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Pilot Error: ‘Sisco’ Scores, Araki Fails & More!

I hate Gregg Araki. I despise his films and feel he is one of the worst and yet somehow most pretentious filmmakers of the 1990’s. The Doom Generation is easily the WORST film of the 1990’s… of this there is no debate. So if I tell you that his 2000 MTV pilot This Is How The World Ends is a horrendous pile of pompous arrogant hollow trash, it should not surprise you.

This pilot is trying so hard to be quirky and different that it fails at EVERYTHING. I think he is attempting to make a teen angst live action cartoon (a good idea if a real director was behind it) but This Is How The World Ends is irritatingly awful. Complete vapid rubbish desperately pretending that it has depth and meaning. A wholly misunderstanding of why Stephen Sayadian and Michael Ninn are able to make something surreal and yet pointed. This thing is a dayglo masturbatory hatefuck to the very idea of quirky art.

What’s it’s about? 44 minutes too long.

The plot (if you can call it that) is that our main ‘character’ Casper is a spoiled rich kid who has everything he could ever want and is unhappy because the girl he loves (Christmas. Yes, her name is Christmas) is dating everyone on the planet besides him.

Shot in the cheap knock off version of Rinse Dream with almost cartoon sound effects this is such a hard sit. Seriously this is one of the longest 44 minutes I have ever spent in my life. Originally made for MTV they passed on it in a moment of pure wisdom and enlightenment lest we would have been subjected to perhaps a season of his obnoxious bullshit series.

Michael J. Anderson has an EMBARRASSING cameo as a CD buyer singing Sugar Ray songs. I felt ashamed for him. Legitimate shame. This being made for MTV it is very music centered almost to the point that showcasing songs seems to be the point. The end credits even feature the CD covers to all the songs used.

You won’t listen to me and you will watch it so you have no one to blame but yourselves.


“And there’s my luck!”

Karen Sisco was the best series of 2003, hands down.

Every episode was funny, smart and very much subverted expectations. It lasted only 10 episodes before it was unceremoniously murdered by being on right after the inanity that was The Bachelor (which routinely ran over time cutting off the first few minutes of Karen Sisco).

Why is it in a column about unaired pilots? Because it had one… and it had two. Kind of.

Lets back up. The character of Karen Sisco is one of the many recurring elements within Elmore Leonard’s vast series of unique crime novels. Most people might know the character from her portrayal by Jennifer Lopez in the 1998 film Out of Sight. Leonard used the character over and over again and eventually she got her own series in 2003 this time played by the amazing Carla Gugino.

The takes on the characters from Lopez to Gugino play out quite different but in essence it’s the same person. In early 2003 a pilot was made for the new series and it was fantastic. Everything worked. Gugino played Sisco as a kick ass and somewhat aloof (yet focused) US Marshal always having to deal with everyone elses problems. The pilot was near perfect and yet ABC was not happy. The pilot was complex and yet easy to follow but ABC was afraid that it might confuse viewers. The pilot sort of also assumed you had seen Out of Sight already.

Alas, ABC ordered a new pilot, one that was more simple and acted as an introduction to the characters and setting in case you were a moron. A traditional pilot if you will. This new pilot (“Blown Away”) was dull and boring and frankly plodding. Needless to say it failed to catch on with viewers. The original pilot was aired as the 3rd episode (with some music changes) and still stands as what should have aired first. After 10 episodes Karen Sisco as a series was gone but she (the character) would appear again (played by Carla Gugino) on Justified a few years later.

Seriously I loved this show… why is this not on DVD yet?


Nikki & Nora was a pilot for UPN about 2 lesbian cops in New Orleans. Yes this is a now a 2013 webseries but in 2004 it was a pilot that was never picked up. The pilot stars Christina Cox and Liz Vassey as the titled Nikki and Nora (just like the current series) who try to balance their love life with each other while being cops.

I will admit I have not seen the webseries so I can’t compare but the 2004 pilot is… weak, but I wager for outside reasons. First off the version I have seems incomplete running at only 36 minutes with some scenes obviously truncated. Second is that UPN seemed very scared of actually allowing the girls to be intimate. Yes, there is dialog about them making love and a small kiss in a bathtub (bubbles make it very PG) but they don’t come off like a real couple. Everything seems so… 2004 network safe. I was not expecting Pornhub style inmate but the UPN relationship is very neutered.

There are real character moments though and the banter and chemistry between the leads is the reason to check this out and not the by the numbers cop plot that surrounds these good moments.

If this had gone to series in 2004 it is doubtful it would have lasted more than a season but it’s hard to tell.


Starstruck was a 1979 attempt to cash in on Star Wars… specially the cantina scene. Now this is not to be confused with the 2003 series StarStruck, this is completely a late 70’s show through and through.

This thing is a shameless (and cheap) cash in on a hot trend but it has some real talent behind it.

Jim Wynorski was a PA on this, Dick Durock (Swamp Thing) shows up at one point and Forrest J. Ackerman even has a cameo. That said… this pretty bad, but not in an offensive way like every Araki touches… this is very nearly charmingly bad.

Shot on low quality video tape (I have seen Doctor Who episodes from this same era that looked cleaner) this feels like a rejected spin-off of Jason of Star Command. The way it’s lensed it feels like a PBS special and not something made for prime time on CBS. The costumes are off the rack Halloween grab and the sets are straight out of a high school play.

It’s about a family of space pilgrims and the “wacky” antics they get into while living at a popular space port. This being a pilot most of the time is spent establishing the setting and characters but there are very few jokes that are above groaners. The canned laughter might give you the opposite idea but trust me, there is NOTHING funny here.

The reason Starstruck is such an amazing curiosity is that it perfectly illustrates the creative void that was created as everyone wanted to cash in on Star Wars, but was unsure as how to make this happen. The late 70’s were a fucked up time for sci-fi… after Star Wars was such an unexpected success it was a feeding frenzy and things like Starstruck stand as the ill conceived orphans of that insanity.

Watch this and transport yourself to a very specific period in sci-fi history.


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