Futurama, Season Nine, Episode Seven, “Calculon 2.0”

Written by: Lewis Morton
Directed by: Stephen Sondaval
DN’s Ranking: Bad / NONESSENTIAL / Essential

“This must be a difficult time for people who confuse TV actors for actual friends.”

It’s incredibly funny to me that they committed to Calculon being killed off – the show was never quite as serialised as it was made out to be, with Fry’s brain thing arc being more of a few special episodes linked together. Leela’s search for her parents feels closer to epic serialisation; a quest that she fulfilled and then developed. This (ironically soap-opera-like) element of killing off a character and having it stick for a while points to a more fluid world a la what Mission Hill was trying to go for or what Always Sunny has successfully pulled off; it definitely feels like the vivid imagination of Futurama could lead to some bizarre and delightful continuity beyond what they did do.

Anyway, this feels like an appropriate use and amount of Calculon. One fascinating thread of discussion around this show is how much of a tertiary or spear-carrier character is too much; I stand with everyone else in thinking they became entirely and bizarrely too enamoured with Randy in the CC seasons, while I could happily listen to Nixon all damn day. Calculon obviously works as a seven-second joke, but he also has just enough substance to build an occasional episode around – if not out of a complex motivation (literally the whole joke here is that he doesn’t have one) then out of the deep bench of jokes about acting as a profession.

Title Card: The only show broadcast at the speed of light
Cartoon Billboard: N/A

“Wherefore… verily… No autographs, please…”

Dan Castellanetta returns as the Robot Devil and Robert Wagner appears as himself. Fry and Bender end up pushed to the background together, which somehow serves to make them not just funny but transcendently so; I deeply enjoy the implication that the two of them are just as out of touch in their tastes as Calculon is in his performance. It kind of feels like how the Gang were so trapped in their bubble of delusion in Always Sunny that they gradually became desperately out of touch. I don’t have many notes about the animation aside from a few little touches – the robot pushing a boulder up a treadmill in Robot Hell and the little chair for the network executive phone device.

“Yes. Yes! However no.”

Bender throwing the shovel in the air and catching it is lifted from an animation in the video game Chibi-Robo!. Calculon mutters a reference to Citizen Kane when he wakes up alive. The Shubot Theater is a reference to New York’s Shubert Theater. Calculon’s one-man show combines 2001: A Space Odyssey and Mark Twain Tonight. The Tragic Pan is a reference to the restaurant chain The Magic Pan. Calculon riffs on F Scott Fitzgerald’s line “There are no second acts in American lives.” There’s a poster referencing the film 10,000 BC. Calculon drops a parody of Elvis Presley’s comeback film Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite.

“’Worst play in history’. There’s some ambiguity there.”

Iconic Moments: “Yes, the number I was thinking of was the letter ‘m’.” | “Hail science!”
Biggest Laugh: “I meant live theater!” 

Next Week: “Assie Come Home.” “They stole everything except my mouth and eyes! I guess they didn’t like all my screamin’ and winkin’.”