South Park has and advantage over other animated shows, over pretty much all scripted shows actually—it can be made very quickly, and thus comment about contemporary events the moment its creators feel like it. Admittedly, this usually doesn’t result in anything approximating nuanced commentary, especially of late, but it’s still something valuable about the show. Say what you will, but South Park has stayed more relevant than, say, The Simpsons because once in a blue moon this commentary manages to hit on target right as an event is happening.
Futurama has the same long-lead production schedule as The Simpsons and most other animated shows (though this seems to have decreased a bit given its switch-over to computer animation), meaning that jumping onto super-current events can never be its purview. That said, it’s never had a problem tackling broader problems, such as pollution or censorship, and giving things a nice satiric spin a thousand years in the future. “Attack of the Killer App” is one of those episodes, taking a swipe at both the technology that allows us to stay constantly in contact with one another and those updates in general. That it’s out right now with the iPhone 4 in everyone’s minds is merely coincidental—there will always be another big gadget we’re all pining for.
The episode begins with a brief bit on recycling and heading to a “recycling planet” that’s just a scrapyard that’s classically Futurama. Also in the classic Futurama vein it’s dark and disturbing, to the point where everyone involved is convinced that they’d be better off keeping what they have around rather than recycling at all, a sentiment that lasts just a few seconds. At this point, an ad for Mom’s new eyePhone appears on TV and everyone agrees they have to have one.
Then we’re treated to the rest of the better half of the show, which takes on Apple, Facebook, Twitter and youtube in a series of wonderful, fast-paced gags. The end result of all this is that Bender and Fry enter a contest as to who can get a million followers first, with the loser diving into a hot tub filled with barf and other excrement. (Oh, and they win a dollar). Unfortunately, this also leads to Fry desperately filming Leela at her most vulnerable in an attempt to win, which in turn leads to a horrifically stupid joke that dominates and largely ruins the second part of the episode.
“You named your boil Susan?” Yes, they went there, and oh lord does the joke just keep going and going. Re-watching the episode, I’m forced to admit that it only takes up a few minutes of the episode, but those minutes are bad enough as to pollute everything that surrounds them. Halfway into this episode I was convinced the show was back to its former glory, but suffice to say that’s clearly not the case. While the eyePhone jokes were clever commentary, beating up on Boyle was pointless and perhaps my least favorite gag the show’s ever had. A bad, cheap joke you quickly move off from is one thing, but basing much of an episode on one? Ugh.
Rating this episode was kind of difficult. I liked the first half with the same passion that I hated the second. But when thinking about things, it’s still an episode I would recommend to people given the way great jokes stick with you while bad ones ultimately get forgotten. Everything else comes together well enough that it’s still a memorable episode—despite the Boyle-related shortcomings, in many ways I preferred it to the later of last week’s episodes. At least here we had the spark of originality, even when we were in bad pun territory. The show’s still finding its footing, but were it not for the soul-suckingly bad parts of the second half this would be the best episode so far.
“These old doomsday devices are dangerously unstable. I’ll rest easier not knowing where they are.”
- So is Flexo really dead now?
“That’s even more horrific. Is all the work done by children?” “Not the whipping.”
“Granted, we later learned some positive things about recycling.”
“With the new eyePhone you can watch, listen, ignore your friends, stalk your ex, download porno on a crowded bus, even check your email while getting hit by a train.”
“ Wow, it’s that obscure underground song that’s constantly playing everywhere.”
“Say, you’re from one of those ethnicities that knows about technology.”
“These eyePhones are phones, too?”
- Here’s hoping we see more of the infosquito in the future.
- Puke-me-poop-you – what can I say, I find this funny.
“Now to make an unstoppable army of between one and two million zombies!”
“Fry, I came to talk to you.” “No, I came to talk to you.” “It looked like you were just sitting there … but whatever.”