So in case you had not noticed pilot season is in full swing at the moment, with each new release giving company execs the glimmer of hope that it will be a success and spawn a franchise. While there is no doubt that some of these will, there will also be some utter turkeys in the mix that will be instantly forgotten. This leads us to the focus of this article because I have (like a fat Indiana Jones) unearthed some of these forgotten unaired pilot treasures and proudly displayed them for all to see. These are the pilots that never got a chance, some due to circumstance and some due to the fact that after watching them you may need to sit back and absorb what utter dribble flowed out of your computer screen. If nothing else they can never be considered boring. So here are the top ten unaired pilots that caught my attention.
10) Heat Vision and Jack (1999)
Oh the 90s when Jack Black was a comedy god among men. His moment of stardom has slipped due to him appearing in some awful movies as well as, in my humble view, not possessing enough comedy skills to do anything other than fall down and shout a lot. But in his defence he has starred in some interesting items to say the least. Heat Vision and Jack is one of these curious pieces. From Ben Stiller’s production company and introduced by Stiller himself, we are given an introduction to the world of Jack Austin; an astronaut who flew too close to the sun. Given amazing new mental powers (but only in the day when his brain absorbs the sun) he is on the run from part time actor and full time assassin Ron Silver (yes the actor Ron Silver playing himself) who is trying to take him out. On his travels he has his companion and former room mate Doug, who has had his consciousness transferred to a motor bike (voiced by Owen Wilson). Together they are Heat Vision and Jack.
A great parody of all those 1970’s shows like the Incredible Hulk and The Six Million Dollar Man, it has its tongue firmly placed in its cheek. Cameos by Stiller’s wife Christine Taylor as a sheriff who falls for Jack and Vincent Schiavelli as a human possessed by the evil alien Paragon all add to the pilots quirky fun. The visual shots and soft focus show some serious care and attention went into this and for fans of those retro shows it is a must see. However saying that this would have been a hard sell for an actual series, as the parody element could have easily become tiresome over time. As a solo piece however it is loads of fun.
9) The Adventures of Super Pup (1958)
Flying right from the year 1958 and into no one’s living room is Super Pup. This unaired pilot pretty much follows the formula of the early Superman comics, but with one twist. All of the characters have become animals. So Clark Kent now becomes the adorable Bark Bent and Superman becomes the Pup of the title.
This seems just plain weird watching it today. I am not really sure what audience they were going for, but one can only assume that viewers would have gazed in shock and awe of what they had seen if this had ever reached households around America. One viewing of this makes it obvious that it was not going to be a mainstream hit, just because it seems so odd! It has a strange Muppets feel to it, with the human actors basically wearing just huge head masks. It makes you feel uneasy rather than entertained, like you have just walked into an adult fancy dress party that you really should not have. It also has that Tex Avery style humour which works… to a degree. It is a strange oddity, but it is hard not to laugh when seeing a tiny bulldog dressed like an editor barking orders while stood on a table.
8) Lookwell (1991)
Lookwell has quite a simple premise. Writer Conan O’Brien (yes that Conan) and Robert Smigel created this tale off a washed up actor (played by Adam West) who, having been deputized when he was a hit, believes he can actually solve crimes. This gem came from NBC in 1991 and though well received, never actually got a full series.
This had me in stitches just from the title scene alone where Adam West is doing an incredible job of camping it up, even more than he normally does. The 70’s style music and Adam’s confident stride through the yellow tape straight away tells you this is going to be something special. The self parody Adam employs in this show is incredible and it really out shines some of the other oddities that appear on this list. There is definitely some Batmanisms popping up in here and as you would expect he uses his acting skills to get the job done. It is great to see Adam West exercise his comedy chops before he became a cult icon with his appearances in Family Guy and a new audience finding his works from the old Batman series. Out of all the shows on this list this is the one that has the most legs for a series so it’s all the more tragic it was shot down before it had a chance. Lookwell was a role Adam West was born to play and we are lucky he at least got to play it once.
7) The Elvira Show (1993)
Elvira the scream queen with the large ……..assets has moved to Manhattan, Kansas. In tow is her talking cat who likes to drop sarcastic comments when ever possible, and her nutty aunt Minerva. Elvira has gotten a steady job as fortune teller and potion seller but a spanner is thrown into the works when handsome undercover cop Chip arrives on the scene. He is investigating a bad batch of her potions that put someone in the hospital, but Elvira is only interested in investigating him. Then out of no where Elvira’s long lost niece Paige arrives to stay. Antics ensue.
Yeah, this is as bad as it sounds, but for Elvira fans it is a must see as she basically does the same routine she did in her movie Elvira Mistress of the Dark but for an hour shorter. It feels like they were trying to create a show that was a throwback to the classic house based sitcoms of old but with an added element of a quirky family like Married with Children. Watching it now it is an odd mix that never really gels, nor is it really that funny. There are elements in this show that follow other witch related shows like Bewitched or Sabrina, with spells going wrong and annoying retorts from speaking animals. It is certainly an oddity worth viewing (if not for Elvira herself then for the stupidity on screen) but for how many viewings will really depend on how much you like the central character.
6) Dog Police (1990)
Adam Sandler gives us his idea of the perfect police force with this 1990 pilot Dog Police. Sandler turns up in this as a cameo but it mainly focuses on the antics of some alien crime fighting dogs. Yes, this is a real thing. The dogs are human sized and walk upright. Wearing trench coats, they search the streets looking for crime while moaning about the emotional issues (including divorce!) and are fully authorised by the police department. I really do not want to know what other animal detectives that police force has on retainer.
Sandler’s career has gone off the rails as of late with the heyday days of Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison long behind him, but it is kind of comforting to know that even before then he could conjure up utter tripe. This is just too weird a show to even dream of. Much like Super Pup it has actors wearing dog clothes, but the interaction between humans at least makes it a bit more accessible. However it’s just plain weird and not that funny really. Dogs in trench coats talking like Humphrey Bogart is almost bad enough but when you see those human eyes peeping out from the slightly disturbing dog masks it does chill you to the bone………the dog puns don’t help matters much either.
5) The Orson Welles Show (1979)
The Orson Welles Show was Orson’s attempt at getting himself a gig as a talk show host. Suffice to say, it did not end well. Struggling to engage an interesting banter with his audience who looked confused as much as they did amused, Orson in some scenes seems quite terrifying. Most of the footage for this proposed 90 minute show has never surfaced or been pulled for copyright reasons, but there are clips of it on the Orson Welles documentary one man band. The eclectic show had Burt Reynolds as one of the guests and some quick fire questions from the audience, none of which goes smoothly. The weirdest thing is Orson Welles justifying his amazing acting talents in an interview with none other than Kermit the Frog, it is an interesting state of affairs when you need the ear of a Muppet. This is just dying out for some kind of re-release as it seems incredible and has to be one of the lost gems of our time.
4) Wonder Woman (1967)
Poor Wonder Woman never seems to catch a break in TV. Sure she had an amazing run in 1975 with the beloved TV series of the same name, but before that there was a rather ropey TV movie from 1974 and then after we had the recent failed 2011 series. Beating all of these to the punch however was this short which went nowhere. Called Who’s Afraid of Diana Prince it took just 5 minutes for the creators of this piece to think they could sell it as a series. How wrong they were, 5 minutes was enough to seal its doom. It starts off with Diana Prince getting freaked out by the rain and then gets worse from there.
There are so many elements wrong with this that it is a blissful release when the clip actually ends. Woman Woman has a moaning old woman as her mum! She acts like a moody teenager! She goes behind a revolving wall to change and prances about like a weird fashion model! Yes this all happens and so much more. The tone is obviously going for the campiness of the Batman Adam West area, with the narrator from that show doing the voice over duties for this. But it’s actually just too painful to watch. Why do we have a minute of Wonder Woman grinning in the mirror and why the hell does she fly off in such a god awful camp manner? It’s because this show sucked and thank goodness the world was spared from a Wonder Woman comedy.
3) A Dog’s Life (1979)
Does the name Norman Lear mean anything to you? If not you may remember his early TV works like All in the Family and Maud. With this show he hoped to break the mold of TV sitcoms with a truly original idea. How would he achieve this? By getting humans to dress up as dogs and talk about the world around them, all from their own canine view. We all know how successful those dogs shows have been so far so I will let you guess how well it did (here’s a hint though – it is in an article about unaired pilots!)
This is dire. It looks tacky and the one liners included in just this small clip are painfully obvious and not funny at all. It plays out more like some school play than an actual show for TV, with grown men and woman in very bad costumes explaining how funny it is to be a dog. Who cares what happens to these dogs really? With awful acting and bad dialogue we should be thankful this was buried outside in the yard with only a bone for company.
2) Infiltrator (1987)
Scott Bakula has always had a soft spot in this reviewer’s heart for his amazing work on the TV series Quantum Leap. Before that though, he appeared in numerous TV pilots that failed to get off the ground. With most of these that is probably for the best but with Infiltrator he was denied the chance to give us a really great TV experience. Scott plays Doctor Sanderson an exciting and passionate scientist who manages to accidentally become one with an experimental probe he was working on that can adapt to any situation – imagine The Fly remake but with Scott getting mixed with technology instead of an insect. He is soon snapped up by the government and with his assistant in tow goes to foil the plans of a rogue scientist who has his own death base. While using his infiltrator skills will he lose his humanity?
Equal parts awesome and cheesy, this works great as a piece of Science Fiction action and would have made a great little TV show. The scenes with Sanderson shooting grapple hooks out his hands are amazing and a must see for any fan of classic 80’s Science Fiction cheese. The full transformation of Sanderson into Infiltrator mode looks pretty much how you would expect it. It’s part Running Man’s Dynamo, part any robot from any low budget Science Fiction film. It’s great fun watching Scott chomp through the scenery and even with the mandatory love angle it is still as great piece of 80’s action. Not for everyone, but fans of low budget movies will have a field day with this.
1) Poochinski (1990)
I am aware this list is very dog heavy, seems that dogs are an easy subject to work into TV shows. The fact that most of these failed seems to have done little to stop them coming out. So finally we turn to Poochinski, a dog tale with a difference. Stanley Poochinski is an over the hill detective (played by the great Peter Boyle) who looks a shambles but is actually pretty darn good at his job. He seems the perfect candidate for a new partner which he gets in Robert McKay. While on a stakeout for an ATM thief, Poochinski saves a bulldog from getting run over when the thief catches on to their antics, but he gets hit in the process and dies. While at the funeral, the dog starts talking to McKay. No, he has not gone mad, it seems Poochinski’s soul has transferred to the dog. Now the new team have to try and find Poochiski’s murderer together.
This has got to be the weirdest show ever conceived (and with this list that is a hard work). Poochiski runs and bites at people’s crotches which is all kinds of wrong and also has very poor and cringe worthy scenes where he whines about getting stuck in a dog’s body. Because this is television, McKay pretty much absorbs all this information with no problem at all and carries on with his normal day with dog in tow. Is there a lot of talking in this pilot? Yes, a hell of a lot. But does it detract from the main story? Not really, it’s a talking dog for goodness sake! The dog effects are pretty poor and Poochinski looks like he is made of plastic most of the time. The writers crammed so many different TV clichés in here that it’s a surprise the show did not implode on itself. Weird cop, partner with lady trouble, nasty thief needing to be caught – it’s all here. At the end of the day when you need to start taking advice from a dog on your love life, you have hit an all time low. But saying all this it really needs to be seen to be believed as you will wonder how the hell it ever made it off the writing board. But the same can be said for a lot of the pilots on this list. In their own way they have managed to give the audience some kind of fun viewing experience, just maybe not quite the experience they were expecting.
Boy, that’s a lot of dogs.