Written and Directed by Eric Griffin, Adam Lenhart, and Jake McClellan
If I was just scrolling down a list of film titles, I would probably look past one that seemed like a jumble of initials, but once you realize how it’s pronounced, HeBGB TV (or “heebee jeebies”) is a lot of fun to say.
As for the film itself, to any 90’s kids who grew up watching Nickelodeon, you wouldn’t think their commercial breaks would inspire much nostalgia, but that’s exactly what HeBGB TV got me thinking about. Those ridiculous toy ads. The obsession with slime (parodied here with ads for The Blood Channel, which in turn reminded me of the opening titles for All That, where the cast members would jump around). One scene with singing candy corn reminded me of Joey’s Lunch.
In the film, HeBGB TV is a cable box that suddenly lands on a lot of people’s doorsteps and, rather than even question whether a package that’s spewing out smoke should be brought into their homes, most people seem to think it’s okay. For younger siblings Willow and Van Reiner, they were just waiting for their pizza to arrive when they came across the package. They didn’t turn the box on. It plugged itself in.
As if things weren’t weird enough, the first show that turns on is the Purple Guy (one of numerous characters played by Knucklehead, AKA McClellan) and rather than stay on TV, the Purple Guy appears in Willow and Van’s living room, like a horror version of the Cat and the Hat.
If there’s a flaw to HeBGB TV, it’s that it spends more time on the cable box’s fake programming than on showing how the box is affecting its viewers. While an early news segment provides some local characters that the film can touch base with later on to show how HeBGB TV is ruining their lives, Willow and Van’s dealings with the Purple Guy could’ve been a much more integral part of the story.
The more the film goes on, the more the channel flipping starts to wear thin as well (though the quicker cuts definitely work better than a later attempt to do a longer bit for a made-up horror film called The Night Snacker).
As someone who’s set up a lot of cable boxes, I appreciated the attention to detail (like having the box search for channels first before it started working) and there are some great practical special effects (credited to Lenhart), like the box, which looks like a throbbing brain from the top.
With so many people moving away from cable and towards streaming, I did sometimes wonder if the film’s messaging about people being glued to their television screens (when, these days, any screen is fair game) still resonated.
Nonetheless, HeBGB TV would make for great Halloween viewing, and the fact that Griffin, Lenhart, and McClellan were able to mix in so many artforms, from puppets to animation, truly shows what multi-talents they are.
Salem Horror Fest ran from April 20th to April 30th.
HeBGB TV Written and Directed by Eric Griffin, Adam Lenhart, and Jake McClellan If I was just scrolling down aCOMICONRead More