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:
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.