Futurama, Season Six, Episode Three, “Attack Of The Killer APP”

Written by: Patric M Verrone
Directed by: Stephen Sandoval
DN’s Ranking: BAD / Nonessential / Essential

“Well, let’s at least throw this TV out. The batteries in the remote are getting low.”

This isn’t the worst episode of Futurama ever made but by god does it try to take the crown. I admit to being surprised that it was funnier than I remembered – it definitely has the most iconic line from the CC seasons – but it’s still built on some ideas that are rancid and some ideas that I just don’t think worked all that well. One thing I couldn’t understand about the CC seasons is why they tried so hard to fold in cutting edge ripped-from-the-headlines ideas, with this one in particular riffing on iPhones, Twitter, and internet mockery. It always felt like desperate grasping for relevance from a show that was traditionally more interested in the deep well of history we can draw on. Ironically, the jokes about things that were positively ancient in pop culture terms felt fresher than these riffs on current events. The thing about making jokes about the old days is that they are so safely defined that you have a complex myth to tear down and play with because you understand it so well. I will admit that the episode’s point that internet mob mockery is intense but fleeting is somewhat well judged, although it downplays how hurtful Fry’s action was with Leela’s quick forgiveness, but much of the episode makes fun of things we know now wouldn’t matter in a day or two.

(It makes me think of two shows that make a virtue out of ripped-from-the-headlines comedy. Always Sunny is always about how stupid its characters are and that they’re using passing fads without fully grasping them whilst almost never taking a real side fer or agin said fads; South Park builds itself out of being extremely current and in pointing at whatever is outrageous today and saying “Can you believe this shit?”, and even then it’s been frequently criticised for its shallow take on the issue o’ the day.)

The main thing that we know won’t matter is also the second idea I hate about this episode: how weirdly and specifically critical it is of Susan Boyle to the point of being outright mean to a random public figure for absolutely no reason. It’s not quite as intent on this as I remembered – Susan Boil’s personality is weirdly endearing and happy-go-lucky – but it deliberately makes her as ugly as possible in her appearance and her voice. It’s the second thing that bothers me most of all – literally her whole thing is that she’s a good singer! What the hell did Susan Boyle do to these guys? Is she really so awful that you have to spend twenty-two minutes piling on her? Going with this is the increase in gross-out humour – I’m not a prude and I’m even willing to roll with gross-out humour, but the barfing goat and extended boil humour really grates on me.

“They cut off one of my dimensions!”

Susan the Boil also speaks to the final and perhaps most troubling aspect of this episode of all, and one that affects the CC season most deeply. She’s a retcon that we are to be expected to believe has been on Leela’s ass this whole time and was simply never mentioned or noticed even as we’ve frequently seen said ass. It recalls how crappy old genre television would randomly invent a fear that the protagonists always had – random example, that mediocre X-Files where Mulder revealed a fear of fire – for them to heroically overcome over the course of twenty-two or forty-four minutes. It also recalls modern-day television’s preoccupation with backstory. In either case, it feels like trying to retain a status quo by developing a story backward rather than letting it develop forwards; this is more irritating here because it’s largely redundant, given Leela’s mutant gene and single eye. This whole plot is just “The Cyber House Rules” with less imagination!

Title Card: There will be a test
Cartoon Billboard: N/A

Craig Ferguson guest stars as Susan Boil. A quick survey of contemporary reviews reveals my views on this episode are a minority – though most other people are also baffled by the slam on Boyle – making me very curious how the commentariat will react (where I have only successfully predicted the reaction in the case of “Roswell That Ends Well” and “Bend Her”).

“There. I turned a reghula board inta a divin’ board. Mmhmm.”

The title is a reference to the film Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes. The chair in the info-squito gag is lifted from the Star Trek episode “Dagger Of The Mind”. Fry’s nickname for Mr Chunks is a riff on the pushmi-pullyu from the Dr Doolittle books. Susan Boil is, obviously, a reference to singer Susan Boyle. EyePhones are a parody of iPhones and Twitcher is a parody of Twitter. Leela strikes a pose in a parody of the photo of Marilyn Monroe. We see a parody mixing The Real Housewives with The Sims.

Iconic Moments: “Shut up and take my money!”
Biggest Laugh:

Next Week: “Proposition Infinity”. “After all, our love isn’t any different from yours. Except it’s hotter, ’cause I’m involved.”