Monday, August 1, 2016

Waste Not...

Nowadays, when a television pilot is rejected, it often disappears forever, never to be seen again, outside of network screening rooms or television focus group panels. These pilots are very expensive, so they often signify millions of dollars in wasted effort. In the not too distant past, however, these pilots were often repurposed and recycled to try to recover some of that money.


While ABC's Love American Style did feature mostly new material, it often presented unsold pilots as episodes. This was a way to get some use out of the rejected pilots. Perhaps the most famous episode of Love American Style was the original rejected pilot for Happy Days.

Sometimes a network will actually make a handful of episodes before making the decision to kill it. In the case of hour long dramas, they were often packaged together into films. The benefit of repackaging them this way is that they often can be repeated or sold overseas as major theatrical films. One notorious film that found new life this way was Master Ninja, which also had the added bonus of featuring Demi Moore.


While this practice has mostly disappeared, there is one more recent film that began life as a pilot- Mulholland Drive. The David Lynch film was originally supposed to be an ABC drama series, but when it was rejected, he was encouraged to recut it as a theatrical film. It went on to win numerous awards from audiences who were none the wiser as to its less auspicious beginnings.