The Strange Original Pilots of 10 Popular TV Shows


Unearthed by Pop Focal, the unaired pilot of 30 Rock is basically the same as the version that we’ve all seen before, but with one major exception — Jenna was played by Tina Fey’s longtime pal Rachel Dratch. “The internet, magazines and news stories all gingerly speculated that I had been replaced by a more attractive actor and that this was the only reason I had been replaced,” Dratch wrote of NBC’s recasting decision in her recent memoir, Girls Walks Into a Bar. “Well, the newspapers and magazines did so gingerly. There is nothing ‘gingerly’ about the internet.”

Poor Dratch. But as much as we adore her, we do have to admit that it’s bizarre watching her play Jenna — a character that Jane Krakowski so clearly owns. Frankly, the whole thing made us curious about what other weird pilots we could find floating around the Internet. Here’s what we found.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Berryman High School? A different actress playing Willow? Buffy as a brunette? Apparently Joss Whedon used this self-financed footage to sell Buffy to Fox, and never intended it to see the light of day. Which makes sense. The only thing we like better here is the library. There’s so much more room!


Diehard Seinfeld fans know that there are two versions of the series’ first episode: the original pilot (which NBC passed on after focus groups called it “weak”) and the revised version you see in re-runs. All you really need to know is that the earlier version of the show was actually called The Seinfeld Chronicles, there’s no Elaine, Kramer is referred to as Kessler, Pete’s Luncheonette is Jerry and George’s hangout, and the theme song is terrible. That’s all.

True Blood

Same pilot, different Tara.


If you bought Season 1 of Heroes on DVD, then you’ve seen this original pilot for the series, which is a lot longer — not to mention a good deal more violent — than the version that eventually aired on TV. We don’t mind the darker tone, but we can’t imagine this show without Zachary Quinto as Sylar.

Full House

Video quality aside, this Saget-less original pilot with John Posey playing Danny Tanner is kind of unsettling to watch.

The Big Bang Theory

Chuck Lorre has said that this original, Penny-less pilot, which was rejected by CBS, “sucked,” but that there were “two remarkable things that worked perfectly”: Johnny Galecki and Jim Parsons. The end result? “We rewrote the thing entirely, and then we were blessed with Kaley and Simon and Kunal.”

Married With Children

What can we say? These original kids are not okay. Thank god for David Faustino and Christina Applegate.

Family Guy/em>

We can’t get over the fact that Lois was a blonde in this test pilot that Seth MacFarlane pitched to Fox.

Beverly Hills, 90210

Lyman Ward — aka Ferris Bueller’s dad — was the original Jim Walsh! But what we find even more shocking: these opening credits, which we had totally forgotten, but apparently were used through the first half of the first season of the show.

Perfect Strangers

OK, so maybe this was never one of your favorite TV shows. But come on. Louie Anderson as Cousin Larry (or rather, as Cousin Lou)? It’s just too much. Unfortunately, executives thought he lacked the right chemistry with Bronson Pinchot. Get a comprehensive play-by-play of the unaired pilot on this Perfect Strangers fansite.