Lost Comedy Pilot: "The Show" No One Ever Saw
As a self-proclaimed comedy nerd, I'm always searching for the obscure, the forgotten, the hilarity lost to time. 1996's The Show starring Paul Giamatti was one such prize.
If not for a throwaway mention from its producer, The Daily Show's Larry Wilmore, in And Here's The Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers on Their Craft, I'd have never stumbled upon the remains of a little known, short-lived sitcom pilot also starring Sam Seder (Air America). The show—actually and vaguely titled The Show—focused on two white television writers employed at a black sitcom. Wilmore's description of the show and reason for its ultimate demise made it a must-find. I was prepared to search to the ends of the internet (and, if that didn't work, to maybe visit a library or two) for this lost pilot.
Larry Wilmore: ...I worked on a show for the Fox Network called The Show, which was about a white guy who joins the writing staff of a black sitcom. It was a solid idea and fun to work on while it lasted. We had a fantastic actor for the pilot. He was extremely funny and just brilliant, but Fox didn't want him for the series because they thought he wasn't good-looking enough. That man's name? Paul Giamatti.
One of the best character actors of our time, and Fox deemed him not quite attractive enough?
Larry Wilmore: Paul could not have been a nicer guy, and he couldn't have been more hilarious. When the staff heard the news, we were like, "This is insane! Why do they not like this guy?" It was such typical network bullshit.
I consider myself an expert Googler, so when I couldn't locate clips of The Show anywhere online, I tweeted my despair, only to receive the following responses from Sam Seder.
Though grateful for Sam Seder's help, I think certain comedy pilots may be lost for a reason. Like the ubiquitous horror movie monster who never rears his ugly head, some things are better left unseen. In my time searching for The Show, I'd imagined a show of my own which greatly differed from the show I finally saw. While less than half a dozen episodes were ever shot and aired, several of the show's producers went on to write, produce, and direct for Friends, Saturday Night Live, Martin, Late Night with David Letterman, and In Living Color—shows that have since come to be considered comedy classics. And, of course, the now very famous, successful Paul Giamatti and his arguably handsome face turned out just fine.
Rebecca V. O'Neal is a Chicago-based comedy nerd and internet addict, the latter of which she feels facilitates her increasingly sedentary lifestyle. Do not enable her obsession by visiting her vintage fashion, comic book, literary, or comedy blogs or by following her on Twitter. She spends her time as a freelance writer, thrift store and estate sale frequenter, and depressed homebody who knows not the joy of smoke and drink. No known photographs exist of Rebecca, as it's purported that she is, in fact, a series of sophisticated holograms. She makes viral videos (1,2) in her spare time, because she has nothing else to do.