1974 Development Season: The CBS Pilots

Every year, the television networks order pilot episodes for dozens of potential series to premiere in the fall. Only a select few will be picked up. The rest will remain unsold. This three-part special feature examines the 96 pilots developed for the 1974-1975 season, drawn from a list published in the March 4th, 1974 issue of Broadcasting magazine, which included limited information on cast and key creative personnel.

Additional details have been drawn from a variety of sources including Lee Goldberg’s wonderful Unsold Television Pilots Vol. #1, 1955-1976 as well as contemporary newspaper articles and TV listings.

Introduction

According to Broadcasting‘s March 1974 list, CBS had a total of 26 pilots in contention for the 1974-1975 season, the fewest of any network. It ended the 1973-1974 season with nine shows in the Top Ten and 14 in the Top 20, meaning it had to replace only a handful of shows, including failures like Shaft and Hawkins as well as Here’s Lucy, which was ending at the request of star Lucille Ball.

CBS was already committed to one new series for Fall 1974: Rhoda, a spin-off of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The network picked up another six pilots, three sitcoms and three dramas. The sitcoms were Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers, We’ll Get By, and The Love Nest. We’ll Get By was pushed to mid-season and The Love Nest cancelled entirely when an appeals court forced the FCC to delay relaxing the Prime Time Access Rule until September 1975.

The three new drama series were The Manhunter, Sons and Daughters (the pilot telefilm was called Senior Year), and Planet of the Apes, which is noticeably absent from Broadcasting‘s list of pilots. It was apparently picked up without a traditional pilot episode, much like Rhoda.

You can read all about CBS and Fall 1974 here.

Pete and Tillie (half hour; comedy)
Seven Seasons Productions; with Cloris Leachman, Carmine Caridi.

Fate – Unsold. A spin-off of the 1972 Walter Matthau/Carol Burnett film, itself based on the 1968 Peter de Vries novella Witch’s Milk. For this television version, Caridi and Leachman starred as a recently married middle-aged couple learning how to live together after living alone for so long. Aired in March 1974 as part of a two-hour CBS special called “Four Funny Families” featuring four unsold sitcom pilots.

The Boys (half hour; comedy)
Untitled Production Co.; with Tim Conway, Herb Edelman.

Fate – Unsold. Bill Persky and Sam Denoff created, wrote and produced this pilot, which Persky also directed. Conway and Edelman starred as television comedy writers with very different lifestyles but always manage to be funny. Aired in May 1974 as part of a two-hour CBS special called “Bachelors 4” featuring four unsold sitcom pilots.

Another April (half hour; comedy)
CBS Productions, with Leslie Charleson, Barnard Hughes

Fate – Unsold. Charleson starred as a recent divorcee who moves back home to Seattle to be closer to her parents and discovers that her father is just as old-fashioned and conservative as always. Aired in March 1974 as part of a two-hour CBS special called “Marriage Times Four” which featured four sitcom pilots.

Dominic’s Dream (half hour; comedy)
Henderson Productions; with Joe Marcoio, Rita Moreno, Marjorie Battles, Burt Hayman.

Fate – Unsold. Marcoio and Moreno played an Italian couple who move from New York City to California with their teenage daughter where they don’t quite fit in. Aired in March 1974 as part of a two-hour CBS special called “Four Funny Families” featuring four unsold sitcom pilots.

If I Love You Am I Trapped Forever (half hour; situation comedy)
20th Century-Fox; with Ted Eccles, Tannis Montgomery, Rob Berger, Denise Nickerson.

Fate – Unsold. Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds of M*A*S*H fame produced this pilot, which Reynolds directed and Gelbart wrote based on the 1973 M.E. Kerr novel of the same name about a group of five high-school friends. The pilot dealt with the drawbacks of going steady. It aired in March 1974 after the 90-minute telefilm pilot for Sons and Daughters, which also dealt with high school students and love.

Sonny Boy (half hour; comedy)
Ed Sullivan Productions; with Allen Garfield, Florence Stanley.

Fate – Unsold. Rob Reiner and Phil Mishkin created, produced and wrote this pilot, which Reiner also directed. Allen Garfield starred as a 35-year-old man who owned a chain of toy stores and still lived with his mother. Aired in May 1974 as part of a two-hour CBS special called “Bachelors 4” featuring four unsold sitcom pilots. An early version of the pilot was performed by Carroll O’Connor as part of his November 1973 CBS special “Three for the Girls.”

Evel Knievel (half hour; drama)
Viacom Enterprises; with Sam Elliot, Noble Willingham, Gary Barton.

Fate – Unsold. A spin-off of the 1971 feature film based on the life of famed daredevil Evel Knievel, starring George Hamilton. Sam Elliott took over as Evel for the television version in which he faced off against a female stunt woman played by Karen Phillip in a battle of the sexes motorcycle contest. Aired in March 1974 alongside “Aces Up,” another unsold sitcom pilot involving racing.

Jerry (half hour; situation comedy)
Warner Bros.

Fate – Unsold. Robert Walden starred as a single 30-year-old banker who learns life as a bachelor isn’t always fun. Aired in May 1974 as part of a two-hour CBS special called “Bachelors 4” featuring four unsold sitcom pilots.

We’ll Get By (half hour; comedy)
Helix Productions; with Paul Sorvino, Mitzi Hoag, Jerry Houser, Willie Aames, Devon Scott

Fate – Picked up! Alan Alda created this series, which starred Sorvino and Hoag as parents trying to deal with their three children. It was scheduled to premiere in September 1974 until a court ruling involving the FCC’s planned relaxation of the Prime Time Access Rule forced the networks to rework their schedules for the 1974-1975 season. We’ll Get By eventually premiered in January 1975. A total of 13 episodes were aired. The pilot for the series, in which the oldest son learns he was conceived out of wedlock, aired in March 1974 as part of a two-hour CBS special called “Marriage Times Four” which featured four sitcom pilots.

The Fess Parker Show (half hour; comedy)
Don Fedderson Productions; with Fess Parker, Cindy Eilbacher, Dawn Lyn, Michele Stacy, Linda Dano, Florence Lake, Norman Alden

Fate – Unsold. Parker played a widower with three daughters whose best friend was coincidentally a widower with three sons. Aired in March 1974 as part of a two-hour CBS special called “Four Funny Families” featuring four unsold sitcom pilots.

Ma and Pa (half hour; situation comedy)
Warner Bros.; with Mary Wickes, Arthur Space, Dorothy Louden, Marian Halley, Barbara Sherman, Bruce Davison.

Fate – Unsold. Adapted by George Furth from his 1971 Broadway play, which starred Sada Thompson as Ma and her three daughters Emily, Cecilia and Dorothy. For the pilot, which saw the daughter worry that a priest at the house meant someone was dying, four different actresses took over the roles. Aired in March 1974 as part of a two-hour CBS special called “Marriage Times Four” which featured four sitcom pilots. In March 1975, CBS aired a more faithful version of Twigs starring Carol Burnett in the four roles.

The Michele Lee Show (half hour; comedy)
Metromedia Producers Corp.; with Michele Lee.

Fate – Unsold. Lee played a hotel newsstand clerk who falls for a handsome doctor only to discover he’s getting married the next morning. Aired in April 1974.

The Paul Sand Show (half hour; comedy)
MTM Productions; with Paul Sand, Lynne Lipton, Mike Pataki.

Fate – Picked up! Sand starred as Robert Dreyfuss, a bass player who moves home to Boston to play with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Retitled Paul Sand in Friends & Lovers, the series premiered on Saturday, September 14th. The pilot originally aired in May 1974 as part of a two-hour CBS special called “Bachelors 4” featuring four unsold sitcom pilots. It was later repeated as the series premiere.

Slither (half hour; comedy)
MGM Television

Fate – Unsold. Barry Bostwick starred in this spin-off of the 1973 James Caan film of the same name as a friendly ex-con hoping to strike it rich. Aired in March 1974 after a 90-minute unsold pilot called “Sidekicks.”

Mr. and Mrs. Cop (half hour; police)
Viacom Enterprises; with Anthony Costello, Marianne McAndrew.

Fate – Unsold. Costello and McAndrew played recently married police officers balancing their personal and professional lives. Aired in May 1974.

Aces Up (half hour; comedy)
Sheldon Leonard Enterprises in association with Metromedia Television; with Jose Perez, Raoul Julio.

Fate – Unsold. Perez and Julio played partners in a moving company that owned just one truck. They put all of their time and money into their dream of designing and driving a racecar. There’s only one problem: it won’t start. Aired in March 1974 alongside “Evel Knieval,” another unsold sitcom pilot based on the life of the famous daredevil.

Mo and Joe (half hour; comedy)
Jed Productions; with Louise Lasser, Mike Tolan.

Fate – Unsold. Lasser and Tolan starred as a couple in their mid-30s with two kids, worried they’ve lost touch with their youth and concerned life is passing them by. Aired in March 1974 as part of a two-hour CBS special called “Marriage Times Four” which featured four sitcom pilots.

Change at 125th Street (half hour; comedy)
Ed Sullivan Productions; with Ron Glass, Roxie Baker, Vernon Washington, Chip Fields, Terry Kaiser.

Fate – Unsold. Glass starred as a black stock broker working at an all-white Wall Street firm and living in Harlem with his family. Aired in March 1974 as part of a two-hour CBS special called “Four Funny Families” featuring four unsold sitcom pilots.

Nobody’s Perfect (hour; comedy/series of four sitcoms)
Ilson/Chambers Productions; with Telly Savalas (host), Audrey Christie, Marcia Strassman, Barry Gordon, Charles Lane, Dave Morick, Florida Frebus, Alice Nunn, Stan Clemens;

Fate – Unsold. This unusual anthology series, hosted by Telly Savalas, presented four quarter-hour sitcoms involving love and relationships: “The Love Nest,” with Charles Lande and Florida Frebus as an unmarried, elderly couple living together in Florida who want to get married but learn doing so would cut their Social Security benefits; “Cookie’s Place,” with Alice Nunn as a lunchroom proprietress and Stanley Clements as a husband, a construction worker; “The Swingers,” with David Morick and Barry Gordon as bachelors who share an apartment; and “The Girlfriend,” with Marcia Strassman and Audrey Christie, about a recently divorced mother whose daughter is helping her remember how to be single. Aired in June 1974. CBS picked up The Love Nest but later pulled it; the full-length pilot aired in March 1975.

Nicky’s World (hour; family drama)
Tomorrow Entertainment in association with Marden Productions; with Charles Ciofl, George Voskoveo, Olympia Dukakis, Mark Shere.

Fate – Unsold. The story of a Greek-American family and their fight to save their bakery after a devastating fire. Aired in April 1974 and repeated in June 1974.

Senior Year (90 minutes; drama)
Universal; with Gary Frank, Glynnis O’Connor, Scott Colomby, Barry Linvinson, Lionel Johnson, Debralee Scott

Fate – Picked up! Frank and O’Connor starred as high school seniors falling in love in the mid-1950s, their relationship rocked by death and divorce. The hour-long series was renamed Sons and Daughters and premiered on Wednesday, September 11th. Low ratings doomed the series, which was off the air by November after just nine episodes. The pilot telefilm premiered in April 1974 and was repeated in August.

Double Trouble (90 minutes; comedy/drama)
20th Century-Fox; with Shelly Winters, Barry Primus.

Fate – Unsold. Winters starred as a seasoned detective with Primus as her inexperienced partner. The two were hired by a contractor to learn who was swindling him. The pilot telefilm aired in March 1974 under the title The Big Rose. It was repeated in

Skin Game (90 minutes; comedy western)
Warner Bros.; with Lou Gossett, Larry Hagman, Blythe Danner, Jack Elam, Harry Morgan.

Fate – Unsold. A spin-off of the 1971 film of the same name starring James Garner and Lou Gossett as two con men who posed as master and slave to swindle prospective slave owners. Gossett returned for the TV version with Larry Hagman replacing Garner. The pilot telefilm aired in March 1974 under the name Sidekicks alongside another unsold pilot called “Slither.”

Dr. Max (90 minutes; drama)
CBS Productions; with Lee J. Cobb, Janet Ward, Robert Lipton.

Fate – Unsold. Cobb starred as Dr. Max Gordon, a crotchety yet kind doctor working out of his home, with Ward playing his wife, a nurse, and Lipton his son, a law student. The pilot telefilm aired in April 1974.

The Family Kovack (90 minutes; drama)
Playboy Productions; with James Sloyan, Sarah Cunningham, Andy Robinson, Tami Bule, Renne Jarrett

Fate – Unsold. A tight-knit Polish-American family is shocked when eldest son Vinnie (played by Sloyan) is arrested for attempting to bribe a city health inspector. Robinson, Bula and Richard Gilliland played the other Kovack children, all grown, with Cunningham as their widowed mother. The pilot telefilm aired in April 1974.

Manhunter (90 minutes; action/drama)
Quinn Martin Productions; with Ken Howard

Fate – Picked up! Howard starred as Dave Barrett, a crime-fighting farmer. The series premiered on Wednesday, September 11th and performed well enough for CBS to keep it on the air for the rest of the 1974-1975 season but not well enough to renew it for 1975-1976. A total of 22 episodes were broadcast. The pilot telefilm aired in February 1974.

Check back next Tuesday for a look at the 34 pilots NBC had in development for the 1974-1975 season.


3 Comments

  • David says:

    These pilot overviews are fascinating. Thank you so much for the work you are doing to present them. Success in entertainment – whether theater, movies, music, or television – is such a game of chance. There are so many pilot ideas each year, and a fraction of those get produced, and a fraction of those get on the schedule. And then only a fraction of those last more than a season, and only a fraction of those become big hits!

    It is interesting to imagine how the history of television could be different if some of the pilots that never made it got on the air, and some of the ones that flopped when they got on the air were never green-lighted. But it could be that any show in a certain time slot would fail. For example, if a show is scheduled against a major established hit, the writing is often on the wall before the premiere. But then there are the ones that beat those odds. In 1972 it was thought that “The Waltons” would never last against “The Flip Wilson Show.” Boy, was the success of “The Waltons” a shocker!

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    …..and would you believe it? Rick Mitz, in “The Great TV Sitcom Book”, actually listed “THE LOVE NEST” as a series (in his “Also Ran” section for 1974-’75). Because of the “misinformation” he gathered [no doubt from Vincent Terrace’s “Encyclopedia of Television”, of which Mitz lifted a LOT of information, verbatim, for his book], he actually believed it appeared as a weekly series. I almost believed it myself when I first read the first edition……

  • David says:

    At the time, I was looking forward to The Love Nest. I did see the pilot when it aired in 1975, and I have a vague memory of liking it.

    My mother visited California around the time that We’ll Get By was being filmed (or more likely, taped), and was in the audience for one of the episodes. I remember her saying she thought it was OK. I do not think it made a lot of impression on her. I did watch at least a few of the episodes, and also thought it was just OK.

    The Boys sounds like a cross between The Sunshine Boys and The Odd Couple.

    I would really like to see the pilots for Pete and Tillie, and Mo and Joe, and Ma and Pa.

    Marianne McAndrew played Irene Molloy in the movie version of Hello, Dolly! It is interesting to think of how her career might have taken off if Mr. and Mrs. Cop had made the schedule and become a hit.

    The Michele Lee Shows sounds like a premise that would have nowhere to go after the pilot, or at least after the first handful of episodes.

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