6 failed TV pilots from 1966 that featured familiar faces

By: H&I Staff    Posted: March 20, 2020, 9:00AM

The year 1966 was perhaps the most unique, zany, influential, silly, profound year in television history. Just look at what the networks premiered.

Star Trek began its voyage. The camp Caped Crusader battled Egghead on Batman. The Monkees blurred the line between reality and fiction — before eventually going on to outsell the Beatles at the record shops in America. 

Alien paranoia captured the zeitgeist (and architect) on The Invaders. Elsewhere, you had The Green Hornet, The Time Tunnel, The Dating Game, The Saint and The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, not to mention curiosities like It's About Time and Run, Buddy, Run.

And those were just the new shows. Old favorites like Gilligan's Island, The Andy Griffith Show, The Fugitive, Lost in Space, F Troop, That Girl, The Wild Wild West, Hogan's Heroes continued their success.

If concepts that creative made it to the air, imagine what didn't make it. 

Well, these six shows, to name a few. Yes, these were all real, filmed TV pilots. Most of them aired at some point, tossed into an anthology show or TV movie slot.

Let's take a look. (Note: Because these are so rare, in most cases it is challenging to find images from the productions. We have used shots of the actors in other contexts from that era in some cases.)

1

Where's Everett?

Screen Gems, the studio behind Bewitched, attempted another fantasy comedy… with a future M*A*S*H icon. Alan Alda was Arnold Barker, a young father who steps out for the morning newspaper only to stumble upon an invisible alien baby on his doorstep. (Hey, there's a way to cut the show budget.) He and his wife (Patricia Smith) adopt the kid and name him "Everett."

Image: The Everett Collection

2

Operation Razzle Dazzle

Military sitcoms were quite popular at the time, so much so that Hogan's Heroes was not the only network comedy attempted in a World War II prison camp. NBC attempted a very similar show in 1966 set in an Italian war camp called Campo 44. That pilot failed. So did this, another WWII sitcom set behind enemy lines in Italy. Robert Reed (soon to become Mike Brady) headlined as Lt. John Leahy. It eventually aired as "Somewhere in Italy, Company B," seen here, as part of Preview Tonight, ABC's testing ground anthology series. 

Image: The Everett Collection

3

Stranded

Mission: Impossible and Star Trek might have looked very different had this disaster-adventure series become a hit. Peter Graves, who quickly joined the cast of Mission: Impossible as Jim Phelps, starred in Stranded as a big-game hunter and author (pictured in the main image, middle, up top) who finds himself fighting for survival with other airplane passengers in the Andes after their flight goes down. Leonard Nimoy played a Miami lawyer named "Spence," not Spock. The survivors must fend for themselves in Incan ruins. The studio padded out the episode with 40 minutes of extra footage and released the thing theatrically, retitled Valley of Mystery. That also bombed.

Image: Universal Pictures

4

We'll Take Manhattan

Dwayne Hickman had warmed his way into viewers' hearts as Dobie Gillis on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. This attempted comeback would have left folks scratching their heads. Hanna-Barbera (yes, the cartoon people) produced this sitcom about a lawyer, Hickman (seen here with a wife on the red carpet), who helps a 140-year-old (that is not a typo) Native American chief regain his legal rights to the island of Manhattan.

Image: The Everett Collection

5

Good Old Days

Not to be outdone by his younger brother, Darryl Hickman had a wacky sitcom of his own, which had an indirect link to Hanna-Barbera. You see, Good Old Days was, in essence, an attempt at a live-action Flintstones. The plot centered around a teenage caveboy named Rok (Hickman) who falls for a cavegirl named Pantha (Chris Noel). Other shaggy characters included Ugh, Soc, Kook, Slag and Brute. We really wish we could see this somehow. Alas…

Image: The Everett Collection

6

Walk in the Night

Hollywood legend Robert Altman produced and shot this action pilot starring Carroll O'Connor (who would later headline the similarly titled In the Heat of the Night). O'Connor played a detective working for G.L.I.B. (Great Lakes Interstate Bureau) who is chasing down a Swedish sailor who jumped ship with a bomb. The most interesting thing about it, perhaps, was the realism, as the pilot was shot on location around Chicago at night. 

Image: The Everett Collection