Home > Animated, Comedy, Drama, TV Shows > Bonus Edition of Canned: Two Worthwhile TV Pilots That Didn’t Become Full-fledged Series

Bonus Edition of Canned: Two Worthwhile TV Pilots That Didn’t Become Full-fledged Series

Greetings all, as a little bonus for your weekend I thought I’d share with you a couple more one-and-done series.  However, unlike the last batch, these two pilots have the distinction of, for one reason or another, not making it on the air.  This is pretty unfortunate, as they both happen to be pretty good pilots.  But I know what you’re thinking, if they’re so good, why didn’t they make it to TV?  It’s hard to say really; it seems the networks were about to take a chance and decided to change their minds at the last minute.  So all we’re left with are the introductions to worlds we would never come to know, and questions we would never have answered, even if only a very small percentage of the population is really wondering all that much.

The first of these is a 2006 animated series called The Amazing Screw-On Head, based on the one-shot comic book by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, who was brilliant at combining dark humor and occult intrigue in those comics.  Screw-On Head is certainly more of a straight comedy than the Hellboy series, and is just as fun in its own way.  The plot concerns a strange superhero-type figure called Screw-On Head, whose name describes his principal ability; namely, that he is essentially a head that can screw on to various robotic bodies for different purposes.  He works for none other than Abraham Lincoln (it takes place in the 19th century), solving supernatural cases and protecting America.  The idea is that there are two versions of our country’s history: one that everyone knows and one that involves the occult and the supernatural, which is kept secret.  I think that’s a pretty neat idea, and the way it ties in with the real history is pretty cool too.

Paul Giamatti voices our hero, who along with his trusty manservant Mr. Groin (Patton Oswalt) and dog Mr. Dog, has to stop an evil plot by the villainous Emperor Zombie (a hilarious David Hyde Pierce), an undead nemesis and former manservant of Screw-On Head.  His plan is to resurrect a demigod used to almost take over the world eons ago, and use him for that purpose once again.  He is aided by “two horrible old women and a monkey,” along with Patience, Screw-On Head’s former lover who was kidnapped by Zombie and turned into a vampire.  It all sounds pretty ridiculous, but it’s a lot of fun, and it’s all handled in a very tongue-in-cheek way.  Apparently the show was going to be on the Sci-Fi channel, and they put the pilot up online with a survey asking whether or not the pilot should be made into a series.  I’m not sure if response was too negative or what, but for whatever reason Sci-Fi decided not to produce the series.  It was also executive produced by Bryan Fuller, who is no stranger to short-lived but high quality TV series (his shows Wonderfalls, Dead Like Me, and Pushing Daisies all got cancelled before their time).  Luckily, what was made is available on DVD and on google video, but it really only wets your whistle with the promise of what could have been a great series.


The next of these unfortunate cases came a year later, in the form of a pilot called Babylon Fields.  This show has the curious distinction of having been greenlit by CBS, and then randomly cancelled before airing its pilot.  On paper, the premise might sound kind of silly: the dead rise from the grave, but instead of wanting to eat brains and tear people limb from limb, these zombies simply want to go back to their former lives.  It could’ve been played for laughs, as in “oh jeez, my dead nagging wife is back to bug me again!  What a ridiculous happenstance!”  But instead, the show actually attempted to examine what it would really be like to have dead loved ones and acquaintances back in your life, for good or bad, and how people deal with that.  One woman is overjoyed to have her husband back, another woman and her daughter (Kathy Baker and Amber Tamblyn, respectively) are terrified that their abusive husband/father is back in their lives.  A cop (Ray Stevenson) is both excited and scared to see his dead wife again.  While there were elements of dark humor in it, it actually deals with it in a believable, emotional way that is really interesting.  Some people are outright outraged by the undead uprising, beating and shooting the zombies, which is all the more disturbing since they act like regular people.  It examines the conflicting emotions that would most likely occur if something like that would happen, and does so in an interesting way.  There’s also a French zombie flick called They Came Back from 2004 that has a similar premise, which could’ve been an influence on the show.  It’s an interesting concept, and one that could’ve been mined for some pretty effective pathos.

It’s really a shame this didn’t get made; the pilot sets up the premise and introduces us to the major characters and conflicts well, and ends with a cliffhanger in which one zombie discovers he was murdered and wants to find out who did it.  There was a lot of potential there, but unfortunately CBS was more interested in giving the awful Viva Laughlin a chance to grow (they both came out in the same year, for the same network). CBS dangled the promise of a mid-season pickup of the show, but opted not to do it.  Maybe if Babylon Fields were on a cable network, it could’ve lasted longer.  Luckily the pilot is available to watch on google video as well, and I’d recommend it.


So there’s a couple bonus shows to check out for the weekend, and I hope you stay tuned for our regularly scheduled programming, which will next be an examination of the 90s sci-fi series Earth 2!  I know a while ago I said I’d look at Aliens in America, and I will soon, but the Earth 2 DVDs are borrowed from a friend, so I must watch them and give them back posthaste.

  1. Hannah
    August 16, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    I once watched a many part event on ABC Family (I think) called Samuri Girl, and thought that was extremely invigorating and worthwhile, but sadly never reached the acclaim it deserved. It left off on what could’ve become a Buffy-type series. You might like to check it out.

    It has been a long while since I saw this, I might remember it differently (better/worse) than it is.

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