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Pilot Lost! 3 TV Show Ideas That Were Abandoned, And Then Picked Back Up Years Later

December 22, 2014

The stories of how three current TV shows were cancelled before they aired. We can explain.


Fargo TV ShowIn 1996, Joel and Ethan Coen’s comic-laced, Midwestern crime drama Fargo won two Academy Awards, one for the Coens for Best Original Screenplay and one for Frances McDormand for Best Actress. In 1997 CBS commissioned a pilot for a TV version. Marge Gunderson – McDormand in the film, Edie Falco in the show, years before she won Emmys for The Sopranos and Nurse Jackie – is still quite pregnant and still solving murders. It maintained the original’s quirky flavor, but CBS did not order the pilot to series. In 2014, FX aired a miniseries called Fargo. Produced by the Coens and written by veteran TV writer Noah Hawley, it takes place in the same Minnesota locales as the movie, but is set in 2006, about 20 years after the events of the first film. Critically acclaimed, it won Best Miniseries at the Emmys last fall. A second season, set in 1979, is in production.


When NBC announced the comedy pilots that were in contention for fall 2013, TV reporters thought Mulaney was a shoe-in. It starred popular standup comic and SNL writer/performer John Mulaney, SNL star Nasim Pedrad, as well as Martin Short and Elliot Gould in supporting roles. It was surprisingly not picked up by NBC, however, but just a few days later, Fox announced that it would take on Mulaney, and set it for a fall 2014 debut. Fox changed very little, allowing it to buck the single-camera trend and go multi-camera with a laugh track. The show debuted to less than three million viewers; Fox cut the show’s season from 18 episodes to 13 and ended production.

About a Boy

In 2002, Hugh Grant starred in the indie film About a Boy. Based on the Nick Hornby bestseller about an immature playboy who finds meaning in his life when he becomes a mentor to an awkward teenager, Fox thought that About a Boy was a premise that could work week after week. But it didn’t – in 2003, only a pilot episode, starring a pre-Grey’s Anatomy Patrick Dempsey in the Grant role, was filmed. Ten years later, NBC revived the idea, switching the locale from London to Los Angeles, and casting David Wilton in the lead. It’s currently in its second season.

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