The Light from the TV Shows: Failed Pilots with All-Star Casts

As the new TV season rolls out, let’s take a look back at a few series that never actually made it on the air. Not that there aren’t plenty such series every single year, but sometimes you look back and wonder, “How could a show with all of these talented people not get on the schedule?” Not that we have an answer to that question, you understand, but at least we can all be mystified and annoyed together.

Next! (2001)

Starring: Bob Odenkirk, Fred Armisen, Zach Galifianakis, Brian Posehn, Nick Swardson
What you missed out on: After Bob Odenkirk and David Cross decided to put a bullet in their HBO sketch comedy series, “Mr. Show” (that’s right, it was their decision, not the network’s), the guys attempted to go their separate ways, with Odenkirk setting up shop at Fox with a pilot for a new sketch comedy series. If you think the above names are impressive, consider that several other “Mr. Show” alumni were in tow as well, including Jerry Minor, Jay Johnston, and Jill Talley, with Patton Oswalt also participating in some capacity or other. And, yes, if you’re wondering, Cross made an appearance in the pilot, too. So what happened? Apparently, Fox basically flipped a coin to decide which new sketch comedy series they’d add to their lineup, and “Cedric the Entertainer Presents” won the toss. Oh, what might’ve been…

North Hollywood (2001)

Starring: Jason Segel, Amy Poehler, Kevin Hart, and Judge Reinhold as himself
What you missed out on: Judd Apatow has never been ashamed to admit that the only reason that this pilot ever came into existence is that Fox refused to let him cast Jason Segel as his lead in the short-lived but highly-regarded “Undeclared,” but you can’t say he didn’t do his best to surround Segel with top-notch talent. Segel, Amy Poehler, and Kevin Hart played roommates, with Segel a struggling actor, Hart a struggling actor/comedian, and Poehler serving as Judge Reinhold’s personal assistant. There’s a more detailed look at the pilot here, but the long and the short of it is that, although Apatow admits that he really didn’t know if there was a decent series to be had in “North Hollywood,” he thinks the pilot’s pretty decent, but its tone didn’t match the sitcoms filling ABC’s lineup at the time, so they took a pass on it.

Saddle Rash (2002)


Starring: H. Jon Benjamin, Sarah Silverman, Todd Barry, Mitch Hedberg
What you missed out on: Created by Loren Bouchard, best known to animation fans as one of the creative forces behind “Home Movies,” “Saddle Rash” seemed to have all the elements necessary for a successful Adult Swim series, so why didn’t it make it beyond the pilot stage? Was it that westerns weren’t exactly in vogue at the time? Was there some sort of stigma attached to the project because they brought in country artists to continued voice work (including Waylon Jennings as a very special guest in the pilot)? Whatever the case, the pilot got aired – no doubt mostly because Adult Swim has a tendency to air just about every pilot it orders, whether it actually ends up going to series or not – but that was the end of the trail for the series.

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Weekly Web Series Review: Smart Girls at the Party

Described by host Amy Poehler as “a celebration of real friendship, real fellowship, and a kind of community with other girls,” the web series “Smart Girls at the Party” is a kind-hearted, fun and educational program for kids and their parents alike, but especially for young girls. Often specifically focusing on girls who enjoy activities traditionally thought of as being more for boys, the series enjoyed a significant viewership boost in its first season when it introduced its youngest interviewee, seven-year-old Ruby, who speaks precociously about feminism. Its most-viewed episode to date features a 14-year-old boxer named Precela, and another highlight features a young robotics engineer named Rachel.

These are the “girls who are changing the world by being themselves,” in the words of Poehler, who hosts the show with the tongue-in-cheek seriousness of a news anchor before ending each episode with a dance party. Along with producer Meredith Walker and musical director Amy Miles, Poehler explores the special talents and interests of each girl – or in a few episodes, groups of girls – and interviews them, always ending on a “very serious question,” such as “pizza or cotton candy?” or “which is cuter, a baby panda or a baby monkey?” However, despite poking fun at self-serious interview questions, the series never makes fun of the girls or treats them or their interests with cynicism or irony. Instead, it clearly aims to imbue its young audience with a sense of self-worth and individuality, without being boring or preachy.

Now in its second season, the series has markedly improved from its first few episodes, adding a “World Famous 20 Second Song” segment for Miles and boasting higher production values. There are also some familiar faces in the dance parties that parents will enjoy spotting, including Poehler’s husband Will Arnett (who returns from the first season), as well as her “Parks and Recreation co-stars Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman, Rashida Jones and Aubrey Plaza. Look closely and you’ll also spot folks like Jon Hamm, David Cross and Jack McBrayer in later episodes. With its own new channel on YouTube, “Smart Girls at the Party” is slicker and more fun than ever, and is highly recommended for viewing with children, especially daughters, between the ages of five and fifteen.

  

A chat with Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele (from Comedy Central’s “Key & Peele”)

Although it ran for 14 seasons and 31 episodes, Fox’s “Mad TV” never delivered the kind of instant name recognition that the alumni of its Saturday night competition on NBC tend to get, but dedicated viewers will no doubt recall the faces of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele from such recurring sketches as “Coach Hines,” “Funkenstein,” “The Superstitious Knights,” and more. Now, the duo are reuniting for their own sketch comedy series on Comedy Central, and thanks to advance clips from the show going viral, the buzz about “Key & Peele” is tremendous. Bullz-Eye talked to Key and Peele about how they met, the origins of their comedic collaboration, what and viewers can expect from the first season of their series.

Jordan Peele: We’ve done a couple of these so far, Will, and I’ll just go ahead and pre-empt your request to have us announce our names…

Bullz-Eye: I don’t know what you’re talking about. It never would’ve occurred to me to ask you to identify yourselves before speaking.

JP: [Laughs.] Well, this is Jordan speaking, and…I guess I’m the one that sounds more like Bert. And he’s the one that sounds more like Ernie.

BE: I’ll try to remember that during transcription.

Keegan-Michael Key: [Laughs.] Yeah, just put B for one, E for the other. That shouldn’t be too confusing.

BE: Yeah, especially not when “BE” is the abbreviation for Bullz-Eye.

JP: [Laughs.] Well, just to be safe, we’ll keep announcing ourselves, anyway. You can also identify me as the tired one. I’m Jordan.

BE: Right. If someone’s slurring, it’s probably Jordan.

KMK: He’s Eeyore, I’m Piglet.

JP: Piglet? Oh, come on. You’re Tigger.

KMK: Oh, God, what am I talking about? Of course I’m Tigger. [Laughs.]

BE: So you guys obviously worked together for many years on “Mad TV,” but did you know each other at all prior to that series?

KMK: We did. Yeah, we met in Chicago when Jordan was at Boom Chicago, which is an improv theater in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. [Laughs.] As opposed to Amsterdam in New Mexico or something, right?

JP: Hey, there’s also an Amsterdam in New York.

KMK: All right, all right. [Laughs.] Anyway, I was at The Second City, and our casts had a swap. There’s two theaters at the Second City, so one of our casts went to Amsterdam, and Jordan’s cast from Boom Chicago – which is just a really incredible theater – they came to Chicago. So they flipped, and that’s where we met: I was performing on the second stage at Second City, and Jordan’s cast had come in to visit us for a week.

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“Arrested Development” returning to small screen, debuting on big screen?

Ever since “Arrested Development” was yanked off the air in 2006, rumors that a big-screen version of the quirky Fox sitcom have refused to die. Fans have long been skeptical, and for good reason, but even the most optimistic “AD” fan never could have predicted what series creator Mitchell Hurwitz has in mind: an abbreviated fourth season with nine or 10 episodes airing on either Netflix or Showtime, leading up to the release of the much-anticipated “Arrested Development” movie.

Said Hurwitz, while addressing the audience at the New Yorker Festival on Sunday:

“I have been working on the screenplay for a long time and found that as time went by there was so much more to the story. In fact, where everyone’s been for five years became a big part of the story. So, in working on the screenplay I found that even if I just gave five minutes per character to that backstory, we were halfway through the movie before the characters got together. And that kinda gave birth to this thing we’ve not been pursuing for a while and we’re kinda going public with a little bit. We’re trying to do kind of limited run series into the movie.”

Too good to be true? Hurwitz doesn’t seem to think so, judging by his candor and optimism on the subject. Jason Bateman, who plays Michael Bluth on the beloved show, further stirred the pot when he tweeted, “It’s true. We will do 10 episodes and the movie. Probably shoot them all together next summer for a release in early ’13. VERY excited!”

“Arrested Development” fans have been waiting five years for good news, and while it’s wise and natural to remain somewhat skeptical until production on the movie and/or episodes has actually started, there’s enough smoke here to at least suggest the existence of a real fire.

To be safe, we thought it wise to prepare for an “Arrested Development” return. We’ve got reviews of Season 1, Season 2 and Season 3, and our 2009 interview with David Cross. You can also see where “Arrested Development” placed in past editions of our TV Power Rankings, and don’t miss scenes from the show below, including an awesome Chicken Dance mash-up.

  

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