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10 High-Profile TV Pilots That Didn’t Get Picked Up

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The start of the summer television season finds all the new shows created for the fall season either going to series or being dropped from a network’s lineup. Many pilots have a lot of star power behind them, either in front of or behind the camera. But just because a pilot has some clout to it doesn’t mean it will be picked up for an entire season run. Here are 10 high-profile TV pilots that didn’t make it to series. 

1. Zombieland (2013, Amazon.com)

Originally conceived as a TV series in 2005, Zombieland was re-tooled and re-written as a feature film in 2009. The movie was a smash hit with an all-star cast, including Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin. Instead of a sequel, the film’s writers, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, re-developed Zombieland for the online retailer Amazon.com’s new video streaming service Amazon Instant in 2013.

As part of Amazon’s original programming, viewers would choose TV shows based on their pilot episodes' strength. But with negative ratings and comments from its audience, Zombieland failed to get Amazon’s attention. It was eventually dropped from the online retailer’s emerging online roster.

Reese took to Twitter when he got word that Amazon passed on Zombieland. He blamed the fans for the series’ demise, as he believed that they “successfully hated it out of existence.”

2. Locke & Key (2011, Fox)

Based on horror author Joe Hill’s best-selling graphic novel, Locke & Key followed three siblings who became the caretakers of a New England mansion full of secrets and magic. With award-winning director Mark Romanek, writing duo Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, and super producer Steven Spielberg at the center of its production, most assumed that Locke & Key would be picked up for Fox’s 2011 fall TV season—but the network opted not to buy the series due to its rising production cost.

3. Mulaney (2013, NBC)

Former Saturday Night Live writer John Mulaney left the late night variety show to pursue Mulaney, a semi-autobiographical series that followed a struggling young stand-up comedian living in New York City with his two roommates (stand-up Griffin Newman and SNL’s Nasim Pedrad), while dealing with his game show host boss (Martin Short) and his gay neighbor (Elliott Gould). With SNL producer Lorne Michaels and 30 Rock producers Robert Carlock and David Miner behind the scenes, Mulaney had an impressive cast and crew—but all that talent couldn't make NBC pick up the comedy after its pilot episode.

4. Black Market Music (2003, HBO)

After the Judd Apatow-created Freaks & Geeks and Undeclared were canceled, Seth Rogan and Jason Segel, along with Jack Black, co-created a comedy about two best friends who open a hip record store in Los Angeles. The series incorporated real musicians making cameo appearances and performing in the trendy record store. Although HBO passed on the series, its creators and stars Seth Rogen and Jason Segel went on to Hollywood stardom in the movie The 40-Year-Old Virgin and the TV series How I Met Your Mother, respectively.

5. Delirium (2013, Fox)

Based on science fiction author Lauren Oliver’s best-selling young adult book series, Delirium is set in a dystopian future where romantic love is seen as a disease. Fox ordered a pilot of Delirium based on its passionate fan base, and Emma Roberts was cast as the lead, Lena Haloway—but the network ultimately passed on the series.

6. Sick in the Head (1999, Fox)  

Created and developed by Judd Apatow and Paul Feig at the same time as Freaks & Geeks, Sick in the Head followed actors David Krumholtz as an inexperienced therapist, Kevin Corrigan as his loser roommate, and Amy Poehler as his spunky suicidal patient. Freaks & Geeks was picked up by NBC, but Fox passed on Sick in the Head.

Sick in the Head was just one of five failed or short-lived series that Apatow developed with DreamWorks Entertainment: Life on Parole and North Hollywood never aired, while Freaks & Geeks and Undeclared lasted for only one season each.

7. Beverly Hills Cop (2013, CBS)

Based on the popular film series from the 1980s, Beverly Hills Cop was an almost surefire hit. Shawn Ryan (The Shield) was helming the series, Barry Sonnenfeld (Men In Black) was directing the pilot episode, and Eddie Murphy was making a cameo appearance as his character Axel Foley. Actor Brandon T. Jackson would star in the series as Foley’s detective son Aaron. CBS dropped Beverly Hills Cop from their fall TV lineup, but Sony is still looking to find a home for the show on another network.

8. Hey Neighbor (2000, Fox)

After the sketch comedy troupe The State broke up in 1995, four of its members—Thomas Lennon, Ben Garant, Kerry Kenney, and Michael Ian Black—created Hey Neighbor, a comedy that focused on a wealthy family who were forced to live in a poor neighborhood when they entered into the FBI’s Witness Relocation Program.

The show would’ve been a mix between sitcom narratives with various sketches. After Fox passed on Hey Neighbor, Michael Ian Black went on to star in Ed for NBC, while Lennon, Garant, and Kenney created Reno911! for Comedy Central.

9. Lookwell (1991, NBC)

One of the most well known TV pilots, Lookwell starred Adam West as an aged actor who used to be the star of a popular police procedural in the 1970s. Created by writers Conan O’Brien and Robert Smigel, Lookwell aired during the summer TV season on NBC in 1991. Although it was NBC Chairman Brandon Tartikoff’s personal favorite TV pilot of the year, the TV comedy was not picked up for series.

O’Brien and Smigel would go on to host and write, respectively, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, but not before O’Brien took a two-year stint as a writer on The Simpsons from 1991 to 1993. Lookwell is celebrated for Adam West’s brilliant deadpan humor as a washed-up TV action hero.

10. Heat Vision & Jack (1999, Fox)

Created by Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab, Heat Vision and Jack starred Jack Black as Jack Austin—a former astronaut who gains super-intelligence after being exposed to an inappropriate level of solar energy—and Owen Wilson as Heat Vision, Jack’s talking motorcycle sidekick. Ron Silver, Christine Taylor, and Vincent Schiavelli also starred in the comedy, and Ben Stiller directed the show's pilot episode. Still, Fox didn't pick up the show.

In 2007, talks of a Heat Vision & Jack movie surfaced—Schrab mentioned a full-length feature film screenplay was in the works during an interview with Wizard Magazine. So far, nothing has been made official about the film’s production.

Jack Black and Owen Wilson would go on to become among the most successful comic actors in the following decade, while Ben Stiller became a notable actor and film director. Rob Schrab later directed episodes of Children's Hospital, Parks and Recreation, and all three seasons of The Sarah Silverman Program, while Dan Harmon created the cult-hit comedy Community for NBC. 

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11 Things You Didn't Know About Dolly Parton
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Over the past 50-some years, Dolly Parton has gone from a chipper country starlet to a worldwide icon of music and movies whose fans consistently pack a theme park designed (and named) in her honor. Dolly Parton is loved, lauded, and larger than life. But even her most devoted admirers might not know all there is to this Backwoods Barbie.

1. YOU WON'T FIND HER ON A DOLLYWOOD ROLLER COASTER.

Her theme park Dollywood offers a wide variety of attractions for all ages. Though she's owned it for more than 30 years, Parton has declined to partake in any of its rides. "My daddy used to say, 'I could never be a sailor. I could never be a miner. I could never be a pilot,' I am the same way," she once explained. "I have motion sickness. I could never ride some of these rides. I used to get sick on the school bus."

2. SHE ENTERED A DOLLY PARTON LOOK-A-LIKE CONTEST—AND LOST.


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Apparently Parton doesn't do drag well. “At a Halloween contest years ago on Santa Monica Boulevard, where all the guys were dressed up like me, I just over-exaggerated my look and went in and just walked up on stage," she told ABC. "I didn’t win. I didn’t even come in close, I don’t think.”

3. SHE SPENT A FORTUNE TO RECREATE HER CHILDHOOD HOME.

Parton and her 11 siblings were raised in a small house in the mountains of Tennessee that lacked electricity and indoor plumbing. When Parton bought the place, she hired her brother Bobby to restore it to the way it looked when they were kids. "But we wanted it to be functional," she recounted on The Nate Berkus Show, "So I spent a couple million dollars making it look like I spent $50 on it! Even like in the bathroom, I made the bathroom so it looked like an outdoor toilet.” You do you, Dolly.

4. SHE WON'T APOLOGIZE FOR RHINESTONE.


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Parton is well-known for her hit movies Steel Magnolias and 9 to 5, less so for the 1984 flop Rhinestone. The comedy musical about a country singer and a New York cabbie was critically reviled and fled from theaters in just four weeks. But while her co-star Sylvester Stallone has publicly regretted the vehicle, Parton declared in her autobiography My Life and Other Unfinished Business that she counts Rhinestone's soundtrack as some of her best work, especially "What a Heartache."

5. SHE IS MILEY CYRUS'S GODMOTHER, SORT OF.

"I'm her honorary godmother. I've known her since she was a baby," Parton told ABC of her close relationship with Miley Cyrus. "Her father (Billy Ray Cyrus) is a friend of mine. And when she was born, he said, 'You just have to be her godmother,' and I said, 'I accept.' We never did do a big ceremony, but I'm so proud of her, love her, and she's just like one of my own." Parton also played Aunt Dolly on Cyrus's series Hannah Montana.

6. SHE RECEIVED DEATH THREATS FROM THE KU KLUX KLAN.

A photo of Dolly Parton on stage
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In the mid-2000s, Dollywood joined the ranks of family amusement parks participating in "Gay Days," a time when families with LGBT members are encouraged to celebrate together in a welcoming community environment. This riled the KKK, but their threats didn't scare Dolly. "I still get threats," she has admitted, "But like I said, I'm in business. I just don't feel like I have to explain myself. I love everybody."

7. TO PROMOTE LITERACY, SHE STARTED HER OWN "LIBRARY."

In 1995, the pop culture icon founded Dolly Parton's Imagination Library with the goal of encouraging literacy in her home state of Tennessee. Over the years, the program—built to mail children age-appropriate books—spread nationwide, as well as to Canada, the UK, and Australia. When word of the Imagination Library hit Reddit, the swarms of parents eager to sign their kids up crashed the Imagination Library site. It is now back on track, accepting new registrations and donations.

8. PARTON'S HOMETOWN HAS A STATUE IN HER HONOR.

A stone's throw from Dollywood, Sevierville, Tennessee is where Parton grew up. Between stimulating tourism and her philanthropy, this proud native has given a lot back to her hometown. And Sevierville residents returned that appreciation with a life-sized bronze Dolly that sits barefoot, beaming, and cradling a guitar, just outside the county courthouse. The sculpture, made by local artist Jim Gray, was dedicated on May 3, 1987. Today it is the most popular stop on Sevierville's walking tour.

9. THE CLONED SHEEP DOLLY WAS NAMED AFTER PARTON.

In 1995 scientists successfully created a clone from an adult mammal's somatic cell. This game-changing breakthrough in biology was named Dolly. But what about Parton inspired this honor? Her own groundbreaking career? Some signature witticism or beloved lyric? Nope. It was her legendary bustline. English embryologist Ian Wilmut revealed, "Dolly is derived from a mammary gland cell and we couldn't think of a more impressive pair of glands than Dolly Parton's."

10. SHE TURNED DOWN ELVIS.

After Parton made her own hit out of "I Will Always Love You," Elvis Presley's manager, Colonel Tom Parker, reached out in hopes of having Presley cover it. But part of the deal demanded Parton surrender half of the publishing rights to the song. "Other people were saying, 'You're nuts. It's Elvis Presley. I'd give him all of it!'" Parton admitted, "But I said, 'I can't do that. Something in my heart says don't do that.' And I didn't do it and they didn't do it." It may have been for the best. Whitney Houston's cover for The Bodyguard soundtrack in 1992 was a massive hit that has paid off again and again for Parton.

11. SHE JUST EARNED TWO GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS.

Parton is no stranger to breaking records. And on January 17, 2018 it was announced that she holds not one but two spot in the Guinness World Records 2018 edition: One for Most Decades With a Top 20 Hit on the US Hot Country Songs Chart (she beat out George Jones, Reba McEntire, and Elvis Presley for the honor) and the other for Most Hits on US Hot Country Songs Chart By a Female Artist (with a total of 107). Parton said she was "humbled and blessed."

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15 Things You Didn't Know About Betty White
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Happy birthday, Betty White! In honor of the ever-sassy star of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls's 96th birthday, let's celebrate with a collection of fun facts about her life and legacy. 

1. HER NAME IS BETTY, NOT ELIZABETH

On January 17th, 1922, in Oak Park, Illinois, the future television icon was born Betty Marion White, the only child of homemaker Christine Tess (née Cachikis) and lighting company executive Horace Logan White. In her autobiography If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't), White explained her parents named her "Betty" specifically because they didn't like many of the nicknames derived from "Elizabeth." Forget your Beths, your Lizas, your Ellies. She's Betty.

2. SHE'S A GUINNESS WORLD RECORD HOLDER.

In the 2014 edition of the record-keeping tome, White was awarded the title of Longest TV Career for an Entertainer (Female) for her more than 70 years (and counting) in show business. The year before, Guinness gave out Longest TV Career for an Entertainer (Male) to long-time British TV host Bruce Forsyth. As both began their careers in 1939, they'd be neck-and-neck for the title, were they not separated by gender.

3. HER FIRST TELEVISION APPEARANCE IS LOST TO HISTORY.

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Even White can't remember the name of the show she made her screen debut on in 1939. But in an interview with Guinness Book of World Records, she recounted the life-changing event, saying, "I danced on an experimental TV show, the first on the west coast, in downtown Los Angeles. I wore my high school graduation dress and our Beverly Hills High student body president, Harry Bennett, and I danced the 'Merry Widow Waltz.'" 

4. WHITE'S RISE TO STARDOM WAS DERAILED BY WORLD WAR II.

Before she took off on television, White was working in theater, on radio, and as a model. But with WWII, she shelved her ambitions and joined the American Women's Voluntary Services. Her days were devoted to delivering supplies via PX truck throughout the Hollywood Hills, but her nights were spent at rousing dances thrown to give grand send-offs to soldiers set to ship out. Of that era, she told Cleveland Magazine, "It was a strange time and out of balance with everything." 

5. HER FIRST SITCOM HIT WAS IN THE EARLY 1950S.

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Co-hosting the Al Jarvis show Hollywood on Television led to White producing her own vehicle, Life With Elizabeth. As a rare female producer, she developed the show alongside emerging writer-producer George Tibbles, who'd go on to work on such beloved shows as Dennis The Menace, Leave It To Beaver, and The Munsters. Though the show is not remembered much today, in 1951 it did earn White her first Emmy nomination of 21 (so far). Of these, she's won five times.

6. WHITE LOVES A PARADE.

From 1962 to 1971, White hosted NBC's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade alongside Bonanza's Lorne Greene. But that's not all. For 20 years (1956-1976), she was also a color commentator for NBC’s annual Tournament of Roses Parade. However, as her fame grew on CBS's The Mary Tyler Moore Show, NBC decided they should pull White (and all the rival promotion that came with her) from their parade. It was a decision that was heartbreaking for White, who told People, "On New Year's Day I just sat home feeling wretched, watching someone else do my parade."

7. SHE HAS BEEN MARRIED THREE TIMES.


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White and her first husband, Dick Barker, were married and divorced in the same year, 1945. After four months on Barker's rural Ohio chicken farm, White fled back to Los Angeles and her career as an entertainer. Soon after, she met agent Lane Allen, who became her husband in 1947, and her ex-husband in 1949 after he pushed her to quit show biz. She wouldn’t marry again until 1963, after she fell for widower/father of three/game show host Allen Ludden.

8. HER MEET-CUTE WITH HUSBAND #3 HAPPENED ON PASSWORD.

Bubbly Betty was a regular on the game show circuit, but she met her match in 1961 when she was a celebrity guest on Password, hosted by Allen Ludden. Though White initially rebuffed Ludden's engagement ring (he wore it around his neck until she changed her mind), the pair stayed together until his death in 1981. Today, their stars on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame sit side-by-side.

9. WHITE ORIGINALLY AUDITIONED FOR THE ROLE OF BLANCHE ON THE GOLDEN GIRLS.

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Producers of the series thought of White for the role of the ensemble's promiscuous party girl because she'd long played the lusty Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Meanwhile, they eyed Rue McClanahan for the part of naive country bumpkin Rose Nylund because of her work as the sweet but dopey Vivian Harmon on Maude. Director Jay Sandrich was worried about typecasting, so he asked the two to switch roles in the audition. And just like that, The Golden Girls history was made.

10. IF SHE HADN'T BEEN AN ACTOR, SHE'D HAVE BEEN A ZOOKEEPER.

"Hands down," she confessed in a 2014 interview. This should come as little surprise to those aware of White's reputation as an avid animal lover and activist. Not only does she try to visit the local zoo of wherever she may travel, but also she's a supporter of the Farm Animal Reform Movement and Friends of Animals group, as well as a Los Angeles Zoo board member, who has donated "tens of thousands of dollars" over the past 40 years. In 2010, White founded a T-shirt line whose profits go to the Morris Animal Foundation.

11. SHE DIDN'T DO AS GOOD AS IT GETS BECAUSE OF AN ANIMAL CRUELTY SCENE.

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White was offered the part of Beverly Connelly, onscreen mother to Helen Hunt, in the Oscar-winning movie As Good as It Gets. But the devoted animal lover was horrified by the scene where Jack Nicholson's curmudgeonly anti-hero pitches a small dog down the trash chute of his apartment building. On The Joy Behar Show White explained, "All I could think of was all the people out there watching that movie … and if there's a dog in the building that's barking or they don't like—boom! They do it." She complained to director James L. Brooks in hopes of having the scene cut. Instead, he kept it and cast Shirley Knight in the role.

12. A FACEBOOK CAMPAIGN MADE WHITE THE OLDEST SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE HOST EVER.

In 2010, a Facebook group called Betty White To Host SNL … Please? gathered so many fans (nearly a million) and so much media attention that SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels was happy to make it happen. At 88 years old, White set a new record. Her episode, for which many of the show's female alums returned, also won rave reviews, and gave the show's highest ratings in 18 months. White won her fifth Emmy for this performance.

13. SHE IS THE OLDEST PERSON TO EARN AN EMMY NOMINATION.


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In 2014, White earned her 21st Emmy nod—and her third in a row for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program—for the senior citizen-centric prank show Betty White's Off Their Rockers. She was 92. She also holds the record for the longest span between Emmy nominations, between her first (1951) and last (so far).  

14. SHE LOVES JUNK FOOD.

The key to aging gracefully has nothing to do with health food as far as White is concerned. In 2011, her Hot in Cleveland co-star Jane Leeves dished on White's snacking habits, "She eats Red Vines, hot dogs, French fries, and Diet Coke. If that's key, maybe she's preserved because of all the preservatives." Fellow co-star Wendie Malick concurred, "She eats red licorice, like, ridiculously a lot. She seems to exist on hot dogs and French fries." 

15. SHE WANTS ROBERT REDFORD.

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White once gave this cheeky confession: “My answer to anything under the sun, like ‘What have you not done in the business that you’ve always wanted to do?’ is ‘Robert Redford.'” Though she has more than 110 film and television credits on her filmography, White has never worked with the Out of Africa star, who is 14 years her junior.

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