The fall television season is in full swing with hits, misses, surprises, causalities and replacements along its way to the Emmy’s. Our favorites are taking shape and Reality-TV continues to find new ways to exploit the human condition for our water-cooler, web-blogging enjoyment.
With cable television’s increasingly popular stake in audience attention, networks are green-lighting pilots for a myriad of programming in hope of hitting the next hot, can’t-miss show like Glee, Real Housewives of Anywhere or True Blood. This “pilot-fever,” however, is truly a disease and leaves behind pile of better-off forgotten programming. We are often spared these disasters, but some do see airtime only to go as quickly as they come. This year has already witnessed numerous deaths with Lone Star, My Generation, The Gates, The Whole Truth, and Outlaw, while many others remain on life support. HBO is not immune to this sickness either. Remember, for every True Blood there is a John from Cincinnati.
Here are a few pilots that will not make it to our TiVo’s anytime soon:
THE VICTUAL VAGABOND
Celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver has taken on the American school lunch and successfully reformed UK eating in schools. Known world-wide as the Naked Chef, Jamie is constantly looking at culinary solutions to life’s bigger problems. Now, Jamie is tackling America’s most quiet – yet biggest – problem: Homelessness! Jamie is not concerned with building them an actual structure, rather he believes the home is an abstraction and is determined to teach the house-challenged how to survive in their environment. For six weeks Jamie will live in destitution in one of Detroit’s most rundown areas and teach these men and women of the streets how to make gourmet meals with what is around them. From garbage cans to scrap metal to the hood of 1972 VW Beetle, Jamie will show that an environment is the truest vessel in which to cook. The best farmer’s market in the world can be found in early morning nest raids, dumpster diving, insect collecting, rat trapping, curb sweeping… the next four star meal can be found anywhere! Tune in each week and watch the lives of those that have lost everything change forever – and learn for yourself when your time comes! ABC has a holding contract and is listed as “wait and see” citing the economy as being in too good of shape for the show to be successful at the present time.
William Wheeler, a former Special Forces agent crippled on a botched mission, is back in action! Tricked-out in a wheelchair that would make Michael Knight jealous and an attitude envied by James Bond, Special Agent William Wheeler is on the case. No flight of stairs or revolving door can stop him. Leading a team of “Special” Special Agents composed of an autistic analyst, a paralyzed planner and deaf conjoined twin translators, William must learn to balance his rekindled career while also learning to work with the agency’s newest wheelchair-bound agent Lindsey Leggs—his ex-wife! Tune in each week as the sexual tension builds and this rag-tag specially-abled unit wheels into action! NBC ordered 6 episodes and then quickly canceled production when threatened with numerous protests and lawsuits.
I’M MY OWN GRANDPAW
CBS picked up this series thinking it was based on the classic vaudeville song by Dwight Latham and Moe Jaffe. The premise was presumed to be about a young man and his father and their new marriages twisting the traditional relationship roles as the young man marries a widow and the father marries the widow’s daughter. Both couples have children making the young man, who is now father-in-law to his father, both brother and grandpa to his father’s child, making his wife as mother to his father’s wife the new grandma to his brother who is also his grandchild. So, as husband to his grandma he becomes his own grandpa. Confused yet? CBS was intrigued by the complicated social situations this would lead to and the comedy that would inevitably ensue. However, after viewing the pilot they discovered that this was actually a reality show based in Utah. TLC is apparently now interested.
Living outside an Islamic Mosque, a family of praying mantes is in for a metamorphosis like no other. A freak electrical storm at an apparent radon dumping ground in a nearby park transforms this majestic insect clan into an everyday human family. Only knowing the human way of life from those worshiping at the nearby Mosque, they take the name Muhammed and assume a Muslim identity. Watch each week as they try to assimilate themselves as not only praying mantes living among humans but also as modern Muslims in a not-so-understanding world. Driving a mini-van, going to school, a new 9-5 life for “dad” while “mom” stays home and resists the urge to feed on her neighbors and the strange men she brings to her bed, this family struggles together to learn new roles, all the while trying to dodge their intrusive Christian neighbor. This hilarious family sheds new light on the world of the praying mantis and Muslims that would have Kafka and Malcolm X resurrecting with laughter. NBC had serious internal debates between Mantis Mosque and Outsourced for its prime Thursday night spot. Outsourced was determined to “be a better fit in light of ongoing controversies.”
ARE YOU MARRIED TO A MANIC DEPRESSIVE?
Originally developed for British television, FOX jumped at the chance to produce a version of their own and churned out a pilot before being sued for wrongful death. While a full description of the show was never released, it apparently set-up monetary levels for how far one could push their spouse into a depressive state. According to court documents, the prize thresholds were as follows: The $10,000 dollar level was set for “couples therapy.” One could reveal the ruse at this point or go on for the $50,000 level achieved for prescription medication. The next leap is a whopping $150,000 for a trial separation/moving out. Interested in pressing your luck? Should the unwitting spouse file for divorce, the couple would be looking at a $350,000 pay day. Want to go for the million dollar prize? One simple goal: suicide. Apparently the thought was that the producers would stop the unknowing spouse from actually finishing the deed and inform him or her that the reality show was actually a contest and that they had won! Trial is pending.
Due to the intense competition of getting a pilot picked up, it is not uncommon for such promising shows to never see the light of day. In a television world where critically acclaimed programing is often canceled due to lackluster performance, we are left to wonder with the above gems what could have been. Will William Wheeler rekindle his romance with Lindsey Leggs? Will the awkward but lovable Mantis Muhammed ever catch his stride over water-cooler banter? Did the now widow ever receive the top cash prize? Where is John really from (definitely not Cincinnati)? Maybe some questions just aren’t worth answering.