive installments), that shouldn’t matter.

The best episodes in Volume 8 include: “T.: The Terrestrial,” in which Fry is left behind on Omicron Persei 8 and lives out E.T. as an alien’s pet; “Saturday Morning Fun Pit,” a take off of traditional weekend cartoons in a trilogy of minisodes; “Calculon 2.0,” in which Bender tries to resurrect deceased ham-of-an-actor Calculon (Maurice LaMarche); “Game of Tones,” a mission back to 1999 and the series’ pilot, and Fry visits his mother; “Murder on the Planet Express,” where the crew are killed off on the ship, a la Alien; and “Stench and Stenchibility,” in which Zoidberg (Billy West) finally finds love.

I did not include series finale “Meanwhile,” on the list because it deserves its own paragraph (or more). Perhaps knowing their time was at an end, the Futurama writers sought to match the stellar previous series finale, “The Devil’s Hands Are Idle Playthings.” Knowing that the element of the show serious fans are most invested in is the relationship between Fry and Leela, “Meanwhile” seeks to finally make good on that romance as much as can be made.

The result is a bittersweet world in which Fry and Leela are the last two people on Earth. Their friends (and everyone else) are frozen in time, and the pair spend an entire lifetime together, traveling the globe by their lonesome, happy to share each others’ company. It’s incredibly sweet and moving, and we get to see them find the ending they deserve at long last. Plus, there are cameos from most of the beloved recurring characters through their journey, a nice capper.

The end of “Meanwhile” is a bit of a cheat, leaving the door open to make more episodes or movies, should the series have the chance to do so (please let it be so). Yet, at the same time, it also pays off for the marriage, too. For a full review of the episode, click here.

Volume 8 boasts audio commentary on all 13 episodes. I can’t remember the last time a series did that, and it’s certainly welcome. There’s also a second commentary for “Game of Tones,” the second best episode in this set after “Meanwhile,” featuring the animators. Plus, deleted scenes are included, as well as a look at both the writers’ room and the animation process. It’s a satisfying bunch of extras.

I have found that animation that was originally made in high definition (as Futurama is) pretty much always looks great on Blu-ray. More than film, cartoons have the ability to shape the image exactly how they want, and there’s little better than watching sharp, finely detailed, well-drawn shows like this. Futurama doesn’t typically break new ground in effects, but the quality is high and consistent throughout the episodes. The sound is equally clear, even without many frills, providing a very pleasing viewing and listening experience.

Futurama Volume 8 is available now.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com