“The Simpsons” brought about a renaissance of primetime animation, most notably on the FOX network. However, series creator Matt Groening did not offer a follow-up until 1999, when he brought “Futurama” to the masses. While on the air, FOX treated the show as the bastard child of Groening instead of the comic gem it truly was. With the release of the Season One DVD set, “Futurama” can further separate from “The Simpsons” by seeing the growth and ingenuity of the characters and situations proving why it should be able to stand on its own merits.

The sci-fi element of “Futurama” plays an integral part in crafting the characters and stories. “Futurama” takes place in the year 3000 and features a broad and distinctive cast of characters ranging from a foul-mouthed robot, Bender, to a lobster-like alien, the bizarre Dr. Zoidberg. Even though it is set in the future, the show manages to lampoon current pop culture trends and celebrities by incorporating a 20th century man as the central character, the accidentally cryogenically frozen Fry.

The picture is crisp and clear, noticeably better than an episode that airs on TV and also does not have to deal with the compression issues of other DVD sets by only putting four or five episodes per disc. The sound also is a strength, utilizing a Dolby-digital soundtrack with three language options and a high quality full length commentary track. Most television DVD sets are lacking on the extras, but “Futurama” follows in the footsteps of “The Simpsons” by offering a large amount of features. There is a commentary track on every episode, storyboards and animatics for “Space Pilot 3000” and a few deleted scenes. The packaging is also impressive with mini DVD sleeves instead of the standard fold out.

While “Futurama” consistently struggled to garner the ratings FOX wanted, the DVD set proves FOX dropped the ball by canceling such a compelling and comical show. With a small group of strongly-defined characters and incredible animation, “Futurama” is one of the best small screen cartoons of the past decade. The DVD set of the first season is the perfect way to enjoy the wit and humor of Matt Groening’s second-best creation.

Show: 4 Stars

Picture/Sound: 4 Stars

Features: 4 Stars

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