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Pilot Error: The TV Shows You Never Knew Existed, Part Two

Part the second… as we continue our look at the works of television you never got to see on television. Yeah that makes sense, right?

Missed the first part?  Check it out here!

Below check out more bizarre and surreal tv pilots you would have never guessed existed and yet, were made.

Married With…Children

Exact same story as what aired but both Bud and Kelly were played by different actors to the point they were so awkward and out of place I couldn’t get a single bit of enjoyment from this.

Here, Tina Caspary and Hunter Carson are Bud and Kelly and after being so used to Christina Applegate and David Faustino these 2 just DID NOT WORK in these roles one bit. Hunter Carson was especially bad as Bud, far worse then he was in the Invaders From Mars remake in 1985. Tina Caspary is simply bland and unmemorable. Otherwise, pilot was the same.


Mercy Point

mercypoint3This, like Darkman, was a “test pilot” rather then a real pilot. At about 30 minutes long and using stock footage from Starship Troopers and Armageddon it’s more of a proof of concept than anything.

For those that don’t remember Mercy Point, it was a UPN series about a space station hospital that treated all races… kind of St. Elsewhere meets Star Trek.

The unaired pilot featured the same basic story as the aired pilot but moved VERY fast due to the liberal use of stock footage and the shortened run time.


The Norliss Tapes


An early 70’s unsold pilot that Dan Curtis made as (and I have no evidence of this, just supposition) a way to replace Kolchak, which was taken away from him.

Roy Thinnes is David Norliss, an investigative reporter that finds Vampires are real and has now gone missing. The odd catch of this series was that all of the Norliss stuff takes place in the past via his dictated tapes. Friends of Norliss find the tapes that David makes about his adventures and as they listen as we (the viewer, not the characters) watch as the events he describes unfold while they search for clues as to what happened to him.

Like I said before, I feel this was his attempt to redo Kolchak and it kind of worked, there are some pretty creepy moments in the pilot that could have made for a cool series but I am not sure it could have sustained.


NYPD 2069

A cop from “today” is comatose after a hit & run while investigating a rich mans murder of his wife. His wife agrees to a radical new procedure that allows for the “freezing” of brain damaged police and fire officers until a cure can be found.

In 2069, our cop is awakened and finds that quite a bit has changed and that he is the first full recovery from the freezing as it turns out many others have been revived but he is the only one that recovered completely. Not only are they able to cure him of his brain damage but he resumes being a cop… in a vastly new world. Seems being a cop has completely changed meaning in the intervening years. The justice system is a completely new monster now, trials are held on scene and executions are carried out by the officers (and all officers wear glasses that transmit all video and audio to the precinct).

Not at all like Judge Dredd, not even a little bit. All US citizens’ DNA is on file so all crimes can be solved nearly right away yet crime is still running amok (again, not all at like Judge Dredd right?). Anyway, our main cop friend is dealing with all of these new procedures as well as keeping a false identity and dealing with the fact that his wife has died since he has been in status and that his son is now an old man with Alzheimer’s.

This was actually a pretty cool pilot made for FOX by Steven Bochco in 2004 that was not picked up. Sure there are things in it that are derivative as hell but I still enjoyed it.


Popeye Doyle


Ed O’Neill taking over for Gene Hackman as Popeye Doyle in this attempt to bring The French Connection to the small screen. Not bad at all but not as good as the movies. There is only so much grit mid-80’s television would allow. NBC did air this in 1986 but just as a TV movie. As weird as it sounds, O’Neill was really damn good in the part.


Power Pack


Based on the Marvel comic about kids of various ages with super powers. The kids don’t use their powers to save the world or anything, but to do housework and explore a “haunted” house. Very, VERY dull. Light hearted and obviously made for a 12 year old audience. Really reminds you where Marvel was in the early 90’s.


Practical Magic (aka Sudbury)


Obviously, a pilot based on the movie Practical Magic and lacking even the “charm” that film had. Kim Delaney and Jeri Ryan take over for Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman in an essential remake of the films plot with some follow up as well. Overall it was not bad. but I was not a fan of the movie so I may not have been the best judge. I am not sure how long it might have lasted as a series. Produced by Sandra Bullock.


Public Morals


No relation to the new 2015 series of the same name. This was a kind of spin-off of NYPD Blue. Kind of as it shares a character and some sets but is so tonally different it’s shocking. It is a real spin-off since they did share the character of PAA “Gay John” though so… Remember when he left Blue and went to work “upstairs”? He went to this show about the Public Morals division of the NYPD. This though is a straight up sitcom, complete with laugh track and sitcom set ups.

There were indeed SOME funny jokes, but most fell flat and there were some that were so horrendously unfunny it hurt to watch the actors have to recite them. Ultimately, after 1 episode aired (Episode 5 because screw continuity damn it) the show was canceled. Officially, it was due to low ratings (wow, 1 episode, way to give the show a chance) but there were numerous complaints about the sexually graphic dialog which were honestly pretty damn raunchy for network TV for the time. This was the first time I ever heard (and SAW) a butt plug on network TV. I have all 13 episodes of course.


Skip Chasers

Morgan and Wong. Damn but they didn’t have the worst time trying to get pilots picked up (they have something like 5 unaired pilots from 4 networks in 6 years.

This one was was for CBS in 1998 and again finding no luck in getting picked up. Starring George Eads (CSI), Arsineo Hall, Cloris Leachman, Doug Hutchison and Kirstin Cloke plus a really funny cameo by David Duchovny. It was about, you guessed it, Skip Chasers, bounty hunters who catch bail jumpers.

Hall is a mailman that screws up a capture by Eads, Cloke and Hutchison and now has to help them fix it. They all work for Leachman at her bounty hunter agency and at the end, Hall joins up. Overall, it was a good pilot, funny, witty (Sci-fi movie references and a really funny riff on the old cliche of tracking someone down in a strip club), good performances (even from Hall) and might have worked. M&W were told by CBS that while it was not picked up in 1998 they would pick it up for mid-season, that never happened.


Tales Of Frankenstein


A 50’s B&W pilot for a new series by the then new Hammer Studios. As you can guess, it’s about Dr. Frankenstein stealing corpses and trying to make a monster and the people that try and stop him. The pilot is about what you would expect, nice B&W film, an interesting concept but ultimately, no surprise that it was not picked up as a series as just how many times can you do this same story?


Time Tunnel


A 2002 or so update by FOX to the old 60’s series. Seems that while creating a (you guessed it) Time Tunnel, the US Government created a “time wave” that is moving backwards in time and messing things up, therefore altering the future. The only people that are unaffected by the time changes are the scientists who were working on the Tunnel when the accident happened. Now, they have to go back and right what once went wrong… sorry, wrong show… they have to fix whatever changes the wave makes, without changing anything else. This was actually fairly good, I was interested in seeing more.



2003 pilot by the people that bought us the amazing Action in 1999 and starring Mike Erwin, Richard Burgi and Lisa Blount (with a really funny cameo by Charles Napier). Mike Erwin lives in a trailer park with some of the oddest residents in the world (and his Mom). He makes digital videos (so 2003) of these odd people all the while trying to keep his mom from losing the trailer (they just got the car repoed because his dad didn’t make the car payments in 6 months; “I guess the cost of vodka, Vicodin and whores went up”.

He has a best friend in Gypsy, a punk girl that clearly is in love with him but to whom he is completely clueless, oh and he accidentally got her brother sent to juvi so he is also trying to avoid getting his hobbits kick in (running gag about Tolkien). He also has a new job as the lawn boy for the Blu family, a rich, snotty family “on the hill”. Turns out his mom used to be in love with Bud Blu and there is A LOT of bad, bad blood with these families (lets just say, “THE BAD THING” that his mom and grandpa did to Bud in the early 80’s involving a septic truck and a locked limo have a lot to do with it).  Bud tries to keep Mike Erwin from his daughter Luna and lets just say, the Blu lawn would make helicopter pilots giggle by the time Erwin is done getting revenge.

This was a hilarious pilot that had good production values and great direction that really deserved to be picked up. I have no idea what network this was for but it feels like it was made for FOX.


Venus On The Hard Drive


Oh, Jennifer Aspen, why must you always be is shitty sitcoms? I love Jennifer Aspen as an actress but she is in simply the worst TV has to offer time and again. The plot is about 2 computer nerds that get an advanced computer program by mistake that is essentially a really bad CGI chick version of Skynet, that is also nice and doesn’t work… okay so maybe not like Skynet.

Anyway, Venus is an advanced defense program that gets released onto the net by mistake and is visually a hot chick rendered in really bad late 90’s CGI. Dumb sitcom.



Same plot as the aired series but with a completely different cast and toned down violence and language.

Seems that the unaired pilot was made for CBS, while the recast series was made for TNT, and we all know that cable series have a lot more freedom in terms of how graphic they can be. I feel the TNT series is an unrequited classic and this was just so… different of a version that I can’t be objectionable.


Witches Of Eastwick

1992 attempt to turn the movie into a series. Ally Walker of Profiler fame stars in this with Julia Campbell and Catherine Mary Stewart. The plot concerns our Witches conjuring up the “perfect” man, who is just TOO prefect and they have to recall him, which takes some doing of the black arts. Very light hearted compared to the movie. A really watered down version for TV.


Wolf Lake

The original pilot that CBS used to pick up the series was completely different in nearly every way. The cast was mostly the same and even though most of the actors were playing the same essential characters, they all had different names and backstories. The plot of the unaired pilot was quite different then the aired series though.

In this one, instead of Lou Diamond Phillips playing Det. John Kanin we have him as Park Ranger Noah Cassidy. Cassidy is tracking strange wolf behavior across the northwest and finds himself in the odd town of Wolf Lake. Cassidy and whomever he is really working for seem to know all about the wolf clans and about what is going on in Wolf Lake, but he is playing a dumb government stooge to get information without tipping off the townspeople or the warring clans.

This was actually pretty cool, but I personally liked were the regular series took things rather then this early aborted version. The production design in the unaired pilot is cold and dirty whereas the production design of the aired series was more Twin Peaks meets Ray Bradbury and the costuming was much more ridged here then in the series, and the unaired pilot had none of the “weird for the sake of weird” stuff that the aired series had.


The Wonder Cabinet

cabAnother Morgan and Wong failed pilot, and another one that would have been a great series.

First, look at the impressive cast, you have James Morrison, Poppy Montgomery, Currie Graham, Kim Coates and Glenn Morshower.

The plot of The Wonder Cabinet is involved so here goes… back in the day, people that collected odd items of human interest kept them in what was called a Wonder Cabinet.

Now, Kim Coates is the liaison for a shadow group that is collecting evidence of medical and scientific changes in the human species (hyper-evolution). He gets a group of outcasts from their respective fields (we have a famous heart surgeon who crashed and flushed his career down the toilet, we have medical student who shares views that put her at odds with the establishment of sciences and we have a neurosurgeon that lost his license to practice due to gambling issues) to find these items and people for this shadow group all over the globe. That’s the premise.  Very Chicago Hope meets the X-Files. Personally I thought it was a very good pilot and it’s a shame that ABC didn’t think so.

Lets end it there today but in the future I will be bringing to light a vast swath of unaired and unsold TV pilots that I wager you will have never even heard of but which deserve to have some light shine on them.
So much more to come. Good luck searching theses out!

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