Last summer, ABC had some space to fill and nothing to fill it with. So they rushed to the editing room, grabbed an editor with an art for sarcasm and put together a special that no one watched but me: "The Best TV Shows That Never Were!" The program showcased dozens of failed TV pilots from the last 40 years--and I wish more people had watched, because this was the most interesting "pull something together quickly and cheaply" special I've ever seen. I'd take this over bloopers anyday--at least I'd learn something.
Now it's time for several pilots from the special, as well as some others I already knew about. Prepare to blast off into a past that never happened....
Peter Boyle would have played a gruff, sarcastic cop in "Poochinski."
|Instead, he was run down and killed one fateful night. But that wasn't how it ended.|
"Hey you! Look down here, bozo......SURPRIIIIIISE!!" (by the way, this is real dialogue I'm typing)
"Wow, you've been reincarnated as a DOG! What're you gonna do NOW?"
"Well, first I'm gonna lick myself....THEN, I'm gonna CATCH MY KILLER!!"
They shake hands and decide to work together, and Boyle re-enters the police force as a dog--a dog who is sometimes the real thing and sometimes an obvious puppet. I haven't typed enough dialogue yet.
"Look at me. I'm a dog. It's all sinking in now."
"But it's life! Precious LIFE!"
Okay, now I've typed enough dialogue....
There was a period in the mid-90's when Baywatch was white-hot, and the networks were interested in buying a show idea from the producers. So, those producers came up with "Daytona Beach," which was supposed to be Baywatch cranked up to 11. Listen to this extreeeeme setup:
The main character is a lifeguard (part of the "Beach Rangers"), but he's also a cop AND a racecar driver. His girlfriend is an Air Force test pilot who wants to be an astronaut. "Wow, I'd love to pilot the shuttle!" she sighs in that right screenshot. The host of "TV Shows That Never Were" remarked that she was pretty much the only woman on Daytona Beach interested in a real career--all the other ladies were only into beauty contests, tanning, and jumping around to make their jugs bounce.
"Channel 99" would have been a comedy wherein Marylu Henner becomes the manager of a midwestern television station. But wait, it gets better....she just came out of a MENTAL INSTITUTION!! SHE'S CRAZY, YA HA! ...Wait, then how'd she get this position? I'm not going to bust my brain thinking about it because I likely wasn't expected to.
|This show was produced by Ron Howard, who also made a guest appearance (in the left chair). Everyone who watches Arrested Development now thinks Ron is some kinda genius. Nuh-uh...not all the time.|
And can you guess who made THIS one?
NORMAN LEAR. Mr. "All in the Family" himself, one of the most legendary TV producers ever. For some reason he woke up one morning and thought of making this too. I'm not going to type down anything these freaks are saying because you can guess how it goes--lame dog puns and all. This is proof that networks don't always give a rubber stamp of approval to anything an experienced, well-known creator can spit up. And thank goodness for that....
A couple years before "NYPD Blue," ABC pondered making "NYPD Mounted." They're cops, only they make their patrols on horseback! In NEW YORK! I don't know what the setup was that resulted in this (budget cuts maybe), but guess who was the star?
DENNIS FRANZ. No word on if they planned to show his buttocks in this show too. He spent most of his time in the pilot facing comic pratfalls resulting from getting thrown off his horse over and over again. At one point he was even thrown off over a bridge.
There's not really much to say about The Questor Tapes. It would have aired in either the late 60's or early 70's based on the look of it. A scientist guy creates a living android through his top-secret "Questor Project," and they go out together to right wrongs. Along the way, the robot learns about the world and the behaviors of the human species. I only included this for the one tidbit the robot revealed at the end. He was trying to understand love, and suddenly realized something.
"If I ever mate with a female, my fusion reactors will overheat...and I will become a LIVE NUCLEAR BOMB."
They must show The Questor Tapes to females entering the Army. Ya can't be too careful!
Remember Poochinski? Here's something even better. A policeman is out fighting crime and doesn't realize his son is tagging along after him. His son is tragically lost as a result. BUT, he's reincarnated as....no, not a dog....
....AS A ROBOT DINOSAUR!!
Now they----yes, fight crime together just like Poochinski and his partner did. It's time to give criminals a taste of STEEL JUSTICE!
The boy is also a Transformer. You don't want to get him mad, or.....
....he grows 100 feet tall and CARNAGE ENSUES! I wouldn't want to take this kid to the supermarket....
This was the worst of all the pilots I saw in my opinion. "Fuzzbucket" is about the love between a kid and his troll. It's pretty obvious what decade it was birthed in. This show sounds absolutely horrible to me--cuter than Full House and more annoying than Urkel.
I was even more horrified to hear that, unlike many of these, "Fuzzbucket" actually got out. It was converted into a TV movie, shown on the Disney Channel and released on video. It's not done so much anymore, but in the past many pilots were made into TV movies and released that way, or aired au naturel as one-shot "specials" to relieve the summer reruns. Couldn't they keep "Fuzzbucket" behind closed doors though?
"TARZAN IN MANHATTAN": no screenshots, but it was about....Tarzan in Manhattan instead of the jungle. Jane was a taxi driver. Yes, the guy really leapt around New York in a loincloth--I think he even fought crime. This was unrelated to a show that appeared on The WB in 2003, which was also about Tarzan living in New York (newer networks have to learn lessons the hard way).
Of all the pilots shown, "The Chameleon" got closest to actually being put into production. This bioengineered superbabe living in the future had other powers in addition to turning invisible. You can't go wrong with "pretty girls that kill you." But it was never really made.
They actually ordered THREE "The Chameleon" pilots before finally passing on the show for good. The Sci-Fi Network bought the pilots, but didn't have the budget to continue the series. They were released to the public as little movies.
There were many, many proposed ideas for superhero shows that never made it. I was surprised to learn that "Daredevil" and "Thor" could have been shows in the early 80's. I'm REALLY surprised they thought about Thor. I mean, LOOK how that turned out--it should've been obvious how it was going to look before they ever tried filming it.
|HEY! Why DIDN'T they make this one? From the looks of the special effects, it was made around the time the X-Men spinoff comic book came out of the same name. Maybe it was intended to be both a comic book and a TV series at once. I do know that X-Men were white-hot when I was growing up, and any 90's child remembers them fondly. I would have appreciated an X-Men show that wasn't a badly-animated Saturday Morning spectacle.|
I wouldn't say these are Banshee and Jubilee for CERTAIN. They could have been younger people with similar-looking abilities, and the special never identified who they were. "Generation X" was another pilot given the "TV Movie" makeover, and it aired on Fox. I never saw it there.
"I-MAN" was also made into a TV Movie, around the same time that Fuzzbucket was. After being exposed to green "space gas," this dumb-looking actor finds he's gained a superpower--the power to heal himself really really fast. The announcer whined about how lame that sounds, but fast healing is also Wolverine's power, and you just don't mess with Wolverine.
This was a TV movie too, and it would have made one peculiar series. The story: a guy buys the Bates Motel and decides to fix it up and reopen it. The show was actually done in a cheery, upbeat manner--it could have been about any other motel, they just used the Bates Motel for the attention I'm assuming. What....an idea. Norman himself guest-stars--his ashes are in that urn!
In "Higher Ground," John Denver works for the FBI and he's TOUGH AS NAILS--just like in real life! He busts lots of criminal heads--when he's not singing (yes, he did sing in this, a lot).
"THE PEOPLE".....seem like typical Amish, but something doesn't seem right....
They can fly, they can heal the woman who discovers them, they can make HER fly to spook her into keeping quiet! Not much else--this is a pre-computers pilot, so they can't turn into dinosaurs.
"WISHMAN" is kinda like Small Wonder, except the professor dad works in genetics instead of robotics. He's experimenting, trying to create the Perfect Human Being...but something goes horribly wrong and he must escape with the product, to protect it from the government. His wife greets him cheerily...."Hi Honey, what's in the bag?"
THAT'LL wake you up. It not only looks like a Furby, but it sounds like one. The clips show it doing things like making the lights flicker, but it must have been able to do a lot more because of the name "Wishman." Now that they have a sort-of child, they're a Nuclear Family--one that has to hide their kid in a garbage bag every time company drops by.
"Condor" takes place in Los Angeles, in the year 1999, when they had flying cars and lifelike robots.
TV robots will always either look like Wishman, or like this. I couldn't tell you if "Condor" is the name of the female robot this pilot revolves around, or the name of some secret agency, or what-have-you...I just know that based on what I've learned in The Questor Tapes, that guy better be careful how far he tries to go.
|"Acting Sheriff": a flamboyant actor who becomes a goofy sheriff in a small town. This might have been approved, but it was ultimately abandoned in favor of another season of "Jake and the Fatman" (true fact). This hallway looks familiar....it looks exactly like the hallway outside Gary's room on Early Edition. Looks like some recycling was done....|
"Red Dwarf": Red Dwarf is the name of the small spaceship that one young, slacker astronaut is inhabiting. Then he accidentally freezes himself and the ship goes on auto-pilot for about three million years. When he finally wakes up and the Computer Lady Head tells him this, he understandably has a look of total shock on his face...then he says, "MY BASEBALL CARDS MUST BE WORTH A FORTUNE!!"
"Sir, we've been drifting AWAY from Earth for three million years. How do you expect us to get back?"
"Maybe there's a shortcut."
Red Dwarf made it out of the pilot stage and went on to cult success....in the UK. This is a watered-down American copycat pilot based on a British comedy adventure, and our attempt wasn't very funny....and from the looks of it, incredibly dull. You can't film an entire series inside that one spaceship with two people...then again, there have been plenty of multi-season sitcoms where people never left the kitchen, ever.
200 years from 1994, Los Angeles Airport will be a high-tech spaceport, with Kelly Hu in charge. So far it's better than the Heather Locklear "LAX" drama NBC tried last year...but wait.
Her partner in business is this strange guy with a weird accent who moves around awkwardly and can't tell a good joke to save his life. "It'z a shame, we got lightspeed travel, we can rezarect da dead, and yet we still can't make a vending machine dat doesn't make me want ta do dis." He immediately punches the glass out of the machine and grabs a snack, cue laugh track. This was surely intended to run on TGIF. There probably would have been a crossover episode where Sabrina the Teenage Witch accidentally zapped herself into the airport, and through a freak anomaly brought Cody Lambert.
Self-explanatory. You don't even need any pictures to know it's about a family shipwrecked on a mysterious island....and yes, the kid sucking his thumb would soon star on "7th Heaven." If they'd waited a few more years, they could have rode on the success of Lost and gotten this into production as a me-too ripoff.
Speaking of Lost, the original ad for the series aired during this special; how ironic. Unfortunately, after this the tape ran out and I didn't get the last quarter of the program. And it's a real shame.....
|If I had been able to give you the full scoop on that one pilot about the midget private eye in Las Vegas, that would have pushed this page into "Greatest Page On The Entire Site" territory.|
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