Alibi V.21 No.22 • May 31-June 6, 2012 

Idiot Box

Pilot Down

The would-be shows you’ll never see

Late in May, the broadcast networks announced their fall lineups. Some shows look good, others look meh. But it’s always interesting to note the series that could have been—the ones that never even got past the pilot stage. Here’s a look at the 2012-2013 TV pilots that never got off the ground.

NBC had the brilliant idea of reuniting the stars of the long-lived blue-collar sitcom “Roseanne.” In “Downwardly Mobile,” Roseanne Barr would have played the owner and manager of a trailer park full of crazy characters. Her former TV hubby John Goodman would have played the park’s handyman. Sounds inspired, but apparently it wasn’t good enough to get past the pilot stage.

Speaking of reunions, “Cheers” stars Kirstie Alley and Rhea Pearlman were all prepared to top the cast list of ABC’s fish-out-of-water sitcom “The Manzanis.” Alley would have played a “Real Housewives”-type diva who moves to a quiet New Jersey suburb, creating much chaos with her husband and three kids. Perlman would have played Alley’s mother-in-law.

Martin Lawrence was all set for his big TV comeback as well. He was going to play a 46-year-old dad who loses his job in construction and decides to enroll in the police academy. Regina Hall and John Amos were the co-stars. For better or worse, CBS passed.

It’s kind of shocking that Chelsea Handler and Whitney Cummings have both landed prime-time sitcoms, but original foul-mouthed comedienne Sarah Silverman has yet to find her way onto network television. That would have changed with “Susan 313” on NBC. The show never materialized, though—possibly because the premise was so generic. Silverman would have played a directionless thirtysomething who moves back into her old apartment after a breakup.

Speaking of generic TV ideas, Cuba Gooding Jr. was no doubt excited to land a job on ABC playing a “brilliant trial attorney” who loses his license and is forced to practice law under the table. It was gonna be called “Guilty.” Yes ... “of Being Boring.”

Jamie Pressley (“My Name is Earl”) and Amy Smart (Crank) were set to star in NBC’s women-in-prison drama “Bad Girls”—an adaptation of the BBC series of the same name. I’ve often imagined what it would be like if Pressley were the sadistic warden of an all-female prison—but I don’t think my image matches what NBC had in mind.

Englishman Hugh Dancy (King Arthur) was primed to jump into the role of Special Agent Will Graham, the FBI agent who hunts down Dr. Hannibal Lecter in “Hannibal.” After five feature films, though, it’s debatable how much life is left in the character of Dr. Lecter. Apparently, NBC agrees. The show vanished from the fall lineup without a trace.

In today’s fairy tale-besotted entertainment industry (see for reference: Mirror Mirror, Snow White and the Huntsman, “Grimm,” “Once Upon a Time”), a fantasy-filled remake of “Beauty and the Beast” was evidently one myth too many for ABC. The CW, on the other hand, felt differently, green-lighting its own, unrelated rebooting of ABC’s late-’80s “Beauty and the Beast” series for next season. Guess we’ll have to get by with just one “Beauty and the Beast” show this fall.