Previously, on Failed TV Pilots: Roddy Piper and Jesse Ventura wrestled their way into the police department, Hitler got an abominable 50’s-styled sitcom, and Officer Poochinski’s soul was bound through infernal means to Freddy Fazbear’s mechanical uncanny dog. I still maintain that Tagteam should have made an absolute killing back in 1991 as the time must surely have been ripe for the idea and as we’ll see on Episode 2, there were plenty of other goofy and/or less appealing ideas being put forward at around the same time. So climb aboard the tour bus as Joey V takes us back behind the studio lots to dig up a few more of these buried treasures.
If you weren’t interested before you’re certainly invested now. This comedy would have focused on West as Ty Lookwell, former lead actor of the cancelled cop show “Bannigan”. Ever since the network dropped him, Ty fills his time with watching taped episodes of “Bannigan”, attending auditions for new shows, and teaching a class of aspiring actors by using examples from his own television acting career.
Ty’s cultivated disconnection from reality is already obvious when we meet him, so when squad cars arrive in response to a car being stolen from the rental company where he got the fancy wheels to show up to his audition in, it makes total sense that he would go over and offer his services to the detectives. He did play one on television, after all, so surely he knows what he’s doing. Forced to operate in secret under the real officers’ noses, Ty and the student actors will chase lead after lead as his escalating series of oddball hunches and “clues” lead to the actual culprits who, as you might expect, have nothing whatsoever to do with Ty or his investigation.
The networks really missed out here but at the same time I can appreciate the humor in the idea of an unsold series about a cancelled TV show.
Second Chance, 1988
Following on the heels of Adam West is Second Chance. Now this right here is what I like, a premise that’s easy to write about because the entire show is right there in the title. Now I won’t have to try boiling it down in my own head! We begin in the office of Saint Peter as he is just welcoming two of the latest arrivals into the afterlife. These would be Miss America contender Becky-Sue and Colonel Gaddafi. Does this feel dated?
After those two have had their moment at the Gates of Heaven & Hell, Mr. Charles Russell appears in Pete’s office and is none too happy about it. He says that he’s running late and the Saint informs him that now he is simply “late”. Second Chance may show its age but a lot of the jokes have lost none of their effect. Peter explains to Charles what has happened to him and where he is and that now it’s his turn before the Gates. Interestingly, when Chuck stands for Judgement, both of the doors light up.
Now this is most peculiar because it means that Charlie-boy is what’s called a “Blue Lifer”: he isn’t good enough for Heaven, but he also isn’t bad enough for Hell. Peter explains that this means Charles gets a second chance to steer the course of his life. However he isn’t as helpful with the fact that this means Charlie will have to live on Earth in the same time as his younger teenage self and that he’ll be on his own. Peter can watch but he can’t interact and nobody can see him, a bit like a heavily concentrated version of Quantum Leap.
Charles-the-younger and his family are obviously freaked out when a random guy appears in their house but as sit-com fortune would have it, Mom is renting a room out for some helpful additional income. It looks like Charles is covered for now, but how will he manage teaching his younger self right from wrong while not giving up the ghost?
Shangri La Plaza, 1990
Now we move on to the neutron star that is Shangri La Plaza. I doubt that you will find a more highly condensed version of 1990 television than this; nothing is impossible, only improbable but I can’t think of anything else off the top of my head. The theme song alone feels like enough for you to hop into a DeLorean and skip ahead to at least 1994 without feeling like you missed anything major.
The show was supposed to be a comedy that centered on the daily struggles of several businesses and the owners, employees, and customers within the titular strip mall. Also, it’s a musical. You know when TV shows will occasionally throw in a musical episode for a goof or change of pace? Now take that idea and use it to support an entire series. 1990 was wacky but this idea must have seemed just a little over the bar. The odd thing is that the more time I spend with it, the more I think there’s a really vague memory of this show in my head. I was six years old in 1990 though so I don’t know how much of that feeling is trustworthy and how much is retroactive implantation.
Shangri La Plaza is a whirlwind of musical, dancing insanity so I’ll give you the most important parts. Ira and George Bondo run the Garage in the Plaza and are pretty standard comedy brothers. Amy Copeland has just inherited the Donut King shop and brought her daughter Jenny with her to scope out the new business. Ira and George both fall for Amy the moment they see her and flub every attempt to talk to her that they can get.
This was the only pilot featured that didn’t have background laughter of any kind. That would make sense since there’s a lot of singing and dancing going on and the humor works just fine by itself. When I initially watched Shangri La Plaza I thought it was at best an interesting relic from a past decade, but after going over it again I think that my younger self would have really liked this as a series.
Failed TV Pilots 2 ended with Clerks. Not the decent but short-lived animated series, the live-action show adapted from Kevin Smith’s film. Smith was working on production for Mallrats at the time and had nothing to do with it. You’re probably familiar with a few instances of adaptations of popular things that didn’t involve anybody from the original. Here are some facts about this show before you watch it:
- Brian O’Halloran and Jeff Anderson both auditioned to reprise their roles on the show and were both turned down. According to IMDb, “After they saw this result, both were glad they never got the part.“
- For the record, Smith disowned this because it sucks ass.
Dante and Randall are pretty much the same characters from the movie, they just aren’t funny because canned laughter is needed after every joke. I have always found canned laughter to be fucking terrible because if I don’t find a particular joke funny and it plays immediately after that impression, the odds of me finding the next joke funny instinctively drop. Clerks is nearly a full run of back-to-back jokes with back-to-back canned laughter so by the time the episode is five minutes deep, odds of me laughing on purpose fall into the negative.
So we’re still following the trials of Dante and Randal, only now they work at the “Rose Market” and “Movies & More”. Dante still wants to make something of his life but has the additional pain of putting up with his disappointed Dad who is always trying to get him work at an office or some other such place that Dante doesn’t have any interest in. Meanwhile Randal has gone from a snide, pessimistic, jaded store clerk to a hyperactive goofball who pesters customers not because he’s done dealing with their bullshit, but because it’s “funny”.
Veronica returns in more or less the same form but lacks the bitchy edge that originally gave her character so much flair. She’s there to act as the catalyst for every stupid decision the two will make throughout the entire episode. Dante and Randal are also joined by Todd, some guy who works at the ice cream store. Todd spends most of his screen time fucking around at the Rose Market with Randal and getting in Dante’s way.
Then we have “Ray”, the nutty guy who’s always trying to take stuff from the store. He’s JAY. This is their TV-friendly JAY. If you’re going to do some lazy shit like changing the first letter in his name, just make a new character, or better yet don’t even try at all. There’s no Silent Bob equivalent paired with him so he may as well not even be included except for the gag the staff wanted to put in the ending credits.
As far as plot goes, Clerks is pretty standard “Guy is worried that girlfriend is interested in other guy, friends plan something stupid, hilarity ensues” sitcom material. By itself it probably could have worked but definitely not under the Clerks name that Touchstone Television slapped onto it. When you take a film that has such a strong cult following, strain everything that people liked about it and then pour the remaining Great Value Weaksauce into a time slot, it’s no wonder at all that this series didn’t catch on.
That wraps up episode two of Failed TV Pilots. We got to see the meta idea of Adam West playing a “has-been”, had a look into how the afterlife does or doesn’t work, took a trip back to a singular moment in 1990 when everything was aqua and pink, and ended things off with something from the discount bin because hey, it was only a buck. Join in the fun over on B-Movie TV and come join in the fun on the live chats over on Facebook! So until the next foray into lost and forgotten TV, this has been Failed TV Pilots 2, brought to you by Joey V Presents.