Every year, when September rolls around, networks begin aggressively advertising brand new pilots and shows they have just picked up – some seem incredibly promising, while others seem like they were destined to be flops from that first production meeting. Some of them actually endure and become instant favorites, but more often than not they fail and are cancelled within the first dozen episodes, disappearing into the ether of cringe-worthy network failures.
Yet, there’s also a stockpile of amazing scripts and even filmed pilots stashed away in the back of the desks of top network execs – pilots that should really have been aired instead of becoming DOA flops. But these great shows that never were didn’t get to see the light of day never mind the prime time. The system is flawed – each network will give its time and money to maybe 5 or 10 pilots a year, but then might just choose one or two to actually put on air. All the networks are fighting for the same actors and writers, so a potentially great show might just lose over another great – or mediocre – show with the same actor.
For this reason, amongst others, we miss out on some really promising shows – equipped with a great writing team, a stellar cast and just a really good idea. The following are ten just such shows, that cause a pang of loss for what us television fans never had.
10. Susan 313 – 2012
Sarah Silverman was behind this pilot for NBC, which would also include Jeff Goldblum and stand-up comic Tig Notaro. After NBC gave Silverman the bad news that they weren’t interested in pursuing the pilot further, she still decided to post the pilot herself online as a treat for fans. It was met with a rapturous reception from comedy fans who wish they’d had the chance to see more from this clever comedy.
9. Hobgoblins – 2013
This show – about con men and magicians who pull together to try to take down Hitler – has been in development at HBO since 2011, but recently halted production. However, the show seemed really promising with a well-written script, so there’s a possibility HBO might regenerate it one of these days.
8. Rebounding – 2012
This comedy would have followed the life of a man trying to recover from his fiancé’s death with the help of his friends from his basketball team – Rebounding, get it? The title is intriguing and so is the fact that this pilot was produced and directed by the co-creator of Modern Family, Steve Levitan.
FOX never picked up the series just because 2012 was a big year and they had already signed on to pick up three other pilots that year, so this potentially great option was overlooked.
7. People in New Jersey – 2014
HBO passed on this comedy revolving around Sarah Silverman and Topher Grace as siblings who live in New Jersey with their mother, played by Patti LuPone. To top it all off, the show would have been produced by Paul Feig – the man behind Bridesmaids. Altogether, it would have been a dream team for comedy, but it wasn’t to be.
6. Sick in the Head – 1999
This is one of many potentially wonderful Apatow projects that never made it to TV, but the producer was so sure this show was going to be picked up that he had the intention of running with this series over another option – that other option became the cult teen comedy-drama series Freaks and Geeks, starring James Franco, Seth Rogen and Jason Segel.
Sick in the Head involved a very young Amy Poehler and David Krumholtz as a young and inexperienced therapist. A few leaked clips from the completed pilot looked promising – but if the existence of this comedy would have been at the expense of Freaks and Geeks, we can’t be too sad about it.
5. Black Market Music – 2003
Jason Segel and Seth Rogen co-starring, producing and writing (a little before they became the major stars they are today) with starring appearances from Jack Black at the height of his fame and many others would sound like a definite “yes,” for most. Yet HBO never followed through with this idea, for some unfathomable reason.
Segel and Rogen would have played record-store owners, which means the show would have benefited from some pretty cool musical guests, too.
Although Showtime is still in limbo with this show, we will never get to see what was actually meant for this series.
Before his death, Philip Seymour Hoffman was scheduled to play a successful but disturbed creative director at an ad agency in New York who rants about social media and hallucinates after too much Viagra and Prozac.
If they can find the right cast and a good replacement for Hoffman, Showtime is ready to make this show happen.
3. M.O.N.Y – 2007
Tom Fontana and Spike Lee had a brilliant idea for a show similar to House of Cards and Homeland – both which are proving to be great successes – revolving around the controversies surrounding the government.
However, their plot revolved around Muslim prejudice that emerged after the 9/11 attacks and NBC was not ready to deal with such a risky or edgy topic, so they passed on this potentially great piece of television.
2. The Corrections – 2012
This HBO pilot was based on the award-winning novel of the same name by Jonathan Franzen, which revolves around the struggles of an elderly Midwestern couple and their three children – two of them potentially played by Maggie Gyllenhaal and Ewan McGregor. After years of production work, HBO finally shot a pilot but the series fell through for the simple reason that not enough people at the network were on board with it.
1. North Hollywood – 2001
Judd Apatow tried to give ABC an edgier type of dark comedy, but the pilot was a little too much for the network. The show could have sold audiences just based on its hilarious cast – Jason Segel, Amy Poehler and Kevin Hart. These three were written to play struggling actors sharing a house in North Hollywood – Segel’s character working part time as a Frankenstein monster at the local amusement park, while Poehler as a personal assistant to Judge Reinhold who played himself.