There are plenty of terrible television shows out there several seasons deep that just refuse to go away—I’m looking at you, The Big Bang Theory. There are also a long line of television shows that have never seen the light of the day or were prematurely cancelled due to cold feet from the network or creative differences from writers and producers. It’s a shame, but plenty of solid shows have been discarded over minor hiccups or financial strain. It can also be a matter of targeting a wider audience, as some shows capture a niche market and never make a ton of money. It’s unfortunate, but often times simplifying comedy with overused laugh tracks is where the money is at… and that’s no good for genuinely funny but eccentric comedies.
Some of these shows could have turned out to be awful, while others could have well developed into classics. Perhaps network executives saw negative aspects behind the scenes that justify their decisions, or maybe not. Most of the time we don’t know the reasoning and we’re left wondering what could have been. All of the TV shows on this list could have been something special but for whatever reason never gained traction, whether it’s only getting a pilot episode or none at all.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at 12 potentially great TV shows that were never picked up. Some of these shows sound so promising it was almost depressing to write this. Shame on you, television networks.
12. Little Brother, 2012
Little Brother could have been something special, but Fox ultimately decided to pull the plug before it could gain any traction. The show starred John Stamos as a man who finds out he has a half-brother he never knew. His half-brother, who also happens to be an ex-con, was played by comedian T.J. Miller. The two supposedly displayed great chemistry on-screen to back up a solid premise for a comedy. It’s a shame this one never came to fruition because more Miller is never a bad thing. But alas, this is the case with many solid TV shows that can’t make it out the development phase.
11. Susan 313, 2012
Sarah Silverman is one of the funniest comediennes out there. So when she created Susan 313 and was set to star in the comedy, along with Jeff Goldblum, the hype was understandably high. Unfortunately, NBC never greenlit the project and Susan 313 joined a long list of failed TV pilots. The show was going to center around the complications that arise in relationships. The synopsis on IMDb reads, “A woman returns to her old life after a decade-long breakup, ready to pick up where she left off and finds it’s not as easy as she thought because those around her have moved on.” Oh, what could have been.
10. Entry Level, 2012
Entry Level was a single camera comedy about a guy in his mid-20s who has to work a cubicle away from the girl that broke his heart. It was created by Nick Stoller, who frequently works with Judd Apatow and has been attached to such projects as Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to Greek, The Muppets, and The Five-Year Engagement. Apparently the pilot was well-received by CBS but ultimately didn’t make the final cut. This one could have been something special with Stoller as the mastermind behind the project, but that’s just the way it goes in the television business.
9. Hollyweird, 1998
Hollyweird was set to become a weekly horror series that would air on FOX. Shaun Cassidy, who produced CBS’s one-season American Gothic created the show and worked with Wes Craven to add some established horror experience to the mix. The show generated considerable buzz but FOX intervened repeatedly to impose creative control, much to the dismay of Cassidy, who later released this statement: “Having spent much of the last year trying to fix something I never viewed as broken in the first place, I am withdrawing from the process of deconstructing Hollyweird.” This is why producers should stop trying to change everything.
8. The IT Crowd, 2007
British sitcom The IT Crowd could never be topped by an American clone, but it would have been neat to see the classic comedy reimagined. Richard Ayoade was set to reprise his role as Moss, too, so that would have helped garner interest from long-time fans of the series. Joel McHale, who is known for starring in Community, would have played Roy, with Jessica St. Clair set to play Jen. The series was picked up for a full season before NBC pulled the plug last minute and killed its chances of survival. For McHale, that led to Community, so it’s not all bad.
7. Day One, 2010
With only trailers for potential fans to appreciate, Day One seemed like it could have enjoyed a lengthy run on television. With shows like The Walking Dead generating millions upon millions of fans every weekend, NBC could have cashed in with their own post-apocalypse TV series. Day One was about survivors of an end-of-the-world invasion in which towering alien structures appear out of nowhere. The show was shrouded in mystery much in the same way as Lost, which isn’t a bad thing. The show was ordered for a full season before being shortened repeatedly until it was set to become a TV movie. Even then, it never happened. What a shame.
6. North Hollywood, 2001
North Hollywood had a stacked roster of stars: Colin Hanks, Kevin Hart, Jason Segel, Seth Rogen, and Amy Poehler. It was also written and directed by Judd Apatow, perhaps unsurprisingly given some of the names attached. Here’s the show’s summary courtesy of tv.com, which sounds like it could have been hilarious:
“Jason Segel works as a Frankenstein’s Monster for an amusement park, Amy Poehler has a sideline as the personal assistant of a down and out Judge Reinhold, while Kevin Hart shares a house in North Hollywood. The lives of these struggling actors are unveiled as they attempt to advance their acting careers while keeping true to themselves and their ideals.”
5. The Right Now! Show, 2007
The Right Now! Show offered a refreshing variety of comedy, whether it was stand-up, sketches, animated segments or short films. It was set to star James Adomian, Maria Bamford, Ian Edwards, Natasha Leggero, Mike O’Connell, Paul Rust, and Casey Wilson. Ultimately, FOX passed on the sketch-based comedy despite a strong one-hour pilot that showed strong potential for the future. The Right Now! Show could have blossomed into one of the most popular shows on television, but it just wasn’t meant to be. It makes one wonder how many great series have been left by the wayside because of a few business suits.
4. U.S.S. Alabama, 2007
U.S.S. Alabama was described as “Reno 911! in space,” which, let’s be honest, sounds absolutely amazing. After Comedy Central cancelled Reno 911!, Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant presented this series to FX in hopes of it getting greenlit. Unfortunately, FX passed on the show and potential fans have been left wondering about what kind of idiotic antics Lennon and co. would have experienced in outer space. Of all the disappointing cancellations on this list, this one might have had the most potential. As we have learned reading through this list, though, it usually boils to money and how much they’ll make.
3. Boldly Going Nowhere, 2008
From the minds behind It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Boldly Going Nowhere focused on the life of the captain of an intergalactic spaceship. It starred Tony Hale, from Arrested Development, as well as recurring It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia actors David Hornsby, who plays Rickety Cricket, and Artemis Pebdani, who plays a character of the same name. With the likes of Charlie Day, Rob McElhenney and Glenn Howerton running the show behind the scenes, this was bound to be a gut buster. Why FOX decided to pass on this one is one of life’s greatest mysteries. It’s about time we get a space comedy.
2. Living Loaded, 2012
Created by Rob McElhenney, Living Loaded was based on the novel by Dan Dunn that “centers on a loose partying blogger forced to change his career plans when he becomes a radio host,” according to the IMDb summary. McElhenney was set to play a role in the comedy and his It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia co-star Glenn Howerton was attached as a producer for the series. Like Boldly Going Nowhere, this series had lots of potential simply by having two thirds of the Always Sunny cast involved in the process. The duo knows a thing or two about comedy gold with the 10th season of their FX hit recently ending.
1. Heat Vision & Jack, 1999
Heat Vision & Jack was created by Dan Harmon, the mind behind Community, with Ben Stiller directing. The stars of the show were Jack Black and Owen Wilson. Black played an astronaut with advanced intelligence after he travelled too close to the sun, while Wilson voiced a motorcycle that used to be Black’s unemployed roommate before being hit by an experimental NASA ray. Yeah, let that sink in for a moment. The show incorporated sci-fi elements and was predictably ridiculous… it was also hilarious. If you don’t believe me, you can watch the pilot on YouTube for yourself. FOX really screwed up not greenlighting this one.
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