Wednesday, February 14, 2018

EP59: Talking Dogs, Invisible Alien Babies, & Other TV Pilots

With pilot season in full-swing, Ken shares a story of one of his pilots that didn’t get on the air (get ready for a lot of fights with the studio) and introduces you to some of the most bizarre jaw-dropping pilots that never got on the air. 

Listen to the Hollywood & Levine podcast!


Rashad Khan said...

Talking dogs? Who da hell pitched that series? David Berkowitz?

Unknown said...

In my DVD Wall here at home, I have a number of "collectors editions" of various unsold pilots from over the years, in all genres (I mainly go for detective shows, but that's just me ...).

I guess I'll have to listen to this one a couple more times (I have Lee Goldberg's book, as well as a few others by different authors that mention even more and weirder pilots).

Meanwhile, i'm compelled to bring up something I've mentioned on other blogs.

The Judge Dee pilot has a bit of a pedigree: it was based on a long series of novels by a Dutch author named Robert van Gulik, which were big sellers all over the world.
When ABC ran this pilot as a Movie Of The Week, the publicity went out that this was the first TV movie to have "an all-Asian cast".
With Khigh Dhiegh at the top of the bill.

Some years later, after Khigh Dhiegh passed on, the truth came out:
It seems that Mr. "Dhiegh" was in fact Kenneth Dickerson, who had been born in New Jersey, of Anglo-Egyptian-Sudanese descent.
He'd spent years passing himself off as Asian, going back to the original Manchurian Candidate (that's the Sinatra version - you know, the good one), in which he'd played the jovial Red Chinese brainwasher; this was his breakthrough part, if you recall.
I still remember "Dr. Yen Lo" and his advice to a Russian colleague:
" ... Comrade, you must try to cultivate a sense of humor; a few good laughs help to lighten the burdens of the day ..."
Never forget that ...

Liggie said...

I remember an episode of "The Famous Teddy Z", the late '80s sitcom where Jon Cryer played an unwitting Hollywood talent agent. His clients, wildlife documentary filmmakers, asked him to land a "Wild Kingdom"-like show. However, studio after studio kept insisting on changes to the show's concept. In the end, the clients ended up with a sitcom about an invisible talking dog (yes, they were that desperate for a show).

Anonymous said...

The Rick Springfield vampire detective pilot was recast, had a title change ("Forever Knight"), and actually went to series. Had a fairly decent run, too.

DBenson said...

The trick is, some really questionable ideas turn out to be great shows (A 1970s network sitcom based on the movie "M*A*S*H". Think about it.). And others successfully wring multiple seasons out of short shelf-life gimmicks ("Get Smart" outlived the initial Bond mania it was created to parody).

Then there are sure-fire packages that weren't (various sitcoms bringing back still-beloved stars; dramas with heavy-hitter creators; genuinely interesting settings and topics). Some turned out bad; others miscalculated or simply landed at the wrong moment. Some are just mysteries ("Frank's Place" had just one season.)

Anybody remember "Beacon Hill", the official American version of "Upstairs Downstairs"? Didn't last a season, but I remember it as being superior stuff. The setting was Boston. Upstairs was a family of wealthy but not-quite-accepted upstarts. Downstairs was mostly Irish immigrants, many with ambitions. The stories and characters were originals, focusing on American history and class structure instead of trying to clone the original's vibe. The only thing I didn't like was that the premiere seemed to promise an ongoing saga, but the series focused on free-standing episodes with no visible arcs emerging.

Mike Barer said...

Mr. Goldberg would probably make a great guest on your podcast.

James S said...

Thanks for another very interesting podcast.

Cheers J