Hulk Hogan isn’t having a great summer. First, the cancellation of China, IL cost the former WWE superstar his gig as dean of the worst college in America. At the time, that probably looked like a blip on the Hulkster’s radar, busy as he was with preparations for his $100 million court date with Gawker Media. Then the audio from the sex tape at the center of Hogan v. Gawker leaked. The racial slurs reportedly uttered in the tape led to Hogan’s dismissal from the WWE, a severing of ties in which he was booted from the wrestling promotion’s hall of fame and cleared from its online history.
The summer hasn’t been particularly kind to Jared Fogle, either. As part of an ongoing child pornography investigation, the FBI raided Fogle’s house on July 7. Shortly thereafter, the sandwich chain suspended Fogle from his spokesperson duties.
But you know who’s having a worse summer than either of these guys? Daniel Weidenfeld and Dave Newberg, the TV writers who were pitching an animated series about a sub-shop rivalry between Hogan and Fogle when this double whammy of bad news hit.
Following a tip, The A.V. Club acquired the show bible for Hogan’s Heros (misspelling intentional, because of hero sandwiches and Bob Crane) from Weidenfeld and Newberg. The show was to focus on a fictionalized version of Hogan, who, after leaving the wrestling ring, enters the high-stakes game of selling sandwiches in Tampa, Florida. (According to Weidenfeld, the six-time WWE World Heavyweight Champion committed to playing himself if the show sold and “the money was right.”) The controversy over Hogan’s statements alone would’ve knocked Hogan’s Heros out of contention, but the project was doubly cursed by the news cycle: In addition to the Ghost Of Cleopatra (an avowed Hulkamaniac) and “Niles from Frasier,” Hogan’s Heros’ proposed cast of characters included Jared Fogle. Overseeing the evil empire that seeks to cure Tampa of its sandwich-based Hulkamania, Jared is described in the show bible as such:
“While his TV image is built around being skinny, Jared is actually an obese monster who has created a horde of SKINNY ROBOT JAREDS to trick the world.”
In a rough sketch, the character is rendered as one of the Hutts from the Star Wars universe, only with the face of Jared Fogle.
Weidenfeld and Newberg began shopping the concept to various networks in early July. Five days after they began that process, the FBI raided Fogle’s home, just one in a series of unfortunate coincidences to befall the show.
But is it really a series of coincidences, or has Hogan’s Heros come down with the same bad juju that plagues the Exorcist and Poltergeist franchises? Trick question: “Bad juju” and “curses” aren’t real. (But you know what is real? The human mind’s tendency to organize the chaos of life into dubious patterns that explain, say, how multiple people who’ve worked on the same series of movies wound up dying under tragic, yet completely unrelated, circumstances.) Still, it makes for a fascinating story, one that lives up to the description given to Hogan’s Heros by its creators: “The best cartoon about Hulk Hogan that you’ll never see.”
Read the complete Hogan’s Heros bible at this link. Believe it or not, it gets weirder than skinny robot Jareds. (There’s also a robot Calista Flockhart.)