Tonight at 8PM NBC will broadcast the first and only episode of Mockingbird Lane, a series it decided not to pick up. That means this is a case of an unsold pilot actually shown on television. When I wrote about NBC’s decision to show the pilot earlier this month I noted that the most recent example of an unsold pilot showing up on television was probably FOX’s Virtuality, which aired as a two-hour telefilm on Friday, June 26th, 2009. After doing additional research, not only do I still think that’s true but remarkably, before Virtuality you might have to go all the way back to 2001 to find the previous unsold pilot that was broadcast. On Sunday, April 1st, 2001 NBC broadcast the two-hour pilot of Semper Fi, a series the network had passed on for the 2000-2001 season. The pilot, from DreamWorks Television, was executive produced by Steven Spielberg and Jim Uhl. It starred Scott Bairstow, Steve Burton, Vicellous Reon Shannon, Alex Burns, Bianca Kajlich, Michael PeÃ±a and Tammy Townsend.
I haven’t been able to uncover any other actual unsold pilots. There have been a number of backdoor pilots, either standalone made-for-TV movies or special episodes of existing shows, that didn’t lead to a weekly series. Some of these were covered in a July 2010 post. Some might argue that Mockingbird Lane isn’t quite an unsold pilot because, should the unthinkable happen and viewers watch in shocking numbers, NBC could change its mind and order the pilot to series. I believe that same argument was raised back in 2009 when Virtuality was broadcast and it didn’t pan out.
So, aside from Semper Fi 2001, Virtuality in 2009 and now Mockingbird Lane in 2012, have there been any legitimately unsold pilots broadcast on network television in the past 10-15 years?