The Five Worst TV Pilots Ever

So, we just sat through “Whitney,” which does for sitcoms what Ted Bundy did for lawyers. It made us wonder: what shows were so bad that networks didn’t try them. Turns out there’s a lot more than you’d think.

5.  Generation X

Roger Corman’s company New World Entertainment and Marvel Comics have a long and tortured history: he was involved, for example, in the infamously terrible “Fantastic Four” movie.

No, the one they made in the ’90s. The one they made in the 2000s is Fox’s fault. Corman just sold them the rights.

Anyway, among the attempts, during the comic book boom of the mid-’90s, to bring Marvel to the screen was this pilot, which actually has the distinction of hitting the airwaves as a TV movie. The idea was that it was going to be like Power Rangers, only serious.

Of course, the special effects would be laughed right out of a Power Rangers series, but that wasn’t the point. The point was the serious social commentary on racism this pilot portrayed with all the subtle grace and class we’ve come to expect from a TV show that features that guy who played Max Headroom as its biggest star.

4. Jessica

Hey, remember when Jessica Simpson was relevant? Neither do we. It was a dark, dark time in America’s history.

Either way, here’s a clip from her TV pilot where she played the air-headed pop star “Jessica Sampson” (subtle!) What stands out to us the most is not actually that Simpson sucks, because she doesn’t. She’s a bit goofy, but she’s basically playing herself, which is more than Kim Kardashian can muster in a documentary series.

No, what stands out is the fact that apparently the entire writing staff decided that “DURR HURR HURR BOOBS!” was a great guiding principle for comedy, which results in something far more cringingly unfunny than anything Simpson has ever been involved in, and yes, that includes her albums. Hey, let’s have a joke about Iraq…and turn it into a joke about staring at a woman’s ass!

Thankfully, ABC, which seems to commission a lot of terrible pilots, realized that this was a bad idea and killed it.

Then they put “Desperate Houswives” and “Grey’s Anatomy” on the air. That’s…that’s just great, guys.

3. Bates Motel

“Psycho” changed, literally, the way we see movies. People used to pay their dime and just walk into a movie whenever they wanted, but if you wanted to catch “Psycho”, you had to make the start of the show. It was also, of course, a horror and suspense classic that changed film, and ushered in a wave of serious, socially relevant thrillers, in addition to reviving Alfred Hitchcock’s career.

So, naturally, it lended itself to being made into a comedy series!

Another pilot that thankfully died after being aired as a TV movie, “Bates Motel” is apparently what happens when somebody says “Psycho as a TV series? What is it, a comedy?” absolutely seriously and invests several million dollars in doing precisely that.

2. Revenge of the Nerds

Go ahead. Try and get through this clip. We dare you. We made it as far as halfway through the theme song on our first try.

What is it with Hollywood and trying to turn perfectly respectable movies into TV shows? Next you’ll tell us they tried to make a series starring a talking dog!

1. Poochinski

Oh, come on, Hollywood. Really?

A hard-as-nails cop is killed in the line of duty. But, in order to set things right, he comes back…as a dog!

Here’s the first thing we’re pretty sure is true about “Poochinski”: they were trying to make this into a feature film, but even studio executives in ’80s Hollywood couldn’t snort enough fun dust to give a script involving a farting dog puppet voiced by Peter Boyle the green light. But apparently they would snort enough of it to approve it as a TV pilot.

The second thing we’re pretty sure is true about it is that the special effects team said they could deliver a perfectly realistic talking dog puppet on a TV show budget, and figured that they’d never actually have to deliver a thing because how could a script that stupid ever be produced as a pilot?

The third thing we’re pretty sure of is that everybody involved has had their minds erased so as to forget this monstrosity…fortunately, YouTube can’t be erased.

by Dan Seitz

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