Even iconic figures like Dick Van Dyke get turned down throughout their career. It’s all part of reaching iconic stardom, apparently.
Dick Van Dyke is most known for his CBS sitcom, “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” which was from 1961 to 1966. The entertainer was also a major hit in different musical films like “Mary Poppins,” “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” and “Bye Bye Birdie.”
In 1981, Dick Van Dyke looked to start a new sitcom. Sadly, the show never got sold. The most people got to see was that unsold pilot. The name of the show was “Harry’s Battles.”
Dick Van Dyke in ‘Harry’s Battles’
It starred Van Dyke and Connie Stevens. She is most known for her roles in “Hawaiian Eye,” “Tapeheads,” “Rock-A-Bye Baby,” and “Grease 2.” She also had a career as a successful singer. Her debut album was called “Concetta” and came out in 1958. Her most popular song is “Sixteen Reasons,” which was No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Even with two highly successful figures leading the show, “Harry’s Battles” faced the ultimate losing battle — getting a big “no” from TV executives. The preview video shows Van Dyke as Harry, a guy that struggles with just about everything. From getting overcharged at the store to getting ignored at the bank to issues at the car wash, everything in life becomes a battle for Harry.
The show was an adaptation of the British show called “A Sharp Intake of Breath.” Harry is a supermarket manager living in Pittsburgh. All in all, viewers and executives just didn’t find the show funny enough to commit to it. “Harry’s Battles” was aired as a “TV movie.”
The show was also going to feature Brooke Alderson, Danny Wells, Marley Sims, and Joe Regalbuto. The executive producer of the failed show was Martin Starger. He led the ABC Entertainment group during the 1970s. He helped pioneer shows like “Happy Days” and “Marcus Welby, M.D.” into creation.
Getting turned down after creating a pilot really isn’t uncommon. Only a fraction of pilot episodes tends to make it on air. Even fewer will survive for several seasons. However, networks make dozens of these pilots, which tend to be quite pricy.
Famous Shows Originally Turned Down
While his pilot for “Harry’s Battles” was starkly shut down, Dick Van Dyke still continues to have a successful career. The actor, comedian, singer, and dancer is currently 95 but is still as energetic as always.
He was recently honored with the Kennedy Center Honors. In addition, he made a comeback in “Mary Poppins Returns” in 2018 as Mr. Dawes Jr.
There are several other examples of shows that encountered roadblocks while trying to get sold to a network. For example, “The Sopranos,” one of the most iconic and groundbreaking shows in television history, was originally turned down by CBS. It would appear instead on HBO.
According to The Richest, those working on the show originally wanted it to be on a network. CBS didn’t turn it down due to violence, cursing, or other plot-related issues, rather, the network apparently had an issue with therapy. CBS didn’t like that Tony Soprano went to therapy for his issues. They wanted a more mob-driven drama without other factors playing a part.
Similarly, “Desperate Housewives” was denied by NBC, so the show went to ABC instead. “The Walking Dead” faced issues at networks like NBC, TNT, and FX. It found monumental success on AMC with all the gore, violence, and decomposing zombie flesh they wanted.
The overall lesson is that one network’s trash is another network’s cultural phenomenon.