Laser Time – Stealth Pilots

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Learn about the TV heroes and zeroes that snuck in the backdoor of pre-existing, more popular shows! Special guest Bob Mackey joins us for a discussion on the least organic guest appearances and spin-offs television has ever forged…

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28 thoughts on “Laser Time – Stealth Pilots

  1. There’s pretty much no sweeter Laser Time topic than a cartoon one, especially if good ol’ Bob Mackey is involved. I was just recently re-listening to the Prime Time cartoons and Lil’ Toons episodes, so this is a fitting topic for me right now.

  2. The background music gets hella loud at around 20:30 and continues for several minutes. Can barely hear the conversation over it.

    1. Came here, while listening to the podcast, to say this. It ends around 27:45. I could barely hear anything they were talking about.

      1. I actually enjoyed the music, and could still hear the guys well enough. There have been other episodes that had worse music that made it impossible to hear, this was probably the best occurence.

    2. Came here to verify that my phone wasn’t possessed. Nice to know I’m not the only one who was thrown for a loop.

  3. Great podcast. Love the crew, but the bgm is loud as hell in some places. Not that I mind, but I thought the Monkey Island app on my phone started up while listening in my car. You guys are great.

  4. Another great theme and another great podcast! Always a joy to hear Bob Mackey as a guest on the main show!

    Speaking of how Betty Boop ushered in the film incarnation of Popeye – Fleischer Studios tried two more backdoor pilots of famous comic strips. They tried to launch a series of “The Little King” and “Henry” (a character who looks like Popeye’s illegitimate child). Strangely, both characters were pantomime mute archetypes in the funny pages, but wouldn’t stop jabbering on-screen. Neither took off, though Van Beuren Studios had a little more success with their own “Little King” adaptation.

    Popeye himself backdoor-ed a character at Famous Studios. In the cartoon ” Hillbilling and Cooing ” Popeye happens upon a mountain woman, Possum Pearl, starved for the affection of a man. She’s basically Bluto in drag, but the animators apparently liked her enough to put her in another cartoon without Popeye.

    Woody Woodpecker himself started as Andy Panda’s nemesis before being pun off into his own series of cartoons.

    Here’s hoping you find some more – I’d love to hear this topic revisited!

  5. Got all choked up when Henry joined in. Great work as usual guys! The background music only gets really loud for 4-5 minutes i think. I could still hear 90% of the conversation.

  6. One of my favorite *weird* stories is Home Improvement/Soul Man. Dan Aykroyd played an Episcopal priest and single dad, and they kept planning to put him onto Home Improvement to backdoor the show, but the timing never worked so they made the show anyway, and had Al from HI drop by as a member of the congregation. Then it got pulled after like 6 eps and re-tooled, adding in Anthony Clark for no good reason.

  7. Empty Nest was backdoored through The Golden Girls, albeit with a slightly different premise. Instead of being a widower living with his adult daughters, it was a married couple dealing with empty nest syndrome. All of the main Empty Nest characters showed up on later episodes Golden Girls at some point, including the dog.

  8. You left out my favorite ever backdoor pilot, indeed, the very reason I know what the words “backdoor pilot” means: STAR TREK (the original 60s show) devoted an entire episode – the second season finale, in fact – to introducing a new character on Earth *in the 1960s* named Gary Seven who has all sorts of fantastic technology and a cat and he’s immune to Spock’s nerve pinch and WOW, don’t you want to follow his adventures, kids? Leonard Nimoy all but SAYS that at the end of the episode.
    It was all a backdoor pilot written by Roddenberry because he knew that Star Trek was about to be cancelled (a fan write-in campaign would rescue it for a third season) and he wanted to create a new sci-fi concept that he could helm. The spin-off never happened, so instead we just have this one awkward-as-hell Star Trek episode casually set in 1968 that’s all about some strange dude who basically saves the world himself.
    Also Teri Garr is in it!

  9. Re: Backdoor PIlots, in Video Games, one of the few ever would have been Diddy Kong Racing! The game itself had a very short amount of development time, was used as a backdoor pilot to other characters – Banjo and Conker, who would have their own games a few years later. The ultimate goal was to have every character have their own game at some point, I believe.

  10. I have an example of a modern backdoor pilot that I am honestly a little ashamed that I know of. When I was in university and watched way to much TV I ended up watching quite a bit of the show Bones (mostly because it had David Boreanaz in it and I really loved Buffy and Angel). In one episode instead of the usual gang solving a mystery they had this new character that David Boreanaz’s character knew from back in his army days show up. He was the Finder and he had a brain disorder that some how let him put random things together and find things. The entire episode was just him running around in Florida acting weird and finding things. The show only lasted one season but for some reason I still remember that show to this day. Fun fact The Finder was the last TV performance of Michael Clarke Duncan.

  11. I think the biggest one you guys missed was NCIS. NCIS is a spinoff of JAG, where it had a two episode backdoor pilot that starred Gibbs and pretty much the whole gang. Interestingly NCIS in turn had a backdoor pilot for NCIS: Los Angeles in it’s sixth season and another backdoor pilot for NCIS: New Orleans in season 11. In another interesting twist, NCIS: Los Angeles had an backdoor pilot in its 4th season for an aborted show that never got off the ground. It’s backdoor pilots all the way down. Also, in researching this on Wikipedia, JAG also had a failed backdoor pilot for JAG: San Diego.

    On the cartoon front, one of my favorite cartoons ever, Gargoyles had like 6 backdoor pilots in Season 2 that never got off the ground. One would have starred King Arthur in the modern day, another was about these Greek Olympians rejoining the modern world, and a 3rd one was going to be called Gargoyles 2198 which, of course, took place in the future. There were several others that would be followed up in the sequel comics.

  12. Considering the live action Troy McClure talk, Mike Judge was interested and actually made a live-action Monsignor Martinez spin-off from King of the Hill. Apparently the pilot was finished and was shown to Fox who turned it down mainly due to religious backlash fears (A womanizing Catholic Priest who murdered everyone and had a ton of social satire wasn’t what FOX wanted to deal with at the time) and is considered a piece of lost media.

    In terms of video game backdoor pilots I have two examples. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon seems very obvious now considering Blood Dragon has backdoor piloted its way into the Trials franchise as well. There were heavy rumors about a Blood Dragon 2 standalone game ever since the first one was released but time will tell if the pilot program will actually be successful.

    The second is very much based on speculation but it makes sense to me. Nazi Zombies in the Call of Duty franchise started with very modest beginnings, as a small easter egg in World At War that originally was only accessed upon beating the game but the surprised popularity and subsequent DLC made it something people bought the game solely for and by the final WaW DLC Nazi Zombies had it’s own entire backstory and unique characters separate from the original game. Call of Duty: Black Ops very much made it a core feature of the game and the DLC expanded the original cast of characters and even gave them a story arc with a conclusion. It was also at this point that there were heavy rumors that Activision was planning on releasing their own stand-alone Nazi Zombies game. Black Ops 2 suddenly decided to make a new zombie map with not only completely different all-new characters (and heavily hyped them in promotional footage) but an entirely new gimmick for zombies mode where you were on a bus and traveled between fighting locations. This gimmick was abandoned for the next level which was much more conventional, and the characters existed for two more maps before the final DLC for Black Ops 2 decided to bring back the original cast of WaW:Blops I playable characters and in the Black Ops 3 zombies maps these characters return for the rest of the DLC. My guess would be that the new characters and level design in Black Ops 2 were a backdoor pilot to make a new standalone zombies game where the characters would travel from location to location fighting zombies for a long campaign story mode. However fan backlash towards the new characters and the complicated level design caused them to go back to the original much loved Black Ops 1 characters.

  13. You guys clearly don’t watch many crime dramas. My first thought upon hearing the topic of this episode was the various CSIs and NCISs. Both series set up backdoor pilots by having the team travel to another jurisdiction in the course of solving their cases, introducing those characters for their own series. CSI backdoored into CSI:Miami, which in turn backdoored into CSI:New York. CSI would later backdoor again into CSI:Cyber. NCIS backdoored into both NCIS:Los Angeles and NCIS:New Orleans, while NCIS:Los Angeles attempted to backdoor into NCIS:Red, but that series wasn’t picked up.

  14. In the ad break Chris said Henry would tell about his new job at the end but I didn’t catch it. Did he mention what it was?

  15. I would consider Mayberry RFD to have a backdoor pilot season on the last season of Andy Griffith. They introduced the main character and his son with the intention of becoming a sequel series.

    I’m not sure if Xena appearing in Hercules before her series would be considered a backdoor pilot. She was in three episodes of Hercules and according to wikipedia was supposed to die in the third episode but was so popular they changed the story.

    You guys also mentioned Mork and Mindy was a Happy Days spin off however Happy Days itself came from a single episode of Love, American Style. Also a lot of the failed spin offs from Happy Days came from single episodes like Blansky’s Beauties and Out of the Blue which sounds like a backdoor pilot to me. I’ve never seen either one of those shows though. I just read about it when I was looking up Laverne and Shirley.

    There’s so many examples I could see you guys doing another episode of this or you could do a episode on the long spin off trees of some series. That itself would be a spin off.

  16. You guys were on fire this episode. The line “sexually ambiguous rube” had me in fucking stitches.

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