Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Superhero Unaired Pilots
Over at Comics in Crisis Brian has talked about live action superhero series. He did a pretty good job at covering them. Still, no matter what the genre, for every hit series on TV there are those that didn't make it to series.
The "Adventures of Superman" was a smash hit in the 1950's. After his death studios still wanted to find a way to cash in on Superman's popularity. In 1961 a pilot for "The Adventures of Superboy" was shot in hopes to have another hit. This actually looked pretty good from the few clips I have seen. It stars Johnny Rockwell as Clark (Superboy) Kent and Bunny Henning as Lana Lang. It showed his adventures that he had with his friends in Smallville. Eventually the character of Superboy had two hit shows. The syndicated "Superboy" and the CW's "Smallville." However, this series didn't get picked up as a series. Hopes must have been high as I have heard that at least 12 scripts were written so they could go straight into production.
Watch The Adventures of Superboy TV Pilot (1961) in Entertainment Videos | View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com
While it is understandable that Superboy could have been a hit I have to wonder what they were thinking when they thought of "The Adventures of Superpup." This pilot was actually shot in 1958 before the Superboy pilot. The show wasn't even about Krypto.
Superpup was really Bark Bent and worked at the Daily Bugle. Obviously not the one where Spider-man would eventually work. His friend at the office was Pamela Poodle.
All of the actors on the series were little people. The star of the show was Billy Curtis. He was also in the movie "Superman and the Mole Men" with George Reeves. Kind of makes you think he was destined to play in the pilot.
Superpup and Superboy pilots were released on VHS.
In the 1960's "Batman" brought in Batmania. With their success the same team returned to comics for another hopeful hit. They had a possible hit with Dick Tracy. It star was Ray MacDonnell. He went on to fame not as Dick Tracy but as Joe Martin on the soap opera "All My Children." One of his co-stars in the pilot was young Eve Plumb. She is of course known as Jan Brady from the Brady bunch. I think that William Dozier could have had an even bigger hit with the series then he had with Batman. Dick Tracy was one character who had a bigger rogues gallery then Batman.
Below is the opening to the 1967 pilot.
In the same year Mr. Dozier tried a pilot with another DC character. It was Wonder Woman. The star is Ellie Wood Walker who played it for strictly laughs. If their aim was to make a bad comedy then they were a success.
Eventually they settled on doing a two part episode on Batman with the Green Hornet. They then spun the Hornet off on to his own series. There was one twist to this. Batman was a comedy and Green Hornet was a half hour action/adventure. It was really pretty good. It had a great theme song and gave many their first look at Bruce Lee as Kato. Below is the opening to the show.
1987 was the year that we saw the ABC show "Once A Hero." This wasn't really an unsold pilot. It actually made it to series. It wasn't too bad. The network was high on the series and critics loved it. But it was beat in the ratings every week by "My Sister Sam" and "227." The show was good but it was a timeslot failure. It lasted only three weeks. It is said that Adam West was the guest star in the unaired 4th episode.
The series was about how comic book character Captain Justice (Jeff Lester) became real and now fought crime in our world. He was helped by his creator Abner Beavis played by Milo O'Shea and young comic book fan played by Josh Blake. If this series is ever put on DVD you should see it.
Perhaps the most infamous of superhero unaired pilots is "Aquaman." All of you may now know that it was to be a spin-off of "Smallville." The WB (now CW) was actually going to buy it as a series but changed their minds when they merged with UPN and became the CW. There were talks about changing the title to "Mercy Reef" if it was aired. Aquaman has built in name recognition. To have changed the name may have doomed the series. Sometimes it is better to not have a series at all if the one you do have has failed.
Its star was Justin Hartley and also had Lou Diamond Phillips and Ving Rhames. While the series didn't happen this was one of the most viewed unaired pilots ever. They did release it on iTunes and it was one of their more popular TV shows that was downloaded. It was also released on DVD as an incentive to buy a Smallville DVD set. All that promotion and they still never gave Aquaman his own show. They did give Justin Hartley honorary mention by casting him as Green Arrow in "Smallville." He has done a great job with the character and I hope they will spin Green Arrow off into his how series.