In the classic song quoted above, our good friend Black Francis sings about the greatest surrealist film ever made, the 1928 Luis Bunuel/Salvador Dali collaboaration Un Chien Andalou. Featuring a hand crawling with ants, a transvestite on a bicycle, and, yes, the on-screen depiction of a razor blade slicing a womans eyeball (actually a cows eyeball), each scene of the sixteen-minute film has absolutely nothing to do with any of the other scenes in the film. To this day, film historians strain to find a connection amongst the images in the film, seemingly unwilling to accept the fact that Bunuel and Dail deliberately wrote the script with none in mind. It has no plot, no story, and seemingly no purpose. This makes it all the more important --- an experience so void of conventional narrative style as to deconstruct the medium.
A year ago, Tom Greens feature film debut, Freddy Got Fingered, made its way into theaters. Roger Ebert made the following observations about the surrealist nature of the film:
Many years ago, when surrealism was new, Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali made Un Chien Andalou, a film so shocking that Bunuel filled his pockets with stones to throw at the audience if it attacked him. Green, whose film is in the surrealist tradition, may want to consider the same tactic. The day may come when Freddy Got Fingered is seen as a milestone of neo-surrealism. The day may never come when it is seen as funny.
Ebert goes on to remark:
This movie doesn't scrape the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't below the bottom of the barrel. This movie doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels.
Now, it may be true that one day Freddy Got Fingered will be hailed as a neo-surrealist masterpiece. But I stand here today to proclaim that it will never be considered THE essential neo-surrealist experience. That, as I will explain here, belongs to a television series so mind-boggling in its very premise that it has to have been the most elaborate deconstruction of the medium of television in its history.
Jim J. Bullock is one of those guys whose relative fame leaves me flabbergasted. But as the debatably lovable Monroe on TVs Too Close for Comfort, I guess hordes of people warmed up to him. In the twenty years since, Bullock has learned that he is HIV-positive, was a regular on The Hollywood Squares (the one John Davidson hosted), had his partner die of AIDS complications, and has been arrested for possessing crystal meth. Oh yeah, he also appeared as a regular during the last season of ALF. Naturally, he was the perfect choice to be co-host of a radical show that would tear apart the very core of the television talk format.
I am convinced that Tammy Faye Bakker is in fact a human being, though I was still leaning toward muppet as recently as 1998. Clearly, she has brash disregard for all expectations of humanity. That makeup. The whole PTL thing. Her 1979 album Were Blest featuring the moving Id Rather Have Jesus. Its pure brilliance. When seeking to disrupt the tired talk-show format to the point of ripping the very fabric of human existence, shes the natural choice.
Somehow, somewhere, in the depths of Hollywood, someone decided that it was a great idea to greenlight a talk show hosted by Jim J. Bullock and Tammy Faye Bakker. That person was not merely smokin crack or rockin the ganj, but actually using a dissociative substance along the lines of ketamine. In this state, one could have been close enough to an alternate universe to believe that this show was a good idea.
In the spirit of The Chevy Chase Show and Homeboys in Outer Space, Jim J. and Tammy Faye would become a crowning achievement in the field of neo-surrealism. For three short months in 1996, one could tune their television in to this curiosity five times a week. Every show made me ask myself how the world would be different if I had never been born. By all objective standards, Gabrielle and Tempestt were far superior programs, but neither had the sheer jaw-dropping irrelevance of Jim J. & Tammy Faye. People are always saying that there arent enough hours in the day. One hour with this program would have you begging for the planet to spin a little faster.
But I am one to applaud audacity, and this is brimming with it. Solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is less mind-numbing than the notion that this show existed. At some point, I realized that rational thought could not explain this phenomenon. I have learned to accept that it is all real, and not something I dreamt after eating a special brownie. From January through March of 1996, there was actually a television show starring Jim J. Bullock and Tammy Faye Bakker. Any attempt to tie that into a larger theme is futile. There were guests, most of whom were relatively unknown. There were lots of cooking bits, and at least one occasion in which Jim stabbed Tammy Faye in the eye with a large wooden spoon. Like little Stanley says in the waning moments of P.T. Andersons Magnolia, This happens. This is something that happens. Ive come to terms with it in a sense, but it still haunts me from time to time.
Like those who continually attempt to deconstruct the meaning of Un Chien Andalou, I too wrestle with the purpose of Jim J. and Tammy Faye. But such analysis is pointless. Jim J. & Tammy Faye was the ultimate proverbial middle finger to discerning viewers like myself. My expectations for comedy and information were turned upside down, replaced by a string of random occurences coordinated by an openly gay actor and a conservative televangelist. It is no coincidence that the talk-show craze subsided soon after the shows cancellation. Something so stunning certainly couldnt be taken lightly, and the television landscape hasnt been the same since.
My life was certainly changed by the show. Knowing what I now know, Encore! Encore! and The Fighting Fitzgeralds make perfect sense. I see things with a more open mind.
I do know this, though: In April of 1996, the final month of the shows run, Tammy Faye was replaced by Ann Abernathy. Who the shit is that? Exactly.
Past pieces presented by Baja Phats
Now you can pay to read Baja Phats Presents!