Q & A: Undercover Cops, An Unsold Miller-Boyett Pilot

I get a lot of e-mails from people asking me about television shows, made-for-TV movies or miniseries they remember from years or decades past. I try to answer each question as best I can. Every now and then I like to dig through my inbox and pull out a few choice e-mails to answer here at Television Obscurities for everyone to read. Keep reading for today’s questions and answers.

I was wondering if you could help me with something? I was wondering if you would know if the team of Miller-Boyett had done any TV series that were never picked up?
Adam

Miller-Boyett Productions was originally Miller-Milkis Productions, a partnership between Thomas L. Miller and Edward K. Milkis launched in the late 1960s. When Robert L. Boyett joined the company in the late 1970s, it became Miller-Milkis-Boyett Productions. Following the departure of Edward Milkis in the mid-1980s, the company became known as Miller-Boyett Productions. In its final incarnation during the late 1990s, with Michael Warren on board, it was called Miller-Boyett-Warren Productions.

In the mid-1970s, Miller-Milkis Productions was responsible for two of television’s most popular sitcoms: Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley. The company also produced Petrocelli, a drama that ran from 1974 to 1976. As the 1978-1979 season got underway, Miller-Milkis had three sitcoms on the air: the aforementioned Laverne & Shirley and Happy Days as well as a new show, Mork and Mindy. Two others sitcoms were on tap for mid-season: Angie and Makin’ It, plus an hour-long comedic anthology, Sweepstakes (also known as $weepstake$).

While Makin’ It and Sweepstakes were soon canceled, Angie would return for a second season during the 1979-1980 season before it, too, was pulled. Another sitcom, something called “Undercover Cops,” never got on the air. It would have been produced by Miller-Milkis-Boyett. According to Lee Goldberg, it would have been a spin-off of Sweepstakes, about a pair of undercover police officers, both women [1. Exactly how they would have been spun-off of Sweepstakes is unknown; Goldberg does state that one of the officers was “a self-assured, ex-beauty parlor operator looking for more excitement in her life,” so perhaps she would have taken her Sweepstakes winnings and become a cop.

The American Radio Archives at the Thousand Oaks Library has two drafts of the script for this unsold pilot, written by Jay Oliver, both from March of 1979. According to Television Series and Specials Scripts, 1946-1992: A Catalog of the American Radio Archives Collection, the main characters were named Janet O’Malley and Bobbi Peluso, two “new, young detectives, working undercover” [2]. A working title was “Undercover Girls.” It’s unclear whether this pilot was actually produced or not. I’m inclined to say it wasn’t, simply because I can’t believe even 1979-era NBC, which thought Supertrain was a good idea, would have given the go-ahead to film a pilot for a spin-off of Sweepstakes. If it was produced, it doesn’t appear to have been broadcast at any point.

Despite a slew of flops during the late 1970s/early 1980s, Miller-Boyett Productions successfully launched several more sitcoms in the mid-to-late 1980s, including Perfect Strangers, Family Matters and Full House. Its last sitcom, as Miller-Boyett-Warren Productions, was ABC’s Two of a Kind, starring Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen, which was broadcast during the 1998-1999 season.

Are there other unsold pilots, produced or otherwise, from the Miller-Milkis/Miller-Milkis-Boyett/etc. production company? Perhaps, but I’m not aware of any.

Works Cited:

1 Goldberg, Lee. Unsold Television Pilots Vol. 2: 1977-1989. 1990. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2001: Page 335.
2 Berard, Jeannette M. and Klaudia Englund. Television Series and Specials Scripts, 1946-1992: A Catalog of the American Radio Archives Collection. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2009: Page 417.

16 Comments

  • P says:

    Mr. Barry Grauman or DuMont would probably know more details about the following show than I do, but I do remember a particular Miller-Boyett program from the early ’90s: ‘Going Places.’ It starred Alan Ruck and Heather Locklear, among others. It was not a hit and ABC quickly yanked it off the air before the season was over.

    The reason I’m mentioning ‘Going Places’ is because from what I’ve heard and read, the circumstances surrounding its creation and premiere was semi-controversial. ABC-TV cancelled the still-popular ‘Just the Ten of Us’ in the spring of ’90, reason being that they wanted all four of the TGIF shows to be produced by Miller-Boyett. I’m not sure who was more greedy, the production company or the network. At any rate, fans of ‘JTTOU’ were stunned and outraged by that show’s abrupt ending.

  • DuMont says:

    There were a few unsold pilots that I remember, but they were all backdoors…that seems to be how this production shingle pitched their new series ideas. And they had great success with that strategy, given the number of spinoff series they got to air.

    The final episode of ‘Laverne & Shirley': “Here Today, Hair Tomorrow” was a backdoor that never got picked up, for a series to have starred Carmine Ragusa as a Broadway dancer. I’ve read on sitcomsonline.com that there was another ‘Laverne & Shirley’ spinoff developed around the characters Lenny & Squiggy, but I don’t remember it.

    Regarding P’s question on ‘Just the Ten of Us’, a spin-off of ABC’s hit sitcom ‘Growing Pains’, here were the ratings:

    Season 1, 1987-88, 4-episode summer tryout Tuesdays 8:30 pm out of ‘Growing Pains’): 17.9HH
    Season 2, 1988-89, Fridays 9:30 pm out of ‘Mr. Belvedere': 12.5HH/20% regular season (62nd place)
    Season 3, 1989-90, Fridays 9:30 pm out of ‘Perfect Strangers': 12.5HH/21% regular season avg. (53rd place)

    While it looks like the ratings fell quite a bit, ‘Just the Ten of Us’ did remarkably well on Fridays at retaining its lead-in Nielsens from ‘Mr. Belvedere’ and ‘Perfect Strangers’. If ABC had wanted to go all Miller-Boyett on Fridays, I can’t think why they couldn’t find another timeslot for ‘Just the Ten of Us’…after all, they had 12 comedies over three blocks the fall of 1990. Or they could have ordered it up as a mid-seasoner.

    As it turned out, ‘Just the Ten of Us’ was the fourth highest-rated cancellation that year, falling behind only ABC’s 14th-ranked ‘Chicken Soup’ (which couldn’t hold ‘Roseanne’s massive lead-in), NBC’s 48th-ranked wickedly-funny ‘The Nutt House’, and CBS’s 49th-ranked ‘Newhart’ (which was more of a planned ending than a cancellation).

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    I suspect Fred Silverman was behind this possible “spin-off” of one of THE worst series he ever scheduled as NBC president, in the 1978-’79 season (not counting “SUPERTRAIN”, another disastrous “LOVE BOAT/”FANTASY ISLAND”-style anthology). I’m quite positive when he viewed the original 90 minute pilot episode [which aired as episode #5 on February 23, 1979], he paid close attention to the subplot featuring Adrienne Barbeau and Bess Armstrong, and no doubt declared, “I smell a potential spin-off hit”, telling Miller & Boyett to create a “spec” script featuring those characters {under different names} as cops making like an official pair of “CHARLIE’S ANGELS”, or Angie Dickinson’s “POLICE WOMAN” {most network executives were still looking for successful “lookalike series” based on those at that time}. By the time “$WEEPSTAKE$” abruptly left the air after only seven episodes, there were other problems with NBC’s schedule, and Silverman just forgot or dropped the idea {“I can’t be bothered with this shit! I’ve got other things in development!! Now, if I could only resurrect Jack Benny from the dead, he’d be PERFECT to appear opposite Gary Coleman in next week’s ‘DIFF’RENT STROKES’…”}, and the script was never filmed.

    I DO remember “GOING PLACES” (1990-’91), ‘P’. It started out as a “quartet” variation of “THREE’S COMPANY”: four people {Heather Locklear, Hallie Todd, Alan Ruck, Jerry Levine- and Staci Keanan as the “teen next door”} live in a beach house while working on a hidden camera show, then slightly changing its format [in January 1991] by having them working for an obnoxious talk show host…and an equally obnoxious kid {J.D. Daniels} coming to live with them, to provide more appeal to the younger audience watching ABC’s Friday night comedies that season. Only 19 episodes were produced.

  • P says:

    DuMont, I was thinking the same thing 20 years ago at the time ‘Just the Ten of Us’ was cancelled. I never for the love of me could figure out why ABC couldn’t find another timeslot for the show or brought it back in mid-season. I think it would’ve thrived on Tuesday nights at 9:30, in a two-hour block comprised of ‘The Wonder Years,’ ‘Doogie Howser,’ and ‘Roseanne.’ Now that would have done wonders for the ratings! The network could’ve (and should’ve) moved ‘Coach’ to another day.

    Another boneheaded ABC move, I think, was ditching ‘Batman’ back in ’68 when it was still winning its Thursday night timeslot at 7:30. I wonder – could the ratings have improved if they had moved it to another time?

  • Adam says:

    After doing some reaserch I found out that in 1997, Miller-Boyett productions was devloping a show for Cindy Williams for the WB network.

    I don’t know if the show got picked up or not, I’m inclined to say it wasn’t. If it would have it would have been Cindy Williams thrid series from Miller-Boyett. The first was “Laverne and Shirley” and the other was a short lived series called “Getting By”.

    Also Miller-Milkis-Boyett were also producers of a 1979 sitcom called “Out of the Blue”.

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    “OUT OF THE BLUE” was an outright “rip-off” of “MORK & MINDY” (from the same studio, Paramount), with an angel instead of an alien; even Robin Williams managed to find time to appear in the first episode, while Jimmy Brogan’s “Random Angel” appeared on an episode of “HAPPY DAYS” {the one where Chachi almost sold his soul to the Devil}. ABC thought they could single-handedly reinvent early Sunday evening viewing from 7-9pm(et) in the fall of ’79 with “OUT OF THE BLUE” [7], “A NEW KIND OF FAMILY” [7:30], “MORK & MINDY” [8] and “THE ASSOCIATES” (“TAXI” in a prestigous law firm) [8:30]. Three of the four shows were from Paramount, but it didn’t matter- CBS’ “60 MINUTES”, “ARCHIE BUNKER’S PLACE” and “ONE DAY AT A TIME” were seen by more viewers, and that was that. Brogan went on to become of Jay Leno’s key writers on “THE TONIGHT SHOW” in the ’90s.

  • P says:

    ‘The Associates’ was also the first major TV production for native Canadian Martin Short. He, of course, would go on to bigger and better things.

    Also, if ABC thought they could put ‘Out of the Blue’ and ‘A New Kind of Family’ against the powerhouse 60 Minutes they were dead wrong. As a matter of fact, none of their efforts in the 7 p.m. Sunday timeslot over the next 20 years or so would work successfully.

  • DuMont says:

    Errata:

    Please amend sentence in first paragraph above to read:

    “Had it gone to series, it would have given the ‘ABC Tuesday Movie of the Week’ a gritty, realistic half-hour police drama” as a lead-in instead of a comedy.

  • DuMont says:

    I found a few unsold pilots produced by Miller-Milkis:

    ‘Egan’, a pilot for a half-hour police drama, was based on the life of Mr. Eddie Egan, the New York police officer who’s life was the basis for THE FRENCH CONNECTION movies. This pilot was produced by Miller-Milkis, and I seem to remember it involved the actual Mr. Egan as an active advisor. He was very keen on ensuring his character was portrayed realistically. Notably, Mr. Dabney Coleman was cast as his hard-nosed Captain (and remember, this was not a comedy), and the pilot was considered for the 1973-74 season as a replacement for ‘Temperature’s Rising’. Had it gone to series, it would have given the ‘ABC Tuesday Movie of the Week’ a gritty, realistic half-hour police drama. But in the end, ABC decision-makers decided to re-boot their existing sitcom by switching Mr. Paul Lynde over to it from the cancelled ‘The Paul Lynde Show’, and the re-booted comedy was re-titled ‘The New Temperature’s Rising’. I’m sure ABC also considered ‘Egan’ for lead-in to the ‘ABC Wednesday Movie of the Week’, but they were quite high on bringing the ‘Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice’ movie spinoff series to air, and ABC believed that sitcoms were a safer bet for lead-ins to its ‘Movie of the Week’ franchise (on Saturdays, the ‘ABC Suspense Movie’ had ‘The Partridge Family’ as its lead-in.

    ‘Egan’ was finally broadcast by ABC on Tuesday September 18th, 1973 at 8 pm where it got a feeble 12.0HH/20% as a lead-in to a much higher rated ‘ABC Tuesday Movie of the Week: DYING ROOM ONLY’ which got a much better 19.8HH/31%. The ABC schedulers made the right call on ‘Egan’, though I can’t remember why they didn’t consider developing a one-hour series instead, where it might have paired nicely with ‘Toma’ or ‘Streets of San Francisco’.

    Around this time, the Miller-Milkis shingle also produced a ‘Movie of the Week’ backdoor pilot titled THE WEEKEND NUN, about a nun who also served as a probation officer. The telefilm, directed by Mr Jeannot Szwarc, aimed for a gritty reality a la ‘East Side West Side’, but the pilot rated poorly in its debut on Wednesday December 20th, 1972 when it got a 15.5HH/27%. ABC encored the pilot on Tuesday July 31st, 1973, and it rated marginally better with a 15.8HH/31%, but by that time, the Alphabet had passed on it as a series.

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    You have to understand that, until the late ’80s [when Fox undermined the rules, and programmed whatever THEY wanted, beginning with "21 JUMP STREET"], networks were required to schedule an hour of children’s/family programming or news/information from 7-8pm(et) on Sundays. ABC HAD to follow those regulations in 1979, and led off with “OUT OF THE BLUE” and “A NEW KIND OF FAMILY”. CBS had literally taken the lead and grabbed adults with “60 MINUTES”, so whatever else the competition scheduled [including NBC's "DISNEY" program], never lasted long…WITH the exception of “RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT!”, which amazingly stayed on ABC at 7 for at least four seasons (1982-’86).

  • Adam says:

    Another one I found was a backdoor pilot.

    An episode of “Happy Days” titled “The Apartment” was meant to be a potential spinoff for Potsie and Ralph.

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    Another potential “backdoor pilot” featured on “HAPPY DAYS” aired in September 1979, when Deborah Pratt appeared as the mysterious “Kat Mandu” (in “Fonzie Meets Kat”). She later appeared in a 1980 unaired {and unsold} pilot ["KAT MANDU"], in which she was bodyguard to a visiting teenage prince and princess- travelling incognito- protecting them from their enemies while they lived with a “typical American family”. Pratt later married producer Donald Bellasario, and worked with him on “QUANTUM LEAP” {her voice is heard as the opening narrator in the title sequence} before their divorce several years later.

  • Adam says:

    I had no idea that Miller-Milkis/Miller-Boyett had few unsold pilots.

    Is there anymore?

  • Adam says:

    Does anyone know of any unsold pilots from the Miller-Boyett or Miller-Boyett-Warren eras?

  • Jim says:

    “The Associates” was a funny show that deserved a better fate.

  • ted Baxter says:

    MB Productions- the worst thing to happen to the American sitcom for the years 86-98.

    “Out of the Blue” was a spin-off from Mork & Mindy. Very brief run.

Leave a Reply