6 Bonkers TV Shows That We Missed Out On
Every year dozens of pilots are ordered by networks that never make it to air. It's just the way the industry works. You get a slate of shit, throw said shit at the wall, and see which shit sticks long enough to become The Big Bang Theory. Meanwhile, all the little shits that fell by the wayside are scooped up and tossed away, never to be thought of again.
But then sometimes you come across a pilot or an idea for a series amongst the wreckage that is so weird and raw that it feels like you've been robbed for having not been able to see it ...
A Star Wars By The Robot Chicken Crew
The "Star Wars parody episode" is so frequent in sitcoms and animated television that you'd think networks were legally mandated to put their female leads in Princess Leia buns at least once per season. Yet, it's kind of hard to imagine an entire series devoted solely to mocking Star Wars in every episode. How many jokes can they possibly tell about Luke kissing his sister? Well, if you were to ask Seth Green and Matthew Senreich, the answer is at least 39 episodes worth.
Yeah, in 2012, the Robot Chicken guys made a Star Wars parody series in collaboration with Lucasfilm Animation (as in, George Lucas actually signed off on this) called Star Wars Detours. Even more incredibly, they made a whopping 39 episodes and wrote an additional 62 scripts, with none of it ever seeing the light of day. Well, almost none of it. An episode titled "Dog Day Afternoon" was leaked at the end of last year, but Disney quickly pulled it. Still, there's a show trailer out there, and it's pretty cool:
It's wild to think that Seth Green and co were getting paid, for what had to be years, to complete multiple season's worth of material, and Lucasfilm never pulled the trigger on their investment, but that's Hollywood for you, I guess. Maybe it was a ploy by Lucasfilm to get Disney to buy them, if only as a means to stop Seth Green from ruining Star Wars forever, but then again, Disney has done that themselves plenty. And when you factor in the incredible cast Star Wars Detours had going for them (names like Donald Faison, Jennifer Hale, Joel McHale, Weird Al Yankovic, and Seth MacFarlane), I can't imagine it could be any greater a mockery of Star Wars than The Rise Of Skywalker.
A Superhero Show By Dan Harmon and Ben Stiller (Starring Jack Black and Owen Wilson)
We know Dan Harmon for being one of the genius visionaries behind Community and Rick and Morty and also for frequently and publicly getting into arguments, but before the critically acclaimed TV shows and the shit squabbles with Chevy Chase, there was Heat Vision and Jack. The talent behind HV&J couldn't be more stacked (you've got Rob Schrab and Dan Harmon writing, Ben Stiller directing, and Jack Black and Owen Wilson starring), and the premise couldn't be more deliberately random. Jack (played by Jack Black) is an astronaut who, after receiving a heavy dose of radiation from the sun, is imbued with super-intelligence -- kind of like if The Thing became super-smart instead of getting a rock penis. Jack is then hunted by NASA, headed by an evil version of Ron Silver (Ron Silver), and is aided only by a sentient motorcycle named "Heat Vision" (voiced by Owen Wilson.)
You can watch the entire pilot below in all of its splendor. Behold:
If you don't have the 30 minutes to watch, then I suggest you flush, grab another bran muffin, and try again because this pilot is worth it. It's so delightfully stupid, like a dog that keeps walking into his own reflection or a talking motorcycle who somehow serves as the straight man in a tv show. It's not clear why FOX never ordered Heat Vision and Jack to series; however, it is said that executives just couldn't see the potential for storylines beyond the pilot. Nevertheless, you can see the seeds of surreal humor that lead to Rick and Morty and Community, and that alone makes us pine for some sort of reclamation project.
The show has gained somewhat of a cult following, enough so that Harmon and co staged a table reading late last year to raise money for charity. But the fans want more, dammit. They want a movie with a budget the size of Men In Black III and a Ron Silver CGI recreation that makes Luke in The Mandalorian look like a sock puppet on a wire. Here's hoping they get it.
The Neighbors, Tommy Wiseau's Sitcom
It stands to reason that if Tommy Wiseau, creator of The Room, could make the greatest accidentally-funny movie of all time, then he could surely make something even better if he tried to be funny on purpose. That may have been Tim and Eric's logic when they initially decided to develop a television series with Wiseau in 2009. Fast-forward to 2015, and not only did Tim and Eric abandon the project, but we all learned that while a bad enough drama will sometimes equal good comedy, a bad comedy will typically just equal bad comedy. In this case, it equaled something even worse.
It turns out that Tommy Wiseau trying to be funny is just indecipherable nonsense interlaced with a bunch of racist and sexist tropes. Think Larry the Cable Guy in the midst of a stroke. So why do I think a sitcom this bad is something we missed out on? (Especially since it's fully available. You can buy the complete 1st season on DVD.) Because there's still something about this show that's so uniquely weird that it could be amazing if only it were harnessed correctly.
Take the scene where Tommy is playing a teen character (already a hilarious concession for this impossibly old-looking dude, and made even funnier in that he already plays another character within the show) and is about to buy his girlfriend a gun. They don't want to pay the listed price, so the girlfriend seduces the gun dealer into giving away the gun for free. They leave, their deception complete, and when the dealer comes to his senses, he starts screaming into the sky with the fury of a thousand Darth Vaders. This is a man who is unable to mentally process losing money on a gun sale, and it is pure comedy gold. It's moments like these that make this series look promising, and if you could find someone with the patience to sift through these scenes amongst all the unwatchable ones, and also with the patience to work with Tommy Wiseau, then I think The Neighbors would be the type of thing that could kill on Adult Swim.
A Cop Show From Family Guy Alum With Phil Lamarr And Jane Lynch
Imagine if Family Guy and Brooklyn Nine-Nine had a baby. It might be difficult because TV shows are abstract concepts not capable of procreation, but if they were, then the child of Family Guy and Brooklyn Nine-Nine would be Murder Police. The show follows a bunch of inept, lazy, perverted, and whatever other awful adjectives you can find, detectives as they look to enforce the law to the best of their shitty abilities. Fox was real jazzed about it in 2012 with Fox entertainment chairman Kevin Relly saying, "With Murder Police, these guys are taking a staple genre of television -- the cop show -- and turning it on its head by pushing the warped comedic boundaries that only animation can offer." Still, for whatever reason, they decided to can the season anyway, even after they had already picked up 13 episodes.
Perhaps it is for the best. In the context of 2021, the phrase "murder police" might be a little redundant. But I can't help feeling like this would have been great anyway. In a sense, it's the only comedy that would feature the foibles of cops in an accurate way. Andy Samberg's character in Brooklyn Nine-Nine makes working for the police look like a day at a summer camp. Then you take a look at the diverse cast -- Phil Lamarr, Jane Lynch, Chi McBride, Horatio Sanz, Penny Marshall, Peter Atencio, and Justina Machado -- and pair that with some of the edge of Family Guy (series co-creator David A.Goodman is a Family Guy alum) and suddenly this looks like the type of show that actually could have aged perfectly alongside our current events.
The Farm, But Like Good.
It's hard to say with 100% certainty which was the worst episode of The Office (anything in season 9 has a shot), but season 9, episode 18, known as "The Farm," makes a plenty compelling case for itself. The episode was initially intended to serve as a backdoor pilot for a Dwight spin-off, and the writers hid that fact about as well as Dwight hides his erection when sniffing beets. We open with Dwight in the office, telling his coworkers that his Aunt Shirley has died and that he needs to go to her funeral. He takes Oscar along because side-character, and before you know it, Dwight has inherited a farm along with a host of his quirky-but-actually-alarmingly-normal siblings. (If I could only pick one gripe to have with this pilot, it's that these characters are way too grounded to be Schrutes.) The episode ends with an "I guess we're gonna be here for a while" type of vibe, and then we never see any of them ever again, and Dwight just continues his time on The Office like none of it ever happened. Maybe "The Farm" was just one giant beet-induced fever-dream. We'll never know.
It's truly an awful episode as far as The Office goes, but in fairness, the writers had to pack in a new setting, new characters, a new central conflict for Dwight, and then a B-plot for the regular The Office storyline, all in 22 minutes so it never really had a shot. If this thing had a proper pilot, then who knows what could have happened.
Personally, I would have loved to see some sort of Dwight spin-off with Oscar tagging along, exceedingly outraged at the weirdness of Schrute customs. Picture a scene where Oscar is helping Dwight budget for a new harvester, but Mose needs money for his hospital bills after hurting himself by plowing his scarecrow wife. It's not a typical sitcom conundrum, and it's those situations that make the premise so intriguing. Really, anything that gives us more Dwight would have at least been worth trying, but NBC didn't seem to agree and passed on The Farm long before this Frankenstein of an episode made its way to our screens.
A Star Fox Claymation Show (And a Zelda Netflix Series Too)
Okay, let's get the "do a barrel roll" jokes over now because any fans of the Star Fox franchise are going to feel like spinning end-to-end after hearing this bit of news. We almost had a Star Fox TV show. I say almost since Nintendo threw the kibosh on the whole thing (and all of their other projects) after Netflix leaked that they were making a Legend of Zelda TV series in 2015. Apparently, Nintendo is very sensitive about how Hollywood handles their IP ever since a certain pair of Italian brothers fought Dennis Hopper with the vacs from Ghostbusters.
And now, thanks to the sins of our foreplumbers and the hubris of Netflix to test Nintendo's mettle, we may never get what could have been two great shows.
Star Fox looked particularly promising, with Adam Conover describing it as a "Fantastic Mr. Fox-style Star Fox claymation project." It feels like you can't mess that up. The Star Fox games already have such a vibrant, diverse cast of characters (the squabbles between Slippy and Falco could make a spin-off show all their own), and Star Wars has proved that we'll never tire of watching dogfights in space. Seriously, just picture this, but TV-ified:
And do I really need to explain why a Zelda TV show would do well? It's one of the most popular video game franchises of all time. You could slap a Triforce decal on anything and essentially trade that product like Bitcoin. I mean, how could Nintendo possibly miss with a Legend of Zelda show?
Oh ... right.