Programs Cancelled Before They Premiered, 1963-1988

Thousands of potential TV shows never get past the pilot stage. Others are given a slot on a preliminary network schedule yet never materialize. Rarely does a network pull a show at the last minute with multiple episodes completed and ready for air. Between 1963 and 1988, it happened just four times. Learn all about The Robert Taylor Show, Snip, Mister Dugan, and The Dictator.

Getting A TV Show On The Air Isn’t Easy

Network television is a very expensive business. It costs a lot of money to produce a weekly television series. That’s why the networks put so much time and effort into deciding what goes on the air. Once a series has been picked up and the network is committed to airing it, barring extraordinary circumstances, it’s going to air. It may not go on the air on the day or at the time it was planned to (or even the year it was supposed to) but ultimately it will be aired.

Between 1963 and 1988, four television series were officially announced as being picked up a network, went into production and completed a number of episodes only to be suddenly pulled before they premiered, with the finished episodes never broadcast. Three of these programs were cancelled by the network involved while the fourth was ended by its production company.

The Robert Taylor Show (NBC, 1963)

In late January 1962, The New York Times reported that NBC was planning to broadcast several potential backdoor pilots as episodes of Dr. Kildare and The Dick Powell Show [1]. According to Ross Donaldson, NBC Director of Program Services, these “would enable the network and the producers to gauge public reaction and would provide pilot films that can be shown to prospective sponsors” [2]. If NBC decided not to pick up the pilots, the producers could attempt to sell them elsewhere.

The episode of The Dick Powell Show was titled “330 Independence” and would star David McLean as an investigator with the United States Department of Health, Welfare and Education (HEW). It was included in a February 19th list of pilots under contention for NBC’s 1962-1963 season published in Broadcasting [3]. Under the title “330 Independence SW” the pilot was broadcast on March 20th

The plot concerned a truck driver, played by William Bendix, selling dangerous “pep” pills to other truckers as well as teenagers, resulting in a number of deaths. McLean’s character, Jim Corcoran, is an investigator for HEW who must go undercover as a trucker to track down the source of the pills. Julie Adams played a chemist also involved in the investigation.

The episode was directed by Samuel Fuller and written by Allan Sloane. It was later repeated on August 21st. NBC ultimately decided not to pick up the pilot but the concept wasn’t totally dead and a second attempt was made. In early November 1962, Broadcasting reported that Four Star Television, the production company behind The Dick Powell Show, was co-financing an hour-long pilot with Robert Taylor for the 1963-1964 season that would deal with the Department of Health, Welfare and Education [4].

In mid-December, United Press International reported that an untitled half-hour series starring Robert Taylor as a traveling assistant for the Department of Health, Welfare and Education had been picked up by NBC without a pilot and would likely debut in January 1963 as a mid-season replacement [5]. But it was too soon to say for sure exactly when the series would premiere. Said Taylor, “It’s hard to tell the format of the show until we get some scripts. We haven’t assigned a producer and haven’t any scripts. Until that’s ironed out I can’t tell you what kind of a character I’ll be” [6].

The Hartford Courant confirmed in January 1963 that the proposed series, now called 330 Independence Avenue, SW had been sold to sponsors without a pilot and that it would co-star Robert Loggia [7]. Obviously, it was not going to b a mid-season replacement. In early February, The New York Times published early 1962-1963 schedules for the networks. Although not given a title in the article, the Robert Taylor series had given a time slot by the network, Thursdays from 7:30-8:30PM, indicating it would be an hour-long series [8].

On March 14th, The Chicago Tribune reported that the series would be called The Quiet War [9]. A few days later, an article in the Tonawanda News stated the series was still untitled but revealed a number of details [10]. Taylor’s character, Christopher Logan, would be a special assistant to the Secretary of HEW while Loggia’s character, Paul Michaels, would be Logan’s assistant. Logan would be a bachelor while Michaels would be married. A third character named Clay Wallace had yet to be cast. Furthermore, episodes would be “fictionalized accounts” of HEW with possible plots including food poisoning, adoption hoaxes and runaways. Taylor would narrate the series.

In late May, before any episodes had been filmed, Robert Loggia left the series so he could appear on Broadway [11]. In its June 1963 issue, Television Magazine referred to the series as The Robert Taylor Show, apparently the finalized title [12]. Loggia would later reveal he was able to get out of his contract due to a loophole: when NBC changed the name of the series to The Robert Taylor Show, it was technically no longer the series he had signed up for [13]. He was replaced as co-star by George Segal, who was fresh off Broadway [14].

On July 17th, NBC cancelled The Robert Taylor Show. The New York Times, reporting on the cancellation, noted that at least four episodes had been completed and “the cancellation by the network so close to the starting date was considered unusual” [15]. Reportedly the network made its decision based on Four Star’s “failure to gain the complete cooperation” of the real-life Department of Health, Education and Welfare [16]. NBC declined to comment and Four Star Television said only that it had not been told of the cancellation.

According to a spokesman for HEW:

We have given no permission for official department endorsement. We have been cooperating with Four Star and had a written understanding with them to the effect that we would provide information and review services. But the series is their responsibility and we stipulated that they could make no attribution of stories as coming from official department files. [17]

The spokesman explained that “it became apparent, after reviewing scripts, that some of these basic inaccuracies were of a continuing nature. You do not inject a Federal agency or representative into a situation in a wrong way. In many of these situations, investigation is the work of a state official” [18]. Tom McDermott, president of Four Star Television, had met with HEW officials on July 16th to discuss a new relationship and was under the impression at that time that cooperation between Four Star and HEW would continue [19].

The day it announced the cancellation, NBC also announced its replacement: Temple Houston, a Western/lawyer series starring Jeffrey Hunter [20]. On July 19th, McDermott released a statement arguing that Four Star was not in breach of its production agreement with NBC, insisting “we are now, as we have been in the past, prepared to meet our obligations in all respects” [21].

In the July 22nd issue of Broadcasting, it was reported that the inaccuracies described by the HEW spokesman were found in two of the four completed episodes and that the meeting between HEW officials and McDermott prior to the cancellation had included a discussion on making changes to those episodes [22]. HEW was also under the impression that Four Star was continuing production of the series. As for NBC, it had moved quickly to switch advertisers from The Robert Taylor Show to Temple Houston, with three of the eight participating advertisers already signed on and the rest expected to agree shortly [23].

Also on July 22nd, Herb Lyon reported that Four Star Television was “howling” over the cancellation of The Robert Taylor Show and insists the series will be aired [24]. NBC never officially commented on the cancellation, although a spokesman told United Press International in late July “it’s all in the hands of lawyers. But it’s too late to do anything about putting the Taylor show back on the air. We’re already committed to the ‘Temple Houston’ series” [25]. Cynthia Lowry reported in August that Four Star spent at least $750,000 on The Robert Taylor Show and called its cancellation the “biggest mystery in town” [26].

The cancellation of The Robert Taylor Show was partly to blame for Four Star Television reporting a loss in its fiscal year ending June 27th, 1963, the first time in its history the company posted a loss [27]. In an October 26th article about the company’s prospects, Broadcasting stated that five episodes had been completed rather than the four reported in the past [28]. In its December 1965 issue, Television Magazine called the cancellation of the series a “nasty blow” for Four Star and also stated five episodes had been completed [29].

Snip (NBC, 1976)

On January 13th, 1976 The Chicago Tribune reported that comedian David Brenner was forced to postpone a two-week engagement at the Blue Max nightclub at the O’Hare Regency Hyatt Hotel in Chicago because he was filming a television pilot [30]. On February 3rd the paper listed potential pilots for NBC’s 1976-1977 season; included was a sitcom called Sniff starring David Brenner as hairdresser in Massachusetts (the paper suggested the network planned to “water down the biting movie comedy, ‘Shampoo'”) [31].

David Brenner in Snip

David Brenner in Snip

When NBC released its fall schedule the sitcom, now titled Snip, was given a Thursday timeslot [32]. The series was from producer James Komack, the man responsible for Chico and the Man and Welcome Back, Kotter). Brenner’s character, David, was in love with Beverly, played by Lesley Ann Down. The two had worked together in Philadelphia before Beverly, disgusted at David’s behavior, ran off to Cape Cod. David followed her and somehow got a job at her beauty parlor.

Michael, the character played by Walter Wonderman, would be homosexual. Said critic Gary Deeb of The Chicago Tribune, “Letting Komack produce a series with a regular gay character is sort of like assigning John Wayne to write a history of the American Indian. You know you’ll be suffocating in stereotypes right from the start” [33]. Komack saw things differently. He told The Los Angeles Times:

“The calls began right away from upstairs at NBC–Have I been cleared by the Gay Media Task Force? Very nervous calls. So I met with ’em. They wanted us to play the gay hairdress very straight–no limp wrist stuff, no curves, no frills. I said great. It made it funnier. Walter Wanderman plays him so straight the lines like ‘If you can’t trust somebody you met at the Y?’ are twice as funny. When I told these three NBC vice presidents we had full approval, they began to look at me suspiciously. This guy from the task force greeted them so enthusiastically they began to look at each other nervously. That’s gay power. Nobody knows who they are.” [34]

On Thursday, August 28th, as part of a massive reshuffling of its schedule, NBC pulled both Snip and Gibbsville (a drama series starring John Savage and Gig Young). Said NBC’s programming chief, Irwin Segelstein, “We were simply working out a schedule; we were not deleting programs. When you delete a program, you cancel it and buy it out. We have not done that” [35]. Both shows would presumably premiere later in the season. The cancellation came so late that TV Guide was unable to change its annual Fall Preview issue, which listed both shows. The magazine did include a notice that they had been pulled, however.

David Brenner and Lesley Ann Warren in Snip

David Brenner and Lesley Ann Warren in Snip – September 18th, 1976
Copyright © TV Guide, 1976 [1]

In October, Les Brown of The New York Times reported that Snip cost NBC roughly $150,000 per episode and, “according to insiders […] is no longer considered a contender and is likely to be run off sometime after the first of the year when it might least harm NBC’s quest for a higher weekly rating average” [36]. The network cancelled the series for good in November, a move Komack understood. “It was just a little too hot to get on,” he told The Los Angeles Times, and the NBC programming staff that had bought the series were no longer with the network when it was supposed to premiere. Still, he expected the completed episodes to eventually see the light of day [37].

David Brenner spoke with TV Guide in December and revealed that he had no idea why the series had been cancelled: “We did seven shows and were just starting to work on the eighth when the cancellation came. I don’t know the exact reason for the cancellation, but I know people who saw the tapings laughed. I’ve always had trouble with executives. I guess I still have trouble with them” [38]. In January of 1977 Lesley Ann Warren told The Los Angeles Times “we shot seven shows with tremendous script problems from the beginning. Then one day mid-rehearsal someone came in and said ‘Get your bags and get out'” [39].

The seven episodes of Snip that were filmed prior to the sudden expectation were never broadcast in the United States. As for Gibbsville, it premiered on Thursday, November 11th as a quick replacement for Gemini Man, which had been pulled after just five episodes. Only six episodes of Gibbsville were aired before the series was itself replaced in The Fantastic Journey February 1977, which managed to run for ten episodes.

Mister Dugan (CBS, 1979)

The story of this sitcom begins where another ends. On March 14th, 1978 Beatrice Arthur announced that she was leaving Maude, explaining that “it’s been a glorious experience, I’ve loved every minute of it. But it has been six years and I think it’s time to leave [40]. Barbara Brogliatti, representative for Norman Lear’s Tandem Productions (Lear created the series, which was spun-off from All in the Family, and Tandem Productions produced it), noted that “she had been talking about it, but we certainly didn’t expect it. We weren’t warned” [41].

Arthur told the Associated Press how Maude would end: “Norman had had an idea some time ago in which Maude becomes a Congresswoman and moves to Washington. Norman said if you go on for another year, we’ll do it in Washington with a new cast. And if you don’t, it’s a hell of a way to end the show” [42]. The final three episodes of the series, titled “Maude’s Big Move,” saw her heading to Washington and three new characters were introduced: Maude’s political assistant, Sam (played by Dennis Burkley), her legal assistant, Maggie (played by Barbara Rhodes) and her secretary, Aretha (played by Sarina C. Grant). The last episode was broadcast on Saturday, April 22nd, 1978.

In October 1978 The Chicago Tribune reported that John Amos was working on a new television series called The Washington Story, a potential mid-season replacement for CBS [43]. By November the series had been retitled Onward and Upward [44]. The sitcom was created by Norman Lear; Amos would play a first-year Congressman. In December Onward and Upward was officially made part of CBS’s mid-season plans and given the 8:30-9PM time slot on Sunday following All in the Family [45]. Also that month The New York Times revealed Onward and Upward‘s connection to Maude, writing that the new series “picks up what was to have been a new development in the series ‘Maude,’ until Bea Arthur, the star, decided to retire from the show last year” [46].

Then, in mid-December, Amos quit the series over “different opinions with the producers about the direction the show was to take” [47]. His role would be recast, the pilot would be reshot, and the series would still premiere in March 1979 as expected. Gary Deeb reported that Amos was “dissatisfied with the program’s story lines and deeply disturbed by the emphasis on ‘hard jokes’ instead of more realistic humor” while suggesting leaving Onward and Upward — for which he would have been paid roughly $20,000 per episode — was “another indication that Amos is ruled more by his conscience than by his pocketbook” [48]. Amos had left Good Times under somewhat similar circumstances in 1976.

John Carmody of The Washington Post closely followed the unfolding saga of Onward and Upward, reporting on January 8th, 1979 that it would premiere on March 4th [49]. On January 18th he noted that the show had been retitled Mister Dooley [50]. On January 23rd he reported that relatives of Finley Peter Dunne Jr., a columnist who created a character named Mr. Dooley in the late 1890s, had contacted TAT Communications (the production company behind Onward and Upward/Mister Dooley) and the series now had no title [51].

Finally, on February 15th, Carmody revealed that Cleavon Little had been signed by TAT Communications to star in the sitcom, now called Mister Dugan, which would premiere on March 11th [52]. Then, on March 9th, Carmody reported that Mister Dugan would not debut at 8:30PM on Sunday, March 11th as planned. Although three episodes had been filmed and CBS was ready to air the series, TAT Communications halted production [53].

Barbara Rhoades, Sarina C. Grant, Cleavon Little, Dennis Burkley and Nedra Volzin in Mister Dugan

Barbara Rhoades, Sarina C. Grant, Cleavon Little, Dennis Burkley and Nedra Volzin in Mister Dugan

According to The Los Angeles Times, the decision to pull the series was made after the pilot was shown to the Congressional Black Caucus in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, March 6th. Representative Cardiss Collins stated that the episode “portrayed blacks in a demeaning manner. This black congressman had all white people on his staff. It was flip, slapstick-type material… It made some of the people sick to see that in this day and age something like this could be portrayed on television” [54].

Alan Horn, president of TAT Communications, explained that “if we had believed very strongly that we were presenting a positive image of a black congressman, then notwithstanding whatever the Congressional Black Caucus had said, we would simply have done the show anyway. This company’s track record in standing up to pressure groups is a good one; we believe in the First Amendment” [55].

Horn estimated that the company stood to lose $1 million over Mister Dugan, including production costs on the three completed episodes and paying out contracts for the cast and crew for three other episodes that were never filmed [56]. In March 22nd editorial The New York Times criticized Norman Lear for bowing to outside pressure:

The show centered about a black freshman congressman, played by Cleavon Little. Mr. Lear gave a preview of the first episode to black members of Congress; they were displeased. So the show was dropped. Mr. Lear felt that the portrayal of the first black Congressman on television should have more “importance and dignity.”

TV critics long ago concluded that situation comedies could hardly be more bland than they already are, but this method of clearing shows in advance could bring them to new heights of insipidness. If Mr. Lear had taken the trouble to clear the Bunker family saga with residents of the Bunker neighborhood in Queens, he would doubtless have been told that Archie lacked importance and dignity. Whoever thought we’d see the day when Mr. Lear let editorial judgements be made “All in the Family”? [57].

Earlier, however, Gary Deeb had applauded the pre-emptive removal of Mister Dugan from the airwaves:

“Mr. Dugan” was trash, the sort of strident abomination that has turned so many thoughtful Americans against TV in the last few years.

More specifically, it was another in a series of weekly comedy programs that portray black people as ignorant, finger-snapping bumpkins. For further details, you need only watch “What’s Happening,” “Diff’rent Strokes,” “The Jeffersons,” or “Good Times.” Indeed, the bosses of network TV, who consider themselves human-rights liberals, have seen to it that their video plantations are populated with “happy darkies.” [58]

Deeb also lambasted Norman Lear and TAT Productions for not realizing on their own that the series was offensive, suggesting that “if Lear & Co. truly had no clue as to the sociological ugliness of ‘Mr. Dugan,’ then they’re admitting to a serious affliction for which they ought to seek a cure before force-feeding us more twaddle” [59].

Barbara Rhoades, Cleavon Little and Dennis Burkley in Mister Dugan

Barbara Rhoades, Cleavon Little and Dennis Burkley in Mister Dugan

And yet, after all that had happened, there was still life in the concept. On Wednesday, August 8th, 1979 CBS premiered a new sitcom called Hanging In, about a new university president and the trials he endures from his staff. Included in the cast were Dennis Burkley, Barbara Rhodes and Sarina C. Grant. Recall that they also appeared in the final three episodes of Maude, in the pilot for Onward and Upward and the three episodes of Mister Dugan. Nedra Volz, who had appeared in the pilot for Onward and Upward and Mister Dugan, was also in Hanging In, which ran for just four episodes.

Playing the new university president? Bill Macy, who had starred alongside Beatrice Arthur for six years on Maude as her husband.

The Dictator (CBS, 1988)

CBS announced in January of 1988 that it had several new sitcoms in the works for mid-season, including one called The Dictator starring Christopher Lloyd as “a deposed tyrant from a small Caribbean island who moves to Rego Park and opens a laundromat [60]. In early February it was given the 8:30-9PM time slot on Tuesdays following Coming of Age, another new sitcom about a former pilot living in a retirement home [61].

In The Dictator, Lloyd would play Joseph Paul Domino who, after being deposed, moved to Queens with his wife Isabel (played by Deborah Rush) and children Reggie and Andrew (played by Robyn Lively and John David Cullum). Helping “The Dictator” run his laundromat was General Vesuvio (played by Joe Grifasi). Guest starring in the premiere episodes would be David Alan Grier and Peter Crombi [62].

By the end of February CBS had decided to create a two-hour comedy block on Tuesdays. Yet another new sitcom, Trial and Error, would kick of the night at 8PM, followed by The Dictator and Coming of Age. Frank’s Place would move from Mondays to fill the 9:30-10PM period. The block would premiere on March 15th [63].

And then, on Monday, March 7th, the Writers Guild of America went on strike. The very next day CBS replaced The Dictator with My Sister Sam, which was on hiatus. According to USA Today The Dictator was set to tape its third episode on March 8th and the network didn’t want to premiere the series with so few episodes available [64]. Newsday put the number of completed episodes at three [65].

TV Guide Advertisement for The Dictator

TV Guide Advertisement for The Dictator – March 12th, 1988
Copyright © TV Guide, 1988 [2]

CBS officially cancelled The Dictator on April 14th; The Los Angeles Times noted that three episodes had been completed prior to the strike with five others ordered [66]. Whether there were two or three completed episodes doesn’t matter. None of them would be broadcast.

The 1990s Forward

Beginning in the mid-1990s, it slowly became more common for the networks to cancel television series before they premiered, with as many as eight completed episodes ready to go. At one point in the early 2000s it was happening once or twice a season. It has even happened to a handful of reality shows, typically due to controversy over content. Some of these shows have been aired internationally or on cable.

Works Cited:
1 “N.B.C.-TV Planning Two Shows On Mental and Physical Health.” New York Times. 27 Jan. 1962: 45.
2 Ibid.
3 “Comedy Centers TV Stage for Fall.” Broadcasting. 19 Feb. 1962: 32.
4 “More Comedy, Drama Next Season.” Broadcasting. 5 Nov. 1962: 24.
5. Finnigan, Joseph. “Bob Taylor Ready, Eager to Begin New TV Series.” Hartford Courant. United Press International. 16 Dec. 1962: 14G.
6 Ibid.
7 Denton, Charles. “‘Eleventh Hour’ Has Psychology Problem.” Hartford Courant. 20 Jan. 1963: 2G.
8 Gould, Jack. “3 Networks Near Completion Of Fall Television Schedules.” New York Times. 5 Feb. 1963: 4.
9 Wolters, Larry. “New York Looming as TV’s New Capital.” Chicago Tribune. Chicago Tribune Press Service. 14 Mar. 1963: C6.
10 “Taylor, Loggia to Star in New Series Next Season.” Tonawanda News [Tonawanda, NY]. 18 Mar. 1963: 7.
11 Grant, Hank. “The TV News Beat.” Hartford Courant. 2 Jun. 1963: 9G.
12 “All Aboard for Fall TV.” Television Magazine. Jun. 1963: 78.
13 Kleiner, Dick. “Loggia Too Successful in Avoiding Being Typed.” Victoria Advocate [Victoria, TX]. Newspaper Enterprise Association. 15 Dec. 1963: 5.
14 “Afterthoughts: Candid Comments.” Boston Globe. 27 Jun. 1963: 36.
15 Shepard, Richard F. “N.B.C.-TV Cancels Series of Dramas.” New York Times. 18 Jul. 1963: 55.
16 Ibid.
17 Ibid.
18 Ibid.
19 Ibid.
20 Shain, Percy. “‘Temple Houston’ New NBC Entry.” Boston Globe. 18 Jul 1963: 36.
21 Shepard, Richard F. “Serling to Adapt Story by O’Hara.” New York Times. 20 Jul. 1963: 47.
22 “An eyebrow lifted, a show dropped.” Broadcasting. 22 Jul. 1963: 60.
23 “Closed Circuit: Keeping the business.” Broadcasting. 22 Jul. 1963: 5.
24 Lyon, Herb. “Tower Ticker.” Chicago Tribune. 22 Jul. 1963: 23.
25 Scott, Vernon. “Robert Taylor Show Gets Canceled Before Its TV Airing.” Times Record [Troy, NY]. United Press International. 26 Jul. 1963: 19.
26 Lowry, Cynthia. “What’s Coming to TV.” Chicago Tribune. 18 Aug. 1963: W7.
27 “Tom McDermott takes a look at programing.” Broadcasting. 28 Oct. 1964: 66.
28 Ibid.
29 “Focus on Four Star TV:.” Television Magazine. Dec. 1965: 16.
30 Gold, Aaron. “Tower Ticker.” Chicago Tribune. 13 Jan. 1976: B2.
31 Winfrey, Lee. “Gumshoe Glut Ends as NBC Discovers Religion.” Chicago Tribune. 3 Feb. 1976: A7.
32 Smith, Cecil. “NBC’s Plans Drama-Heavy.” Los Angeles Times. 15 Apr. 1976: F23.
33 Deeb, Gary. “Gays and Orientals Beware: Komack Has Plans for You.” Chicago Tribune. 17 Jun. 1976: B10.
34 Smith, Cecil. “Welcome Back, Komack.” Los Angeles Times View. 19 Jul. 1976: 1.
35 Margulies, Lee. “Snip, Gibbsville Out: NBC Shuffles Its Fall Schedule.” Los Angeles Times. 28 Aug. 1976: B3.
36 Brown, Les. “Notes: NBC’s $6-Million ‘Lay-away Plan’.” New York Times. 3 Oct. 1976: 87.
37 “NBC Announces 3 New Sitcoms.” Los Angeles Times. 16 Nov. 1976: F18.
38 Finnigan, Joseph. “TV Teletype: Hollywood.” TV Guide. 18 Dec. 1976: 34.
39 Rosenfield, Paul. “Warren’s Star Still Waiting to Be Born.” Los Angeles Times. 21 Jan. 1977: F1.
40 “Beatrice Arthur Leaving ‘Maude’.” Associated Press. New York Times. 15 Mar. 1978: C26.
41 Ibid.
42 Ibid.
43 Deeb, Gary. “‘Roots’ Star Amos May Get New Series.” Chicago Tribune. 10 Oct. 1978: A11.
44 Hanauer, Joan. “Losers, Winners: TV Schedule in a State of Flux.” Los Angeles Times. 24 Nov. 1978: G38.
45 Brown, Les. “5 New Shows Will Join CBS Roster Next Month.” New York Times. 6 Dec. 1978: C24.
46 Brown, Les. “Networks Seem to Be Reversing 20 Years of TV Sex and Violence.” New York Times. 11 Dec. 1978: A1.
47 Margulies, Lee. “Amos Quits Star Role in ‘Onward and Upward’.” Los Angeles Times. 15 Dec. 1978: H42.
48 Deeb, Gary. “Are Tom Snyder’s Tomorrows at ABC?” Chicago Tribune. 20 Dec. 1978: C9.
49 Carmody, John. “The TV Column.” Washington Post. 8 Jan. 1979: B11.
50 Carmody, John. “The TV Column.” Washington Post. 18 Jan. 1979: B14.
51 Carmody, John. “The TV Column.” Washington Post. 23 Jan. 1979: B6.
52 Carmody, John. “The TV Column.” Washington Post. 15 Feb. 1979: C16.
53 Carmody, John. “The TV Column.” Washington Post. 9 Mar. 1979: D8.
54 Margulies, Lee. “Blacks Object, Show Canceled.” Los Angeles Times. 9 Mar. 1979: 3.
55 Ibid.
56 Ibid.
57 “Topics: Misbehaving.” New York Times. 22 Mar. 1979: A22.
58 Deeb, Gary. “Tempo TV: Finally, Insulting Black Comedy Is Slapped Down.” Chicago Tribune. 12 Mar. 1979: A10.
59 Ibid.
60 Friedman, David. “Shedding the Skin of CBS Failures.” Newsday. 18 Jan. 1988: 9.
61 Donlon, Brian. “‘Women,’ ‘Frank’s’ Trade Places.” USA Today. 5 Feb. 1988: 01.D.
62 The premiere of The Dictator was promoted in the March 12th, 1988 issue of TV Guide; character names and cast come from TV Guide listings (Page A-114).
63 Roush, Matt. “Networks Bring Out Midseason Lineups.” USA Today. 29 Feb. 1988: 03.D.
64 Roush, Matt. “‘Molly Dodd’ Gets a Date; ‘Night Court’ Will Move.” USA Today. 9 Mar. 1988: 03.D.
65 Kubsasik, Ben. “TV Spots.” Newsday. 9 Mar. 1988: 15.
66 Margulies, Lee. “Geraldo Rivera’s ‘Murder’ Special Tops TV Ratings.” Los Angeles Times. 15 Apr. 1988: 27.

Image Credits:
1 From TV Guide, September 18th, 1978, Page 58.
2 From TV Guide, March 12th, 1988, Page A-107.

Originally Published April 14th, 2009
Last Updated May 2nd, 2018

21 Replies to “Programs Cancelled Before They Premiered, 1963-1988”

  1. I love this website and all the topics about the wonderful world of television. The topic of shows cancelled before they aired was great reading. I wonder if there is any way these shows could be viewed by anyone or are they just locked up in some network vault, any help would be greatly appreciated.

  2. To give some indication of how chaotic the whole “Onward And Upward”/”Mister Dugan”/”Hanging In” situation was, there was a week in the spring of 1979 when cast member Barbara Rhoades (a vastly underused talent in 70s TV) appeared on the CBS game show “Match Game” and the first several days of the week was introduced by annoucer as Johnny Olson as being “From ‘Onward And Upward”. And then on the third day when Gene Rayburn, the host, finally got around to asking her about her yet to debut show, she said, “The title’s changed actually, we’re going to be called ‘Hanging In’ now.” So for the final two days of the week Johnny Olson remembered to introduce her as being from “Hanging In.”

    “Hanging In” wasn’t the only disaster of early 1979 Barbara Rhoades was involved with as she also had a guest shot on the first regular episode of “Supertrain” on NBC, the biggest flop of the season.

    1. Interesting that they skipped over the Mr. Dugan title, and I wonder at the time was Barbara was aware of the Cleavon Little/Bill Macy switch. I did see the Maude episodes as well as Hanging In, but Mr. Dugan was only seen in on-air promos. Barbara Rhodes did go on to a memorable stint on One Life To Live as Viki’s former friend who gave birth to twin sons of Viki’s manipulative father Victor.

    2. Along the same lines, I think I read that, in 1979, CBS cancelled Match Game so fast, the last few episodes never aired.

  3. I do know Manchester Prep is on DVD, as Cruel Intentions 2, but, don’t know if it’s have been seen on TV.

    1. It’s been on cable and is available on DVD. Today, it’s mostly notable for featuring a young Amy Adams.

  4. Adolfo, if you have the chance to visit the Paley Center for Media in New York City or Los Angeles you can watch episodes of Snip. The Paley Center has six of the seven produced episodes in its collection. The Robert Taylor Show, Mister Dugan and The Dictator are hopefully somewhere.

  5. I wonder if that Raising Caines was a little inspiration for Something So Right, since Mel Harris was supposed to be starring in the former, and ended up starring in the latter as a re-married woman.

  6. RGJ, I do believe that ‘Waterfront’ was a CBS series and not ABC.

    I’m in the process of combing through some of my older records, but I do think I have a few more scripted series cancelled before they premiered to add to the list:

    ‘Willy’ (ABC) – a 1992 pick-up for a limited six-episode spring tryout, ‘Willy’ stopped production after filming two of the six episodes ordered. The series focused on a teen who dealt with challenges in his life by making home videos about them, and apparently focus groups viewing the initial episodes found the concept confusing. ABC never aired the two episodes produced.

    ‘Fearless’ (WB) – a 2004 fall 13-episode pickup of a Mr. Jerry Bruckheimer series for the fall season airing on Tuesday nights at 9 pm following ‘Gilmore Girls’, the series ran into casting issues after commencing production and was delayed to mid-season while ‘One Tree Hill’ took its fall timeslot.

    ‘Commando Nanny’ (WB) – another 2004 fall 13-episode pickup for its Friday comedy block, the show filmed a few episodes beyond its pilot before running into health issues with its cast. Mr. Philip Winchester who starred in the pilot (who went on to star in NBC’s ‘Crusoe’) broke his foot and was replaced by Mr. Owain Yeoman for the series. Then, Mr. Gerald McRaney required cancer surgery and production was suspended. In August 2004, The WB delayed the series to a mid-season launch, and announced that the Friday 9:30 pm timeslot would be filled by encores of ‘Blue Collar TV’ and then ‘Reba’ repeats. In October 2004, The WB announced that ‘Commando Nanny’ would not be resuming production and would not be part of the mid-season sked, and the produced episodes were never aired.

    ‘The IT Crowd’ (NBC) – 2007-8 midseason six-episode pick-up from a pilot that was a near word-for-word adaptation of a successful British sitcom about techies in a corporate setting. I’m not sure how many of the six episodes beyond the pilot were produced before production was suspended, but NBC never aired any of the episodes.

    ‘Day One’ (NBC) – a 2009-10 mid-season pickup of a ‘Jericho’-type scifi series for 13 episodes. Four episodes were in the can before production was stopped, and the network announced they would air as a four-hour miniseries, and then said that a heavily-edited two-hour telefilm would be broadcast, but it never was.

  7. Raising Caines is being aired in the Netherlands right now, I googled it to see what came of it: I’m not surprised.
    It’s really preachy and soft, they use the everybody loves raymond theme: the husband is a dumb-ass and he’s lucky
    he has this saint-like wife who plays the adult in the relationship, I hate that. Some might think it’s a cute sitcom, but
    most will laugh when they see how much of a cliche it is.

  8. …On a side note, the trailer for “Day One” at least got capped and posted to YouTube:

    …From what my contacts at the local NBC affiliate have heard, the plug was pulled on the show due to costs and NBC’s various ratings & financial clusterfracking, combined with the disputable successes/failures of both “V” and “Jericho”. At the same time, some NBC execs were getting cold feet about sci-fi genre shows in light of the downward crash and wimper of “Heroes”, and all things considered the suits at 30 Rock simply decided not to take the risk. There was enough footage shot for a four-hour miniseries, but the last my contacts had heard – early 2011 – there was talk about either releasing it as an overseas theatrical film, or letting Sci-Fi take it for a ride and hopefully recoup some costs between that and a DVD release. Two years later, tho…ah well, a bootleg will turn up eventually from some program director’s private stash. Until then, go figger :)


  9. Considering all the garbage that does make it on the air, going back to the 1960s, one wonders just why certain network execs either reject the pilot or order a series and then change their mind or why they put show on the air in the first place. I think that if you watch the classic PILOT episode of SEINFELD it gives you an idea that the executives do things for their own personal tastes or likes not that they will ever gamble on doing a show with some substance or challenge. They just waste millions of dollars and people’s time-always.

    1. And they waste it putting on all sorts of ‘reality’ and cop shows that are the same thing week in and week out (CBS in particular) plus crap sitcoms like <i.Big Bang Theory.

  10. Considering all the garbage that does make it on the air, going back to the 1960s, one wonders just why certain network execs either reject the pilot or order a series and then change their mind or why they put show on the air in the first place. I believe that it is for their own personal tastes not the audiences.

    1. David Brenner was a funny guy, and I’m not just saying it because I grew up in Philly. The reason “Snip” never got on the air was because NBC was not comfortable with a gay supporting character. As Jack would say over 20 years later on “Will & Grace” , “The network’s logo is a freaking peacock”.

      1. Pretty much that, Charles. Thank the stars that we’ve got the LGBT shows we’ve got, and NOBODY gives a frak about what the Bible Belt thinks anymore.

  11. Years later, in January 2010, Fox was planning to air a new primetime game show called Our Little Genius, set to premiere on a Monday night in the plum slot immediately following American Idol. However, after it was discovered that some of the young contestants were receiving too much “assistance” on certain questions, not wanting a repeat of the scandals which nearly destroyed the genre, Fox pulled the plug on OLG at the eleventh hour; to fill its vacated slot, that night’s Idol was hastily expanded to 90 minutes, while the remaining half-hour was filled by a Simpsons rerun.

  12. I think the Chicago Tribune story on “Snip” being originally called “Sniff” was a typo and that the show was always known as “Snip”.

  13. I believe in 1987 Orbis Communications attempted a proposed 65-episode show “Force III” by Edward J. Lasko for film producers Edward S. Feldman and Charles R. Meeker, but it could be cancelled before Orbis was ready for broadcast in fall of 1987 possibly because of difficulties regarding how to film the action adventure series.

  14. You made some nice points there. I did a search on the subject and found most individuals will consent with your site.


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