Q & A: Zero Intelligence (Unsold 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 have been trying to find the name of show I saw around the summer/fall of, probably 1977. It was a sitcom, probably 30 mins, and the setting was a remote Alaskan US Air Force radar station. It might have been one of those “summer filler” shows and not a very short lived regular schedule show. Any ideas? Ever heard of it?
Rocky

I’m often impressed by what people remember about short-lived television shows, made-for-TV movies or unsold pilots. “Zero Intelligence” was an unsold pilot that aired just once during the summer of 1976. It was set in Alaska and followed the misadventures of a group of soldiers stationed at a top secret radar installation during the 1950s. “Zero Intelligence” starred Sorrell Booke starred as the base commander, along with Don Galloway, Tom Rosqui and Clyde Kusatu (as an Eskimo nicknamed “Mo”). It was broadcast as part of “ABC Comedy Theater,” a two-hour block of four unsold sitcom pilots, on Tuesday, August 10th, 1976 from 9-11PM (“Zero Intelligence” was the fourth and final pilot). Rocky was slightly off in terms of the air date but otherwise remembered quite a bit about a half-hour pilot broadcast over three decades ago.

The first pilot, alternately referred to as “The Lorenzo Music Show” or “The New Lorenzo Music Show,” starred Lorenzo Music as a character named Lorenzo Music. So he was playing himself. His real-life wife, Henrietta Music, played his character’s wife, named Henrietta Music. In the pilot, Lorenzo Music auditions for a variety/talk show. I believe David Ogden Stiers played one of the guests on the variety/talk show but I don’t know if he was playing himself or someone else. Interestingly, Lorenzo and Henrietta Music would go on to host their own syndicated variety/talk show — The Lorenzo and Henrietta Music Show — during the 1976-1977 season.

The second pilot, “Cousins,” starred Lisa Mordente and Dee Dee Rechler as — you guessed it — cousins working at an advertising agency in New York City. One was a native New Yorker, the other hailed from Denver. David Ogden Stiers played their boss. The third pilot, “The Rear Guard,” was an attempt to adapt a British comedy, Dad’s Army, for American audiences. As has often been the case, it didn’t work. Dad’s Army (which ran from 1968 to 1977) was about members of the British Home Guard — volunteers who weren’t eligible to serve in the regular armed forces — during World War II. “The Rear Guard” was about an American civil defense unit during World War II, made up of men who weren’t eligible for the regular armed forces.

“The Rear Guard” starred, among others, Lou Jacobi, Cliff Norton and Eddie Foy Jr. Many of the characters were renamed versions of characters from Dad’s Army. The pilot itself was a reworked version of an episode of Dad’s Army that originally aired in October of 1973, in which the incompetent volunteers manage to capture a German U-Boat. The creators of Dad’s Army, Jimmy Perry and David Croft, helped write the script for “The Rear Guard,” which was missing for many years until enterprising fans of Dad’s Army were able to track down a copy. You can read all about the recovery of the unsold pilot at Missing-Episodes.com. For the record, three episodes of Dad’s Army are still missing.

Footage from “The Rear Guard” was included in a 2004 DVD set, Dad’s Army – The Complete First Series Plus the ‘Lost’ Episodes of Series Two, although it is only available in Region 2 encoding.


11 Comments

  • Chuck Collins says:

    Lorenzo Music was far-better known for his voice than his face. His work as Carlton The Door Man is almost as synonymous as his title role of Garfield The Cat.

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    Sure, I remember sitting through that two-hour block of pilots on August10, 1976…

    I distinctly remember “THE LORENZO MUSIC SHOW”, which was actually a “blueprint” for his [and Mrs. Music’s] short-lived daily syndicated talk/variety show. The only difference was, the half-hour pilot was shot on film, while the seven-week series it spawned was produced on videotape (in New York, it was seen on WNEW-TV, Channel 5, right after “MARY HARTMAN, MARY HARTMAN” at 11:30pm). I don’t even know if the tapes still exist…

    “THE REAR GUARD”- oh, yeah, they wore World War I uniforms while training in 1942 Long Island; that’s what I remember most about it. This pilot was SO obscure, even Lee Goldberg listed it as “Dad’s Army” in his “Unsold Television Pilots: 1955 through 1988” book.

    “ZERO INTELLIGENCE”: that took place in 1959 Alaska. I remember Clyde Kusatsu as “Mo” the eskimo, and little else from it.

    “COUSINS”….sorry, I don’t remember a thing about it.

    But I can see WHY Fred Silverman rejected all of these pilots. Why bother scheduling these “losers” when he had “can’t miss” new series like “THE NANCY WALKER SHOW”, “HOLMES & YOYO”, and “MR. T AND TINA” waiting in the wings?

  • DuMont says:

    ‘The ABC Comedy Special’ two-hour block of four unsold sitcom pilots airing on Tuesday, August 10th, 1976 from 9-11PM garnered an 11.8HH/22%. I don’t have half-hourlies for the individual pilots.

    It’s only original competition on that night was a half-hour pilot on CBS titled ‘This Better Be It’ starring Miss Anne Meara, written by the prolific comedy writer Miss Lila Garrett and directed by Mr. Richard Kinon. ‘This Better Be It’ pulled a 19.3HH/35%, which is very high for a comedy pilot airing in summer.

    I can’t find a record of it on IMDB, and I can only surmise that a reason the highly-rated pilot wasn’t picked up to series was that it had been part of a previous development season — perhaps it had been ordered to pilot by Mr. Fred Silverman when he was at CBS, just before he jumped to ABC. CBS would not have picked up this series due to a conflict for Miss Meara as she was appearing as a recurring regular on ‘Rhoda’ over the 1976-77 season.

    If anybody else has more information on ‘This Better Be It’ please do post. I always liked the work of Miss Anne Meara and her husband Mr. Jerry Stiller (I don’t remember him being a part of the pilot as he would have been in ‘Joe & Sons’ at the time it was likely shot).

    @ Barry I. Grauman Says:
    “But I can see WHY Fred Silverman rejected all of these pilots. Why bother scheduling these “losers” when he had “can’t miss” new series like “THE NANCY WALKER SHOW”, “HOLMES & YOYO”, and “MR. T AND TINA” waiting in the wings?”
    ^^^
    I seem to remember that when Mr. Silverman signed Miss Nancy Walker to a talent development deal (that produced two series), part of his motivation was to pull the talented comedienne away from two other hit series on which she figured prominently, CBS’s ‘Rhoda’ and NBC’s ‘McMillan & Wife’ mystery series. While the canny Mr. Silverman didn’t succeed in finding a suitable series for Miss Walker, he did weaken ‘Rhoda’ (one of his CBS spinoffs) by pulling out some of its comedic bite.

    ‘Holmes & YoYo’ must have been based on some concepts research that said viewers wanted to watch shows about robotic humans for Mr. Silverman skedded a bunch of like-concept series to go with ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’ which was already on the sked — ‘Holmes & YoYo’ (quite funny sitcom lasted only a half-season), ‘Future Cop’ (a floating series from the 1976-77 season ), and the spinoff he greenlit ‘The Bionic Woman’ earlier in 1976.

    Finally, ‘Mr. T & Tina’ was I think, an admirable attempt by Mr. James Komack to re-invent his earlier success with ‘The Courtship of Eddie’s Father’ with a series that had an American governess to a single Japanese businessman with two small children. Mr. Silverman stopped production and pulled the series very quickly, leaving about a half-dozen unaired episodes, largely because its ratings started out very strong (its premiere was a crossover to ‘Welcome Back Kotter’) and kept falling. But it still averaged a respectable 14.1HH, not that far off of what ‘Doc’ was getting on CBS and ‘Emergency!’ on NBC. In the end, I think Mr. Silverman wanted to give summer hit ‘What’s Happening’ a fall slot, and that’s why he pulled ‘Mr. T & Tina’ so fast. ‘What’s Happening’ on Saturdays at 8:30 pm did only marginally better, with a 14.8HH average before the series got moved to Thursdays at mid-season.

  • DuMont says:

    @pBOB Says:
    “DuMont – do you remember if NBC revamped McMillian & Wife to just McMillian before or after Nancy Walker left? I thought she appeared on some of the McMillian only eps.”

    I don’t remember Miss Nancy Walker ever coming back to ‘McMillan’. Her role as housekeeper was replaced by her sister Agatha played by Miss Martha Raye. I don’t think the two ever appeared to together on ‘McMillan’.

  • pBOB says:

    It seems after scheduling a killer Tuesday night with Happy Days at its anchor Fred Silverman’s programming midas touch quickly faded.

    I wonder if he was really pushed out of each network instead of leaving on his own accord.

    I believe his son is also in the TV network programming business.

  • pBOB says:

    DuMont – do you remember if NBC revamped McMillian & Wife to just McMillian before or after Nancy Walker left? I thought she appeared on some of the McMillian only eps.

  • pBOB says:

    That’s right I forgot all about Martha.

  • Lee Goldberg says:

    Barry,
    Good to see you here! I still have all the corrections you sent me for the UNSOLD TELEVISION PILOTS book…which I will make, if I ever get around to doing an updated edition.

    Lee

  • Rocky says:

    Hi, I’m the Rocky who originaly inquired about “Zero Intelligence”. The reason why I remember it is because at that time I was an actual real-life US Air Force radar operator. The career field required that nearly everybody in it do at least one tour at a remote radar station in Alaska. I ended up doing three! That show aired the day after I turned 19 years old.

    I also remember quite specifically Real Guard also but have absolutely NO recollection of the other two shows in that block. Talk about selective memory.

  • Lawrence Fechtenberger says:

    I think that I saw THIS BETTER BE IT. At any rate, I do remember watching a pilot that featured Anne Meara and Alex Rocco as a recently married couple who had teen-aged children from previous marriages. Meara’s daughter was named Flower, and most of the one-liners came from her arguments with Rocco’s sarcastic son.

  • Alan says:

    I thought it was earlier’74, also was there one at same time called “rear guard”???

Leave a Reply to Rocky Cancel reply