A pilot is a sample episode shown to a potential sponsor or aired on a network to test audience response. Here are three worthy TV shows that didn’t make it past the “pilot” stage, plus pilots for a TV sitcom and detective show that did.
The Jane Powell Show
(1961) 32 min. -- Pilot for an unsold Four Star TV series starring the great Jane Powell in a situation comedy about a big-city actress-singer who marries a math professor (Russell Johnson, the Professor on “Gilligan’s Island”) and tries to fit into his professional life at small town Redwood College. Directed by Rod Amateau.
(1963) 25 min. -- Unsold, unaired and lost but funny pilot about a lovable army K-9 Corp mutt who tangles with a cat and a lion loose on an army base. Veteran character comic Sig Ruman steals the show as a lion tamer who gives Guy Marks the wrong lion to scare Munroe into not chasing cats. Cast includes veteran TV faces Guy Marks, Jan Stine, Joan Freeman and James Flavin, who discuss making the pilot in a segment at the end to impress a potential sponsor into buying the series. Alas, no one picked it up and this is our only look at the pooch named Munroe.
(1960) 30 min. -- Pilot about married actors (Leon Ames and Fay Baker) and their clever teenage daughter (Margaret O’Brien) who move from Manhattan to suburban Connecticut and clash with their new neighbors. Filmed in 1958, this episode aired on 8/30/1960 during a CBS summer series called “The Comedy Spot” that ran unsold pilots. Produced by George Burns and directed by Rod Amateau, with original commercials. The show was not picked up, perhaps because it was too similar to the teenage comedy "Meet Corliss Archer" (1954) but not wacky enough for audiences that made "Dobie Gillis" a hit in 1959.
(1954) 29 min. -- Episode of "Four Star Playhouse" first shown on Feb. 25, 1954 stars Frank Lovejoy as a hard-hitting private eye. A beautiful woman (Audrey Totter) hires McGraw as her bodyguard when she claims that her gangster husband plans to kill her. Terrific script with clever plot twists. Although not intended as a pilot, the popular character turned up again the following year in an episode of "Stage 7," and finally spun off into the 1957-'58 series “Meet McGraw” (aka. Adventures of McGraw) with Lovejoy in the title role.
The Ed Wynn Show
(1958) 33 min. -- Amiable situation comedy starring beloved comedian Ed Wynn who had pioneered a TV variety show in 1949-50 years before this pilot. The plot concerns Ed boarding two young college women, which is against neighborhood ordinances. At the conclusion Ed addresses the home audience on a sound stage about his recent career moves as a serious actor and hopes for this series, which sadly only ran for 16 episodes.
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