Last night, I went to a very L.A.-style event. From time to time, under the name “The Other Network”, some folks have public viewings of unaired TV pilots that did not get picked up for series.
Now before you assume that the unaired material must be crap, let me correct you. Last night’s event was three pilots from Judd Apatow, who was one of the guys behind the fine, short-lived Freaks and Geeks. And while I can see for each of these shows why someone might have thought that they didn’t absolutely need to go on the air, they were to my taste a fair bit more enjoyable than the vast majority of pilots that are picked up.
Sick in the Head was a comedy about a new shrink, and while the lead role was filled in a genial-but-not-quite-sparky mode, there were excellent supporting turns by Andrea Martin as a well-established radio shrink, Amy Poehler as a patient that has been dropped by a dozen shrinks already, and the always-a-good-sign Austin Pendleton as the lead’s mentor.
Life on Parole was a single camera comedy built around a reluctant parole officer. I’m not sure that there would have been enough range in the material to keep the series going, but the pilot would have made a keen graphic novel on its own.
The final one, North Hollywood, starred the drum-playing freak from Freaks and Geeks, plus Amy Poehler, and had a good turn from Judge Reinhold as himself. It’s built around three roommates on the edges of show biz — a struggling actor, a stand-up comic, and Judge Reinhold’s personal assistant. It felt a bit improvy, and more like an HBO comedy than a network one in texture. Reinhold himself comes in for a nice star turn, and there was some good coordination between the making of the pilot and the filming of Orange County. This would have been a great sitcom if there was such a thing as a “local sitcom”, as the jokes felt well-aimed for those comfortable with the subtleties of the struggle to be an actor but would probably fail for folks in most of the country.
The event was fun. Apatow himself was largely open and charming about the struggles these involved. And I got the cheap celebrity encounter thrill of standing in the ticket line behind one Freak and one Geek.