Sunday, June 27, 2010

Failed Pilots Part Deux





In part II of our look at failed TV pilots I’d planned to incorporate an episode of the unsold Screen Gems series Tales of Frankenstein, but alas, it has been removed from the Internet Archive.


We are left with 3 comedies from the early 1960s, the first one being Daddy-O  from 1961.  This failed pilot starred Don Defore shortly before he hit TV pay dirt playing the beleaguered patriarch `Mr. B’ in Hazel.


Considering the pedigree – this series was created by Max Schulman of Dobie Gillis fame (and yes, that’s Shelia `Zelda’ James, of Dobie Gillis,  playing his TV daughter) – it is a little surprising that this show was such a miss.


Still, it’s worth a look back.



Failed TV Pilot: 'Daddy-O' (1961)



Candy Moore was a familiar child actress of the late 1950s and early 1960s, with roles in shows like Leave it to Beaver,  The Donna Reed Show, and most famously, playing Lucy’s daughter for one year on the revamped Lucy Show in 1962.


She shot a pilot based on the play  Time out for Ginger which ran for 248 performances at the Lyceum Theatre in 1952-53.   Subsequently, the plot was used in several productions including a movie with Patty Duke called  Billie.


You’ll find Roberta `The Virginian’ Shore and Margaret `Wicked Witch of the West’ Hamilton in the cast as well. 


While not picked up as a series, this pilot was shown (as were many others) on a summer replacement show for Red Skelton called The Comedy Spot, which aired on CBS.



Failed TV Pilot: 'Time Out for Ginger'  



Next we have another `family’ comedy called Little Amy, starring Debbie Megowan – another recognizable child actress of the era.  She appeared on TV shows such as Grindl, My Three Sons, Tales of Wells Fargo, and Route 66 along as in movies such as Days of Wine and Roses.


A completely forgettable 30 minutes except for brief appearances by three guest stars; a very young Jack Nicholson along with Jack Albertson, and Doodles Weaver.




Failed TV Pilot: 'Little Amy' (Produced 1962) 


If these three failed pilots all seem vaguely similar, it is probably because in the early 1960s there were frequent calls for more `family friendly’ programming on the TV networks.

Prime time TV in the 1950s often relied upon violent police or western format shows, where the bad guys ultimately were apprehended or killed (a morality tale), but not before a certain amount of carnage was depicted.


The rising rate of juvenile delinquency, and anti-social behavior was frequently blamed on the violent content of TV.


Of course, the same charges were levied in the 1930s and 1940s against radio shows as being too graphic, and destroying the morals of society.


Comedies (sit-coms) and variety shows therefore were slotted into the early hours of prime time to placate the critics, and `adult’ oriented programming aired later in the evening.  


To fill the void left by the dramas of the 1950s, a lot of comedy clones were created.


Luckily, in an era where Leave It to Beaver, My Three Sons, and Ozzie and Harriet defined the ideal TV family, some of these lesser shows were never picked up.


Sra. Desert Kay Cowart said...

Hi Michael;
I am Debbie Megowan. Really, I am very happy that someone hated this show as much as I did. I was very angry with my parents for setting me up with this one. My kids gave me a copy of it for Christmas one year and I was very embarassed when we had to watch it, lol. Sooooo bad. The producers were trying to cash in on the "Dennis the Menace" gravy train by quickly creating a copy cat female version. I am just so sad that this is almost all that appears of my work. It has always amused me that Jack Nicholson was a "bit" player on my show. He's so famous and I'm so nobody, lol. Well, that's it, my name has been changed to protect the innocent, ha ha. Last name changed due to marriage, middle is still the same and my first name changed legally many years ago.

Sra. Desert Kay Cowart said...

As an addendum:
In reading the other parts of your text, I also was on Hazel, Dobie Gillis, & several times on the Red Skelton. Sra. Desert Kay Cowart
aka Debbie Megowan

Michael Coston said...


Thank you so much for posting. My all-too-brief mention of you didn't really convey the extent of your work. You were one busy kid!

Being of the same age, I remember you fondly from your appearances on TV.

I'm very happy to see that you've managed to lead such an interesting and rewarding post-show biz life (yes, I peeked).

Good luck with `Kay Paso'