Pulp Fiction taught the world about pilot episodes. This is the name given to an episode of a TV show that is created in order to advertise the show’s concept to the networks. The pilot episode will usually have the main cast lined up and will do its best to let the audience know what the show will be about within the timeframe of a regular episode.
However, there are times when a network will pick up a show, but demand that changes be made before it a season is created. This is also true of the producers, who might be unhappy with the episode and want to improve certain elements before making more of them. These changes can come in the form of greatly altering characters, or dumping certain actors and replacing them with people who are more suited to the role.
We are here today to look at the characters from big TV shows who were totally different in the pilot episode.
From the peppy 30 Rock secretary to the version of Agent Scully who wasn’t afraid to lose her clothes, here are the 15 TV Characters Who Were Almost Completely Different!
15. Kelly Was A Nastier Version Of Penny In The Big Bang Theory
It’s not unusual for a pilot episode to be shown to test audiences so that their reaction can be gauged and the show can be changed accordingly. Friends famously went through this process, as a test audience was asked whether they thought Monica was being too promiscuous when she slept with a man on their first date in the pilot episode.
Katie from The Big Bang Theory was a victim of the wrath of the test audience, as the reaction to her was so poor that she was removed from the show.
The pilot episode of The Big Bang Theory had many differences to the final product: Sheldon was now romantically active and talked about his fetishes, while Leonard was the only other male protagonist. They were joined by a nerdy girl named Gilda who also didn’t make it into the show.
Katie originally had the role of Penny, except that she was a street kid who was tough and mean. It was her harsh treatment of Leonard and Sheldon that led to the negative reaction that got the character axed, with Penny being brought in as a replacement who was comparatively nice and sweet.
14. The Terrible Fate Of Captain Pike
The only reason we have seen the pilots for shows like The Big Bang Theory is due to the fact that they were leaked online by unknown individuals. This is the reason why the quality of these episodes is so bad, as they were never meant for public broadcast.
There are some instances where the pilot gets reworked into the first episode of the show. This can’t always happen if the show is heavily retooled before a full season is ordered for production.
Star Trek: The Original Series was forced to reuse elements of its pilot in a new two-part story, as they had run out of scripts and were low on funds during the first season. This allowed the audience to see the Captain of the Enterprise before Kirk took over command.
Captain Pike was played by Jeffrey Hunter, who was a much more stern and serious man than Kirk was. Hunter left the role after the first pilot was canceled, which allowed William Shatner to be written in as the new Captain, who was designed to be more appealing and charismatic than his predecessor.
13. Larry & Steve Became Peter & Brian
All it takes is a particularly good animated short to get a full series made. There have even been animators who accomplished this while still in college. Trey Parker and Matt Stone created a short called The Spirit of Christmas while they were studying at the University of Colorado. That short ended up becoming South Park.
A similar fate awaited a short that was created by Seth MacFarlane while he was studying at the Rhode Island School of Design. The Life of Larry was his thesis film that MacFarlane’s professor submitted to Hanna-Barbera, which landed him his first job.
He created a second short called The Life of Larry & Steve which was shown on Cartoon Network. This led to Fox commissioning a show based on the shorts, which became Family Guy.
A lot of the jokes from the Larry & Steve shorts were used in Family Guy. The main difference between the two is the character designs. Larry is much older and skinnier than Peter, while Steve is a different breed of dog than Brian is. Lois also appears, but she is much older and presented as less attractive.
12. Cerie In 30 Rock Was Actually Nice
The show 30 Rock has an unaired pilot episode that has a lot of elements that were abandoned, to the point where a whole new one had to be created, which ended up becoming the debut episode.
One of the biggest changes is that the role of Jenna was played by Rachel Dratch instead of Jane Krakowski, though the character is relatively unchanged. Toofer also has a much larger role in the story, implying that he was going to be a main character.
By far the biggest difference in the original pilot is Cerie. She is played by an uncredited actress who plays the character as a peppy girl who likes to hang out with the crew and make ditzy comments. This version of Cerie is totally different than what we got in the final version of the pilot.
11. Carmela Soprano Loved Guns
The pilot episode of The Sopranos was eventually reused as the first episode of the show. This meant that there were a few story elements in the pilot that would be contradicted as early as the second episode.
These include Tony Soprano being described as the “Don” of New Jersey, when the next episode revealed that he was just a high-ranking captain in the Mafia, and Silvio not being familiar with Artie, even though it was later established that they grew up together.
Carmela was also different in the pilot. When she hears a noise outside, she takes out an assault rifle and runs outside like one of the Space Marines from Aliens. This is in contrast to the later characterization of Carmela, where she is shown to be more squeamish about guns and isn’t the kind of lady who would run around toting an assault rifle.
Carmela’s story arc throughout the run of the show was one about her coming to terms with her own morality and how she could never do that while being married to a mobster, so her initial familiarity with guns is out of place.
10. Elaine’s Rapport With Seinfeld
It’s a miracle that Seinfeld was ever given a chance to find an audience. Test audiences hated the pilot, with all of the characters being universally disliked.
The first two seasons also failed to find an audience, with the show only staying on the air thanks to a few NBC executives who believed in its potential. The finale of the second season of Seinfeld ended with Jerry and Elaine becoming a couple, as they weren’t sure if they were going to have a third season or not.
Elaine was actually nowhere to be seen in the Seinfeld pilot. There was a different female lead named Claire, who worked as a waitress and would chime in on whatever the guys were talking about. Claire was replaced by Elaine when the show was picked up, as they wanted a character with more appeal and who would be more closely involved in the lives of the cast.
9. The Cast Of Recess Once Had Different Designs
The visual production of a cartoon series will likely vastly improve over time. This is due to the animators becoming accustomed to drawing the characters, as well as an increase in funding should the show actually become successful.
It’s for this reason that it’s hard to go back and watch the original episodes of The Simpsons, South Park, and Family Guy, as the production values are so poor that they don’t resemble the latest episodes.
Recess also had this issue, which is why the full version of the pilot episode has never been broadcast in its entirety. From the brief clips we have seen, the cast has totally different designs, with the quality of the animation being much worse than what we saw in the first season.
8. The Power Rangers Beat Up Bullies
The recent Power Rangers movie defined its characters by their various problems at home and the social issues that they faced. This was in stark contrast to the original Power Rangers series, where the problems that the characters faced were about on the same level as those experienced by the cast of Saved by the Bell.
The pilot episode of the Power Rangers was called “Day of the Dumpster” and it had a much different tone to that of the final version of the show. Bulk and Skull are now members of a much larger gang and actively engage the Rangers in a fight.
This results in the Power Rangers beating a gang of bullies in a bowling alley. The version of the Rangers from the first season of the show would rarely fight human opponents in a serious manner (outside of martial arts tournaments) and Bulk & Skull were always treated as non-threatening jokes.
7. Counsellor Troi Was Once A Lot More Powerful
When Gene Roddenberry was preparing for the revival of the Star Trek TV series in the form of Star Trek: Phase 2, he wanted to include a character with telepathic abilities. This character would become Ilia, who appeared in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
It seems that Gene Roddenberry changed his mind about including a character with telepathy in Star Trek: The Next Generation, as it would be a lot harder to write a mystery story when you have someone who could read minds. Deanna Troi was created and was given empathic abilities, which allowed her to read the emotions of others.
Deanna Troi’s empathic abilities were more powerful in the pilot episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. She had the ability to experience the emotions of others instead of just sensing them.
This would have made it a lot more difficult for people to hide their true intentions from Troi, which is likely why her powers were toned down. Troi also exhibited the ability to communicate telepathically with Riker, which was also dropped.
6. Delenn Was Once A Man
It’s not unusual for theater actors to play roles that are normally not associated with their gender, such as women playing Romeo. This is usually because the pool of actors available is much smaller than what a TV show or movie can attract, as the prospect of a paying job that can make someone famous will bring people from across the country.
The character of Delenn in Babylon 5 was originally designed to screw with the audience’s mind by choosing a female to play a male character. Delenn was played by Mira Furlan, who was originally encouraged to play the role as a female, in order to make Delenn seem more alien.
The prosthetics on Delenn’s face were also made to make the character seem male, as they gave her a harder chin. This also meant altering Delenn’s voice in order to make it lower.
The effect on Delenn’s voice was considered to be too unrealistic, so it was remove. The events that take place after “The Gathering” establish that Delenn was actually female, with her design becoming more feminine as time went on.
5. Pearl Stardust & The Gems From Mars
It was for her work on Adventure Time that Rebecca Sugar was asked to pitch a show to Cartoon Network. This led to the creation of a pilot for an unusual show called Steven Universe. The pilot was picked up, which made Sugar the first solo female cartoon creator in the history of the channel.
The pilot episode of Steven Universe has since been released on YouTube and as a special on one of the DVD sets. The animation style for the Crystal Gems was far more complex, which led to their designs being toned down and made more “cartoony” to make it easier to animate the main series.
Amethyst is largely unchanged, save for a few alterations to her outfit. Garnet originally had long black hair instead of a square afro, as well as being given slim hips. Pearl is the most different, as she now resembles the Ziggy Stardust aesthetic used by David Bowie in the ’70s. Her design is almost unrecognizable from how she appears in Steven Universe.
4. The Cast Of 3rd Rock From The Sun Once Had Telepathic Powers
The characters of 3rd Rock from the Sun were meant to be aliens who were put into bodies that were the opposite of their true forms. Tommy is only a teenager, but he was originally the elderly Science Officer of the crew, while Sally was the male First Officer who came from the warrior caste of an alien species.
The pilot episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun ran into the same problem that Deanna Troi had in the first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The Solomon family were originally shown to have telepathic abilities that allowed them to silently communicate with each other.
This was dropped after the pilot due to the fact that 3rd Rock from the Sun was filmed in the same manner as other traditional sitcoms. If the characters had the ability to communicate telepathically, then they would need to find a way to show this to the studio audience during filming.
3. Scully From The X-Files Loved The Supernatural/Hated Clothes
A pilot episode might be the creator’s only chance to tell the story that they want to sell to a network. As such, they will often bring out the big guns and make the pilot as exciting as possible, with romantic relationships teased and scores promised to be settled.
When Chris Carter had to sell his weird sci-fi/government conspiracy show to a network, he brought out the A-material straight away. In his case, it was early ’90s Gillian Anderson running around in her underwear like she was an extra in a raunchy teen comedy movie from the ’80s.
The version of Dana Scully who appears in the pilot episode of The X-Files was very different from how the character would later appear. The original Scully had a more light-hearted demeanor and came close to believing that what they encountered in the story was actually supernatural.
This is to say nothing of her running to Mulder’s apartment and undressing down to her underwear to show him some bite marks that she thinks might be extraterrestrial in origin. The final version of Scully was a stone cold skeptic who took her position seriously and rarely had moments of levity with Mulder.
2. The Evil Eddie Munster
The most striking difference about The Munsters pilot was that it was filmed in color, whereas the rest of the show was in black and white. Lily Munster was also nowhere to be seen, as Herman was now married to a much more gothic vampire named Phoebe Munster, who was played by Joan Marshall.
Eddie Munster was played by a different actor in the pilot. The role was originally played by Nate “Happy” Derman, who portrayed Eddie as far more aggressive and wolf-like than the later iterations of the character. This original version of Eddie outright threatened to harm his family members, though was unable to do so due to his short stature.
Nate Derman would later be replaced by Butch Patrick, who played Eddie as a much more normal and loving child, albeit one who was also a werewolf. Butch Patrick was also chosen due to how short he was, as this played off the extreme height of Fred Gwynne.
1. The Cast Of The Amazing World Of Gumball Once Looked Totally Different
The Internet has made it easy for leaked pilots to be easily distributed online. You also used to see pilots being traded at conventions, by people with poor quality VHS copies of the episode. This happened to the infamous American pilot of Red Dwarf, which was available to die-hard fans long before the arrival of YouTube.
It’s now possible for creators to upload their pilots to social media if they want to. This has happened several times with the pilot episode of The Amazing World of Gumball, which was originally known as Gumball.
Ben Bocquelet uploaded the pilot episode himself, though it was originally taken down by Cartoon Network. He has since reached an agreement where he is allowed to keep it up online.
The Gumball pilot was a one minute long short that featured radically different designs of the characters. Gumball had a square head and was voiced by a different actor, while Darwin was created wholly from CGI.
Masami is shown kissing Alan when it is Carmen who loves Alan in the final version of the show. Teri was also originally a boy but was changed into a girl in The Amazing World of Gumball.
What do you think? Would you have prefered the pilot versions of these characters? Let us know in the comments!
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