Every year, TV networks spend millions of dollars making pilots for shows that never see the light of day. Occasionally, those pilots surface online, and I stumbled upon a whole bunch of them recently that I had never seen on the internet before and embedded them below.
From the Bob Odenkirk-Janeane Garofalo HBO comedy Life on Mars to the US adaptation of The IT Crowd with Joel McHale, from Andy Kaufman’s first sitcom role as a robot to a bunch of questionable TV adaptations of popular movies, it’s a fascinating bunch of failed comedy pilots that have rarely (if ever) been seen by the general public. Enjoy!
Bob Odenkirk’s Life on Mars (1994)
In between The Ben Stiller Show and Mr. Show, Bob Odenkirk created and starred in this HBO comedy pilot, Life on Mars. Odenkirk, Janeane Garofalo, and Jack Plotnick played the lead characters, a trio of struggling LA writers and/or actors who hang out in a coffee shop called Mars. The pilot followed Odenkirk and Garofalo organizing a poetry reading at the shop for their hero, a Warholian figure named Lou Cage. The LA Times described this as “the anti-Friends,” since it was shot the same year, primarily took place in a coffee shop, and was pretty dark. This cut of the pilot only runs 15 minutes, so HBO either commissioned a shorter pilot for the show or this is just a partial version of it.
Area 57 (2007)
Created by Craig Ferguson writer Mike Armstrong, Area 57 is an NBC pilot that starred Matthew Lillard as an Army colonel sent on a classified mission involving an alien (played by Paul Reubens). Jane Lynch and Bruce McGill also starred.
Coming to America (1989)
The first of several failed TV adaptations of popular movies on this list, the Coming to America pilot was produced by Eddie Murphy and starred a pre-In Living Color Tommy Davidson as the younger brother of Murphy’s character from the film, a prince from the country of Zamunda who has been sent to New York by his brother (who is never shown because Eddie Murphy was a super successful movie star at the time).
Where’s Rodney? (1990)
Where’s Rodney? is about a tween boy who can magically summon his hero, Rodney Dangerfield, and ask him for advice. Of course, we’ve already explored this weird, weird show in detail in a full-on piece.
The US Remake of The IT Crowd (2007)
NBC’s adaptation of the popular British comedy The It Crowd, starring Joel McHale, Best Friends Forever’s Jessica St. Clair, and Richard Ayoade, reprising his role from the UK version. The US pilot was written by Community Season 4 showrunners David Guarascio and Moses Port and two other dudes.
Revenge of the Nerds (1991)
A cheesy-looking adaptation of the popular ‘80s film series Revenge of the Nerds, which had already stalled out by the early ‘90s. The pilot aired on Fox in 1991.
Lipshitz Saves the World (2007)
A sitcom NBC passed on about a 17-year-old nerd-turned-superhero (Jack Carpenter) who has to save the world under the tutelage of his mentor Leslie Nielsen (playing himself). Nielsen leads a team of celebrities that includes Jenny McCarthy and Dr. Ruth (both playing themselves) in a fight against the Man in Red (a pre-Modern Family Ty Burrell).
Legally Blonde (2003)
Up All Night’s Jennifer Hall takes over Reese Witherspoon’s role in the TV version of Legally Blonde for ABC.
Super Nerds (2000)
Patton Oswalt and Brian Posehn created and starred in this sitcom pilot for Comedy Central, with Sarah Silverman and Mr. Show’s John Ennis playing supporting roles. Oswalt and Posehn played a couple of geeks who spend their days hanging around the comic book shop Oswalt’s character manages.
Turner and Hooch (1990)
A TV adaptation of Turner and Hooch that subbed in Tom Wilson (Biff from Back to the Future) in for Tom Hanks.
Stick Around (1977)
A pre-Taxi Andy Kaufman starred in this ABC comedy/sci-fi pilot about a couple living in the year 2055 and their run-down servant robot (Kaufman), who speaks in Kaufman’s “Foreign Guy/Latka Gravas” voice. With the sci-fi premise and Kaufman being more of a central figure here than he was on Taxi, this could have been for him what Mork & Mindy was for Robin Williams. Kaufman would go on to play a robot in Heartbeeps, the box office flop he starred in years later.