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Pilot Error

Some TV pilots become the TV shows that become the big engines that drive the network sweeps. Some TV pilots become, well, swept. As in, swept under the carpet, and no wonder.

Did America ever need a sitcom featuring actors dressed in dog suits barking at each other? Or a show about chain letters from Death?

Mercifully, these actual TV show pitches never saw the light of cathode ray. But they still deserve a brief look here, if only to protect future generations of viewers. From Lee Goldberg's book, Unsold TV Pilots, we present a few crashing pilots.

McGurk: (1979) How to make wry observations about the human race? Make them from the vantage point of a dog! In this failed effort, actors dressed up in dog suits and woofed out sitcom one-liners. This, believe it or not, came from TAT Communications, the folks who brought you All In The Family.

Chain Letter: (1989) The Messenger of Death sends out letters of temptation. Uh, Oh. Accept one and you just might wind up in the dead letter office. Luckily, though, Death's nemesis, the benevolent "Miss Smith," will try to steer you away from doom.

Madame Sin: (1972) This show was the best thing that never happened to Bette Davis's career. Here, she plays Madame Sin, an all-powerful dragon lady, who as Unsold TV Pilots describes it, "kidnaps a former C.I.A. agent (Robert Wagner), brainwashes him with a special ray gun, and enlists him in her high-tech global intelligence agency that operates out of her Scottish castle."

Cro-Magnon: (1974) Ever get the feeling The Flintstones sugar-coated the whole "prehistoric thing?" This pilot tried to get to the nitty gritty. Needless to say, The Flintstones remains our caveman show of record. In this pilot, a Cro-Magnon family fights for survival against Neanderthals at the end of the ice age in Europe. Shot in Beaumont, California.
Ethel Is An Elephant: (1980) A baby elephant abandoned by the circus winds up sharing a pad with a New York photographer. Sitcom mayhem ensues.

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