[box cover]

Futurama: Season Two

Having previously sung the praises of Matt Groening's brilliant "Futurama" on the occasion of Fox's release of the show's Season One box set, it's worth taking a moment to once again praise Fox for one of the collection's best features — the packaging. Unlike the massive, awkward fold-out cardboard cases Fox has provided for, say, Angel and The Simpsons, the Futurama discs each have their own slimline, plastic keep-case with episode synopses on the back, a chapter guide on the insert, and fun graphics on each disc that, when you pop them out, offer two-part visual jokes — and if you lay them out side-by-side, the cases form one long, funny diorama. The cases fit snugly in a cardboard slipcase with a see-through, cellophane window offering a peek at the charmingly designed inner box. It's perhaps the most convenient and attractive design for a TV-show box set out there — a pleasure to handle and to look at. That said, the content is wonderful as well. Season Two offers 19 episodes produced for the 1999-2000 season, starting with "I Second That Emotion," in which Prof. Farnsworth installs an "empathy chip" in Bender, forcing him to feel Leela's merry-go-round of emotions while the gang searches for Nibbler in the city's sewer system. Other season highlights include "Brannigan Begin Again," marking the return of egomaniacal Captain Zapp Brannigan, stripped of his rank after destroying the headquarters of the Democratic Order of Planets (DOOP) and hired as a hand on Leela's ship; "Lesser of Two Evils," which introduced Bender's evil twin, Flexo; and "The Honking," an homage to classic horror films wherein Bender must spend the night in a spooky castle to collect his inheritance — and finds himself terrorized by a haunted car. With 19 episodes in the set, it may be difficult to pick a favorite — but one standout is the side-splitting "Xmas Story" episode. Leela and the others explain to Fry just how much the Christmas holiday has changed in the 1,000 years since he was flash-frozen; now called "Xmas," the day is marked by planet-wide fear as humans are terrorized by a giant, homicidal Santa Claus robot (voiced by John Goodman) given to making proclamations like "I'm gonna shove coal so far up your stocking you'll be coughing up diamonds!" and "Your mistletoe is no match for my tow missile!" It's ultra-violent, politically incorrect, and altogether hilarious. Fox's DVD presentation of Futurama: Season Two is, once again, superb — besides the great packaging, the full-frame transfers (1.33:1) are gorgeous, crisp, and pristine with vibrant, saturated color. The Dolby 2.0 Surround audio is equally outstanding. The set is packed with extras, including deleted scenes and animatics, a huge still gallery, a clip offered in four different languages, and optional commentary tracks on every episode featuring Matt Groening, writers, episode directors and voice talent. And there are easy-to-find Easter eggs, too. For fans of Futurama, it doesn't get much better than this.
—Dawn Taylor

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