11 Far More Interesting-Sounding Pilots the Networks Passed On in Favor of, Uh, 'Selfie'

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11 Far More Interesting-Sounding Pilots the Networks Passed On in Favor of, Uh, 'Selfie'

By Dustin Rowles | Seriously Random Lists | May 21, 2014 | Comments ()


A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece basically ruminating on the unfortunate cancellations of Surviving Jack and Enlisted and positing that TV executives could learn something from crack dealers by giving viewers a season or two for free to get them hooked (instead of cancelling after six episodes).

For whatever reason, Michael Eisner — the former head of ABC and CEO of Disney — saw the article, and tweeted this:

Screen Shot 2014-05-21 at 11.55.05 AM.png

I thought it was a parody account initially (it was not) because surely no one — much less the former head of a network — is dumb enough to actually believe that, right? Because that is one of the dumbest statements I’ve ever heard.

It does, however, explain the mindset of TV executives, who picked up a crapload of new shows last week, and of the 40 or so series they picked up, only 6 or 7 even look like something most of us would watch for more than a few episodes. I mean, Selfie? That’s the kind of show that a TV executive would look at and think they have a huge hit on their hands, when in fact it’s probably going to be cancelled before December.

Of course, when we see the trailers for mostly awful pilots, we don’t really understand what the executives also passed on. And while I would normally make snap judgements based on the talent involved, Mulaney has cured me of that because I was appalled that NBC would pass on a show with John Mulaney heavily involved until I saw the trailer for it, after Fox picked it up. Woah.

But, there were nevertheless a lot of big names that were passed over during pilot season, and I’d like to think that where Nick Frost or Charlie Cox or John Cusack or Amy Poehler or Mary Louise Parker involved, that those pilots would be better than, say, The McCarthys starring Joe from New Kids on the Block.

But what do I know? At any rate, here were some high-profile pilots that were not picked up. Let’s all bitch about the considerably better shows they would’ve been (at least in our minds, based on meaningless loglines and the talent involved).

Untitled John Cusack Project (CBS): A drama set in the world of Wall Street power and money. Look at this cast: Charlie Cox, Maggie Grace, David Morse, and guest star John Cusack. What was there too much talent involved?

Untitled Jim Gaffigan (CBS): I feel bad because Jim Gaffigan seemingly pitches this same pilot idea every year — based on his own life — and despite all the buzz, no one ever picks it up. Next year, Jim! In it, Jim Gaffigan would play a happily married and harried NYC father of five in an apartment too small for his family. His wife would’ve been played by Ashley Williams, and that cast would’ve included Michael Ian Black and Adam Goldberg.

More Time with Family (CBS): I’m actually relieved this one didn’t get picked up, because I’m not ready to see Alyson Hannigan stoop to a dumb, broad sitcom yet. In it, Tom Papa would’ve starred as a husband and father making a career change to become a stay-at-home Dad while his wife, Alyson Hannigan, earned the bread.

Irreversible (ABC) — It turns out that not every pilot featuring a former Friends cast member is guaranteed to be picked up. This comedy would have centered on an eccentric and self-absorbed couple (David Schwimmer and Iris Bahr) and the trials and tribulations they often bring upon themselves. Sounds really generic, but then again, so did Friends (six friends hang out in a coffee shop).

Dangerous Liaisons (ABC) — It sounds like a terrible idea, but Katie Holmes in a television remake of Dangerous Liaisons? With Rufus Sewell and Oded Fehr. How do you pass that up? Fifteen million will watch the pilot out of simple curiosity.

Exposed (ABC) — Included only because it would’ve given Pedro Pascal another job as an investigative journalist who will stop at nothing to uncover the truth, including making questionable alliances. Meh. Generic.

Feed Me — Any pilot that includes “an exploration of adult intimacy” and Mary Louise Parker’s name should be automatic, right? I guess not. Feed Me would’ve been an exploration of adult intimacy and desire that centers on a dysfunctional family bound by love and the restaurant they run together. When daughter Emma’s husband has an affair, they circle the wagons to fiercely protect one of their own.

Old Soul (NBC) — This one I was most intrigued by because it was Amy Poehler’s project. It would’ve starred Natasha Lyonne as a young woman trying to find herself while working as the aide to a group of opinionated elderly people. Great cast would’ve also included: Rita Moreno, Nick Thune, Ellen Burstyn, and Fred Willard.

The Pro (NBC) — The pilot was announced right after Rob Lowe left Parks and Rec, and I’m surprised NBC didn’t pick it up. Set in and around a tennis and golf club, a former doubles champion (Rob Lowe) is reunited with his ex-partner (Rob Riggle) after a public feud that left them both floundering in life.

Dead Boss (Fox): Based on the British series, Dead Boss is a comedic mystery that finds overachiever Helen Stephens wrongfully convicted of murdering her boss and forced to rely on her train wreck of a sister to prove her innocence. Not that interesting until you see the cast: Jane Krakowski, Amy Sedaris, and Rachel Dratch, who just can’t catch a break.

Sober Companion (Fox): A charming but self-destructive attorney finds his world turned upside down when a court-appointed and highly unconventional sober companion takes control of his life. Justin Long and Nick Frost would’ve played the leads. NICK FROST? What? COME ON, Fox. Meh, it would’ve been cancelled after 4 episodes for being too good, anyway.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • "...because I’m not ready to see Alyson Hannigan stoop to a dumb, broad sitcom yet"

    Did you miss that thing she was on for nine years?

  • Ruthie O

    "Comedies are cancelled because they are not original or funny" Hahahaha. Do TV execs even watch their shows? Enlisted was a critical darling BECAUSE it was original and funny.

    But it's okay, network TV execs, nothing is changing! No one is switching to online streaming as their main consumption medium! No one prefers cable shows to network shows! No one subscribes to cable ONLY for football! There, there. Nothing in the industry will ever change. Everything is safe. Here, have some warm milk to go with your delusions.

  • emmelemm

    Two observations:

    Oded Fehr and Rufus Sewell in the same production is too much sex in one place and my genitals might explode. Although Katie Holmes might prove to be a serious wet blanket in that scenario.

    Jane Krakowski, Amy Sedaris, and Rachel Dratch

    What? Wait, what? I really, really need this in my life.

  • Stephen Nein

    My knee-jerk cynical reaction is: most of these pilots look like they were going to cost too much to produce. Quality is for chumps - it's all about the profits.

  • e jerry powell

    I'm thinking that the Cusack thing would have gotten dumped because of budgetary concerns.

    David Schwimmer is still out there?

  • laylaness

    I DEMAND that someone, I don't care who, puts Amy Sedaris back on my screen.

  • BlackRabbit

    Get a color printer and some duct tape and do it yourself.

  • tjedison

    You're forgetting a critical factor here: the American public. Execs don't just pick shows that are "good", they need to pick shows the morons will view each week.

  • narfna

    Hey, Eisner, if you're reading this: Your argument is out of date by about thirty years and also smells of bullshit. There is too much competition for audience attention -- what with offerings available on network TV, old and new programs on Netflix, Hulu, cable, and internet content -- for your argument to be valid. Audiences have to be able to find programs before they can judge whether or not they are funny, and if they are not supported by the network with good timeslots and advertising, they have almost no chance at finding an audience. Frankly, your argument doesn't even hold weight for shows 20 and 30 years ago, either. Both Cheers and The Cosby Show took years to find their audiences, are both are classics of the genre, and were ratings juggernauts. They were only able to do so because NBC didn't cancel them for low ratings in their first couple of seasons.

    Come down off of whatever rich old person cloud you have been living on and join the modern world. It's CRAZY OUT HERE AND YOU KNOW NOTHING, JON SNOW. YOU PROBABLY DON'T EVEN UNDERSTAND THAT REFERENCE.

  • BWeaves

    Sober Companions sounds like the comedy version of Elementary.

  • lowercase_ryan

    I thought the same thing.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    ditto. But also that Nick Frost was the only thing in the synopsis that appealed even in the slightest.

  • TK

    I saw the title Irreversible and VERY briefly thought it was going to be some sort of adaptation of that Gaspar Noé film.

    It would be the most demented, disturbing sitcom of all time.

  • zeke_the_pig

    And I would watch the shit out of it.

  • emmalita

    I would have definitely given the last 4 a shot.

  • Enrique del Castillo

    It has been a while since the name John Cusack has meant anything but "couldn't afford Nic Cage"

  • Finance_Nerd

    Or didn't want to deal with Nic Cage

  • pajiba


  • Mrs. Julien

    But fair.

  • Michelle

    I would've watched the shit out of Dangerous Liaisons even though it surely would have been awful.

  • Buck off

    I'd verb the shit out of Rufus Sewell.


  • Aw man - Old Souls sounds like a sitcom of my life! But with Natasha Lyonne! I so want that to pop up in some online platform or something. Elder care is full of insanely hilarious moments and confrontations with mortality. It's a TV goldmine, dammit.

  • emmelemm

    Agreed. It actually sounds like a premise that has a lot of potential.

  • narfna

    Agreed. I would have been on that show so hard.

  • John W

    I don't know about the funny part, but I agree with him with regards to originality. Surviving Jack is a typical family sitcom and even though we haven't had a sitcom in a military setting in a while, a sitcom that pokes fun at the military is not original e.g. Bilko, Gomer Pyle, MASH, etc.

    I'm curious what his idea is of "original" considering TV is dominated by police/doctor/lawyer/procedural shows.

  • TBF, you're basing the quality of these shows on the on screen talent that was attached to it. Most of them sound generic and likely wouldn't have lasted.

  • Pawesl

    Something Eisner forgets to mention is the network executives are the ones who put these shows on in the first place. If unfunny, unoriginal shows fail, Then why the hell would the network even purchase it to begin with. Just showing Eisner is talking out of his ass, he almost single handily ruined Disney on the 2000s so I'm not sure I would listen to anything he says.

  • Eisner is right, and you are wrong, as evidenced by King of Queens, According to Jim, Still Standing, and every other highly original sitcom that had the same premise.

  • kirbyjay

    "Comedies are cancelled because they are not original or funny" uh......COMMUNITY!!!!!!
    What a dickhead.

  • Pawesl

    Community lasted 5 seasons. I think that lasted long enough. I'm pretty sure Eisner is talking about shows that are cancelled in the middle of their first season since that was the gist of Dustins original article.

  • Guest

    True, but he's still wrong.

  • FrayedMachine

    I demand my 6 seasons and a movie!

  • cruzzercruz

    I demand that your demand be heard.

  • zeke_the_pig

    Eisner noticed your article? YEAH, ROWLES! RILE THE ESTABLISHMENT!

  • pajiba


  • Bert_McGurt

    Shock me shock me shock me with that deviant behaviour!

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