Backdoor Pilots

Would the Simpson’s shorts in The Tracy Ullman Show count?

Jack Webb tried it with Mark Harmon on an episode of “Emergency”–“905-WILD” was an animal control group. It totally sucked.

Private Practice started as a two-part episode of Grey’s Anatomy. When it became a real series, the actress who played Naomi changed.

Happy Days itself was a sort of a backdoor pilot. It was filmed as a regular pilot. Got passed on, it was turned into a segment of Love American Style which attracted interest and the show got picked up.

An anti-backdoor pilot is The Bionic Woman. Jaime died in her Six Million Dollar Man segment. But having a dead lead character never stopped a network.

He also did it on Adam-12, “Clinic on 18th Street”. It, too, wasn’t very good.

Magnum PI had at least two: “J Digger Doyle” and “Birds of a Feather”.

CHiPS had one with Fred Dryer that was horrible called “Force Seven”. You know the fake pilot that was a plot point in Pulp Fiction, “Fox Force Five”? Well, this one was worse, and it was real.

Near the end of its run, Green Acres had an episode where Oliver and Lisa go for a romantic vacation at a tropical resort (might have been Hawaii.) They disappeared and the rest of the episode centered around the wacky misadventures of the hotel manager and his daughter.

Ahh, checking IMDB shows not only that episode, but another backdoor pilot with Oliver’s ex-secretary and her new boss.

NCIS was a backdoor pilot itself. It was originally introduced on an episode of JAG.

NCIS: LA, NCIS: Red, and NCIS: NO were all introduced as backdoor pilots on NCIS.

They did an INCREDIBLE HULK episode where Bill Bixby studied meditative kung-fu, which didn’t help him control the raging spirit that dwells within him – but was great stuff for young private eye Rick Springfield, using his (a) Chinatown connections to crack cases that baffle the cops, and his (b) martial artistry to foil assailants.

Does Doctor Who / Torchwood count?

“Happy Days” got no interest until after “American Graffiti” became a hit. Well, that and “Grease” becoming a popular play. “Love, American Style” was a graveyard for pilots that didn’t get picked up.

Yes, these were all spin-offs, not backdoor pilots. *Maude *itself was a backdoor pilot episode of All in the Family. Bea Arthur first played the character in a regular episode of AITF were she takes care of the sick Bunkers. The character proved very popular (it contains one of Archie’s funniest monologs) so later they did do a backdoor pilot episode that takes place mostly on the new ‘Maude’ set but it was still an AITF episode (Maude is Edith’s cousin so she & Archie come to Maude’s daughter’s wedding). It also proved popular enough that the series was picked up. BTW, a different actress, not Adrienne Barbeau, played Maude’s daughter in that episode.

But neither The Jeffersons nor Good Times had backdoor pilots. In fact, while the spin-off premise for The Jeffersons was perfectly believable, it made little sense how Esther Rolle’s Maude character ‘Florida’ could have gone from being a maid in an upscale Westchester NY home to suddenly having a big family & living in poverty in the Chicago projects! (the 70s were a simpler time :D)

Mork & Mindy in particular was not a backdoor pilot. In the original *Happy Days *episode featuring Robin Williams as Mork it was established at the end that the whole thing was Richie’s dream. But Williams’ character was so popular ABC green lit him a sitcom based on it. So right before the premiere of M&M they reran that episode of Happy Days only this time they had filmed & added a new, tacked-on ending. Robin Williams is shown alone outside the Cunningham’s house where he does some Mork schtick and says how he in fact erased Richie’s memory, then he time travels ahead to the present day (the late 70s).

Same for Laverne & Shirley. The two of them were a little ‘rough’ around the edges in their* Happy Days* introduction where they double date Richie & Fonzie. They actually get into an off-camera cat fight over a joke Laverne makes. Shirley was especially more blue-collar like Laverne. When they got their own show the creator, Garry Marshall, essentially made it a female *Odd Couple *(also his show) so Shirley was made into a female ‘Felix’…

A few weeks ago TNT ran an episode of Supernatural that I’m positive was a backdoor pilot (I didn’t know the exact term until this thread).

Yeah, Googling “Supernatural backdoor pilot” Wikipedia confirms that the episode Bloodlines was a backdoor pilot.

Yes, they were the last 2 episodes of Green Acres to boot.

And it was horrible.

I totally agree.

Nope, that was just your garden variety spin-off. The Doctor Who episodes are proper, regular episodes of Doctor Who (if rather important, as the season finale), rather than being a test-run of a Torchwood episode. And they hadn’t come up with the concept for the spin-off when those episodes of Doctor Who were written.

Didn’t Cheers do a backdoor pilot for The Tortellis? I don’t remember for sure, but I do remember a bunch of episodes focused on them.

What about the “Wojo’s Girl” episodes of “Barney Miller”?

Gomer Pyle USMC began with a backdoor pilot on the Andy Griffith Show. The backdoor pilot episode centers on Gomer Pyle joining the Marines, and Andy Griffith just pops up a few times to remind us that this is still the Andy Griffith Show.

Who’s the Boss? had two backdoor pilots, one of which made it to its own series, the other didn’t.

The more successful one was Living Dolls, which starred Michael Learned, Leah Remini and Halle Berry (!). The other one was to be called Charmed Lives, with Fran Drescher and Donna Dixon, but was never spun off at all.

Charles in Charge had at least one–a show about a car wash run by Charles’ mom (played by John Travolta’s mom? Sister?) Charles showed up at the beginning and then at the end of the episode.