Monday, August 16, 2004

Failed Pilot Theater

I saw a television show earlier this evening that consisted of failed television pilots. Pilots are the debut shows for potential news series. If networks like the pilots, they order more episodes and run the series. If not, no one, until now, saw them. There are a lot more pilots made in any year than what you see on the air.

Anyway, the failed pilots were fascinating. There was one where Scott Bakula (Captain Archer from Enterprise) is a scientist who does teleportation experiments in a lab room next to a woman scientist doing satellite weapon research. Yup! He accidentally beams into her lab and gets fused with her satellite prototype to become half-man / half-machine. But the fun part was, right before he presses the fateful button, he says, "Beam me up, Scotty." I don't think he's ever said that elsewhere, and I hope some Star Trek fan recorded that.

I once ran across a photo from the pilot for an American adaptation of the British sci-fi show Red Dwarf. Craig Bierko was Lister, Terry Farrell(!) was Cat, Janes Leeves was Holly and some actor I recognise but can't place was Rimmer. I've always wondered how bad it was and they showed a bit of it tonight. It was bad. Cheap effects, bad video. Holly looked like the actress was just standing underneath a box meant to resemble a monitor. Amazingly unfunny dialogue. What was weird, though, was that we didn't see even a mention of Cat or Rimmer. Problem getting clearances (rights to play) from some of the actors? I noticed that in some of the other clips, there were faces that were pixelated out. Oh well.... But now I know just how bad the American Red Dwarf was.

Gene Roddenberry got checked twice. Once with The Questor Tapes (Robert Foxworthy as an android sent to save Earth, with Mike Farrell). But the other was the episode of the original Star Trek, "Operation: Annihilate," that was meant to serve as the sidewise pilot for a show with Robert Lansing and Terri Garr. Gary Seven, anyone? It's a widely repeated rerun, so I don't know how it got on this show.

Speaking of William Shatner, he was in a pilot for a series based on Zenna Henderson's The People stories. Set in the modern day, but concerning a group of "people" who are actually aliens from another planet attempting to blend in on Earth, but in a low-tech, Western-Amish kind of way. Except they have all kinds of psychic powers.

There were a couple of Monty Python related shows. One was Nick Derringer P.I., which starred Kenny Baker (Time Bandits) as a dwarf private investigator. He's like a short James Bond. "Have you ever had a man stand behind you and kiss you in the back of your...knee?"

And Graham Chapman costarred in some show about a 20th century kid sent back to medieval England. Chapman looked pretty funny, but the show was bad.

And they had a few Marvel Comics pilots! One was something I'd heard of but never seen: Generation X, an X-Men spinoff from the Nineties. (Most of these pilots were from the Eighties.) I recognised Emma Frost, Havoc and Jubilee (I think. Dazzler, maybe?). It looked a bit cheaper than Mutant X but at least the characters used their powers! Didn't seem half-bad.

Another was a bizarre take on Daredevil. He was still Matt Murdock, blind attorney, but his uniform was solid black, slightly baggy, and made from some kind of foamy-looking artifical material. The actor was awful and he "played" the character as a blind man. It's hard to explain, but he exaggerated a lot of actions and threw in a lot of strange hesitations. They had one shot where DD is supposedly swinging on a whip across the skyline of Manhattan that was stupendously fake looking.

There were all kinds of terribly unfunny sitcoms and other failed shows. A Marilu Henner sitcom that was astonishingly cheap and shoddy and unfunny. A John Denver show where he's an FBI agent and guitar picker. Some show about a man's child who dies, then is reincarnated as a toy monster robot that sometimes morphs into a thirty foot high monster-truck robot dinosaur that breathes fire and moves in veeeeeeerrrrrrrrryyyyyyyyy ssssssslllllllooooooowwwwwww motion. And some show about a boy and his troll called Fuzzbucket, which is just as howlingly bad as you think.

There was something from the late Eighties / early Nineties (judging by the video, lighting and cinematography) about a female terminator thing. I recognise the actress and she was really, really hot here. Apparently all she does is kick ass and try to have sex. I would've watched that show!

I hope they make another special like this. Isn't there some program on cable somewhere that's similar?

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