Tuesday, August 09, 2011

More hilarious unsold pilots

Hello from Dallas where it’s a tad hot. Here are more great unsold pilots. From the unsold pilot book by Lee Goldberg. And remember, these are all for real.

TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER    ABC-1964 -- Two aliens from Venus come to earth, meet an inventor, and go into business with him selling to unknowing earthlings products created for another planet.

13 THIRTEENTH AVENUE    CBS-1983 – Similar to one of yesterday’s entries, this one features a widower and his son who move into a Greenwich Village apartment building inhabited by a model who’s a witch, a C.P.A. who’s a werewolf, a lawyer who’s a vampire, a superintendent who’s a troll, and their psychiatrist.

WHERE’S EVERETT?    CBS-1966 -- Alan Alda (of all people) as a young father who goes to get the morning paper and finds that aliens have left an invisible baby on his doorstep. (Oooh, if only I knew about this when I worked with him on MASH…)

YAZOO   NBC-1984 -- William Conrad (the Fat Man from Jake &) is a widowed journalist who goes fishing one day, falls asleep in the boat, and wakes up in a magical world called Yazoo, populated by the Peppercorn Puppets. (I can't believe this one didn't go.) 

AFTER GEORGE   CBS-1983 – Susan Saint James as a widow who discovers her late husband programmed his personality into the computer that operates their house. (MY HUSBAND THE HARD DRIVE)

JUSTIN CASE   ABC-1988 – One of the 12,000 ghost pilots but this one featured the great George Carlin as a ghost private eye.

WHO GOES THERE?   CBS-1965 – Two troublesome ghosts haunting a southern California tract house materialize as General Custer and Indian Chief Running Dog.  (Tract house or crack house?)

IT'S A DOG'S LIFE  NBC-1979 – From the people who brought you ALL IN THE FAMILY comes this tale (tail?) of actors dressed as dogs. (Long before WILFRED)

K-9000   Fox-1989 – A loose cannon on the LAPD has a microchip implanted in his brain by a hot woman scientist allowing him to talk telepathically with his new partner, a genetically-enhanced German shepherd.

POOCHINSKI   NBC-1990 – Dog pilots were also big.  Stanley Poochinski is a tough, ill-mannered cop who has been gunned down in the line of duty and reincarnated as a talking, flatulent English bulldog.

THE ELIZABETH McQUEENY STORY  NBC-1959 – Bette Davis as the leader of an all-female dance troupe that travels through the Old West.

MURDER IN MUSIC CITY  NBC-1979 – I saved the best for last.  Sonny Bono as a Nashville songwriter who becomes a detective. (When he caught the bad guy did he say, “I got you, babe!”?)

A very special treat tomorrow.  I will be showing you one of these unsold pilots.  Y'all come back now, ya heah?


Mike Barer said...

All In The Family may have seemed like a silly idea if it didn't make the cut, I wonder if there is a list of pilots that would have been hits had they been picked up.

Pat Quinn said...

Usually there is a lot written about how 'booby' the boob tube is. Not so these days. Maybe we are in a new age of tv. Less laugh track situations... more character driven comedy and drama?

Drive-By Posting said...

Maybe it's just me, but those first two sound hilarious. I'd have been more inclined to give them a shot than the eight and a half million "dickhead husband constantly upsetting his obnoxious shrew of a wife" sitcoms we inevitably got instead.

I think of it as the Point Break Rule: A well-chosen cast playing the material with enough conviction, in the hands of filmmakers who know what the hell they're doing, can make even the most ridiculous of premises work. I'm a firm believer in the "how" being vastly more important than the "what". Of course, if the "what" involves co-habitating with werewolves, suddenly the "what" is looking pretty damned promising---werewolves are just inherently funny to me. Even the word make me giggle. Heh, heh, heh. Werewolf.

I don't know what the fuck was going on with that William Conrad thing, though. That couldn't possibly have existed...

Brian Phillips said...

A pilot that never sold, I confess I don't know the title, but I believe that Ron Masak was in it and it was filmed sometime in the 1970's. The scene I remember had the characters Tinikiling (the dance that has people dancing between two bamboo poles).

I remember this, because one of the male characters donned a grass skirt and entered the scene...in blackface.

The other distinctive feature of this episode of what a friend of Robert Klein called, "Failure Theater" is that it was shown twice. Usually, if it said in the TV Guide that it was not on the fall schedule, it only got one airing.

As for Johnny Yune, he ended up in "They Call Me Bruce!?" which somehow warranted a sequel (!). Since he wrote or co-wrote the script, it was and is hard to excuse the crass stereotyping he put his OWN character through. What an Uncle Kim.

Brian Phillips said...

Not that it was bad, but I don't see how they thought it was going to be a weekly series.

That would be "Moe's World", by Kevin Rodney Sullivan. It took place in the inner city and it was narrated by a boy that had been killed in a drive-by shooting. It might have made for a good movie, but what in the world could you do when your main character is already dead? Hope that he can be programmed into a compu...Whooops, never mind.

Tom Quigley said...

YAZOO sounds like it would have been an ideal fit for Sid & Marty Krofft (H.R. PUFNSTUF, THE BUGALOOS, THE BANANA SPLITS)... Would love to have seen William Conrad chewing up the scenery in this one.

Mike McCann said...

I always thought the TV adaptation of FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH would have worked a lot better had they "outed" Mister Hand as really being Uncle Martin from MY FAVORITE MARTIAN. A cunning, brilliant and bitchy teacher locking horns (antennae?) with a bunch of spoiled rotten teens. Great TV!

Kirk said...

I'm not saying it would have been a good show, but Take Me to Your Leader doesn't like all that weird a concept when you consider My Favorite Martian was on the air around the same time.

Back in the '70s and '80s, unsold pilots used to air in the summer all the time. One of the funniest was called The Ugily Family (pronounced you-ji-le). Al Molinaro moves his VERY Italian-American family to California, where they end up living nest door to a relentlessly cheerful Lyle Waggoner, his wife, played by Elaine Joyce, and their teenage daughter. At one point Molinaro tells his own, very Italian-looking, teenage daughter, "Me and your mother[also Italian-looking] will never have blond children!"

Alias Smith & Wesson & Jones said...

How do you really know if an invisible baby (or anything else) has been left on your doorstep? Did he have to wait for Radar to confirm it? Lots of ghosts in those days; lots of vampires today. In the future, who knows, maybe humans? Nah, probably just more lawyers.

Been meaning to ask for quite a while......RE MASH. Did the Spearchucker Jones character ever make the cross-over from movie to TV? I just don't recall.

Cap'n Bob said...

Spearchucker was on the early TV shows.

Kirk said...

@Alias Smith--The Spearchucker Jones character was in the first couple episodes of the TV series. He didn't make it through the first season.

CCroom said...

Actually saw "WHERE’S EVERETT?" as it was broadcast as a special during a slow summer. It wasn't half bad. Alan Alda's life would have been hell had you known.

BD Johnson said...

POOCHINSKI - I worked on that one! The dog was a Muppet from the Hensen Creature Shop and it was produced on the Fox lot.

Jessica said...

Hey Ken,

Read 'Top 10 Best Comedy Pilots in TV History' on the HuffPost today; would love to hear your thoughts on the list, if you see it.

Mike Doran said...

Some favorite unsold pilots from long ago:

- Ernie, Madge, and Artie: About a couple of middle-aged newlyweds who get haunted by the bride's deceased first husband.
The pilot aired on a summer evening just a couple of weeks after the real-life death of Frank Sutton, who played the ghost.

- Ghost Writer: Anthony Perkins as a Stephen King-type novelist who brings his new bride to live in his old house with a bunch of actual ghosts. This was a three-camera sitcom with an audience.

-Escape: A Wild Wild West knockoff set in the present, with Christopher George as an escape artist-adventurer, and Avery Schreiber and Huntz Hall in support.
The pilot aired on a Tuesday night, coincident with Mayor Daley I's latest re-election, so the last 15 minutes were pre-empted locally. Channel 7's switchboards practically melted down (Daley getting re-elected again was scarcely a surprise), and they had to show the whole thing again late at night a couple of nights later.

-House Of Wax: Back in '66 Warners dusted off this title for a turn-of-the-century whodunit, and ABC put it on the fall schedule.
But then office politics intervened, and Warners wound up adding footage and releasing it theatrically as Chamber Of Horrors.

These are just the ones I can think of now.
Sorry you brought the whole thing up, no?

HogsAteMySister said...

Three decades ago I wrote a column for the university paper (The Shorthorn) suggesting new shows for the upcoming season.

The only one I can remember was "Pork and Dindy" - about an alien pig who says Oink-oo, Oink-oo, and his bimbo roommate Dindy.

Maybe I should resubmit that...

Russ DiBello said...

Honestly, although I didn't see what the finished quiche looked like, "After George", as a plot device, has potential.

We are living in a decade where technology has caught up with the concept, and it would be completely possible to program a set of personality variables into a sophisticated computer program. And then, overlay it with one's own voice.

Depending on the writing involved (okay, also the actress), if you didn't stray too close to "My Hubby The Computer", and instead made it more of a human drama where the widow accesses the thinking processes of her mentor, lover and friend... and occasionally finds herself getting emotional, as the resemblance of the virtual personality to the late husband gets more eerie... you might actually have some artistic integrity, here. It might make a good film.

(Or not.)

HW said...

I don't know where to go! *Please* continue with classic baseball announcing! I just want to know what *happened*!!! So sorry for the random post, but there's no way to simply call the front office and say "Hey, guys, just let Ken announce the games". Please reply with a way to start a petition. I tweet with the same handle.

cadavra said...

Back in the old days, the networks used to burn off unsold pilots in summer "showcases." I used to watch them religiously, because often they turned out to be better than the shows that DID get picked up. Two I especially remember fondly were DAKOTA'S WAY, with Patricia Chsrbonneau as a cheerfully rule-breaking cop and Bruce Davison as her timorous partner, and THE BAKERY, a Bochco-esque police series set in the past, present and future, with some actors playing more than one role, and how one case would span all that time. (As good as it was, I can see why it didn't go weekly; it woulda killed the writers.) I also recall a Wild West sitcom pilot with George Clooney, but the title has escaped me.

Incidentally, JUDGE DEE AND THE MONESTARY MURDERS is widely believed to be among the best TV-movies of that era (I actually have a faded 16mm print of it), but I suspect the idea of a series was killed by what would have been its enormous below-the-line expense, as well as CBS not wishing to pull Dheigh off a hot series.

By Ken Levine said...


I can't tell whether you like me or hate what I'm doing. I'm confused. So... either thank you much or sorry you feel that way, whatever applies.

Alias Smith and Wesson and Jones said...

Thank you, Cap'n/Kirk!

Anonymous said...

I'm aghast that you'd choose to reference Jake & the Fatman for William Conrad and not his other main show, Cannon.

te said...

Ken: Here's] that Huffpo story on "Top 10 TV Pilots" referred to above. Warning: some foreign content.

A_Homer said...

Just started on ABC tv, "Work It" is basically "Bosom Buddies" in reverse, where two macho straight guys live as men but have to work as women.

Not to worry - "Bewitched" is coming back as a new tv sitcom. Casting has begun.

zeus said...

R.E. Poochinski featured Peter Boyle (most known as the dad in Everybody Loves Raymond) the entire pilot made its way onto youtube sometime last year.

R.E. Justin Case, directed by the late great Blake Edwards (director of Breakfast at Tiffany) actually made its way onto TV here in Australia at least. And was officially released on VHS.

bevo said...

TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER - Sounds funny with the right group of writers. Hint. Hint. Otherwise, stick in on the SciFi channel.

13 THIRTEENTH AVENUE - How is this show not Buffy the Vampire Slayer set in a apartment building instead of a school? I ask the question as someone who really enjoyed Buffy.

HW said...

Ken, you're welcome. You're an awesome play by play announcer. Any chance you will be the main voice of the Mariners?

J.D. Hayworth said...


You and I may not agree politically, but I enjoy this blog and marvel at the connections among Baseball, Entertainment, and Elective Office.

A case in point: the late, great Sonny Bono...and the inevitable "I got you, Babe" joke about his unsold Pilot.

When Sonny and I were first elected to Congress, my grandfather, Ray Hayworth, paid a visit to D.C. As a catcher who was called up to the Tigers when Ty Cobb was the Playing Manager, "Papa" would regale us with tales of the "Game's Greats," and he would back it up with photographic evidence!

My Dad insisted that Papa bring some copies of a really great picture with him to the Capitol. It was a game photo in which my Grandfather was tagging out Babe Ruth at home plate.

When he met Sonny, Papa couldn't resist... he wrote: "To Sonny Bono...from someone who can truly say, 'I Got You, Babe!'"

Before the "Reader's Digest Anecdote" writing style completely overtakes this "comment," let me transition to the "fan mode" and make a request: you've written about your "Top 40" days at KTNQ as "Beaver Cleaver..." but would you please do so again?

I can recall hearing one of your airchecks...and I really enjoyed the break in which you introduced a record from an unknown R & B artist as a tune from "Soul Brother Number 3,041..." or something like that!

Almost two decades have passed since the Cactus League Spring Training games where I would be doing radio play-by-play for the Cubs (on their "non-WGN" days, a small A.M. station from Coolidge, AZ had the rights) and you were working with the Padres. I know you're enjoying your time behind the mic for the M's...and I'm happy to read about your adventures past and present on this blog!

Rob said...



By Ken Levine said...

Hey J.D.,

Wow. Not often I get a former congressman checking in. Thanks for the nice note. Too bad you didn't beat McCain.

Mike Doran said...


As memory serves, Khigh Dhiegh never made more than one appearance in any given HAWAII FIVE-O season as Wo Fat, so "pulling" him from the show wouldn't have been an issue, even for an ABC pilot.

As it is, CBS actually gave Dhiegh his own series, the short-lived KHAN!, only a couple years after JUDGE DEE didn't sell.

By the way, did you know that Khigh Dhiegh's real name was Kenneth Dickerson? He was born in New Jersey of Anglo-Egyptian-Sudanese descent.
(The above is one of my favorite bits of unlikely TV trivia; thanks for giving me another excuse to trot it out.)

Pat Reeder said...

What are you doing here in Dallas? If you're broadcasting a Rangers game, you're about three exits down the highway from my house. Let me know if you'd like me to treat you to some great Mexican food in an air conditioned restaurant.

As for my favorite unsold pilot, it's still the one I'll always remember watching as a kid: wacky inventor Fred Gwynne creates a formula that accidentally turns his nagging mother-in-law (Rita Shaw) into a glass statue. Why don't they make shows like that anymore?

te said...

...Fred Gwynne creates a formula that accidentally turns his nagging mother-in-law (Rita Shaw) into a glass statue. Why don't they make shows like that anymore?
Or formulas?

Dr. Leo Marvin said...

"13 THIRTEENTH AVENUE CBS-1983 – Similar to one of yesterday’s entries, this one features a widower and his son who move into a Greenwich Village apartment building inhabited by a model who’s a witch, a C.P.A. who’s a werewolf, a lawyer who’s a vampire, a superintendent who’s a troll, and their psychiatrist."

Sounds like an internet comment thread, or the wait staff at The Ivy.

VP81955 said...

I'm aghast that you'd choose to reference Jake & the Fatman for William Conrad and not his other main show, Cannon.

William will always be Marshal Dillon to me (OK, so it was radio).

Kirk said...

William will always be the narrator of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show to me.

ceramic tile said...

wow, that cover is great nice. thanks

Rachel Newstead said...

Has "America 2100" been discussed on this blog? It was about two failed comedians who are somehow accidentally frozen in 1979 and revived 121 years later. Karen Valentine played the woman who revived them.

I don't remember much about it, except that the capital of the US in 2100 was supposed to be Newark, New Jersey...

Anonymous said...

that Ugily Family pilot was awful.