Musings on Obscurity: Five Unsold TV Pilots I Want to Watch

How many pilot episodes for potential television shows have been produced over the past six decades? I have no idea but the total number is in the thousands. Lee Goldberg’s Unsold Television Pilots, 1955-1989 (first published in 1990) includes information on 2,269 unsold pilot episodes. Most pilot episodes don’t become weekly series, for any number of reasons.

I’ve long been interested in unsold pilots. They offer tantalizing glimpses at what might have been. But I haven’t watched all that many, simply because for a long time it was hard to find unsold pilots to watch. Very few are ever officially released. Thanks to YouTube, hundreds of unsold pilots are easily accessible (but of course the audio and video quality is often poor). Not every unsold pilots has been uploaded to YouTube, however. Many remain unavailable.

Here’s a brief look at five unsold pilot episodes I want to watch, some of which are on YouTube:

Adventures of a Model (CBS, 1956)

Joanne Dru stars as New York City model Marilyn Woods in this Desilu comedy pilot developed for CBS during the 1956-1957 season. The story involves Marilyn modeling sportswear despite having absolutely no athletic ability.

NBC aired the pilot in August 1958 as an installment of Colgate Theatre. It aired again on CBS in September 1960, part of that network’s summer replacement series The Comedy Spot.

A short excerpt, featuring a cameo appearance by Lucy and Desi, is available on YouTube:

The Paley Center for Media has a copy of “Adventures of a Model” (the 1958 Colgate Theatre version) in its collection.

Where’s Everett? (CBS, 1966)

Alan Alda stars in this sitcom pilot intended for the 1966-1967 season. Screen Gems and Procter & Gamble produced for CBS. It’s a family comedy about a married couple who discover an invisible alien baby on their doorstep. What do they do? They decide to keep and raise it. Alda played Arnold Barker, the father. Patricia Smith co-starred as his wife, Sylvia, with Doreen Miller played their daughter, Lizzie.

CBS aired the pilot in April 1966.

Both The Paley Center for Media and the UCLA Film & Television Archive both have copies of “Where’s Everett?” in their collections.

The Karen Valentine Show (ABC, 1973)

20th Century-Fox Television produced this pilot for ABC, the first of three attempts to build a sitcom around Karen Valentine. She played Karen Scott, soft-spoken assistant to the owner of a public relationships firm played by Charles Nelson Reilly. The cast also included Henry Gibson, Kenneth Mars, Louis Zorich, and Johnnie Collins III. The pilot featured guest star Regis Philbin playing himself.

ABC aired “The Karen Valentine Show” in May 1973. Learn more about this unsold pilot by reading my Spotlight about it.

The UCLA Film & Television Archive has a copy of “The Karen Valentine Show” in its collection.

Exo-Man (NBC, 1977)

Ever since I wrote about Exo-Man way back in 2010, I’ve wanted to watch it. David Ackroyd stars as a physics professor who’s attacked by mobsters and paralyzed from the waist down. To get his revenge, he builds himself an “exo-suit” that allows him to walk, gives him super strength, and makes him invulnerable to bullets. Jose Ferrer plays the head mobster.

NBC aired the pilot telefilm in June 1977. It’s available on YouTube:

Microcops (CBS, 1988)

Produced by MGM/UA Entertainment and Moonglow Productions for the 1988-1989 season, “Microcops” stars William Bumiller and Shanti Owen as miniature space police officers Bidra and Nardo. The tiny duo are chasing an equally tiny bad guy named Cloyd (played by Page Moseley). The microscopic cops join forces with a scientist named Morgan (played by Peter Scolari) who helps them stop Cloyd from wreaking havoc on Earth.

The pilot aired in June 1989 as an episode of CBS Summer Playhouse. Industrial Light and Magic provided the special effects.

You can watch “Microcops” on YouTube:

Do you remember watching any of these unsold pilots? Share your memories in the comments.

4 Replies to “Musings on Obscurity: Five Unsold TV Pilots I Want to Watch”

  1. I remember microcops! I spent several weeks wishing there was a series to follow up on it before I forgot and moved on to other things.

  2. This topic interests me very much. I have that book, and recommend it to anyone who reads Television Obscurities. I also am fascinated by what might have been. So many times I see an unsold pilot that stars someone who would not have starred in a show that became a major hit a season later if said pilot had been sold. Maybe the series would have flopped, or maybe it would have been a hit and taken that performers career (and life) in a totally different direction. Imagine if “Where’s Everett?” had been picked up, and been successful, and ran three or four or more seasons. It would have changed the course of Alan Alda’s career. He would not have starred in the Broadway musical “The Apple Tree,” which opened in October 1966, and he may well not have even been considered for “M*A*S*H.” Or it could have been picked up and been a flop, and effectively ended his career then and there. Whether it was a success or not, he certainly would not have been able to be in the cast of “The Apple Tree.” I am also fascinated by all the pilots that were rejected for any given season, and then see how many of the pilots that were picked up flopped and lasted only one season or less. How many network executives had second thoughts, and mused about how if only they had given the green light to this one or that one instead? As William Goldman famously said, no one in show business knows anything.

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