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Pilot Error: Doomed From The Start

There is no real theme this Pilot Error other than what should have been cool ideas being completely bungled.


Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman was a 2011 trainwreck of a pilot that got just about everything it could have wrong with the Wonder Woman character.

Created by David E Kelley (who had been on a kind of major downswing in the last few years after Boston Legal ended) and starring Adrianne Palicki as the titled Woman of Wonder. Kelley wanted to do something different with super-heroes and well he failed… hard.

It seems that somewhere along the line Kelley decided that Wonder Woman is really a female Batman. This Wonder Woman runs a billion dollar company named after her (Themyscira Industries), brutally tortures criminals for information, illegally takes blood and DNA samples, threatens the police and wantonly kills like the recent Snyder version of Batman. None of these are traits of Wonder Woman (I guess unless Frank Miller writes her). The only real twist is that Wonder Woman is the public persona while Diana Prince is who she retreats into when she needs to be alone. The media knows who Wonder Woman (Diana Themyscira) is and she goes to movie premieres and whatnot, while Diana Prince lives alone with her cat in a tiny apartment. The only kind of clever thing in this is that with Wonder Woman being a public persona there are in universe comic books, action figures and cartoons which poke fun at real life super-hero merchandising.

The plot is about how Elizabeth Hurley (!) is an evil CEO making a performance enhancing drug that kills you if you use it to much. Wonder Woman is determined to stop her. That’s it. Other than some character stuff that is the entire plot.

This pilot was quite poorly written, especially from such an amazing writer as Kelley, and even more poorly produced. The version that is out there is a workprint with no wire removal and things that were (hopefully) meant to be cleaned up later but even in this state the fights are bland and lifeless, the camera will not stop moving in action scenes and the entire production is made on obvious sets (or simply fake looking locations). Hell, at one point onscreen text in the workprint comes up reading “Pants to be darkened later”. Really? You had to CG the color of her damn pants? How inept was this production?

Palicki is fine as WW but nothing special… she seems a bit awkward in some scenes but overall not bad. The script does her NO favors though.

This pilot was never released (but as always happens eventually leaked out) and you can see just why Warner Bothers wanted nothing to do with this. Hell, they pulled the plug before it was even done. That says something right there.



Clerks. We all loved Kevin Smith’s 1994 debut feature about foul mouthed clerks obsessed with pop culture. It was a perfect exemplar of the 1994 zeitgeist… so of course it was whored out to be a lame laughless sitcom.

Now, Smith had nothing whatsoever to do with this. In fact he fought long and hard to keep anyone from ever seeing it but yes, it eventually leaked out and yeah, it’s as bad as you think it is.

Andrew Lowery is Dante Hicks, Jim Breuer is Randal Graves and Noelle Parker is Veronica. Those are all the characters from the movie in this and it might just be divine intervention (or lawyers) that keep Jay and Silent Bob away.

This is complete sitcom drivel. The jokes are lame and uninspired, the performances are painful (some good actors are in this and they just can not rise above the material) and the humor is 7pm safe. What was it that set Clerks (the movie) apart and made it so successful? A witty script, great wordplay and good solid performances from non-actors. The exact opposite of what is on display here.

The clerks get a new buddy (Todd) and Dante is being pressured into going to college and leaving behind his slave wage job. Randal calls him a sellout to the man and in the end Dante decides that he must be who he is… a clerk.

Now, imagine that for 23 minutes with nothing funny happening, cardboard characters and canned laughter. Directed in complete workman like fashion by Michael Lessac, a TV sitcom hack since the early 80’s. Smith was wise to not have his name on this abomination but the shame that he sold it to ABC at all will forever stain his legacy… even more than Yoga Hosers.


Shangri-La Plaza

I don’t even know how to adequately describe this…

So in 1989 CBS tasked Nick Castle (The Last Starfighter and the original guy to play Michael Myers in Halloween) with creating a musical sitcom. For some reason they thought this might be a hit combination.

Musicals are hard to do even under the best of conditions but when you are attempting to make a sitcom with not just musical interludes but where the singing IS the dialog… it is downright impossible and Shangri-La Plaza exemplifies this.

There is no real plot, it’s simple vignettes with the various businesses at the titled Shangri-La Plaza and how they interact with one another. The barest plot could be that widower Amy is inheriting the Plaza’s donut shop and the brothers at the auto repair shop (The Bondo Brothers, how clever) each want to date her. They all break out into song at some point and Amy’s young daughter gets into a rap battle with local hooligans (it was 1989 after all).

The songs are just all kinds of wrong. They have no rhyme or reason… characters will be speaking and then break into song for no reason at all and then go back to speaking… kind of musical Tourettes.

The show has a good cast to it… but the issue is that none of them could sing and for some ungodly reason Castle insisted on live singing. So here you have (completely untrained and a few VERY off key) Terrence Mann, Jeff Yagher, Melora Hardin, Allison Mack and Chris Sarandon attempting to sing (I don’t think Sarandon does though… mercifully).

Two oddly positive things about this though. Look at all the cool 1989 video boxes in the video store scene and that theme song… just TRY to get that out of your head. It sticks there.


Final Curtain

Edward D Wood Jr is considered the worst director of all time (bullshit, has anyone who ever said this watched a Brett Ratner film)? Did you know he tired to work in television too?

The Final Curtain was his 1957 attempt at horror TV and by god it is pure Ed Wood. If there was a sequence with a dancing girl in a monster mask it would have hit all of his tropes. Stock footage, pseudo-ponderous narration, random cutaways…

Very little is known about the production of this pilot other than it was made for a potential series called “Portraits of Terror” and was considered lost until just a few years ago. Ed Wood attempted to work in Television a few times in his life and most of those pilots are still lost as well so it’s kind of astounding that this exists at all. That all said this is what you expect. It’s pretty bad.

Shot in an empty theater at night a ghost is trapped there as he is tormented by a “vampire”. That’s it.

Shot without live sound and with no dialog (all speech is voice over) this was obviously so low budget I would argue it was no budget. For one thing this is tedious as hell. NOTHING HAPPENS in this pilot. NOTHING. Just shots of various parts of the theater with narration over them and occasionally one of the 2 actors walks through the frame as Dudley Manlove narrates about nothing at all.

Dudley Manlove by the way is Eros from Plan 9 From Outer Space (“Your stupid minds… stupid, stupid”) and uses that tone here.

It’s good that this was discovered but damn it… there is no doubting why it was lost in the first place.

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