I’m fascinated by flop pilots…I have been since I was nine, when I started writing my book UNSOLD TELEVISION PILOTS. That fascination hasn’t ended now that I’m an adult and in the business myself. Zap2it was kind enough to do an overview of some of the high-profile unsold pilots this season…
“Jessica” (ABC, comedy): Simpson’s media assault was to have continued in this show, where she would have played a bubble-headed pop star-turned-correspondent for an “Access Hollywood”-like show. Proving that ABC just has issues with that family, the network shunned “Hot Mom,” in which husband Nick Lachey co-starred with Gina Gershon. ABC opted instead to order a few more variety specials featuring Nick and Jessica pretending to be themselves.
“The Catch” (ABC, drama): Greg Grunberg (“Alias”) was to have starred as a bounty hunter in this long-in-development midseason show from J.J. Abrams, with Orlando Jones and Don Rickles co-starring. It sounded like a good idea to us, but the fact that “Alias” got pushed back to January may have something to do with it getting bounced.
“Dark Shadows” (WB, drama): Maybe The WB didn’t want to put another vampire show on the air right after canceling “Angel.” Or maybe it was too expensive. Whatever the reason, it’s a bit of a surprise that this show, produced by “ER” maven John Wells and starring Martin Donovan, Marley Shelton and Blair Brown didn’t make the schedule.
“The Robinsons: Lost in Space” (WB, drama): The WB paid big bucks for the rights to this remake and hired John Woo to help the pilot. Either the pilot didn’t seem to have the young adult male appear the network was craving, or else it looked like a potential franchise bomb in the “Birds of Prey” or “Tarzan” mold.
“Beck and Call” (UPN, drama): Set in the fashion world and starring Vanessa L. Williams, “Beck and Call” was for a time rumored to be in line to get paired with “America’s Next Top Model” on UPN’s schedule. Instead, the network went with “Kevin Hill,” leaving this Lisa Kudrow-produced pilot in the cold.
“Sudbury” (CBS, drama): Kim Delaney and Jeri Ryan play beautiful women who are also witches? It’s like “Passions” for primetime. Or it’s like “Practical Magic” for the small screen (complete with producers Denise DiNovi and Sandra Bullock). Up until the days before the CBS upfront, it was considered at least a favorite for a midseason slot. Instead, Delaney will get the chance to appear on the final season of “NYPD Blue.”
“Untitled Andrew Secunda Project” (UPN, comedy) and “Untitled Tarses/Wrubel Project” (NBC, comedy): We’re not sure that either comedy really sounded like a good idea, but without “Buffy” and “Angel,” we need a dose of actors from the Whedon-verse. However, these two comedies — starring Charisma Carpenter and Alyson Hannigan — failed to make their network cuts.
The fact is, the vast majority of pilots made in any given season are scrapped… never to be broadcast. There were 120 pilots shot this season, of which maybe thirty will get picked up as series. Of those thirty series, maybe five will survive to celebrate their first birthdays…
Even more pilots never make it past the script stage… among those this season were two of ours… “The Cleaner” for NBC and “Proof” for Lifetime. But there’s hope… several of the pilots this season were rejected scripts from last season, including NBC’s “LAX” (which was picked up as a series), Fox’s “Mr. Ed,” ABC’S “Gramercy Park” and CBS’s “Ricki Lake” sitcom.
So there’s hope… today’s flop pilots can become next year’s flop pilots, too.