Director: Frank De Palma
Writer: Haskell Barkin
Cast: Harry Anderson, Marcie Barkin, Dick Miller, Tom Newman, David Eastman, Catherine Battistone, and Paul Sparer
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 1/20/1985
Just when struggling screenwriter Leon (Harry Anderson) assumed his luck couldn’t get any worse, an autonomous answering machine develops a will of its own and runs roughshod over Leon. However, after being driven nearly insane by his diabolical device, Leon realizes that his big breakthrough could arrive sooner than expected, but not without a price.
While Harry Anderson’s performance should be commended, “All a Clone by the Telephone” suffers from Frank De Palma’s sloppy execution of a badly dated premise. In addition to its uneven tone, this episode fails to make compelling use of its central theme until an intriguing, albeit predictable, turn of events in the final act.
Despite frequent tone shifts between comedy and horror, Anderson managed to deliver a tormented performance that remains balanced throughout. Perhaps under sturdier direction, Anderson’s portrayal of the rapidly deteriorating protagonist would have been remembered as one of the more resonating performances in this series.
Though “All a Clone by the Telephone” incorporates humor and suspense at various points, the final result fails to adequately deliver on either front. Setting aside the obvious fact that a supernatural answering machine no longer presents a relevant threat given the obsolescence of such technology, audiences will likely fail to perceive the mechanical antagonist as an ominous force thanks to its goofy quips and lame practical jokes. If, however, the answering machine had come across as more menacing in its overall demeanor, perhaps modern audiences would have been willing to pardon Haskell Barkin’s antiquated subject matter.
The concept of balancing technology with other facets of life continues to remain relevant in spite of Barkin’s now archaic story. Unfortunately, even this thought-provoking premise is never explored to its full potential as a result of weak character development and lazy writing.
“All a Clone by the Telephone” benefits from Anderson’s solid acting coupled with a decent twist ending. That being said, a complete absence of philosophical insight into the core subject matter further hampers an already dated narrative.
Overall Quality: 3/10
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