Before making it to TV, a few of your favorite comedies underwent some changes. If they hadn’t, who knows if some of these popular shows would have survived their first season?
The unaired pilots for the comedy shows listed below weren’t polished enough to make it to TV, but they provided the blueprints for some of the small screen’s most entertaining series.
1. “The Big Bang Theory”
This is one of the biggest success stories to come from a pilot that wasn’t very promising. Instead of starting with a big bang, CBS’s mega hit began with a depressing whimper. In this version of “The Big Bang Theory” pilot, Penny’s nerdy neighbors live in a dark, cave-like apartment that resembles the file room basement of an office building. Leonard and Sheldon’s only friend is a female geek named Gilda (Iris Bahr) who appears to be an early Leslie Winkler prototype. There is no Raj and Howard bromance in this alternate universe, and Penny never moves in across the hall.
Instead the female lead is Katie (Amanda Walsh), a homeless party girl Leonard and Sheldon meet on the street. Katie is just as pretty as Penny and her love life is just as messy, but she’s a bit too mean and negative to be likeable.
One of the biggest differences between the series and the unaired pilot is the portrayal of Sheldon. The asexual theoretical physicist originally had a fetish for big butts, and he actually admits to looking at a dirty magazine when he and Leonard visit a sperm bank. The guys still visit the sperm bank in the series’ first episode, but they leave before making a deposit. Sheldon might understand sex in the unaired “The Big Bang Theory” pilot, but he still doesn’t understand sarcasm.
2. “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”
This is another comedy that replaced its female lead. According to Movieline, Jordan Reid was the first Sweet Dee. She was dating co-creator Rob McElhenney, and this relationship probably played a part in her exit from the cast. She and McElhenney started having relationship troubles around the time negotiations with FX started, and Reid was eventually cut from the show. FX allegedly told her that she was “too pretty” for the Sweet Dee role and replaced her with Kaitlin Olson, who later married McElhenney.
Sweet Dee’s casting wasn’t the only big difference between the unaired pilot and the final product. According to Uproxx, the show was originally set in L.A., and the four leads played struggling actors instead of bartenders. The plot of the unaired pilot is about Glenn (Howerton originally went by his real name) trying to wriggle out of listening to Charlie talk about how he might have cancer. This plot was later recycled for the episode “Charlie has Cancer,” and, luckily for us, Howerton’s character remained just as horrible.
3. “Family Guy”
The unaired “Family Guy” pilot is just seven minutes long. Peter wears different glasses, Lois is blonde, Meg and Stewie dress differently, and Chris has a deep, dumb jock voice. Cleveland Brown also sounds much different in the pilot, and Quagmire’s creepster voice can be heard coming out of a beefy guy who looks nothing like the oversexed airplane pilot we know today.
The first episode of “Family Guy” has the same plot as the unaired pilot: Peter goes to a stag party, gets drunk, and ends up losing his job. It also features most of the same dialogue, jokes, and cutaway gags. The pilot introduces Stewie as the matricide-obsessed maniac that audiences first fell in love with, and Meg hasn’t yet been turned into the family punching bag. Ah, those were the days.
4. “American Dad!”
Seth McFarlane’s follow-up to “Family Guy” also charmed FOX execs, but apparently they weren’t fans of the original Steve Smith. The early version of the nerd has a long, scrawny chicken neck and a voice like Jerry Lewis’ “Nutty Professor” character. He really stands out in the unaired pilot because the other characters pretty much remain unchanged in the first episode.
The only other big difference between the unaired pilot and the first episode is the use of Frank Sinatra’s “You’re a Lucky Fellow, Mr. Smith” for the pilot’s theme song.
5. “South Park”
The unaired “South Park” pilot is the only one listed here that actually has more footage than the series premiere. The most notable extra scene shows Cartman’s mother serving dinner. Cartman is only child with a single mom, but he has a sister and a father in the unaired pilot. It’s a good thing these characters were cut – the identity of Cartman’s father later becomes one of the series’ most shocking twists.
Are you glad that your favorite funny TV series didn’t officially start with these pilots or do you prefer these former stories to the ones we know?
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Photo: Joey L./ FX
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