Not Ready for Prime time

The Bobby Jack Pack Show lurks in the shadows of cable access, threatening its creator with low-rent success

Where Bobby's sentences flow like slow-moving water, Higgins can be a dizzying whirlpool: quick, articulate--and loud. Brainy as well as brash, Higgins has a mind like a database for Jeopardy; not surprisingly, Higgins watches the game show religiously. Higgins is on screen for most of every episode of The Bobby Jack Pack Show and, at 90 decibels, his scream is a staple, too. When he's not on camera, he's shooting alongside Bobby with the second camera, his own Sony High 8.

Bobby and Higgins' work sessions are as disjointed as The Bobby Jack Pack Show itself. The two communicate like a husband and wife who have been together so long they finish each other's sentences--in their own language.

This morning in the kitchen, they are working on the script for a bit in episode No. 7, called "Planet of 10,000 Women or So," a spoof, in part, of the 1958 space flick Queen of Outer Space, starring Zsa Zsa Gabor, and She-Devils on Wheels, a '60s cult classic.

Bobby: "We need monster claws."
Higgins: "We could shoot and do a cutaway and do a rumble and thwomp!--have one of the disposable characters get squashed."

Bobby: "OK, I'm going to try to get some cheerleader outfits."
Higgins: "We have a bunch of stuff to shoot Thursday. Scene 3--they wake up in the palace, the space girl is exposed as a girl and led off in chains to face the giant spider. The next scene is Dr. Smitty and Dog-uglywoman--a guy in drag--and Heather will be in chains. Hopefully, she'll be in a cheerleader outfit."

Bobby: "Since we're cramming a two-hour space movie into five minutes, we should speed up everything."

Higgins: "They could look at their watches all the time."
Bobby: "They could be captured and be taken to the queen, and in three steps they're there."

Higgins reaches over and turns up the sound on the television, which is still playing chop-chop. "Have you ever heard of Blood Feast?" he asks me.

I shake my head.
"It's the Gone with the Wind, the Citizen Kane of gore movies," he says.
Indeed. I watch the black-and-white footage of a man knocking on the door, walking in and ripping out a woman's tongue. Then the tape abruptly goes into five seconds of Lost in Space. Then, Charlie the Tuna. Then, a clip of a woman in a bikini doing the twist. Next, it's Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.

"This is the idea behind the shows," says Bobby. "Keep it moving with your favorite stuff--the meat of it, the heart of it; that's all you need."

Deconstructed dialogue is lifted from old movies and TV shows, then twisted ever so slightly and put in inappropriate situations so that the well-directed bad acting can shine. The point, after all, is to make The Bobby Jack Pack Show as disconcerting for the viewer as it appears to be for the characters, who always respond illogically to the dilemmas they find themselves in.

When Loretta tells her girlfriend, Anorexis, that she's going to kill herself because her boyfriend, a police detective, was murdered, Anorexis wails, "Now who am I going to date on the weekend?"

After a guy gets amnesia from being hit with a meat cleaver and is then bonked on the head with a bowling ball that rolled off a shelf, his first words to his girlfriend are, "Shut 'cher yapping," to which she responds, "I can say anything I want, when I want."Both lines were lifted from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Bobby and Higgins figure that those who get it deeply appreciate the reference. "You can't place it, it might not even seem familiar, but chances are you've seen it before," Higgins says.

Even if only for a moment. Watching the half-hour show is like channel-surfing on late-night cable television. There's a three-second bite here, a 10-second bit there, and parodies of commercials lopped off at the beginning and the end. Within this framework, there lies a scratch-your-head obscurity that Bobby and Higgins consciously strive for in these early-morning writing sessions.

"We take historical facts and mix them with geological facts," Higgins says. "Juxtaposition is a through line. Who else makes references to 15th-century explorers? In a spaceship scene, one guy says to the captain, 'Do you think you're smarter than Ponce de Leon?' Then the captain says, 'Nobody is smarter than Ponce de Leon.'"

Says Bobby, "Einstein was too obvious."
A scene from Flipper pops onto the TV screen. Bobby and Higgins both pause to say, in unison with the woman in the water on television, "That's not a shark, that's Flipper."

In an instant they are back to the space skit.
Bobby: "I want a giant spider to go on her."
Higgins: "There's no reason she can't have rabies, too. Look at that spider;it's foaming at the mouth. You are now the proud owner of rabies."

They both crack up at the reference to a scene from one of John Waters' films, Desperate Living, in which a nurse says the line after injecting a rabies-filled syringe into a woman's bottom.

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