‘Dot Comedy’ hosts Jason and Randy Sklar – Photo: ABC
For any new show to properly get off the ground, they must have a pilot that not only entices audiences to give it a viewing, but also feature some kind of plot or content to draw viewers in for future weeks. While the vast majority of shows make it through the first couple of weeks before any bad news hits, there are some rare instances in which a show gets hit with the big axe after only one aired episode. With the recent post-pilot cancellation of ESPN’s Barstool Van Talk, a televised adaptation of the hit sports blog “Barstool Sports,” let’s take a look back at other shows who have seen the end prematurely.
You know you’re in trouble when your show can’t even finish its first episode before being pulled off the air, and ABC’s Turn-On is the first and one of the only series to suffer this fate. An attempt at a risque sketch series, the show received major backlash from broadcast officials and network sponsors who found the content to be offensive and crude, with many stations not returning to it after its first commercial break or refusing to air it at all.
Fun and Fortune
Before he became a host on the long-running news series, Today on NBC, Jack Lescoulie was well-renowned for his more comedic work on television, often working with star comedian Jackie Gleason, and one of his earliest shots at the small screen was hosting the game show Fun and Fortune, in which contestants must try and guess an item behind a curtain based on four clues. Unfortunately, the show was not picked up past its first episode and resulted in a flop.
In seeking to replace a cancelled show amidst controversy over a blacklisted actor, CBS picked up a new game show in 1951 titled Who’s Whose, in which a panel of regular celebrity guests would interview a group of three men and three women and must determine who is married to who. However, the show proved to be a major flop for the network, receiving widespread negative reviews from critics and viewers and immediately being replaced by another panel quiz series.
The Melting Pot
Though the BBC is normally associated with pure quality television, there have been a few exceptions, and the 1975 sitcom The Melting Pot was one of their most notable failures. Set around a group of illegal Asian immigrants and their journey to live in England, the series was shut down by the network for its racially insensitive content, leaving the remaining six episodes unaired in their vault.
After the widespread success of the ’78 college comedy National Lampoon’s Animal House, everyone was trying to capitalize it in numerous ways, whether it be the spin-off series Delta House or the cult franchise Porky’s, but of all the inspired follow-ups, none failed more than CBS sitcom Co-Ed Fever. Set on a previously all-female college campus that announces their shift to co-ed, the series received terrible reviews and was a flop in the ratings, leaving its remaining five episodes unaired in the US, while they were aired in Canada.
Heil Honey I’m Home!
It’s been widely regarded as one of the most tasteless and offensive pilots to ever air on television, and thus was cancelled quickly after its first episode debuted. Heil Honey I’m Home! was a sitcom following Adolf Hitler — yes, that Adolf Hitler — and his wife Eva Braun and their lives as a married couple, attempting to spoof other American sitcoms of similar nature, including I Love Lucy.
South of Sunset
It’s not unusual when a musician tries their hand in the acting business, and while the results are still decidedly in the middle as to how well they deliver, one of the worst instances of this is the detective drama South of Sunset, starring former Eagles founder, Glenn Frey, who passed away early 2016. Following a former movie studio chief of security who opens a private detective agency, the show received major attention for not delivering advance copies of the pilot to critics and production delays, and after disappointing reviews and horrible ratings, CBS decided to pull the plug right away.
Though finding recent success in the genre with his role as Harvey Bullock on Fox’s prequel adaptation Gotham, Donal Logue has had a rough time in the detective genre, landing parts in multiple well-reviewed yet short-lived series, including Terriers and Life, but it all started with the ’96 flop Public Morals. The series followed a group of detectives in a city’s vice squad, and due to poor reviews and low ratings, CBS decided to pass on airing the rest of the series.
Athletes acting has become a popular trend since the turn of the millennia with stars ranging from the NBA to WWE, and one of the earliest instances was 1997’s Lawless, which starred former Seattle Seahawks Linebacker as an ex-Special Forces private detective operating out of South Beach Miami. The pilot was so poorly received that Fox cancelled the series before even picking it up for further episodes.
While shows like Tosh.0 have made internet antics on TV popular, it was not the first attempt to do so, with ABC’s Dot Comedy attempting to bring the online humor to small screen viewers early in 2000. Sadly, the pilot was a ratings disaster and earned the early axe from the network.
Comedy is one of the most popular genres for modern audiences who love a distraction from the craziness we call Earth, but the last place you’d expect a comedy-driven series is on Animal Planet, a family-friendly network seeking to inform viewers on the creatures they share the planet with and used to share it with. That didn’t stop network execs from trying to change it up with Comedians Unleashed, a series set around comedians making animal-themed jokes, but it turned out to fall flat.
Reality TV competition shows are difficult to get off the ground and keep running, audiences either losing interest or not finding the concept interesting at all. However, most of these shows will a least make it to a second week, but The Will was not so lucky. The series followed a multi-millionaire whose prized possession Kansas ranch will go to one of test contestants made up of his closest friends and family members. Premiering to dismal ratings, CBS’ lowest-ranked of the week at the time, it was quickly cancelled and replaced by a rerun of crime drama Cold Case the next week.
Emily’s Reasons Why Not
The late ’90s to early ’00s proved to be very successful for actress Heather Graham with roles in a number of comedic hits ranging from Austin Powers to Boogie Nights, but in her first solo leading role in Emily’s Reasons Why Not, it turned out to disappoint. Following a self-help book author struggling in her romantic life who decides if she can come up with five reasons to break up with a guy she will, the pilot did a decent job in the ratings, but due to negative reception from critics and viewers and due to ABC execs considering the series unlikely to improve, it had its plug pulled after only one episode.
The Rich List
Wednesday night is one of the most highly contested primetime slots for a network program, and if the numbers aren’t seen in a pilot, it will certainly spell doom for its future. Fox’s short-lived game show, The Rich List, is a prime example of this. Two teams of two are split up into isolated soundproof chambers in which they are given a category and must come up with a list of as many items from that category, and whichever team finished two lists first, they won. The series earned terrible ratings and was cancelled after one episode, but was revived by Game Show Network, which only lasted one season.
The Debbie King Show
While most shows are cancelled by the network due to poor ratings or poor reviews, The Debbie King Show suffered its unfortunate fate from the rare occasion in which the network itself had its plug pulled. The UK cable network ITV Play was highly controversial for requiring viewers to pay to call in for participation on its live shows, and the King Show was one of its unfortunate victims due to zero publicity being made for the series ahead of time and the networks shut down.
When an internet show can reach such a height of popularity that networks look to bring it to primetime, the creators have definitely done something right, and Quarterlife was one of the earliest examples of this transition. However, it was also one of the earliest examples of a transition failing, as its abysmal ratings among both its adult and target teen audiences earned it the one-episode cancellation, with its remaining five episodes being broadcast on NBC’s sibling network, Bravo.
Secret Talents of the Stars
As fans of stars ranging from acting to singing, we all wonder what they’re like behind the scenes and if they have any other talents aside from the ones we’ve come to love them for. CBS’ 2008 game show, Secret Talents of the Stars, sought to shine the spotlight on some of these hidden skills various stars have, but sadly, audiences were not as enticed to watch the concept play out on screen than they were to just fantasize and read about them, resulting in poor ratings and a swift cancellation.
Ozzy and the rest of the colorful Osbourne family have been a point of fascination for American audiences for years in various reality shows and talk shows, but when they tried to turn their bizarre antics into a variety SNL-esque series entitled Osbournes Reloaded, it showed them at their lowest. Debuting in 2009, the series was universally panned by critics, and with at least 26 Fox affiliates preempting the pilot, it was clear its cancellation was justified.
While many might not pay attention to the television from our neighbors in the north, one Canadian series has our attention for falling fate to what many of our shows have: Ford Nation. Starring former Toronto mayor Rob Ford and his brother/City Councillor Doug Ford, Jr., the series was set up as a discussion series for the brothers and Toronto politicians to talk unfiltered on their feelings of the politics as well as lifestyle topics including hockey predictions. Due to a lack of advertiser investment from controversial politician involvement and high production costs, the series was cancelled after one episode.
Mark Wahlberg’s ventures into television production has been very successful, helping bring hits including Entourage and Ballers to audiences, but his first work with cable network A&E proved to be a failure. Breaking Boston was a reality series following four different women in the Massachusetts town working towards changing their lives. While the remaining seven episodes were later aired on Hulu and the network’s website, it’s pilot only drew in 311,000 viewers, resulting in its cancellation.
No matter where you go, whether state, country or continent, everyone loves to watch public pranks and magic tricks, especially those involving hypnosis, so a series revolving around a hypnotist pranking the public with his powers should be a hit, right? Wrong. The Australian series, Mesmerised, followed hypnotist Peter Powers across the outback as he amused various public crowds with his talents, but due to low ratings, its Australian network pulled the series from its scheduling and left its remaining five episodes unaired.
Host the Week
For those looking to break into the comedy genre, whether it be film or television, improvisational comedy is one of the most respected forms, as the best improv performers are smart in keeping the comedy both brisk and hysterical. While shows such as Whose Line Is It Anyway? have been big hits, there are a few examples of improv comedy television gone wrong, and Host the Week is a prime example. The series would follow a troupe of improv performers and a guest host as they would announce categories for scenes before breaking out into sketches without rehearsal or scripts, but with the ratings showing more than a 60% drop in ratings for its timeslot, future episodes were scrapped.