Revisiting the Collective: Crazy TV Series That the World Will Never See


(CS: The repostings of my old Collective Publishing pop culture columns aren't huge draws, but I want some of the more evergreen pieces to have an online home, page views be damned. So, time to see how much 2020 Christopher agrees with 2012 Christopher or even how much I remember half the stuff I write about here.)

A few weeks back, I did a preview for some of the new Fall TV shows that will be battling for your attention. A few of them were pretty silly and seem destined for cancellation city. (CS: I think, this is the season with that awful looking sitcom about a neighbourhood full of aliens disguised as humans. I also think it ended up getting renewed for a second season.) There have been some pretty wacky shows that have been approved by network executives. It probably makes you wonder what kinds of shows actually get rejected. You don’t have to wonder anymore, because here are a few pilots that were deemed unworthy of prime-time television. (CS: Fast forward a few years and all the pilots are based off 1980s movies.)

Now, I realize that I’ve got a history of allowing my creativity and imagination take over, and I have a habit of completely making stuff up for a few laughs. This is really not one of those articles. Every single of one of these shows were created by a group of people that really believed their show could be the next big television hit. (CS: The original article was full of links to prove these shows existed, but most of them appear to be dead now and I'm not getting paid again for this piece, so I'm not doing the work to try to find new ones. You just need to trust me this time.)

Steel Justice (1992): It is your classic boy and father bonding drama. The boy tags along with his police father and helps him solve crimes. I know, I know, a boy helping his father solve crimes is pretty unrealistic. Of course, in this case the boy was killed and now possesses a robotic dragon toy that can turn into a 100-foot-tall fire-breathing dragon. See there, it is easier to believe, because it isn’t a young boy stopping criminals but a giant mechanical dragon. (CS: Kind of surprised Netflix hasn't picked this one up yet.)

The Adventures of SuperPup (1958): The Adventures of Superman was a hit show in the ‘50s, but eventually the cast and crew were ready to move on to new things. If you’re TV producer Whitney Ellsworth, then you obviously hire a cast of little people and have them wear dog masks. Duh, why wouldn’t you do something like that? Kids love superheroes and they love dogs, and so naturally they’d flock to a show full of actors wearing spooky and emotionless dog masks. Alas, the world wasn’t ready for Bark Bent, Terry Bite, and Pamela Poodle. (CS: A SNL writer is really pissed off that a 1950s TV producer retroactively stole a perfect parody sketch idea.)

Heat Vision and Jack (1999): A TV show starring Jack Black and Owen Wilson and is directed by Ben Stiller in the late ‘90s when all three are actually relevant and funny; how could it possibly fail? You do it by making it a mutated love child of the Fantastic Four and Knight Rider. Black is astronaut Jack Austen who was exposed to extreme amounts of sunlight that gave him unbelievable intelligence, while his roommate is now a talking motorcycle (I remember when that happened to my roommate). It actually sounds like a pretty funny sketch for Saturday Night Live or maybe even a 90-minute film that lampoons classic “powerful nomad that rescues people” series like The Incredible Hulk and Kung Fu. After a few months, I’d think the joke would have run dry, but then again, Fox believed it was over by the pilot. (CS: True story, when I was young, I'd pretend that my bike could talk, and we'd solve crimes around the neighbourhood with his super powers. Though I think it was more inspired by Night Rider rather than the sun turning my roommate into a bike.)

America 2100 (1979): A sitcom designed around a comedian has been a pretty standard practice for years. You can’t just toss out a semi popular stand up and hope his show will be an instant mega hit, just because a few thousand people really loved him at a comedy club. You need to create an original premise like two stand-up comedians waking up in the 22nd century and finding out the world is ruled by a super computer voiced by Sid Caesar. Because nothing says a rating getting comedy bonanza more than comedians battling a totalitarian computer with the voice of the Joker from the 1960’s Batman. (CS: The two leads of this series were Jon Cutler and Mark King, and I guess, they were the stand-up comedians that I mentioned but I couldn't find anything notable in that field. But King did appear in an episode of SNL and was in two episodes of Cheers, and Cutler reached great fame credited as Underground Tech in Running Man.

Joey Dakota (2012): Wouldn’t it be great if they did a Back to the Future show? (CS: They actually did a short-lived animated series in 1991) This time the focus is more on romance. Oh yeah, it is also a musical. Because everything in the 2010s has to involve music. (CS: Well now, it is had, because we've moved to a new decade and there isn't any annoying singing shows anymore. Right?)

Danger Team (1991): It was a crime fighting drama just like A-Team. Now, you don’t have to worry about far-fetched things like a team of Special Forces hiding for “crimes they didn’t commit.” Instead, you get a crime fighting team consisting of a sculptor and three figurines. How do figurines fight crime? Well, they’ve obviously been sculpted from space goop. I’m pretty sure I would have watched every single episode back in the ‘90s if this show were ever given the greenlight. (CS: I feel like Paul W.S. Anderson should refocus his post Resident Evil filmmaking career on turning failed sci-fi TV pilots into mid-budget action pictures. If the movies are destined to be bad, then the plot should at least be ridiculous.)

Time of the Devil (1977): This was a show that carried an important moral message. You shouldn’t have a love affair with someone else’s girlfriend. Especially if it is the girlfriend of Satan. Then he’ll have a satanic cult kidnap the girlfriend, and so you have to team up with an exorcist to battle demons as you track her down. It just isn’t worth it, man. (CS: Okay, this actually would be an awesome movie to star Nicholas Cage. He is always pissing off Satan and cults.)

Heil Honey, I’m Home (1990): Have you ever wondered why network television hasn’t taken advantage of the treasure of comedy that was Hitler? No? Me neither. Apparently, someone thought the world was begging for a ‘50s style sitcom about Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun living together and dealing with their Jewish neighbours, the Goldensteins. I’m sure you’re incredibly shocked to discover that people were actually offended by this concept. (CS: This had to have been a potential FOX series.)

The Tribe (1974): Little House on the Prairie was a hit show that proved there was a large audience for a family drama set in a different time period. If people loved watching a family try to survive during the wild frontier, then clearly people would love it more if they went back during an even rougher time period. So, we get a Cro-Magnon family trying to survive life shortly after the Ice Age. You’d thought this show would have been a smash hit because television hasn’t offered anything up for the Neanderthal demographic except for a few Geico commercials. (CS: Well, there was The Flintstones.) 

Commando Nanny (2004): Do you believe that the early ‘90s were made just a little bit more awesome due to the existence the TV show Major Dad? (CS: Despite referencing that show a few times, I don't think that I ever saw an episode.) Someone wanted to bring that same kind of awesome to the 2000s. Instead of a former Marine becoming a dad, he gets to be hired on as a nanny/housekeeper. Because cutting edge television is apparently rebooting Mr. Belvedere with a guy who can kill you with his thumb.

Ethel Is An Elephant (1980): There just aren’t enough wacky “my roommate is an animal” sitcoms on television. Ethel was one of the big attempts to fix that problem. This series was supposed to chronicle the wacky adventures of a photographer who adopted an abandoned circus elephant, who I assume based off the title was called Ethel. Apparently, a huge part of the comedy was supposed to come from the guy trying to hide the elephant from his landlord and neighbours. So, basically it was Alf, but she is close to a ton and has a much bigger schnoz. The world really missed out on such riveting episodes as “Ethel as a Lamp” and “Ethel Behind the Piano.” (CS: The creators of the Sam & Max adventure game series parodied this failed sitcom pilot by doing a gag in the game where the main characters star in a TV series where they have to constantly find ways to hide their cow from the landlord who happens to be a rooster with a British accent.) 

Danny and the Mermaid (1978): A student is failing marine biology, but that all changes when he meets a mermaid and her talking dolphin. He becomes an expert of all aquatic life thanks to his many adventures across the oceans. This series would have been released six years before Tom Hank’s box office hit, Splash. It seems the network executives didn’t realize the financial success one could reap with mermaid romances (this one had the bonus of possibly being educational). (CS: Disney really understood the magic in mermaid romances as they were behind both huge hits, Splash and The Little Mermaid.)   

Microcops (1989): Right around this time, Micro Machines were a hot selling toy and one of the box office hits was Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Clearly, the world was demanding mini entertainment. It only makes sense you’d produce a series about two microscopic intergalactic police officers who come to earth to chase down a tiny crime lord. I’m sure they had a whole episode about riding ants or battling fleas when they hid in a dog’s coat. It seems like it was passed over for something bigger.

The next time you’re watching a show and wonder. “How the hell did this get on television?” remember how bizarre the TV scrap heap can be. (CS: And no surprise, I forgot all these TV pilots existed, and that is why I am doing a public service reposting these pieces.)

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