Six Bizarro Made-for-TV Movies That Actually Exist, Somehow

In a common episode of The Simpsons, a beaming Troy McClure introduces a few new Fox shows established in the Springfield universe. “Spin-off!” he shouts. “Is there any term far more thrilling to the human soul?” What follows are some of the most hopeless Television pilots you have ever observed: the New Orleans criminal offense drama Main Wiggum, P.I. the supernatural comedy The Enjoy-Matic Grampa and The Simpson Relatives Smile-Time Selection Hour, primarily based on a identical experiment/horror present involving The Brady Bunch. They are all hilariously worse than you can visualize, although absolutely plausible in the age of the 3 big networks.

Spin-offs have due to the fact turn out to be fairly a lot more suitable, in part since there have been so quite a few of them, both in film and Tv set. Some of them had to be fantastic. But just one relic of the late twentieth century whose name may well never ever be rehabilitated is the designed-for-Television motion picture, an equally cynical illustration of pop culture particles. Ubiquitous, cheaply made, heavily advertised then promptly forgotten, the Tv motion picture arrived at its peak in the mid-’90s, when more than 250 have been introduced by the major networks in a solitary calendar year. A lot of ended up unsuccessful Television pilots filling in the slots amid the summer months reruns. Some were being sequels that no one questioned for (Substantial Midday, Element II, anyone?). But most of them ended up mysteries, loved ones dramedies, or situation-of-the-working day dramas. I remember, for case in point, a pretty major movie about kid abuse with the unbelievably creepy title Do You Know the Muffin Guy? To advertise the motion picture, CBS questioned its NFL announcers to point out it through the Sunday game. So, during timeouts and business breaks, the announcers repeated that absurd title above and over right until you didn’t know whether or not to chuckle or cry.

Each and every as soon as in a while, somebody at the community would converse the bigwigs into creating a science fiction or fantasy film. And the effects have been frequently worthy of a Troy McClure-hosted distinctive. In advance of the SyFy Network perfected the about-the-leading parody of the genre with the Sharknado collection, substantial-strategy Television set videos normally had substantial ambitions and an infinite marketing budget, given that the community could pump out commercials for them all day. But the genuine, ya know, movie price range was generally missing. You could stare at a solitary frame of one particular of these motion pictures and instantaneously know that it was in no way released on a huge monitor. That is why a little something like Sport of Thrones, even at its most flawed, appeared downright miraculous to my generation.

How these films had been created carries on to baffle me. In some means, they stand for the hubris of the networks. The executives feel to be declaring, “We’ll make a half-ass superhero kinda film and our viewers will watch simply because they have no decision. What’re they gonna do, go through a e-book?” But, as we’ll see in the listing I’ve compiled, there is a Wild West good quality to them, specifically when when compared with additional modern designed-for-streaming articles. Another person, at some stage, talked their way into building these movies, and a board of aged guys accredited them in some way, and now they exist for us to ponder. There ended up no regulations beyond acquiring the audience to the next commercial split. There have been even fewer anticipations.

So in this article, for your consideration, are a several of the strangest, SFF-adjacent illustrations from the Golden Age of the Television Movie…


Gargoyles (1972)

Not to be puzzled with the prematurely canceled ’90s cartoon of the exact same identify, Gargoyles starred B-movie tough person Cornel Wilde (from The Bare Prey). The opening voiceover raises the stakes fairly significant: In the aftermath of the war involving God and Satan, a race of creatures climbs out of hell to terrorize mankind each handful of generations. In the modern age, the gargoyles are relegated to myth and statues, leaving human beings wholly unprepared for their upcoming onslaught.

Whoa. That seems severe. Right up until you observe that the gargoyles reemerge in a desert that is certainly within driving length of the studio. And it normally takes only a handful of armed townsfolk to quell the apocalyptic rebellion. But individuals insignificant aspects apart, this film continues to be a responsible satisfaction for my technology, in aspect simply because of the Emmy-winning makeup wizardry of Stan Winston. The gargoyles aren’t that frightening, but they glance quite darn amazing, and some of them even fly. And by “fly,” I mean “slowly raise off the ground with a hardly concealed cable.”


The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1980) out?v=lJGEsJF-Iy0

This adaptation of Washington Irving’s tale was nominated for an Emmy for Excellent Children’s Application, and ongoing to be performed in reruns for decades following its release. The commercials always promised a little something that could possibly have some experience, if not outright horror. Right after all, the Disney small capabilities a climactic chase sequence that would give most kids nightmares. But the dwell-motion 1980 model is basically a sitcom romance with a incredibly transient mystery tacked on about who the Headless Horseman could possibly be. Is the nocturnal demon a real ghost, or someone in the village spreading mischief? Who cares, when you can devote two hrs (with quite a few commercials) with a young, handsome Jeff Goldblum in the part of Ichabod Crane?

Also, IMDb informs me that the unique broadcast was hosted by Steve Allen and Gary Coleman (as observed above), who executed comedy skits for the duration of the industrial breaks. Owning hardly ever noticed any of that, I will confidently say it was the worst thing ever filmed.


Knight Rider 2000 (1991) at?v=kCXYWpkQ9NQ

Below we have a both an unnecessary sequel and a unsuccessful pilot. The well known Knight Rider, about a crime fighter and his supercar K.I.T.T., experienced been off the air for five yrs by the time this futuristic reboot came out. No a single can blame the network for trying to get some much more lifetime out of a entertaining franchise. But golly, this just one is odd. It will make the slip-up frequent in so a lot of late ’80s/early ’90s films: it assumes that the 12 months 2000 would be wildly various, irrespective of getting only a handful of many years away at that point. In this environment, handguns are banned(!), Dan Quayle is President(!), and convicted criminals provide their sentences in a cryogenic freeze(!?!).

To be good, the garish redesign of the iconic K.I.T.T. has a tasteless, early aughts come to feel to it, so they acquired at minimum one prediction appropriate. Additionally, they introduced William Daniels back, whose voicework was always the genuine star of the clearly show. Despite decent rankings, this did not spawn a new sequence. Hasselhoff palms more than the keys to a new set of heroes, but we would not see Knight Rider yet again until eventually a new reboot in 1997 (and but an additional in 2008).


The Birds II: Land’s Stop (1994) out?v=-wZc6R7XpaY

Go in advance and squint at the title. No, you are contemplating. No, they couldn’t have. Oh indeed, Showtime did in reality release a Television set-film sequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s chilling, unparalleled 1963 masterpiece.

There is a unusual artwork to building a sequel to a movie launched lots of a long time previously. From time to time it involves bringing the hero again for a person more journey. In some cases it entails passing a torch. In the instances of 2010 (1985) or HBO’s Watchmen (2019), it consists of asking serious concerns about what the environment would glance like a long time or even a long time right after the monumental occasions of the initially story.

Birds II isn’t interested in any of that. It is received Birds in the title, so it’s got birds flapping all-around resulting in mayhem and pecking people’s eyes out. Tippi Hedren, who performed the protagonist in the initially film, appears as a mere facet character(!) in this a person. Like, what? WHAT? Not remarkably, she was deeply ashamed by her involvement in the undertaking, as was director Rick Rosenthal, who eradicated his title. So excellent luck locating a duplicate of Alan Smithee’s Birds II.


Fail Secure (2000)

The unique Fall short Risk-free, based on the novel by Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler, and directed in stark black and white by Sidney Lumet, could be explained as a deadly critical edition of Dr. Strangelove. (The resemblance is so potent in point that Strangelove’s director, Stanley Kubrick, filed a lawsuit alleging copyright infringement, which was settled out of court docket.) Introduced in the same yr as Kubrick’s satire, Fall short Secure walks us via the terrifying effects of a nuclear bomber squadron performing on faulty orders to assault Moscow. Most of the action is confined to claustrophobic war rooms, as the President and other government officials attempt to get the planes back, whilst assuring the Soviets that this is not a deliberate act of war.

The choice to remake Fail Risk-free in 2000 was now a peculiar decision, given the finish of the Chilly War and the optimism (at the time in any case) for greater relations with Russia. But producer George Clooney, who also stars as the misled bomber pilot, experienced even increased ambitions. Fail Risk-free would be the very first live teleplay broadcast in almost 40 several years. With multiple cameras and a ’60s-style black and white palette, the new edition would mimic the tension and despair of the outdated. And it would characteristic an equally proficient solid, like Richard Dreyfuss and Harvey Keitel.

The opinions of this film are a lot more properly described as “confused” than combined. Every person seemed to concur that the performances were being good, the tone was reliable, the sets were ominous. But the collective response seemed to be anything like: “Okay…but why?” Why did this need to remade, why did this have to have to be shot dwell? I experience negative dismissing this sort of a marvel of theater and technology, but I come across myself inquiring the exact dilemma. But…why?


The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage (1991) at?v=wBhaiEFH5cQ

Truth be instructed, The 100 Life of Black Jack Savage is the purpose I wished to produce this article. It’s out of buy chronologically, but when I clarify the premise to you, you will comprehend why I had to help save it for previous.

So, the premise. Hoo boy… There is this man named Barry, a con artist who is on the operate from the legislation. He escapes to the fictional Caribbean island of San Pietro, which is ruled by a thoroughly crooked governor-common. Barry will take about a castle that is haunted by the ghost of a pirate named Black Jack Savage. Jack has been cursed, and if he makes an attempt to go away the castle, a horde of demons known as snarks will drag his soul to hell. The only way to split the curse is for Jack to help you save a full of 1 hundred lives, which will make up for the crimes he fully commited in life.

Oh, we’re only halfway via this: Barry learns that he faces a comparable destiny in the afterlife, and so he and Jack have to be a part of forces to suitable the wrongs they’ve fully commited. And what is the ideal way to do that? Effectively, Barry will use a superpowered Blackbird speedboat to fight criminal offense, when sporting a pirate costume. Oh, and Barry’s close friend Logan will build a Ghostbusters-type equipment that will maintain off the snarks so Jack can be part of him on his adventures.

What the hell did I just style?

Black Jack Savage was component of The Amazing Environment of Disney program, and it led to a very shorter-lived series. One extremely fulfilling point about each and every episode was the lifetime counter, which would show how several lives were being remaining for Barry and Jack to save. But for the reason that of its bewildered tone, the sequence experienced issues acquiring an audience outside of a 13-yr-previous me. It ended right after seven episodes, and with 89 life even now left on the counter. Sorry, Jack.

Observe: This trailer is the intro from the Tv set clearly show. You know how I know? Due to the fact they switched out the actors who played Jack. You know why I know? Simply because I’ve wasted my lifestyle on pop culture nonsense.



Make sure you, share with us in the comments the Tv set movies that nevertheless plague your recollections. Bonus factors if the relentless commercials promised anything as remarkable as Star Wars, but the conclude end result felt more like a knockoff Atari 2600 sport.

Robert Repino (@Repino1) grew up in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania. Right after serving in the Peace Corps in Grenada, he gained an MFA in Creative Producing at Emerson Faculty. He will work as an editor for Oxford College Press, and once in a while teaches for the Gotham Writers Workshop. Repino is the author of the middle quality novel Spark and the League of Ursus (Quirk Books), as perfectly as the War With No Title sequence (Soho Push), which features Mort(e), Culdesac, D’Arc, and Malefactor.