This Throwback Thursday, Joe Harper unearths a radiant piece of discarded treasure from Community creator, Dan Harmon. //
Long before Dan Harmon blossomed into the self-styled narcissist-genius responsible for Community and next level navel gazing, podcast masterpiece Harmontown, he made Heat Vision and Jack.
The show was created in 1999 by Harmon and frequent collaborator Rob Schrab (Channel 101, Scud), and never even made it to air. Luckily for us, the pilot made its way to the internet, and has since developed the kind of cult following Harmon seems to always leave in his wake.
The pilot, directed by Ben Stiller, is a brilliantly surreal slice of science fiction nonsense that hints at Harmon’s mastery of genre manipulation and unyielding urge to wink at the audience.
The show ostensibly toes the middle ground between The Six Million Dollar Man, and Doctor Who, following the adventures of its protagonists Jack Austin (Jack Black), a former astronaut who gained super-human intelligence after being exposed to inappropriate levels of solar energy; and Heat Vision, a talking motorcycle voiced by Owen Wilson, who came into being when Jack’s unemployed mate got zapped by some kind of ray gun.
The primary antagonist of the show is actor Ron Silver, who plays himself. His acting work is supposedly a cover for his real calling, that of an assassin trained by and working for the evil beings at NASA.
The logic is magnificently fuzzy as are the “state of the art, special, computerised effects”. The synth soundtrack is laid on thick, as are the hyper self-aware jokes and brazenly stupid dialogue. The show is every bit as gleefully idiotic as its premise implies.
For whatever reason Fox didn’t see a future in Heat Vision and Jack. So unfortunately the best we can do is revel in the pilot*, and wonder the depths to which Harmon’s weirdo instincts may have allowed him to venture had it continued.
* As an added bonus, the pilot has a hilarious direct to camera intro from Ben Stiller where he promises the show will “knock you back on your coal-mining asses” and takes numerous unwarranted shots at George Lucas. It’s really great.