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Your favorite shows that had terrible pilots

post #1 of 40
Thread Starter 

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is one of my top 5 comedies ever, but it didn't get its famous darkness until Charlie Has Cancer and didn't get legendary until Frank showed up and Dee was just as fucked up as the guys in season 2. Season 1 had too much of the writers trying to make Dee crazy but still more sensible than the guys, but the pilot is truly awful. The jokes fall flat and the cast doesn't gel well. I started watching in the third season when I heard the hype and loved it, I might have stopped had I been there for the pilot.

 

The best pilot for a show that pooped the bed (Sunny joke) for me was Lost. That thing was tense. Fantastic revelation at the end with the great "Guys...where are we?"

post #2 of 40

Parks and Recreation's entire first season was lousy, pilot included. The show has gotten spectacular, of course.

 

The Office had a similar problem (though the rest of its first season is a bit better), though it's had an unrelated problem of going past its prime and I don't even watch it anymore, let alone call it a favorite.

 

We could probably fill a whole other thread with shows that started out promising and shat the bed later on. Heroes is definitely there.

post #3 of 40

I just got into Parks and Recreation, and I'm baffled by the hate the first season gets, especially around here. Sure, it didn't get truly hilarious until S2, but it was amusing, and all the show's other virtues--a generally upbeat perspective and lovable, well-realized characters--were right there from the beginning. In particular, the complaint I hear a lot, that Leslie was a Michael Scott clone at first, is bullshit. She was a sunny, ultracompetent workaholic right from the get-go.

 

You know what isn't very good? The first hour or so of the miniseries "pilot" that launched the modern Battlestar Galactica. In fact I'd argue that the show doesn't really get good until the first episode of the ongoing series, "33". The miniseries improves a lot as it goes on, but it's not surprising to me that a lot of people wrote that show off at first.
 

post #4 of 40

The entire short first season of SEINFELD is a pale shadow of the greatness that it becomes.  

post #5 of 40

"Spartacus" wins the thread.   If I didn't read elsewhere that it got awesome later on in the season, I probably would have stopped there.   The pilot is amazingly bad with fake blood, horrible green screen effects and a generally trashy look.  It never got not trashy but boy did it improve into a genuinely awesome show.

post #6 of 40

In general, sitcoms have bad pilots, because they tend to be low concept and built entirely around chemistry that it takes time to build up and write toward.  Dramas are much more likely to have a great pilot with a killer hook that they then struggle to deliver on.

post #7 of 40

Goddamn, Schwartz! Was just going to post the EXACT SAME SENTIMENT. And, to add as proof, the fact that the 30 Rock pilot is borderline terrible.

post #8 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Prankster View Post

You know what isn't very good? The first hour or so of the miniseries "pilot" that launched the modern Battlestar Galactica. In fact I'd argue that the show doesn't really get good until the first episode of the ongoing series, "33". The miniseries improves a lot as it goes on, but it's not surprising to me that a lot of people wrote that show off at first.

 

I'll agree with that somewhat.  I do think "33" serves as a better hook into the series for newcomers.  That said, it was that first hour that initially got me intrigued in the series.  I loved that they took their time to build the world before blowing it all to hell.  This is not nostalgia talking.  I watched live in 2003 (jesus, almost ten years ago) and it's what got me to tune back in a year later.  My only qualm with the miniseries is the ragnar anchorage stuff.  That just feels particularly TV movie to me, and kills the momentum.

 

Anyways, back on topic... I don't think the pilot to New Girl was particularly strong.  I recall checking it out, and basically writing the show off.  It was only the good word of mouth that got me to give it a second look later in the season.

post #9 of 40

STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION.

 

That first episode, 'Encounter at Farpoint', is tedious as hell.  Most of the first season of the show is a slog to get through, but that first episode is a real chore.  I think most people watching the show at the beginning did so out of some sort of obligation to STAR TREK...that was certainly the case for me and for my friends.  Thank God they found their footing quickly.

post #10 of 40
Spartacus: Blood and Sand and the 2005 reboot of Doctor Who jump to mind with overzealous "Pick me! Pick me!" shouting.
post #11 of 40

Babylon 5. While I don't think the pilot was terrible, it was pretty campy.

post #12 of 40

The Simpsons' first season is almost as unwatchable as it's past 10. Then they turned the focus on Homer & everything was gold.

 

Newsradio's first season largely sucked but it's second kicked it off into the stratosphere.

 

The first few eps of Northern Exposure were pretty obnoxious too. Then it got great with the classic "Aurora Borealis" ep.

post #13 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Art Decade View Post

Newsradio's first season largely sucked but it's second kicked it off into the stratosphere.

 

I'd say Newsradio got good with "Smoking," which was the third episode. Admittedly, that was probably it for the first season, but there were only 7 episodes.

post #14 of 40

For me, Newsradio started getting good with "The Cane" episode. Cracks me up just thinking about it.

post #15 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Art Decade View Post

For me, Newsradio started getting good with "The Cane" episode. Cracks me up just thinking about it.

 

Great episode, no question. With a really surreal ending.

post #16 of 40

For me it's Spartacus my favorite.

post #17 of 40
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Prankster View Post

I just got into Parks and Recreation, and I'm baffled by the hate the first season gets, especially around here. Sure, it didn't get truly hilarious until S2, but it was amusing, and all the show's other virtues--a generally upbeat perspective and lovable, well-realized characters--were right there from the beginning. In particular, the complaint I hear a lot, that Leslie was a Michael Scott clone at first, is bullshit. She was a sunny, ultracompetent workaholic right from the get-go.

 

You know what isn't very good? The first hour or so of the miniseries "pilot" that launched the modern Battlestar Galactica. In fact I'd argue that the show doesn't really get good until the first episode of the ongoing series, "33". The miniseries improves a lot as it goes on, but it's not surprising to me that a lot of people wrote that show off at first.
 


Yeah, but the other workers in City Hall could barely stand her. Tom and Donna's disdain, for example, was directed at Leslie at first and not Jerry. Hell, Jerry was mostly just a background face before we started finding out how awesome his private life is.  It was season two before the writers straightened it out and they all admired her spirit and work ethic and the rest of the characters were fleshed out.

 

Andy and April were also a lot less lovable in that first season too. Season 2 really turned things around and made it the best comedy on TV.

post #18 of 40

Yeah, Leslie was a total Michael Scott.  She openly mugged at the camera for validation and I definitely recall her talking herself up without much to back it up at that point. 

 

Also, it had the awful character of Mark Brandanowicz, who failed to become interesting even after a hard reset to his character.  Huzzah for dropping that dead weight!

 

The tone of the first season also felt more beholden to The Office.

 

I've rewatched the series a few times, but I NEVER revisit the first season.  And it's only 6 episodes!

post #19 of 40

Leslie's always had an arrogant streak, or perhaps "delusionally self-determined" would be a better term--except that it's been less and less "delusional" as the years have gone on and she's actually achieved her goal of political office. That's not a significant change to the character. Likewise, she was clearly competent right from the start--in the episode where they all show up for Ron's hunting trip, for instance, it's clear Leslie actually knows how to hunt (it's Tom who screws up and lets Leslie take the blame) and her warm relationship with Ron is definitely in place right at the beginning. And isn't it a first-season episode where they have to fill in for Leslie and it turns out she does a superhuman amount of work and Ron and the others end up flipping out?

 

I very specifically remember liking the first season because the writers seemed like they actually liked the characters, and they were essentially good at their jobs. Tom, too, was an effective schmoozer right from the start, and the whole "Ron Swanson is a feminist" thing was spelled out very plainly in "The Banquet".

 

I'm not arguing that S2 wasn't a big step forward, and that the characters didn't shift a little, but it was never a bad show, and the characters really didn't do the 180 everyone seems to think they did.

post #20 of 40

Oh, they were definitely starting to build to what would become Season 2 within Season 1.

 

I should point out that I watched the premiere episode when it first came out and didn't bother continuing with it based upon what I saw.  It wasn't until the 2nd to 3rd season was well under way that people here really called the show out for really improving.  So I hopped back on.

 

So my opinion of the 1st season is really towards the pilot.

 

So I will concede!  Hehehe

 

I STILL WON'T REVISIT SEASON 1.

post #21 of 40

FUTURAMA had a pretty weak pilot too, it might not have been terrible but the characters were still being figured out and it was in no way a sign of the amazingness (is that a word?) that was to follow.

 

FRINGE had an awful first half-season, it was nothing but weak retreads of X-Files stuff and almost put me off the show for good. Glad I stuck with it though, since it's become the best genre show on TV.

post #22 of 40

The only gag that worked for me very well in the first Futurama episode was Bender literally shitting a brick.

Farnsworth has a case of early Simpsons Mr. Burns as well, and sounded pretty much totally different than he does now.

post #23 of 40

ANGEL had a pretty terrible pilot, especially for a show that should've hit the ground running with its cjaracters and premise already set up on Buffy. But one lame, "Angel's gonna save the damsel in distress... WITH EXPOSITION" story, and I was worried. It wasn't until near the end of season 1 that it started to find its footing.

post #24 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Judas Booth View Post

STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION.

 

That first episode, 'Encounter at Farpoint', is tedious as hell.  Most of the first season of the show is a slog to get through, but that first episode is a real chore.  I think most people watching the show at the beginning did so out of some sort of obligation to STAR TREK...that was certainly the case for me and for my friends.  Thank God they found their footing quickly.

Because first-fun STTNG played on two of the 12 stations we picked up, it seemed like "Encounter at Farpoint" was the eight-o'clock movie about twelve times over two weeks.  And god, was it awful.  It's not like the show got better during the first season.  I didn't start watching the show until 5:00 re-runs started showing up years later.

post #25 of 40

Agree on Angel, Futurama however did get me on the first episode.  I don't know something about the cast got me hooked from day one.

 

Friends had a pretty crappy first episode. The one they filmed later in the series where Joey moves in would have been way better.

 

And yes, I like Friends, big deal.

post #26 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Prankster View Post

Leslie's always had an arrogant streak, or perhaps "delusionally self-determined" would be a better term--except that it's been less and less "delusional" as the years have gone on and she's actually achieved her goal of political office. That's not a significant change to the character. Likewise, she was clearly competent right from the start--in the episode where they all show up for Ron's hunting trip, for instance, it's clear Leslie actually knows how to hunt (it's Tom who screws up and lets Leslie take the blame) and her warm relationship with Ron is definitely in place right at the beginning. And isn't it a first-season episode where they have to fill in for Leslie and it turns out she does a superhuman amount of work and Ron and the others end up flipping out?

 

 

Both of those examples are from the second season.
 
Leslie was initially conceived of as more obnoxious and ridiculous (which Mike Schur is very upfront about).  By episode 6/first season finale, they're starting to turn things around.  The biggest changes I recall are ditching Leslie's obsession with Mark and making Andy more of a sweet doofus than a cad.  6 episodes is not an unusual amount of time for a sitcom to take to figure itself out.  Honestly, there doesn't seem to be much point in listing sitcoms, because it's so much easier to name the few that had pilots that felt fully-formed (Arrested Development, Community,...Cheers?).
post #27 of 40
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Evi View Post

FUTURAMA had a pretty weak pilot too, it might not have been terrible but the characters were still being figured out and it was in no way a sign of the amazingness (is that a word?) that was to follow.

 

FRINGE had an awful first half-season, it was nothing but weak retreads of X-Files stuff and almost put me off the show for good. Glad I stuck with it though, since it's become the best genre show on TV.


Disagree on Futurama. It's not a comedy classic or anything, but it introduces the world and characters really well and moves like a bullet.

post #28 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by dynamotv View Post

"Spartacus" wins the thread.   If I didn't read elsewhere that it got awesome later on in the season, I probably would have stopped there.   The pilot is amazingly bad with fake blood, horrible green screen effects and a generally trashy look.  It never got not trashy but boy did it improve into a genuinely awesome show.

 

Spartacus was essentially a horrible 4-5 first episodes though.  I remember being embarrassed that I was watching the thing, and about episode 5 it turned a corner.  I got a friend into the show and literally had to give him that warning, that he would be embarrassed he was watching it until 5-6 episodes in.  He later thanked me for the warning and said if I hadn't mentioned it he would have quit after episode 3.

post #29 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Schwartz View Post

Both of those examples are from the second season.

 

You're right (I'd thought "Boy's Club" was the hunting episode), but I still say Leslie wasn't a complete buffoon in S1. She was clearly played as dumber or more oblivious, but her occasional obnoxiousness remains to this day. She was like a less calculating Tracey Flick. And remember that the premise of the first season is that Ann was cynical about government and was won over by Leslie.


Eh, whatever, I personally was charmed by the show in S1. I thought it was a big-hearted show even then. YMMV, I guess.

post #30 of 40

How about the opposite, crappy shows that had good pilots?

 

I remember Reaper as an example. I found the pilot to be pretty fun and I liked the comedic timing. 2nd episode was shit and got worse till I stopped watching.

 

Later I realized that Kevin Smith directed the pilot. I know he's very much hated nowadays, but he obviously brought something to the table. Also I think that this show played well to his typical brand's style.

post #31 of 40
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by BoatMan View Post

How about the opposite, crappy shows that had good pilots?

 

I remember Reaper as an example. I found the pilot to be pretty fun and I liked the comedic timing. 2nd episode was shit and got worse till I stopped watching.

 

Later I realized that Kevin Smith directed the pilot. I know he's very much hated nowadays, but he obviously brought something to the table. Also I think that this show played well to his typical brand's style.

Aaron Sorkin's Studio 60 wins this.

 

And while it's not terrible, The Walking Dead pilot is still the best episode of the series.

post #32 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by BoatMan View Post

How about the opposite, crappy shows that had good pilots?

 

 

Why, hello, THE KILLING!

post #33 of 40

Seriously, promise?  I made it about 45 minutes into The Killing.

 

Also, I made it about three episodes into Spartacus, even though I dug the pilot.

 

If I go back to these shows and they keep sucking I'm gonna be sooooo mad at the internet.

post #34 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by WendellEverett View Post

Seriously, promise?  I made it about 45 minutes into The Killing.

 

 

You've seen all you need to see of that show, because that's about where it "peaked."  

post #35 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by WendellEverett View Post

Seriously, promise?  I made it about 45 minutes into The Killing.

 

Also, I made it about three episodes into Spartacus, even though I dug the pilot.

 

If I go back to these shows and they keep sucking I'm gonna be sooooo mad at the internet.

 

No, he's saying that's a crappy show with a good pilot. Except apparently not?

post #36 of 40

Frasier has a pretty solid pilot, though not as good as Cheers'. That show really gets going about midway through its first season, though the entire ensemble cast is delightful from the first minute.

post #37 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Prankster View Post

 

No, he's saying that's a crappy show with a good pilot. Except apparently not?

 

Yes, that's what I was saying.  Decent pilot, dogshit rest of run.

post #38 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by A-Pathetic View Post

 

Spartacus was essentially a horrible 4-5 first episodes though.  I remember being embarrassed that I was watching the thing, and about episode 5 it turned a corner.  I got a friend into the show and literally had to give him that warning, that he would be embarrassed he was watching it until 5-6 episodes in.  He later thanked me for the warning and said if I hadn't mentioned it he would have quit after episode 3.

 

"My word is kept.  They're reunited."  That's the moment Spartacus became great.

post #39 of 40
Angel justified its existence in my eyes in the closing minutes of the first episode, when Angel waltzed into the Wolfram & Hart building and threw a bastard out a window. Between that scene and Cordelia's desperate casting couch audition earlier, it was immediately clear that this spin-off was going to have an identity and a tone all its own.
post #40 of 40
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Reasor View Post

Angel justified its existence in my eyes in the closing minutes of the first episode, when Angel waltzed into the Wolfram & Hart building and threw a bastard out a window. Between that scene and Cordelia's desperate casting couch audition earlier, it was immediately clear that this spin-off was going to have an identity and a tone all its own.


And the great car joke where Angel jumps in the wrong car.

 

I love Angel's pilot. It gets a lot better later, but it's solid.

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