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The Horror, Oh The Horror: Unaired Pilots Ideal For The Halloween Season

It’s still the Halloween season, so lets look at some horror related unaired pilots from TV past.

The Munsters and The Addams Family were a famous dueling series of “creepy families” on mid 60’s television. We all remember these and it always comes down to you are either an “Addams Family person” or a “Munster person”… there is very little crossover. Personally I loved both as on the surface both shows were similar but were honestly quite different in actual practice.

To my knowledge there is no Addams Family unaired pilot but there is one for The Munsters and you might be surprised at just how different this show originally was.

Not so much of a pilot as more of (their word) a “Pitch Episode”. Clocking in at just under 14 minutes this one is shocking to any Munsters fan. For one it’s shot in color whereas the series proper was in black and white. There is no Lily Munster… she is Phoebe Munster here and NOT played by Yvonne DeCarlo. Here Not-Lily is Joan Marshall (from the “Court Martial” episode of classic Trek). No Butch Patrick as Eddie but instead it’s “Happy” Derman playing Eddie as a kind of feral child who snorts.

credits

The make-ups and costumes are similar to what we would see in the series but different enough to make them noticeable (being in color is also really hard to get used to).

The plot of this “Pitch Episode” would be recycled into what would become the second episode of the series so it was remade for the public to see.

Everyone knows The Munsters but how many of you remember that they had a 3 season series in the late 80’s?

TSDMUTO EC005The Munsters Today ran for 3 full seasons in first run syndication from 1988 to 1991. Starring John Schuck (the Klingon Ambassador from Star Treks 4-6), Lee Meriwether (one of the Catwomen from Batman), Howard Morton (Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman), Jason Marsden (Voice actor in just about every cartoon since the 90’s) and newcomer Hilary Van Dyke.

Van Dyke was not the original Marilyn Munster though.

In the unaired pilot for The Munsters Today (another “Pitch Episode” that only runs 15 minutes long) Marilyn Munster was played by Mary Ellen Dunbar (voice actor for the American versions of many Asian films in the 90’s). Dunbar actually looks like the Marilyn from the original series quite a bit but I have to say Van Dyke is clearly more of what the show needed. Her 80’s attitude was very much needed here.

For The Munsters Today the plot was thus… in 1966 (the year the original series went off the air, not counting the TV movies) the family tries out Grandpa’s sleeping machine. They set it for 5 minutes as a test but Spot (the pet Dragon) causes a stir and it get turned to “Forever”.

22 years later (1988) some sleazy home developers are scoping out the house on 1313 Mockingbird Lane and wake the family up. Still thinking it’s 1966 they go about their lives (so to speak) taking in the wonders of the 80’s with a 60’s outlook.

All in all it was not a bad show, typical of a syndicated sitcom from this era. I happened to watch this series first run every afternoon and I loved it.

In 2012 the normally reliable Bryan Fuller decided to shit all over the very ideal of The Munsters.

Mockingbird Lane was a dark cynical and insulting “update” of The Munsters where everyone was mean, angry and an asshole. This was abominable.

Aired once on Halloween and vanished to the pit of hell where it belongs.

Did you know there was a The Sixth Sense TV series?

gary_collins_catherine_ferrar_the_sixth_senseYup, in 1972. Nothing to do with the movie you thought of (damn co-opted name).

The Sixth Sense ran for 2 seasons and followed Gary Collins as he looked to catalog supernatural phenomena (mainly psychic phenomena).

Created by Anthony Lawrence (a writer for every single TV series of the 60’s and 70’s) as a way to cash in the latest of the 70’s trends of supernatural hooey.

Harlan Ellison was even a story editor on this show! John Newland and Richard Donner directed episodes of The Sixth Sense.

All said it was a pretty damn solid show for it’s time. The episodes are slow by today’s standards but I will get into that in a bit.

Having a decent budget for the time and featuring some pretty large guest stars such as Joan Crawford (who did not do TV often so this was a real coup), Patty Duke, Cloris Leachman, Lee Majors, William Shatner and even John Saxon, The Sixth Sense was sadly ignored by the public and was cancelled after 2 short seasons.

You did get to see the show though, kind of.

See when Night Gallery was being sold into syndication in the mid 70’s they found they didn’t have enough episodes. Over 3 seasons Night Gallery only had 43 episodes (28 hour long ones and 15 half hour ones) so they decided to cut the hour long episodes into half hours to pad out the episode number (Night Gallery having multiple stories per episode made this somewhat easier although some stories needed to be cut down or padded out to fit the half hour format). Even doing this they were still short on episodes.

Well Universal also owned The Sixth Sense and since that was shot on the Universal backlot where most of Night Gallery had been shot and in fact The Sixth Sense shared many crew members in common with Night Gallery so why not pair these up?

So the hour long The Sixth Sense episodes were cut to fit into a half hour, Rod Serling was hired to create new Night Gallery intros to each of these (which he once stated was for, his words, “an obscene amount of money”) and they were run as episodes of Night Gallery in syndication.

night-gallery-season-1-billboard-rod-serling-1

This is why if you grew up watching Night Gallery in the late 70’s through the late 90’s it seemed like Gary Collins starred in every other Night Gallery episode. Honestly though as much as I enjoy 70’s horror television most The Sixth Sense episodes were kind of padded so they actually run better as half hour shows. At least to me.

That is a long way to go to bring up the TV movie Sweet, Sweet Rachel.

360fullThis 1971 telefilm was a kind of pilot for The Sixth Sense.

The same creative team, the same plot and set up… just with a different set of characters.

Alex Dreier played Dr. Lucas Darrow whereas Gary Collins would play Dr. Michael Rhodes in the series.

They have the same background, the same style and are essentially the same character.

Stephanie Powers’ husband was killed while in a trance it’s thought someone with ESP did it.

Dr. Lucas Darrow is tasked with either proving or disproving this. Powers starts to have visions and yeah, it gets really 70’s horror TV.

The movie was a success and Lawrence decided to make it into a TV series which birthed The Sixth Sense.

No clue as to why Dreier was recast but really Collins has more screen presence and it might have been a change for the better.

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