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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The Light from the TV Shows: A Series of Random TV-Related Ramblings

It had to happen eventually: I don’t have a column.

Well, not really, anyway. I mean, normally, I’ve got an interview or a preview of a new series or a commentary on an existing TV series, and it’s enough to fill up an entire column, but not this time. Between all the writing, transcribing, and family matters going on over the past few weeks, I’ve had precious little time to watch TV these past few weeks, and what I have watched has tended to be in short spurts, which means that I’m way behind on just about all of my favorite shows. Mind you, that’s not to say that I don’t have anything to say. I’m just going to kind of run through some of the things I’ve been watching lately – some new, some old – and offer up my thoughts about them.

First up: the same show just about everyone else was talking about this morning:

Late Night with Jimmy Fallon

Seems like only yesterday that I walked up to Jimmy Fallon at the TCA Press Tour and asked him outright if he was scared shitless about starting his talk show. (His response: “Why, yes. Yes, I am.”) Now look at the guy: slow-jamming the news with the President of the United States. You know, I’d say “I don’t care what your politics are, that’s just awesome,” but I know Republicans better than that. I will, however, note that President Obama earned a little extra respect from me for taking the time to give a shout-out to Key & Peele. It wouldn’t surprise me if you forgot that I talked to them back in January, since the piece didn’t get so much as a single comment, but they’re a hilarious couple of guys, and they deserve all the success they’ve been getting with their Comedy Central Series. But I digress. Here’s that slow jam I mentioned, just in case you haven’t caught it yet:

Dancing with the Stars

If you’re a parent, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that the addition of children to your life inevitably results in a number of changes to your lifestyle, but one of the most crucial is how it affects your TV viewing habits. It seems like it’d be easy to tell a little kid what they’re going to watch, but you’d be surprised. Battles are often fought in our living room over what I want to watch versus what my daughter calls “my shows,” a short list which includes a variety of programming that I have no interested in sitting through. As such, my wife and I regularly try to find shows that are at least somewhat of a middle ground for us all, thereby avoiding these arguments with a little lass who’s 1/4 my size, and in an effort to avoid watching “Dance Moms” at all cost, I finally asked a question I never thought would come out of my mouth: “Do you want to try ‘Dancing with the Stars’?”

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