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Great show, shame about the pilot episode


Classics they may be, but these shows overcame pretty rubbish starts to get there.

When a truly piece of television finally comes to an end, it can be as painful as losing a toe, or perhaps a distant relative. Just ask fans of Breaking Bad in a couple of weeks' time. But, lest we forget, some of the now certified TV classics were once mere pilots, scrabbling around trying to get someone, anyone, to commission their confused ideas, ill-conceived characters and half-baked story arcs.

Luckily, the below 10 shows did turn out to be very much worth the wait, but it certainly doesn't excuse them from making some pretty awful mistakes when they first hit our screens. Regardez...

1. Blackadder

No Fry, no Laurie and a gurning, bowl-cut sporting Blackadder stumbling from one disaster to the next, the first series of Richard Curtis' comedy possessed a great deal less bite than the later three offerings. So much so, that Rowan Atkinson himself admitted to having no idea how he was going to play the character of Edmund right up into the camera first rolled, and the snivelling, dim-witted result is pale in comparison to the devious, calculating antihero he eventually became. The dynamic of Blackadder (or 'Black Vegetable' as he first christens himself) flanked by the equally stupid Baldrick and Percy gets a tad confused, as there's no straight man nor scrap of intelligence between them.


2. How I Met Your Mother

Considering it has since developed into a widely adored, award snaffling comedy monolith in its own right, the first episode of How I Met Your Mother comes across as a sub par FRIENDS rip off, and at times excruciating in its awkwardness. Given that we join the cast years into their respective relationships and bromances, there seems little chemistry between characters - newly engaged Marshall and Lily in particular. Still, all's not lost - Neil Patrick Harris' Barney is in full sleuthing mode from the his very first scene.


3. Entourage

Ask any of the Entourage writers who the show's main character is, and they'll tell you it's all of them. Ask a fan however, and they'll undoubtedly point to the foul-mouthed comic stylings of Ari Gold. It clearly took a little while for the show's creators to realise this though, as despite spending the pilot gradually introducing characters and plot, the all-swearing super agent is mostly absent and criminally underused. This error is soon rectified mind you, much to the joy of fans/swear jars/censor bleeps everywhere.


4. Parks and Recreation

With its sixth season just about to start, Parks and Rec now sports a staunchly loyal fanbase. But even the most ardent of fan will admit that the show's first series is a little bit all over the shop. The fact it has just six episodes compared to the resulting seasons' 20-odd speaks volumes, and the first few episodes centre a bit too heavily on Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), without allowing the superb ensemble cast to fully flex its muscles. Thankfully, resulting seasons see equal footing for the likes of Aziz Ansari as serial douchebag Tom Haverford, Nick Offerman's moustachioed caveman Ron Swanson, along with the inspired cast additions of Rob Lowe and Adam Scott. If you've not watched it, do. Just maybe fast-forward the first six episodes...


5. The US Office

The Office is incredible television, a comedy great. Which one? Both. Forget the connection between Ricky Gervais' Slough-based sitcom and its American cousin and both are understated comic genius in their own right. Sadly, the US version's early episodes made the cardinal sin of rehashing both storyline and script, which inevitably drew comparisons and complaints that it would never hit the heights of Wernham Hogg. Luckily, once the show found its feet and - more importantly - outlived the UK's two series, it hit top comedy gear. Luckier still, they never made Steve Carrell do the Brent dance. Thank Christ.


6. 30 Rock

Successfully pulling off a TV show within a TV show was always going to be a tad fiddly, and 30 Rock's early episodes certainly seem a little muddled in comparison to later seasons. It probably didn't help that the character of Jenna Maroney has the actress switch last minute, from Rachel Dratch to Jane Karowski, nor that Tracy Jordan isn't at full ridiculousness 'til a little later on.


7. New Girl

Currently one of the best things on television, New Girl could've been a totally different show had Damon Wayons Jr not played sitcom roulette. Taking the role of Coach in the pilot, Wayans assumed his other show Happy Endings would get cancelled before New Girl got made. It didn't, and New Girl also got picked up, which led to an awkward on-screen situation of having Coach as a key cast member for all of one episode, before he disappears forever and replaced by Winston, a not too dissimilar character. Oh, and while New Girl gets better and better, Happy Endings has since been cancelled. Poor Damon...


8. The Big Bang Theory

Portraying Sheldon as part-man part machine, devoid of any emotions or sexual desires is quite possibly the greatest thing about TBBT. And yet the writers surrender this trait in the sitcom's very first scene, as he and Leonard go to a high IQ sperm bank to make a 'deposit'. Not only does this smash the illusion of Sheldon Cooper's Spock-esque attitude to coitus, he's even referred to by Leonard as being a 'semi pro'. Shame no-one told his later girlfriend, Amy Farrah Fowler.


9. Chickens

The problem with pilots is that you have to seduce a commissioner with jokes, whilst still taking time to introduce each character and their relative storyline. It's a tough trade-off that can at times be more history lesson than comic lapdance, and when Inbetweeners duo Simon Bird and Joe Thomas took their WW1 comedy to Channel 4, alas - they could not be seduced. But, since Sky One pounced, the difference between pilot and episode two is palpable. Gone is the jarring awkwardness of admin, in favour of a more measured, steady paced sitcom. Your loss, Channel 4 bumders.


10. Family Guy

In the decade and a half that Family Guy has been around, it has seemingly aged like a human being. In its infancy it was wholesome and unoffensive with a finger on morality. Nice - but not all that funny. Luckily, as it grew older it turned into a sweary, offensive teenager that pushed the boundaries of what's acceptable, packing the show with jokes about AIDS, abortions and Michael J Fox. We wouldn't have it any other way.



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