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Jerry and the Professor
November 1st, 2009

One of my favorite shows as a kid was My Secret Identity. The basic premise of the show was that the main character, Jerry O’Connell, was struck by what I think was blue lightning. The blue lightning gave him superpowers. My recollection is hazy but I believe these superpowers involved superhuman strength and the ability to run very fast. He could also float. He used weights to keep him grounded and spray cans to propel himself and direct his flight. I also recall that he was bulletproof; he was shot in the chest once and it didn’t hurt. He did complain that his new shirt was ruined though.

Of course, I wanted to be Jerry O’Connell. 1

For some reason, Jerry O’Connell didn’t tell anyone that he had superpowers except for his professor friend. So My Secret Identity was Jerry and the professor. Everyone else was background. The professor was a genius. And like most TV professors, he was self-sabotaging. That is, he was demonstratively capable of inventing things that could make him rich beyond his dreams and yet for some reason he decided to never bring any of his gadgets to market. He was also known to wear a white lab coat and silly glasses.

I remember very few episodes of this show – only a handful have really stuck with me: The pilot, the one where Jerry briefly loses his powers, the one where he gets shot (this likely happened more than once) and the one where he goes to China. As it turns out, it was actually Chinatown but when I was 9 I didn’t know what a Chinatown was.

The China(town) episode was “The Eyes of the Shadow” (S01E12). This episode began with the professor testing out his latest gadget. I remember that it was about the size of a shoe box. In reality it probably was a shoe box. In the TV show though, it was a translator; Jerry would speak to it in English and it would repeat his phrase in Chinese. Conversely, if it was spoken to in Chinese, it would reply with the spoken phrase in English. This episode aired in 1989 and this shoe-box-sized-translator-gizmo was from the future.

Jerry holding the translating shoe box

The rest of the episode is kind of a blur. I know that Jerry fell for a (bilingual) Chinese girl and intended to use the translating shoe box to ask the girl’s father for permission to date her. Unfortunately, the translator exploded and so the Chinese girl had to act as a translator instead. Funny right? No. It was stupid. Who cares about that stuff. The translator was awesome.

Today, 20 years after that episode aired, the professor’s invention has finally been released.2 But it’s not a shoe box, it’s an iPhone app. It’s called Jibbigo and it costs $29.95. We live in amazing times, right? Of course, nowadays, we’re a little harder to please. When we hear about Jibbigo we think, “$29.95 is too expensive because it only translates between two languages and it’s slow. 1 star.”

And for those of you complaining that it crashes your iPhone, just be thankful that they fixed the spontaneous combustion problem.

Jerry holding the translating shoe box

1. When I was a teenager, Jerry starred in Sliders. Again, I wanted to be Jerry O’Connell.
2. Just replace Chinese with Spanish.