The Karen Valentine Program (Unsold Pilot)

ABC never aired this unsold sitcom pilot from 1974, its second attempt to build a show around Karen Valentine.

Karen Valentine starred as Alice Johnson on ABC’s Room 222 from September 1969 to January 1974. In 1973, the network considered picking up a sitcom pilot called “The Karen Valentine Show” and giving Valentine the option of doing both shows or leaving Room 222 [1]. ABC passed on the pilot and Valentine remained with Room 222 until it ended.

Loading the player…

A second pilot called “The Karen Valentine Program” was then put into production. In a January 16th, 1974 United Press International article about the recent cancellation of Room 222, Valentine explained she would play a young woman separated from her husband and that the series will mix comedy and drama. “I can’t play an ingenue for the rest of my life,” she explained, “although it didn’t hurt Doris Day, Debbie Reynolds–and Fred MacMurray. If the new series works, I’ll be playing a mature woman instead of a girl” [2].

In a January 24th article, The Chicago Tribune reported that Valentine would be shooting a pilot called “The Karen Valentine Program” in February [3]. Her character was described as a recently divorced woman looking for work.

Broadcasting included “The Karen Valentine Program” as an ABC pilot in a March 1974 list of more than 100 pilots under consideration for the 1974-1975 season [4]. It was written and produced by Lorenzo Music and David Davis, the creative team behind The Bob Newhart Show.

In the pilot, Valentine played Karen DeAngelo, a young woman who lives in Oregon and is separated from her husband Tom (played by Archie Hahn). Dena Dietrich and Garry Walberg played her parent, who won’t stop interfering in her life. Vern Rowe played her new neighbor, a minor league baseball player. Karen and Tom decide to get a divorce but their lawyer friend refuses to help them. The two decide to try to live separate lives and not see much of each other. Karen is then offered a job at her friend’s law firm.

On May 10th, The Los Angeles Times reported that the resulting series would debut in January 1975 [7]. The Hartford Courant concurred two days later, reporting that the series would be produced in front of a live audience in Los Angeles [8]. However, the pilot didn’t sell and no series materialized.

Loading the player…

On June 10th, Aaron Gold revealed in The Chicago Tribune that Valentine had just been signed by Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds to star in a pilot for a potential mid-season replacement, calling it her “third try at a series” [9].

Karen premiered on January 30th, 1975 on ABC. Thus, it appears the turnaround between “The Karen Valentine Program” and what would become Karen was relatively quick. Karen ran for just thirteen weeks, ending in May 1975. It co-starred Dena Dietrich, who this time played Karen Valentine’s co-worker.

“The Karen Valentine Program” was never aired. Both UCLA’s Film and Television Archive and The Paley Center for Media have copies of the pilot in their collections.

Works Cited:
1 Beck, Marilyn. “Karen Has Grown Into Her Own ABC-TV Series.” Milwaukee Journal TV Screen. New York Times Service. 5 Apr. 1975: 4.
2 Scott, Vernon. “Karen Valentine Plans New Television Series.” United Press International. Nashua Telegraph [Nashua, NH]. 16 Jan. 1974: 27.
3 Browning, Norma Lee. “Lee Marvin has fallen off the wagon.” Chicago Tribune. 24 Jan. 1974: A13.
4 “Many pilots are called, but few are chosen.” Broadcasting. 4 Mar. 1974: 18.
5 Goldberg, Lee. Unsold Television Pilots Vol. 1: 1955-1976. 1990. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, Inc., 2001: 212.
6 Terrace, Vincent. Encyclopedia of Television Pilots, 1937-2012. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2013: 153.
7 “Karen Valentine to Star in Series.” Los Angeles Times. 10 May 1974: E34.
8 “Karen Valentine to Star in Comedy.” Hartford Courant. 12 May. 1974: S15A.
9 Gold, Aaron. “Tower Ticker.” Chicago Tribune. 10 Jun. 1974: B12.

Originally Published August 16th, 2009
Last Updated May 17th, 2018

15 Replies to “The Karen Valentine Program (Unsold Pilot)”

  1. I’m VERY happy a print of this pilot exists [reading about it in Lee Goldberg’s book was interesting, but to actually SEE some of it is exhilarating!]. Note the similarities to “THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW”‘s opening and closing titles here (this is definitely the closing credits); as I’ve previously mentioned, creator/writer/producers David Davis & Lorenzo Music were Mary’s producers during her first two seasons, and 20th Century-Fox and ABC expected them to create the same “magic” for Karen. For all her attractiveness and talent, though, Karen simply wasn’t “Mary Tyler Moore” (who COULD replicate her??), with the result that this pilot was discarded in favor of a different one conceived and produced by Gene Reynolds and Larry Gelbart- that flopped, anyway.

  2. I forgot to mention that UCLA also has a copy of the 1973 pilot for The Karen Valentine Show in addition to The Karen Valentine Program from 1974. And it has 11 of the 13 episodes of Karen from 1975.

  3. If ABC wanted a ‘Mary Tyler Moore’ like show why didn’t they buy the THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW when they had the chance

  4. Because Mary created her series specifically for CBS, ‘Cee Jay’, as part of her “development deal” with the network. Once it became successful after 1971, the other networks eventually wanted a series “just like hers” [and Doris Day radically altered her CBS series that year in order to make her character more of a fashion-plate version of “Mary Richards”]. But 20th Century-Fox was “lucky” in securing the services of Davis & Music for Karen’s pilot- who better to conceive and produce a “Mary-ish series” than the ones who were originally involved IN it?- or UNlucky, as it was ultimately rejected by the network.

    I appreciate your “upgrading” the rare closing credits, ‘RG’ [which also served as the “opening title”, up to the director’s credit at :44].

  5. I just noticed that this show was directed by Peter Bonerz (Jerry on the Bob Newhart Show), I guess the rule about being on a show on one network and actig in a show on another network didn’t apply to working behind the camera.

  6. This was probably Peter’s first attempt at directing a situation comedy, which utlitmately led to a career (as did Jerry Paris, who also portrayed a dentist on another celebrated, well-respected sitcom, who ALSO became the series’ leading director during its last four seasons) behind the camera, where he’s more often occupied these days.

  7. Just to confirm what was said in that Chicago Tribune article on 1/24/74, I have audience tickets for tapings of THE KAREN VALENTINE PROGRAM dated February 5th and 8th, 1974.

  8. I worked with Karen (Sound Mixer) on a Hallmark Movie ‘Wedding Daze’ a few years ago. She was a lovely sweetheart, very professional and mellow with a sense of humor!

  9. Miss Karen Valentine also starred in a couple of highly-rated telefilms that were defacto backdoor pilots.

    Her first backdoor pilot was also somewhat unintended (a backdoor backdoor?)…THE DAUGHTERS OF JOSHUA CABE was intended as a star vehicle ‘Movie of the Week’ with Mr. Buddy Ebsen father to Miss Valentine, Miss Sandra Dee and Miss Lesley Anne Warren, but it also rated so highly in its initial (25.0HH/38%) and encore airings that Mr. Aaron Spelling and ABC went through two further sequels (re-casting Miss Valentine’s role because she was unavailable) trying to get the mix right for a possible comedy-western series.

    Her next backdoor would be COFFEE, TEA OR ME?, written by Mr. Stanley Ralph Ross, aired on CBS September 11, 1973 to a surprisingly strong 25.7HH/43% rating (and repeating well in April of 1974), and I’m sure CBS would have liked to pursue a project out of the much-buzzed about telefilm but Miss Valentine was tied up with ABC’s ‘Room 222’ and I think she had a talent deal with the Alphabet as well.

  10. I’ve come across information Miss Karen Valentine’s first comedy pilot titled ‘The Karen Valentine Show’. It was broadcast on Monday May 21, 1973 as part of a special ABC ‘Movie of the Week’ where it was stitched together with two other comedy pilots ‘The Barbara Eden Show’ and ‘Catch-22’. Although the movie averaged a very respectable (for late May) 19.5HH/33%, none of the pilots were picked up to series.

  11. I always felt that it was a shame that Karen Valintine did not do more after ROOM 222, she certainly was that show’s breakout star.

  12. This is very interesting. Thank you for posting it. I had never heard of this pilot or the previous one, although I do remember watching “Karen.” It is a shame that Ms. Valentine’s career never reached its full potential. She certainly seemed poised for much bigger things back in the early-mid-1970s. I liked reading Bill Reihhardt’s comment about working with her.

    It is just mind-boggling how many pilots are considered every year. The sheer volume of ideas that are whittled down into actual filmed pilots which are then narrowed down to the group that actually becomes series. And then a huge amount of those don’t even make it to a second season! I am sure we have all watched a particular awful show at one time or another, and thought, “Wow! This made it on the air? Those 100 other pilots they considered must have been abysmal!”

  13. Not really related to Valentine, but the ‘Catch-22’ pilot was mentioned above. As I think the film is a classic, I’ve wondered if anyone has seen footage from this. IIRC, it featured Richard Dreyfuss?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.