Over the past month, the creators of two rejected TV comedies released the pilots for their shows online with approval from the networks/studios who made them. First, CBS released its Rupert Grint superhero comedy Super Clyde after Greg Garcia asked them to, followed by YouTube network JASH releasing Sarah Silverman’s NBC pilot Susan 313. Every year, TV networks pump millions of dollars into creating a bunch of pilots, with only a tiny fraction of these shows actually making it to air, but these are two rare instances of the creators of these passed-over pilots being able to debut the shows they worked hard on for the masses. Pilots have been appearing online, mostly in shady unapproved ways, for years now, but to see networks and studios actually putting their shelved work out there could mean that this will occur more often. With that in mind, we made a list of 12 promising rejected pilots from various networks over the years that haven’t been officially released on the internet, including a Comedy Central show about Zach Galifianakis as a pot dealer on the run from a hillbilly hitman (pictured), a live-action spinoff of King of the Hill, and a rare Judd Apatow/Amy Poehler collaboration.
Sick in the Head (1999)
Judd Apatow created this multi-cam Fox pilot, described as “an updated Bob Newhart Show,” starring David Krumholtz as a young therapist, with Kevin Corrigan as his slacker roommate, Andrea Martin as his colleague, Austin Pendleton as his former therapist, and Amy Poehler and Kevin McDonald as his patients. Apatow tweeted this picture of him and some of the cast a couple years ago, summing the pilot up, “Came out great. Not ordered.” Read more about Sick in the Head and watch some clips from it in a piece we did about the pilot.
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Monsignor Martinez (2000)
It’s pretty rare for a live-action show to spin off from an animated one, but in 2000, Fox commissioned a pilot for Monsignor Martinez, based on the fictional Spanish language show about a Catholic priest/mercenary often seen on King of the Hill. Comedy kingpins Mike Judge, Greg Daniels, and Jim Dauterive created the show together, and Argentinian actor Ivo Cutzarida was cast as the lead, with Mike Judge regular David Herman playing a supporting role. Fox passed on the pilot, and it’s understandable why — the show was about a Catholic priest shooting people. It’s pretty baffling that Fox even ordered a pilot in the first place considering the subject matter, but this sure would be a fun one to see.
Hey Neighbor (2000)
Created by The State
alums Tom Lennon, Ben Garant, and Michael Ian Black, Hey Neighbor
is a rejected Fox pilot starring those three and their fellow State
member Kerri Kenney. The show followed a wealthy NYC couple who are sent to live in a low-class neighborhood after entering the witness protection program. Lennon recently talked about the show, calling it
, “Little Britain
meets a multi-cam sitcom. It was six actors and we played every character you met in this small town.It was Michael Ian Black, me, Kerri Kenney, Jack Plotnick, Ben Garant, and it was a really cool show. It was not a primetime Fox show. It was more of an indie culty thing, which has been in fairness mostly what we’ve done.”
You’ve Reached the Elliotts (2006)
Chris Elliott hasn’t been a series regular on a network sitcom since playing Steven Weber’s sidekick on The Weber Show in 2001, but he was prepping to return to the medium with a starring role in CBS pilot You’ve Reached the Elliotts. A semi-autobiographical comedy, the pilot was written by Rob Des Hotel (That ‘70s Show) with a contribution from Elliott. The show starred him as a father balancing his comedy career with his life as a father and husband in Connecticut. Chris Elliott’s daughter, a pre-SNL Abby Elliott, also appeared in the pilot.
Speed Freaks (2008)
Just a year before becoming a big movie star with The Hangover, Zach Galifianakis made a pilot called Speed Freaks for Comedy Central. Co-created by and starring Galifianakis and A.D. Miles, who became Late Night with Jimmy Fallon’s head writer a year later, Speed Freaks followed a pot dealer (Galifianakis) and his loyal best friend (Miles) in the South who are on the run from a redneck hitman after blowing up a meth lab run by their competitors.
The New Big Ball (2010)
Produced by Tim & Eric, The New Big Ball is an 11-minute Adult Swim pilot for a game show hosted by America’s funnyman Neil Hamburger. It’s described as “a mix between weird Japanese game shows and The Price is Right” and with that Tim & Eric/Neil Hamburger sensibility thrown in, it could have just been one of the strangest things on TV ever.
Tom Lennon and Ben Garant’s first show after Reno 911!, USS Alabama was made for FX, and they’ve described it as “Reno 911! in space” since it kept the show’s loose improvisational style and absurdist tone. The show followed the crew of the USS Alabama, a United Nations peacekeeping spaceship, a thousand years in the future as they travel to different planets and enforce interplanetary laws. Lennon, Garant, Natasha Leggero, Brandon Johnson, Mindy Sterling, and Rob Huebel starred.
Beach Lane (2010)
From NewsRadio creator Paul Simms, Beach Lane was an NBC multi-camera sitcom pilot about a celebrity author (Matthew Broderick) who’s hired by a spoiled millionaire heir (Nick Thune) to run his struggling newspaper in The Hamptons. Lorne Michaels produced the pilot, which also starred Kristen Johnston (3rd Rock from the Sun) and Henry Zebrowski (Murderfist, Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell). Thune took his part over from Patton Oswalt, who was originally cast.
Tax Man (2010)
Brent Forrester has had a hand in some of the greatest TV comedies of the past couple decades, working as a writer on The Ben Stiller Show, Mr. Show, ‘90s Simpsons, King of the Hill, Undeclared, and the US Office, but he has yet to get a series to air that he created. Tax Man was a Fox pilot that Forrester created that sounds like it would have made for a pretty good show and had an impressive cast to boot. Starring David Krumholtz as an IRS agent trying to prove to himself that his job is important and honorable, the cast also included Martin Short, Judy Greer, Kerri Kenney, and Orlando Jones.
Rich Dicks (2010)
Prior to Comedy Central ordering Kroll Show, the network hired Nick Kroll and Jon Daly to create a pilot starring the characters from their Funny or Die short “Rich Dicks.” Kroll and Daly also created the series, which followed their trust fund party animal characters having wild adventures while their nanny Consuela cleaned up after them. Jonathan Krisel, who’s directed the bulk of Portlandia, Kroll Show, and Tim and Eric, Awesome Show Great Job!, directed the Rich Dicks pilot. Kroll and Daly wound up playing these characters on Kroll Show a bunch, so things worked out anyway.
A fictional TV station and all of its programming was such a great framing device for a sketch show with SCTV that it’s amazing no show has tried it since. Comedian Eugene Mirman’s Comedy Central pilot Eugene! had a similar premise in that it was a sketch show about him having his own TV network. Here’s a clip from the pilot featuring John Hodgman:
Based on Sharon Horgan’s UK sitcom of the same name, Pulling is an ABC pilot that had an eclectic trio of funny people in its core cast: Kristen Schaal, June Diane Raphael, and Jenny Slate. Following three friends in their 30s trying to get their lives together the US version was created by longtime Office writers Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky.