Show of the Day: Heat Vision and Jack

21 Oct

I would wager to say Heat Vision and Jack, which was made in 1999, is the most well-known pilot of the last twenty years that never actually aired.  I’m sure there’s some other contenders, and I don’t think it’s hands down, but I do think it’s true.  Even more than that, I’d wager than more movie stars have broken out of this unaired pilot than any other, probably ever.

What I didn’t mention yet is that it’s also one of the more surreal pilots, a comedy/science fiction fusion in which Jack Black portrays a former astronaut, Jack Austin, whose exposure to some sort of dangerous solar radiation gives him super intelligence which is triggered by exposure to the sun, ie. sunlight.  In the dark, his powers are lost.  He also has a catchphrase when his powers activated, which entails him screaming, “I KNOW EVERYTHING”  It’s absolutely as ridiculous as it sounds.

We’re not even close to the levels of absurdity yet though.  Next, Jack Black’s character’s roommate, Douglas, is hanging around the space station to meet up with Black after a mission, when he gets shot with some crazy solar ray of radiation.  This radiation causes him to merge with his motorcycle, becoming Heat Vision, the talking motorcycle.  The motorcycle is voiced by Owen Wilson and has trouble righting itself if it tips over.

Heat Vision and Jack are both wanted by NASA for scientific prodding and such and are on the run from NASA all across the country.  They solve supernatural crimes and mysteries as they move from town to town evading primary villain NASA employee Ron Silver.  That is actor Ron Silver playing himself as a tracker of these fugitives, and who also appears to be invulnerable, able to take bullets without permanent harm.  A police officer even recognizes him as the villain from Timecop.

The show was created by Dan Harmon, now responsible for NBC’s wonderful Community and Rob Schrab, who co-created The Sarah Silverman Program.  Ben Stiller directs the first episode and has a cameo.  Christine Taylor also guest stars in the episode as a local cop, and this is where she met future husband Ben Stiller.

The first episodes opens with a monologue by Ben Stiller, introducing the show, and making several references to The Phantom Menace, which came out about the same time.  The episode involves some sort of alien which takes over the body of character actor Vincent Schiavelli and starts causing mayhem.  Heat Vision and Jack must stop him while evading Silver.

It’s worth a watch for its absurdity if nothing else.  I have my doubts about how the concept could have lasted six seasons and a movie, but for one episode the concept is hilarious and strange.  The special effects are truly atrocious and the camp level is extremely high and while Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and Jack Black were not nobodies at the time, they were also nowhere near the peak levels of fame they’d achieve just a couple of years later as the Frat Pack movement hits its heights in the early 2000s.  There’s something enjoyable about watching them with that hindsight.  Also, enjoy Ron Silver, who died two years ago of cancer and sadly will not be doing any more acting as himself or anyone else.

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