Calculon is back from the dead just in time to ruin all of acting.
It’s been a year since Calculon (Maurice LaMarche) killed himself trying to win an acting contest in “The Thief of Baghead.” Fry (Billy West) and Bender (John DiMaggio) hate his replacement on the show All My Circuits, so they decide to bring Calculon back from the dead. Bender exhumes his body and the pair get Calculon’s soul back from the Robot Devil (Dan Castellaneta), who has been driven nuts by Calculon’s presence. The Professor (West) and the cast bring him back successfully, but Calculon finds that he has not been missed. In fact, the network doesn’t want him back on television. He tries to win the audiences back by performing a one-man show, but it fails horribly. Depressed, Calculon decides to give up acting.
As he starts his new life of normality, he reflects humbly upon his mistakes and his delivery actually moves Leela (Katey Sagal), who hates his acting normally, to tears. She realizes that Calculon is showing real emotion for the first time, rather than his hammy overacting, and she tells him that if he could keep this going, he could actually be a great actor. He auditions for a bit part on the show, which turns out to be his old role. On set, Calculon quickly goes back to his old hammy ways, sabotaging a scene in which he is supposed to kill himself. Leela, enraged, yells at him and, depressed again, Calculon gives a moving and sincere performance, revealing his identity, before the roof collapses and kills him again. He is remembered now as a great actor, but is now torturing the robot damned with his ego again.
This episode mostly feels unnecessary. Calculon had a funny send-off that highlighted the character’s ironic inability to act and this episode just kind of does that again. However, it also undoes the previous joke that Calculon was actually a respected actor and a success despite his complete lack of talent. Apparently now that he’s dead almost everyone just decides immediately that he was a crappy actor. It just kind of feels forced.
The thing that this episode does well, though, is the first act when they’re resurrecting Calculon. The Professor’s “process” for bringing Calculon back is hilariously depicted as a clear Satanic ritual, including sacrificing a goat, playing a recording backwards (which says “rise in the name of Satan”), and forming a pentagram. Despite this, the Professor constantly defends that it is purely scientific, even as the evidence that it’s basically insane mysticism mounts.
Overall, aside from a few moments, it’s just not a great episode.
Calculon’s one-man show is called HAL 9000 and is a clear parody of the play Mark Twain Tonight. It combines the life of Mark Twain with the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, including a hilarious emotional breakdown to the tune of “Bicycle Built for Two.” The reason I really love this joke is because the author of Mark Twain Tonight, and the person who performed it for 60 years, was the great Hal Holbrook, meaning this is HAL Holbrook 9000.
See you next week, meatbags.
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