Thursday, June 17, 2010

Failed TV Pilots



Given that some network executive apparently thought that `My Mother The Car’ was good idea in 1965 and that `Dusty’s Trail’ would be a hit in 1973, you might be wondering just how bad a pilot episode has to be not to be picked up for the fall TV season.

Well, wonder no more.


Today we’ve four TV pilots that, for a variety of reasons, were never picked up by the network.  

Some were, admittedly, pretty bad.


Others were simply too derivative of other shows, or in some cases, simply the wrong show at the wrong time.  Either ahead or behind of its time.


Like crude stone tools found in a natural history museum, these may not be something you would want to view every day, but they are interesting bits of our past.


So pop some popcorn, sit back, and enjoy some of these cringe worthy efforts from the the late 1940s to the early 1960s.


First, we’ll go back.  Waaaaay back.


To October 12th, 1949 and the filming of a proposed TV show called Jerks of All Trades, starring The Three Stooges (Shemp, who took over after Curley’s stroke in 1946, is the third stooge).

The idea was, the boys would destroy a different profession on ABC TV on a weekly basis.  In the opening episode, they play interior decorators.   The pilot was filmed in one day.

The only problem was, Columbia Pictures, which had the boys under contract, refused to allow the pilot or any subsequent series that would compete with their two-reeler franchise to air.   So on the shelf this show went.


"The Three Stooges" Failed Pilot - Moe Howard

This episode never did air, but a version of this skit was performed by the Stooges on the Ed Wynn show in 1950 or 1951.




Joan Davis (See The OTHER Wacky Housewife Of The 1950’s) tried to parlay the success of her radio show by bringing it to CBS TV in 1950, but this oddity didn’t make the cut.


For reasons to me unknown, it runs 33 minutes without commercials.   Too long for a half hour slot, and too short for an hour.   Davis would fare far better two years later with I Married Joan, but this does have some curiosity value.


Failed TV Pilot: "Let's Join Joanie" (1950)



Next we get the first TV incarnation of Sherlock Holmes, from British TV.    This is a capable enough half hour drama, with pretty good production values for the time, but was never picked up for additional episodes.


Sheldon Reynolds would fare better in 1954, with a one year run of the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (see Sherlock Holmes On The Small Screen and  Holmes Revisited.

Still, this production is not without its charms.


Sherlock Holmes - The Man Who Disappeared




Considering the talent of it’s star - Dave O’Brien -it’s a wonder that Meet The O’briens didn’t fare better than it did. 

What?  You don’t remember Dave O’Brien?


While not a `big’ star by any means, O’Brien was a staple in `B’ movies from the 1930’s into the 1950s.   He was a hoofer in 42nd Street, and succumbed to the evils of REEFER MADNESS (1936).  During the early 1940s, O’Brien found work in Monogram’s East Side Kids pictures.


He was Captain Midnight in the 1942 serial, and played in 22 of the Texas Ranger movies of the mid 1940s.   He was often to be found in (and writing) the Pete Smith Shorts for MGM, where he was usually played a hapless male trying to make a repair or renovation.  His stunt work and pratfalls were famous.


He even won two prime time Emmy’s as a staff writer for Red Skelton.  So this one-time effort from 1954 is an uncharacteristic misfire in his career.


 "Meet The O'Briens" (1954)

I’ll be back next time with four more failed pilots for your viewing pleasure.

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