Failed TV Shows That (Somehow) Actually Existed
TV is a mixed bag, ranging from the high art of shows like Breaking Bad and Game Of Thrones to pandering attempts to please the lowest common denominator like The Bachelor and Game Of Thrones. This year, TV executives approved new shows about a time-traveling duffel bag, a cartoon barbarian getting an office job, and Kevin James somehow getting another sitcom. Can you imagine the sort of nutty shit that doesn't make it? Well we can, because we forced ourselves to watch a whole bunch for this article.
Here are some totally out-there ideas that came shockingly close to becoming regular series -- proving that channels may be getting desperate, but they're not that desperate yet.
Kanye West Tried To Do An HBO Sitcom (And Puppet Show)
Short of magically morphing into a lizard or displaying self-awareness, there's not a lot Kanye West can do to surprise us anymore. So when we tell you he almost made two of the most ridiculous TV shows ever produced, you know we're not exaggerating. First off, Kanye made a pilot for an HBO comedy in the vein of Curb Your Enthusiasm, even hiring one of Curb's directors, Larry Charles. According to Charles, Kanye introduced himself to him as "the black Larry David" -- which isn't totally crazy. Just imagine if that jaunty theme song played every time Kanye did something dickish.
"I'm sorry, but Beyonce's video was pretty good. Pretty, pretty, prett-aaaay good."
According to the director, the show wasn't picked up because it was "too hardcore" (a word that had never been within such close proximity of anything Larry-David-related before). In one scene, for instance, Kanye has a Make a Wish meeting with a child and ends up sending the following message to others like him: "Yo, whattup to all the dying kids. I know y'all my dawgs. And you know, all dogs go to heaven!" Another "joke" involves a woman giving a detailed description of a girl dying in a car crash. It's like they got the awkward part of Curb Your Enthusiasm right, but forgot the comedy.
"Curb was a comedy?!"
So the project went nowhere, but that didn't stop Kanye from trying something even weirder. A few years later, he starred in and produced a pilot for a "hip-hop Muppet Show" called Alligator Boots (NSFW). Don't click on that link unless you want to see some full-frontal Muppet dick (yeah, we're surprised HBO didn't pick up this one).
If you always wanted The Muppet Show to be easier to masturbate to, this will help marginally.
The pilot also co-starred West's future wife Kim Kardashian, who is hit on by a horny bear puppet version of Barry White while dressed as Princess Leia. She then announces she'll have sex with Beary, because the script for this thing was apparently some online fanfiction Kanye found while Googling himself and liked.
"Kanye, this makes no sense."
"Don't worry, we'll add the Smurf village and nude Steve Buscemi as background, and all will be clear."
Another part of the story found Kanye refusing to perform on the late-night show within a show -- which would be a lot funnier if that wasn't literally what his life has become.
A Teen Musical Show ... Starring Nicolas Cage
Back in 1981, a slew of TV executives reasoned that there was only one way for their programming to reach the cold-hearted audience that is teenagers: through the power of song. The world was then treated to a pilot for a musical sketch comedy series for teens called The Best Of Times, presumably because Cherish Your Youth, Because Adult Life Is A Shitstorm Of Disappointment was too much of a bummer.
The show also cast totally normal, non-insane teenage kids you could relate to, such as its protagonist: a young Crispin Glover, future star of Back To The Future and a bunch of weird-ass movies.
And Dave Letterman's PTSD nightmares.
In the show's opening scenes, Crispin's mom is complaining about how messy his room is, and refers to him as "Crispin." So, yup, he's playing himself, addressing the unseen audience, which we assume is still how Crispin Glover lives his life. And if the guy who once tried to jump-kick Letterman's face off isn't relatable enough, Crispin introduces you to his gang of friends -- such as "Nic."
Who shared his wardrobe with Lou Ferrigno at this point.
Of course, that's future Oscar winner and lover of paychecks Nicolas Cage playing Nic, who spends his days shadowboxing at the beach while his friend sadly eats a hamburger behind him. The benevolent Nic tries to help his friend pick up a cute girl, but there's no escaping the lure of those cutoffs.
"Hey, girl. This nipple is an antenna to an ancient civilization. Let's make out."
Despite the fact that the show introduced itself as a hard-hitting look at what the teenagers of the day were truly like, these kids break into song and dance with no provocation. It doesn't matter if they're at the grocery store ...
... or the car wash.
Most out-there part comes when the show cuts out the laugh track to end with Cage addressing the camera, telling us all how he's worried he's going to be drafted and killed if there's a war in El Salvador. Which is an especially depressing speech coming from the guy who was dancing his heart out down the canned goods aisle only moments ago.
But considerably less depressing if you try to think of him as the star of The Wicker Man.
A Heartwarming Series Based On Psycho
Alfred Hitchcock's classic Psycho has influenced a lot of entertainment since it came out back in 1960, from kick-starting the slasher genre to spawning a myriad of sequels and remakes to fostering a healthy paranoia about motel bathtubs. It even spawned a 1980s TV pilot called Bates Motel (not to be confused with the current A&E show of the same name).
The show starts out promisingly spooky, but then drops the ball that Norman Bates is dead and that this is about his cellmate, Alex, to whom he's left the motel. It's a little like if they made a Halloween series that focused on Michael Myers' college roommate. When Alex leaves the asylum to go run the eponymous motel, he deals with issues Hitchcock probably never even considered addressing, such as confusion over drive-thru windows and securing bank loans.
*dramatic violin music intensifies*
Anyway, Alex renovates the motel and begins hosting some swinging parties, attended by Teen Wolf Too himself, Jason Bateman:
The earliest chronological "I've made a huge mistake" face?
One of the new hip young guests is contemplating suicide, probably because she realized how terrible a show she was in. But before she does the deed, a bunch of dead 1950s teenagers show up and convince her not to.
"There IS an afterlife, and you get to ride cool cars in it! Anyway, don't kill yourself."
So the Bates Motel is haunted, but not by all the people who have been murdered there? If all this wasn't enough to make you question your sanity, back at the house, the ghost of Mrs. Bates shows up looking like bootleg Skeletor -- and in true Scooby-Doo fashion, she's revealed to be ... that sniveling banker!
"I would have gotten away with it, if it wasn't for that hole on the bathroom wall where you saw me change!"
The next day, the lady who didn't kill herself thanks Alex, who then breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience, saying he thinks Norman would be proud. Because who wouldn't want to gain the approval of a dead serial killer? It's an amazingly heartwarming ending for a show based on a goddamn horror movie. In an interview, star Bud Cort said that the series would feature the Bates Motel as a "magical" place for redemption. So it would be like Touched By An Angel, but with a murder house instead of Della Reese.
A Hellish Furry Show Co-Starring Adam Sandler
Perhaps because we were all distracted by Game Boys and presidential blowjobs, a few animal-centric sitcoms almost slipped through the cracks back in the '90s.
First there was Dog Police, a proof-of-concept series pitch based on an amateur '80s music video that became bafflingly popular on MTV. Either because the producers behind this pitch lacked imagination or because creepy dog masks were crazy expensive back in 1990, the show took place not in some kind of dog-filled alternate universe, but in a world exactly like ours, except there happened to be three doggy detectives around.
At most, you could get one in your department. Three? Come on.
"Psychic alien dogs solve crimes" sounds like it could be a solid concept for a bizarre Comedy Central show, but Dog Police played it painfully straight. They talk in Humphrey Bogart impressions, and one's going through a painful divorce. Also, the dog costumes are less convincing as humanoid dogs and more as what would happen if that guy giving out blowjobs at the Overlook Hotel starred in Casablanca.
But, you know, creepier.
As if to cement its '90s-ness, the video even features a young Jeremy Piven as a beat cop and Adam Sandler as a ruffian. So the next time you complain about the Entourage movie or Jack And Jill, remember that after sharing scenes with a German shepherd in a fedora and trench coat, they had nowhere to go but up.
The Ridiculous 6 is sort of a lateral move.
While Dog Police was never actually made, the similarly animal-based sitcom Cows shot a few episodes, although they were never aired. Written by beloved comedian Eddie Izzard, Cows was a straight-up sitcom that took place in an alternate universe in which anthropomorphic cows live amongst us. Seriously, that's all there was to it.
Izzard, doing publicity for Cows: "It'll either be great or it'll be a pile of shit."
Rodney Dangerfield's Sitcom In Which A Young Boy Had the Superpower Of Being Able To Teleport Rodney Dangerfield
A lot of sitcoms featuring comedians have them playing a version of themselves, either because the show is based on their stand-up, or because, as non-actors, they have a hard time responding to any name other than their own. Similarly, Rodney Dangerfield's failed pilot Where's Rodney found the famed comic playing himself. But unlike most other sitcoms, his involved magic.
The show centered on a high school student who was obsessed with Dangerfield, because whatever network executives greenlit this thing were convinced that teens were less concerned with sex and drugs and more into the antics of 60-year-old comedians.
In the pilot, the young protagonist (also named Rodney) discovers he has the godlike ability to forcibly teleport Dangerfield into his presence -- which must happen all the time, because Rodney's dinner date doesn't even seem to give a fuck that he's vanishing into thin air.
He's old, but not "crumbles into dust when touched by wind" old.
Extra uncomfortably, this means that sometimes this teen wishes a strange grown man into his bedroom late at night. So the show's title, Where's Rodney?, may have been something child services should have been asking.
This kid didn't get any action whatsoever until his mom accidentally threw out those posters.
The hook would be that after summoning Rodney, he would help the kid out with whatever bullshit teenage problems he may have. (It also conveniently meant that the Rodney Dangerfield show only required four to five minutes of Rodney Dangerfield). Of course, had the show lasted more than one episode, the kid probably would have realized how shitty his superpower was. Imagine how embarrassing it would be applying to Prof. Xavier's school and having to put "ability to conjure Caddyshack star Rodney Dangerfield at will" as your mutation.
O.J. Simpson Made A Fucking Prank Show
Presumably while taking a break in his never-ending search for the "real killer," in 2006, O.J. Simpson made a hidden camera TV show called Juiced. Of course, when we say "TV show," we mean it was only ever released on DVD, because even the medium that gave us Jerry Springer and Cop Rock knew to stay the hell away from this insanity.
Juiced played like a typical hidden camera show, except for that, instead of some inoffensive celebrity executing pranks on an unwitting public, it was an acquitted double-murderer. Hidden camera shows are usually reserved for comedians, so it's more than a little odd to see the former football player most famous for being accused of killing his ex-wife and her friend pretending to be, say, a bad fast food employee:
This does seem like a more realistic career for him now.
Or the bit where he seamlessly transforms into an elderly white man who ruins a bingo game:
Episode two would have been O.J. faking his death and living the rest of his days as him.
And sometimes he just goes out as himself, which a lot of people understandably find disconcerting:
The prank here being "He's not in jail."
Why, it's almost like he's intentionally taking advantage of the whole double murder business to make people uncomfortable ... But no, he'd never do that. By the way, there's also a bit where he tries to sell people a fucking white Bronco.
This is like George Zimmerman trying to sell his-- never mind.
Most incredible are the show's comedic sidekick's behind-the-scene stories, such as the fact that he got the job by responding to a Craigslist ad (it seems O.J. staffed the show in the same way you sell broken Ikea furniture). He also tells anecdotes about O.J. hitting on teenage girls, and how the producer specifically instructed him not to bring up the whole murder thing around O.J. (like Germany and World War II, though minus the guilt).
He also claims that some of their pranks only bummed people out, such as fake dance auditions that dangled the promise of a paying job, when their only compensation for their trouble turned out to be a Juiced T-shirt (unwearable, unless you're Charles Manson or something). What we're saying is that it's time to start writing letters to FX demanding that the next season of American Crime Story be a beat by beat dramatization of the making of Juiced.
J.M. McNab co-hosts the pop culture nostalgia podcast Rewatchability, which can also be found on iTunes. Follow him on Twitter @Rewatchability.
Which Sci-Fi Trope Would You Bring To The Real World, And Why? Every summer, we're treated to the same buffet of three or four science fiction movies with the same basic conceits. There's man vs. aliens, man vs. robots, man vs. army of clones, and man vs. complicated time travel rules. With virtual reality and self-driving cars fast approaching, it's time to consider what type of sci-fi movie we want to be living in for the rest of our lives. Co-hosts Jack O'Brien and Adam Tod Brown are joined by Cracked's Tom Reimann and Josh Sargent and comedians David Huntsberger, Adam Newman, and Caitlin Gill to figure out which sci-fi trope would be the best to make a reality. Get your tickets to this live podcast here!
Let's keep this nutty shit going with 6 TV Shows You Won't Believe Were Actually Made and 5 Scrapped Episodes That Almost Ruined Famous TV Shows.
Subscribe to our YouTube channel, and check out The Only 8 Types of TV Shows That Get Made, and other videos you won't see on the site!
Also, follow us on Facebook. Or, you know, don't.