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TV Yesterdays

“If you watched more TV, perhaps you’d be better at your job”

Woe unto Bat-fans who don’t have the Trio cable channel. Every couple of months, they run a “Brilliant But Cancelled” promotion featuring network shows that died before their time, like “Ernie Kovacs,” “East Side/West Side,” etc. (though it’s a stretch to put “The PJs” into that category, if for no other reason than they had a three-season run). For September, they’ve dug up some cult favorite pilots that never made it to air: movie spin-offs of “L.A. Confidential” and “Fargo,” but best of all the classic “Lookwell!”. This 1991 pilot starred Adam West as an actor who played “Bannigan,” a TV cop many years ago, but still tries to solve crimes whether the LAPD needs his help or not. It was written by Robert Smigel and Conan O’Brien and featured such business as West’s Ty Lookwell brandishing his honorary police badge, encased in Lucite, and explaining the difference his character and others:

“Hey, weren’t you Banacek?”
“You’re mistaken. George Peppard was Banacek.”
“Were you Brannigan?”
“Hugh O’Brian was Brannigan.”
“Who’s Hugh O’Brian?”
“Exactly!

Though I doubt a series made from this would have survived 13 weeks, this pilot proves Adam West is probably the greastest deadpan, self-reflexive actor of our time. Someone has got to give him a non-Batman project!

Catching this a second time, I noticed that among the knick-knacks at Lookwell’s home was a bust of Shakespeare which I’m certain looks exactly like the one in stately Wayne Manor whose head was hinged to reveal buttons marked “Access to Bat-Cave via Bat Poles”

And maybe a future video release of the movie “Fargo” will include the pilot for the attempted TV spinoff. Even though it doesn’t include any of the movie’s featured acters, it stuck close to the tone of the movie and even had a sort of Northern Exposure slant. Though I couldn’t see the series lasting too long: if Chief Gunderson (Edie Falco in the pilot) was going to investigate a murder every week, the population of Brainerd, MN would empty out faster than Jessica Fletcher’s Cabot Cove. Oh, yes, and at the end of the pilot, Marge finally had her baby in an abandonded drive-in cafe surrounded by snow. Don’t know if they filmed it in Minnesota, but you sure can’t make snow like that in Hollywood.

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