Not every TV show gets to be E.R. Most don't even get to be Homeboys in Outer Space, a program that failed quickly despite having a clever title that explained who it was about and where they were. Dozens of pilot episodes get produced each year, and only a tiny handful are ever broadcast. Sometimes it's because network executives are talentless morons, and sometimes it's because the shows are impossibly and hilariously shitty.
Here's a few from that second group.
5The Orson Welles Show (1978)
Orson Welles is best known for Citizen Kane and the notorious War of the Worlds radio adaptation, but this show comes from a time in his career when he was more likely to be drunkenly flubbing his way through a commercial for Paul Masson champagne than crafting a legendary piece of entertainment. A frequent guest of Johnny Carson, Dick Cavett and others, Orson decided to take a shot at the format himself. The results are mesmerizing.
When the lumbering freak-show giant turns to the camera and croaks, "Welcome to the launching party," you can't help but feel like a deranged carny has just pulled the lever on a ride that will be your last. And the guest list takes the late-70s strangeness even further. First up, none other than Burt Reynolds, oozer of visible slime. Somehow, the two men failed to not wear the exact same clothes.
To be fair, the 70s gave two choices for fashion: flared jeans or the softcore porn look.
Mr. Welles abandoned the standard "softball questions and anecdotes" format for an audience Q&A. This allowed for the kind of uncomfortable moments you don't often get on network television. Most notably, an African-American man asks Burt whether he considers himself a star or a superstar, and gets the response, "Only a black man would ask that question." An inexplicably racist(?) non-sequitur which is met with guffaws from our madman of a host.
"I'd better laugh too, otherwise it'll look like black people have no sense of humor!"
The weirdness keeps on coming with his next guests: Jim Henson and Frank Oz, accompanied by Kermit, Fozzie and Sam the Eagle. Instead of doing fun, harmless, Muppet-related interview questions, Welles turns a conversation with a frog puppet into a desperate defense of why he's now doing television, "the one theater [he's] never really worked in." He's Orson Welles, and he invited Jim Henson onto his show so he could defend himself to a puppet. Is that clear to everyone? That's a thing that happened. The 70s were weird.
He used to be a legitimate actor. Kermit we mean, not Orson Welles.
The final guest is Angie Dickinson, star of hit series Police Woman and a minor sex symbol of the time. You can imagine the show's producer planning the segment. "OK, so we'll trot Angie out for some questions about the show, throw in some mild flirtatious innuendo and call it a day? No, Orson? You'd rather have her do some magic? Well she's not known for that, but ... OK, that could be fun and sexy too, maybe she wears a sparkly little dress and you cut her in half- what's that? Strap yourself into a throne with a blindfold? So you can narrate an ominous game of Russian Roulette that will haunt the kids who tuned in to see Kermit for the remainder of their natural lives? Well, you're the genius!"
His dates typically ended this way, too.