“I made a lot of (TV comedy) pilots over the years and a lot of them didn’t go,” says comedy superproducer Judd Apatow.  “And that’s a heartbreaking part of the business.”

But there’s one show in particular that Apatow wishes would have got a shot at the big time.  In fact, some call his North Hollywood “the best show never made.” But since it was never made, we’ll never really know.  

As we learned with Freaks and Geeks and several of his early movies, Apatow has an eerie talent (maybe his best talent?) for identifying comedy stars before the rest of the world catches on.  2001’s North Hollywood would have cemented Apatow’s status as Comedy Kreskin for all time.  In addition to bringing back Jason Segel from Freaks, Apatow cast then-unknowns Amy Poehler, Kevin Hart, Amy Schumer, January Jones, and Adam McKay.  “We did a table read,” says Apatow, “and it was maybe the best table read I’ve ever had in my entire career.

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Then ABC said “pass.” Seriously?

“It was a little experimental and none of those people were hot at the moment,” says Apatow. “While we were working on it, ABC decided they didn’t want to do new edgy experimental comedy. They wanted to go back to the days of Happy Days. And we knew it was over.”

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After ABC passed, Apatow took it to HBO which also declined, opting to pursue another comedy pilot called Entourage. In some ways, the shows had similarities.

Like Entourage, North Hollywood was a show about aspiring actors and actresses. (North Hollywood would have got mileage from showing off goofy acting classes a good 15 years before Barry mined the same comedy territory.)  

Wanna-be actress Poehler worked as Judge Reinhold’s assistant, while wanna-be actor Segel spent his days playing Frankenstein on the Universal Studios tour. (His supervisor was future Oscar nominee Adam McKay.)  Kevin Hart? He played an aspiring comedian who got a part in a “semi-racist beer commercial,” making him the only wanna-be who had money for rent.  

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It was about the first thing Hart had ever done and he was damn excited for the chance, thinking, “This is gonna be the one, this is gonna launch me.”  Despite ABC rejecting the show, “it ended up being the best thing ever,” Hart told Apatow in his book Sicker in the Head. “It was the best opportunity with the best group of comedic actors and actresses.”

Hart even moved in with Segel at Apatow’s request, the director’s attempt to get his stars to develop comic rapport.

“Looking back at it now, I couldn’t believe I had all of these people around me in the same space,” says Hart. “I had no idea who I was around: I had Seth Rogen, I had Jason, I had James Franco, January Jones. We hung out in this genius comedy bubble without even realizing it.”  

I saw it as my own personal failure (because) I knew every great person in comedy that deserved to be a star,” says Apatow.

“But you do have to handle it and move on.  Sometimes your favorite things wind up in a drawer and no one ever sees it.”

(Psst:  That pilot is still floating around.  Want to see it?)

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