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: Pilot Season Ahoy!

It’s a sure sign that spring is on the verge of emerging when the networks start to let slip the names, premises, and attached actors for all of the pilots under consideration for the next TV season. Most of these pilots go nowhere, which is the way the cookie has always crumbled, but a few lucky programs end up getting the go-ahead for a series commitment. I don’t claim to have any real idea how the networks think – as a critic, it’s pretty much a given that I never know what the networks are thinking (and, in turn, they don’t care what I’m thinking) – but that doesn’t mean I’m afraid to give my thoughts on 15 of the pilots that I’d like to see come to fruition and join the fall schedules of their respective networks. You can check out a much fuller list from The Hollywood Reporter by clicking here, but in the meantime, here’s the stuff that I’m hoping to be TiVo’ing in a few months’ time….

1. Gilded Lilys (ABC)

It’s been quite awhile since a broadcast network has managed to sell viewers on a period piece set prior to the 20th century, so the fact that ABC is even considering this series, which takes place in 1895 and revolves around the first luxury hotel in New York, is proof of how much pull executive producer Shonda Rhimes has with the American Broadcasting Company. In truth, the big selling point for me is John Barrowman. This doesn’t exactly bode well for another season of “Torchwood,” but the dude deserves a big U.S. break. You never know: this could be it.

2. Untitled Louis C.K. / Spike Feresten Comedy (CBS)

Go on, admit it: you were sold the moment you saw the name “Louis C.K.,” weren’t you? And Spike Feresten isn’t bad, either. Seeing these two guys attached to this project is the only reason why it stands out, since the only real description available is that it’s an an ensemble comedy about a bunch of twentysomethings trying to make their dreams come true despite today’s crappy financial climate. But, damn, after two seasons of “Louie,” the idea of Louis C.K. putting his spin on anything makes it something that’ll surely be worth seeing. With that said, however, I hope Dan Byrd ends up not being available to do the show, as that will mean that “Cougar Town” has been renewed.

3. Animal Kingdom (NBC)

Two words: Tyler Labine. I mean, come on, America, what more does this loveable teddy bear of a comedy actor have to do to get a show to stay on the air for more than a season or two? NBC is, if memory serves, the last of the broadcast networks that has yet to cancel a series out from under Mr. Labine – “Invasion” was on ABC, “Reaper” was on The CW, “Sons of Tucson” was on Fox, and “Mad Love” was on CBS – and, frankly, this could be his last stop before the autograph-show circuit. Doesn’t Tyler Labine deserve a better fate than that? You’re damned right he does.

4. Untitled Kevin Williamson serial killer drama (Fox)

The man behind “The Vampire Diaries” brings Kevin Bacon to the small screen to play Ryan Hardy, a former FBI agent on the hunt for serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy), who’s busy building himself a whole cult full of serial killers. If that isn’t enough to sell you, the cast also features Natalie Zea (“Justified”).

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The Light from the TV Shows: David Steinberg Gets “Inside Comedy” on Showtime

David Steinberg began his career in comedy with Chicago’s Second City, quickly gaining fame as a stand-up through his appearances on “The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson” while also courting controversy by performing comedic “sermons” on “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.” In 1981, Steinberg began to shift his focus from performing to directing, starting with the Burt Reynolds film “Paternity,” and has gone on to become one of the more prolific sitcom directors in the business, but he recently stepped back in front of the camera to host the new Showtime series, Inside Comedy,” which airs Thursdays at 11 PM. Steinberg spoke with Bullz-Eye about his new gig, detailing the trials and tribulations of securing classic clips to accompany his interviews, while also discussing some of his past efforts as an actor, director, and stand-up comedian.

[NOTE: All photos appear courtesy of TheDavidSteinberg.com.]

Bullz-Eye: This is certainly not your first time hosting a show where you interview comedians: you also brought us Sit Down Comedy with David Steinberg. Not that there isn’t still plenty of material yet to mine, but what inspired you to take another crack at it?

David Steinberg: I felt that I hadn’t really done it the way I wanted to. That’s why we first started this as a film. Starting it as a film was really good, because then you get so much material, and it’s sort of looser or whatever. And then I settled on this notion of putting two people together and how they connect, but not in any specific ways. They just go together by what they’re talking about. And once I arrived at that, I thought, “This is gonna be good!” [Laughs.] Of course, making it that good…it was time consuming, but it was great, great fun. I worked with some incredible editors, and there was a lot of archival stuff that we talk about that…well, they know that they’re talking to another comedian. That’s the bottom line. And then, archivally, I didn’t just do the clichéd version. I handpicked the clips that I wanted and then begged people to let me use them. [Laughs.] Archival stuff takes so long to get people to sign off on.

BE: Was there anything you wanted to use that, even with all of your pleading, you still couldn’t get?

DS: Yeah, for Jonathan Winters, I had a clip of him in an old Dean Martin roast where he’s roasting (Ronald) Reagan, and in it there’s a wide shot where you could see Dean Martin, Reagan, (Don) Rickles, Phyllis Diller, and… [Sighs.] You know, it’s generally not the original inheritors of the celebrity estates that are the problem. It’s the grandchildren, who don’t even know or understand what it means to be celebrating Jonathan Winters. They asked for so much money everywhere that we couldn’t use it. I ended up having to go with just a tight shot of Jonathan instead. So, y’know, just stuff like that drove me nuts. For the most part, though, I got everything I wanted. Some were just so exorbitant that I just couldn’t do it. But I’m happy with it.

BE: Speaking of Jonathan Winters on Showtime, he also appeared on The Green Room with Paul Provenza not so terribly long ago. It’s great to see people as yourself and Paul continuing to give him the props he deserves.

DS: That’s right, yeah. I will say that the younger comedians tend to look after the older ones. Richard Lewis goes out to Santa Barbara and spends time with him, and Sarah Silverman has done that with Phyllis Diller. It’s very interesting, the comedy community. It’s more surprising and tight-knit than you would imagine.

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10 Greatest Comments Appearing Below Rolling Stone’s “Steve Perry vs. Sarah Silverman” Article

If you haven’t seen the article in question yet, you can find it right here, but to get the gist, here’s the opening paragraph:

In an interview with Playboy set to hit newsstands tomorrow, comedian Sarah Silverman responds to questions about her provocative brand of humor by telling a story about how “the onetime lead singer of a very popular band from the 1980s” came up to her after a show and said, “You’re my favorite comedian. You have the best nigger jokes.” Silverman didn’t outright name Journey’s Steve Perry, but she added, “I’ll just say this: After that, I stopped believin’,” a poke at the band’s classic “Don’t Stop Believin’.”

It’s kind of a non-event, really, since the combination of knowing Sarah Silverman’s sense of humor and reading Steve Perry’s reaction to her comments make it seem pretty likely that she’s having a laugh by taking an approximation of something he said and making it into a punchline of questionable comedic value (your mileage, of course, may vary), but try telling that to the members of the Steve Perry street team, who have come out in force in the Comments section of the article.

Here, then, are ten of my favorite reactions…and, yes, they are all 100% real.

1. “I refuse to believe that Mr. Perry is the same type of low-life as John Mayer who would carelessly use such a disgusting word.”

2. “What bullshit! I don’t believe he even talked to that slut puppy! Neal (Schon) and (Jonathan) Cain probably paid her to say that because they know Perry’s working on his new cd! What a bunch of lowlifes!”

3. “WELL I DON’T BELIEVE A WORD THAT TRAILER TRASH SARAH SAYS. I’D LIKE FOR HER TO USE THE NI WORD IN FRONT OF WHOOPI. WHY DIDN’T SHE USE IT WHEN SHE WAS ON THE VIEW? STEVE’S IDOL IS SAM COOKE HELLO IF HE WAS PREJUDICE HE WOULDN’T SAY SAM COOKE IS HIS HERO MORE LESS. WHY COMEDIANS FEEL THEY HAVE USE BAD WORDS TO GET LAUGHS IS BEYOND ME. SHE COULD OF SAID BLK PEOPLE INSTEAD OF THE N WORD GROW UP SARAH.”

4. “I work in the mental health field and so I know how people perceive what they want and misconstrue to make themselves powerful. I find her humor cheap, condescending and pathetic. Steve Perry can’t even enjoy a comedian act without someone trying to shit on his image. LEAVE HIM ALONE! I get so tired of people triangulating in the name of fame at other’s expense.”

5. “First and foremost, I do not think that Racial and Ethnic slurs have a place in Comedy PERIOD. My interpretation of Silverman is nothing more than a Skank! Furthermore, I also have been a fan of Steve Perry for 30 years or more. I HAVE been to concerts and he is a total gentleman at all times, with more class than any other Lead Singer I have ever seen. I also wish to challenge what RS is saying that Mr. Perry actually said to defend himself. I doubt he would say as much as RS is saying, or go into detail about the experience. This is just disgusting rubbish that belongs in the dump along with Sarah Silverman. Listen to Steve’s beautiful Voice and weigh the talent. I don’t have to tell you which side the scale is going to weigh heavy. RS, write something good for a change. You used do some great articles. This is definitely way below your standards.”

6. “This is SUCH BULL!! Steven is one of the kindest, most gentle spirits on the planet and would NEVER say the “N-word”!!!! That bitch lied!”

7. “Steve is very classy and SEXY guy! I don’t believe he said this in a million years! Steve is friends with Randy Jackson, so why would anyone agree with that so called comedian?”

8. “SARAH SILVERMAN , I WILL NEVER WATCH U ON T.V AGAIN..THIS IS SO-UNCOOL”TO USE JENNIFER ANNISTON’S WORDS”.. STEVE PERRY IS WAY TO POPULAR FOR U TO JAM ON..AND REALLY U JUST AREN’T THAT FUNNY..TO BE HONEST, EVEN IF ROBIN WILLIAMS OR RICHARD PRYOR SAID IT , I WOULD BE PISSED..AND U CAN’T EVEN TOUCH THEM AS A COMEDIAN.”

9. “First Sarah is a total B. Get a life! I guess your name hasn’t come up often so you have to create a total lie about “The Voice.” Like one comment said he was going to come out with an album and now this will scare him away. He’ll hide for another ten years!! Thank you!!Some people (Sarah) have nothing better to do in their lives than make up lies about the nicest people! All she does is make up horrible jokes but they shouldn’t be called jokes because they SUCK ASS!!! Anyways she’s racist herself. Yeah it’s fun and jokes but what do we really now? She just might hate us all! Also Steve Perry is the greatest voice ever! That is why they call him the voice! And his idol is Sam Cook! for heaven sakes he’s black! Now why would a guy who loves Sam Cook be racist!?!? And maybe Neal Schon paid her to say it all. I can believe that after all Neal and Steve aren’t great friends right now. Sarah is just making this up. She thinks it’s a funny and cute joke. Well let me tell you something it’s not funny or freaking cute!! Also why would someone falsely accuse another just for a laugh!! She’s an F*** Bitch!!!Lastly Sarah get a freaking life!! Stop making fun of people just because. Steve I believe you all the way! You’re the best singer and also will be. And you’ll also be the nicest and most charming guy ever!! And again I believe you!! Steve Perry is right and Sarah Bitch is wrong to Hell!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

10. “I believe Steve Perry over that no-talent-horse-faced-unfunny woman any day…and where is all the outcry over John Mayers racial slurs in Playboy??? The kid is a no-talent racist who will be dead of a drug or alcohol overdose in 5 years or less… Peace…”

  

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