Category Archives: Failed Pilots
McGurk: A Dog’s Life is so bad, it’s easy to forget that it’s producer, Norman Lear, is responsible for All in the Family and The Jeffersons. The show manages to have no redeeming qualities. The pilot episode is 22 minutes dedicated to McGurk thinking he’s dying. Keep in mind that A Dog’s Life has all of the actors in bad dog costumes and is supposed to be a sitcom, which it manages to be because it sure as hell isn’t a drama.
This masterpiece starts with McGurk talking to the camera explaining his morning routine. Every joke ends with the punchline “I’m a dog.” He can’t tell time. Why? He’s a dog. Any show starring anthropomorphic animals standing on two feet and speaking English gives up the right to make jokes about their species. For all intents and purposes, they’re just people with dog ears and tails, which makes it disconcerting when McGurk refers wants to please his owner.
Every fall, a new TV show arises that millions of people are horrified that it has seen the light of day. The words “American remake” send terror through any anglophile’s heart the same way it does with “cancelled.” While everyone else is cowering in the corner watching some maniac serial killer movie marathon, we watch our beloved British TV shows being butchered by American hands. Which leave us all wondering: are any of these remakes really necessary?
I, like millions of other Americans, have no problem watching British television. British humor is known for being deadpan. Apparently, deadpan is synonymous with “incomprehensible” in the minds of network executives, which causes remakes to dumb down jokes so that Americans can understand them. Having to make jokes more obvious is part of the problem that American remakes fail. We don’t need to be pigeon holed as stupid.
The IT Crowd, like many other Britcoms, seemed to have ended before its time. The show had four series, which is longer than most fan favorite British television shows. It ended not because it was cancelled, but because the writers decided to end the show. This is nearly unheard of, especially in America.
The IT Crowd was the brainchild of Graham Linehan who also created other popular britcoms Black Books and Father Ted. It centers around the three members of the IT department of Reynholm Industries: Roy Trenneman played by Chris O’Dowd, Maurice Moss played by Richard Ayoade. and the relationship manager Jen Barber is played by Katherine Parkinson. They have to deal with outrageous situations such as their crazy boss’ antics, thwarting a German cannibal, and accidentally getting involved in a bank heist all while helping people with their computer problems.
In 1977, David Letterman was still a struggling standup comedian trying to break into television, which is the only way to explain why Letterman would ever take part in the mess of a pilot that is The Riddlers. Unless you’re a fan of David Letterman, perpetual b-list game show guests from the 70s, or things that are so bad, they’re good, The Riddlers is not worth watching.
The Riddlers‘s pilot has many things wrong with it. The most obvious are several format flaws. First, there’s the fact that Letterman is almost useless. The contestants are reading the riddles to other members of their team. The Riddler‘s doesn’t need a host and it doesn’t deserve on as good as Letterman. He exists solely to read the rules and repeat questions that have already been read. While it is necessary to repeat questions every now and then, no game show needs a dedicated echoer.
As if a built in redundancy isn’t bad enough, the starting team is almost guaranteed to win. The problem isn’t that the object of the game is to answer 9 riddles correctly. It’s that the losing team from the previous game starts the new one and keeps control of the game until they get an incorrect answer. It’s entirely possible for a really good team to win the game without the other team ever answering a question. The only reason that doesn’t happen in the pilot is because Joyce Bulifant isn’t too bright, which she has also demonstrated multiple times on Match Game, so it’s not like she was having a bad day.
What’s Alan Watching?, a pilot produced by Eddie Murphy, originally ran on CBS in 1989. The show, though, never got picked up past the first episode. Sort of hard to believe, as it was the perfect recipe for an 80’s or 90’s television show: the dweeby, in this case younger, sibling has to deal with his jerk older brother (David Packer) and ditzy, self-centered sister played by a pre-The Nanny Fran Drescher, whose lack of “MAAA” shouts was a little jarring for me. For Alan Hoffstetter, the dweeb in What’s Alan Watching?, played by Corin Nemec, the only way to do that is through televsion.