What Could Have Been #34 | Heat Vision & Jack

What Could Have Been #34 | Heat Vision & Jack

A super intelligent astronaut and a talking motorcycle are on the run from NASA. No, really!

In 1999, Ben Stiller wasn’t the hugely successful actor we know him as now. He had appeared in a few big films such as Cable Guy, There’s Something About Mary and the hugely underappreciated Mystery Men. His big comedy breakout films such as Zoolander and Meet The Parents were just around the corner.

Stiller was no stranger behind the camera either as he had directed Cable Guy, and most of his own programme, The Ben Stiller Show which aired on the Fox network.

In 1999, Fox gave him the go ahead to direct a pilot of a television show entitled, Heat Vision and Jack.

Written by the multi talented Rob Schrab and Dan Harmon, one half of the creative team behind Rick & Morty, Heat Vision & Jack is what you’d expect from these guys, a wacky sci-fi comedy.

Jack of the title is the astronaut Jack Austin played by Jack Black. During a routine mission, he was exposed to massive amounts of solar energy. From that point on, whenever he is exposed to sunlight, Jack gains the power of super intelligence.

Heat Vision is…something else. Doug was Jacks unemployed roommate and was hit with an experimental ray gun which merged him with his motorcycle. Thus Heat Vision, voiced by Owen Wilson, was born. Think of it as a prototype to Lightening McQueen!

Together, Heat Vision and Jack are on the run from Ron Silver, who is playing an evil version of himself. Silver is a former astronaut, great actor and cold-blooded killer. He is out to retrieve the brain of Jack Austin!

Jack Austin (Jack Black), the Sheriff (Christine Taylor) and Heat Vision (Owen Wilson)

This all sounds completely crazy and it is! It’s also a lot of fun. Many times whilst watching, it feels more like a group of friends making something for fun rather than a running television show.

Fox weren’t impressed enough and didn’t pick up the pilot for a series but the story doesn’t end there.

The pilot was uploaded to the internet and gained a cult following. In 2014, Dan Harmon revealed in a Reddit AMA that the show rights had been sold to one of the Zucker Brothers, most famous for the Airplane and Naked Gun films, just after the pilot had been dismissed.

Zucker wanted to take the story in a completely new direction, Harmon and Schrab disagreed and left the project which fell through.

In 2005, Jack Black, Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller had hit the big time and all three were interested in turning the story into a full feature film. Unfortunately, this never came to fruition.

Finally, in 2010, there was the idea to create the series as a live action web show. That idea transformed when the rights were sold to an animation studio. However, Harmon and Schrab backed out creatively.

New writers were hired because the studio wanted to create something akin to another Fox show, Bob’s Burgers. Again, the project must have stalled and has been lost to time.

Heat Vision & Jack is thirty minutes of goofy fun and you can watch it below.

John Abbitt

About the author | John Abbitt

@UKFilmNerd | John loves film, and he used to write for his own website, The Tydirium Hangar Bay, in the late 1990s. Whilst that website became lost in the passages of time, John's love of film did not. He's back, writing for The Unheard Nerd.