The first episode
of a television series
, often used as a testing ground for various characters, situations, or even the show itself. Pilot episodes can differ greatly from the final product, as changes are made based on input from test audiences. Pilot episodes may not even be shown, as the differences are too great, or the series was never picked up. These are known as unaired pilots
Some famous pilot episodes:
"I Love Lucy" - The pilot that almost didn't get made, until Desi Arnaz threatened to pay for it himself. Notable for its lack of well-known co-stars, Vivian Vance (Ethel Mertz) and WIlliam Frawley (Fred Mertz). Fred and Ethel hadn't been written in yet. Based on Lucille Ball's radio show, "My Favourite Husband."
"Gilligan's Island" - An unaired "lost" pilot, until TBS brought it to the small screen in 1992. Featured three actors that didn't make the final cut: John Gabriel as The Professor, Nancy McCarthy as Bunny, and Kit Smythe as Ginger.
"Happy Days" - Actually aired as a "Love, American Style" segment, because producer Garry Marshall couldn't get it picked up as a series. Originally titled "New Family in Town." Notable changes: Harold Gould played Howard Cunningham, Susan Neher as Joanie, and an older brother Chuck (who was phased out before the beginning of the actual series)* was played by Ric Carrott. Also noticeably absent is Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli, who was added to create appeal for the younger audience.
*Update from Timeshredder - "...It's not true that Chuck Cunningham was phased out after the "Love American Style" episode. In fact, two actors portrayed Chuck, sporadically, during the first two seasons. He was retconned out of existence after season two, and no one ever mentioned him again. See the Chuck Cunningham node for details."
(Oct 15 2003)