Poorly-Disguised Pilot

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"Rule of thumb: whenever a show does an episode focusing on a bunch of people you've never seen before and never do again, it's a pilot for a new show."


Episode in which the show's primary characters take a back seat to secondary or, more likely, brand new characters in order to test the waters for a separate show. Differs from the traditional Spin-Off in that the characters are clearly jammed in there just for the sake of the new show; it's not a matter of primary characters becoming popular enough to break out on their own. Not many of these pilots get picked up, however.

Another common term for this is "backdoor pilot"; however this can refer to other things as well, most notably a pilot broadcast as a special or Made for TV Movie that will be picked up as a series only if the ratings are good enough.

A related concept is the Fully-Absorbed Finale, when what is functionally the last episode of a show appears in another show.

Much like any pilot, the version of the series that makes it to air may have actors or settings changed. The version of Empty Nest that made it to TV was much different than the Poorly-Disguised Pilot on The Golden Girls, and the proposed Aquaman series would have starred a different actor than the one who guest-starred on Smallville.

As a general rule, if you're watching a show and you find yourself asking questions like "Where did everybody go?", "What are we doing here?", "Who are these people?", or, above all, "What is going on here?", then you're watching a Poorly-Disguised Pilot.

Other symptoms of a Poorly-Disguised Pilot include:

The Opposite Trope is Fully-Absorbed Finale. See also Pilot Movie.

Examples of Poorly-Disguised Pilot include:

Anime and Manga

  • This is apparently the reason for Ruri being Put on a Bus in Oreimo so she could receive a spinoff.

Comic Books

  • In Fables, Jack goes to Hollywood and makes a trilogy of LOTR-ish films about him. He eventually gets caught and exiled from Fabletown, leading into the Jack of Fables series.
  • The first three issues of the Retool of Adventures of the Fly called "Fly-Man" is basically this for the originally version of the Mighty Crusaders.
  • Lampooned in Cable & Deadpool #38.

Deadpool: "Bob, Agent of Hydra". One would almost think we were forcing you down our readers' throats as some kind of possible limited series pitch or something.

  • The "Bloodlines" crossover in DC comics of the early 90s was basically one massive series of Poorly Disguised Pilots, with that year's "annual" issue for each ongoing series showcasing the origin of a new superhero. Although a few of these "New Blood" characters were featured in mini-series or new ongoing series, the only one that managed any kind of success was Garth Ennis's Hitman, which spun out of The Demon.
    • Likewise, an issue of The Mighty Thor during the "Acts of Vengeance" crossover in Marvel Comics showcased the New Warriors, which received their own book months later!
  • Heroic Publishing will occasionally use its Champions title in this manner.
  • Marvel Comics, at the start of the Silver Age, had what are now called "tryouts". For instance, one Human Torch story featured a Captain America (comics) impostor and asked the readers if they wanted to bring back the real Captain America. On the other hand, the fevered imagination of fans (and/or the greed of comic book speculators) has been prone to see tryouts in Marvel's pre-superhero era even when links between the precursor and later characters are tenuous at best (e.g., a '50s monster character who happened to be called "Hulk," but otherwise has no resemblance whatsoever to the later Incredible Hulk).
  • DC Comics did the same thing earlier, occasionally trying out the idea of a character before going forward with "the real thing." DC's first Distaff Counterpart characters to Superman (Lois Lane temporarily getting powers and operating as "Superwoman" and Superboy turning into a girl and operating as "Claire Kent, Super-Sister") were probably not tryouts so much as one-shot story ideas. But 1958's "The Girl of Steel" was clearly a dry run for Supergirl. In that story, Jimmy Olsen uses a magic totem to wish for a "Super-Girl" who would be a companion and helpmate for Superman. It doesn't work out all that well, and Jimmy ends up wishing the girl out of existence at her own request (It Makes Sense in Context... sorta.) Reaction was positive enough that DC introduced Kara Zor-El, the "real" Supergirl, shortly after.
  • Both Marvel and DC often launched features from titles that had no "regular" star. Those features would then, if popular enough, get their own titles:
    • Spider-Man is perhaps the most famous case. He first appeared in Amazing Fantasy, a series that was being canceled. As we all know, that particular issue was a miserable failure.
    • DC's Showcase launched a large number of successful features, including the Silver Age versions of The Flash, Green Lantern and The Atom, Challengers of the Unknown, Metal Men, Sea Devils, and many more.
    • For various convoluted reasons, Marvel was limited to printing a certain number of titles in the '60s. When no longer under that restriction, Marvel launched several of its own Showcase-style titles, such as Marvel Spotlight, which launched features such as Werewolf By Night, Ghost Rider, and Spider-Woman.
      • Earlier, in the late 1960s, Marvel did it with "Marvel Super-Heroes", a larger-than-normal comic whose lead feature launched such stars as Captain Mar-Vell, KaZar, and the Guardians of the Galaxy, with classic 1940s and 50s stories backing it up!
    • Archie Comics tried to salvage their failing 1960s superhero line by using "Mighty Comics" as their "Showcase", featuring such heroes as The Web, The Shield, The Black Hood, and Steel Sterling. It wound up killing the line for aout 15 years!
  • DC had planned to do this with The Brave and the Bold to reintroduce the Red Circle heroes before spinning them off in their own titles. This fell through when J. Michael Straczynski decided to instead write a series of one-shots about the characters, which didn't work out well.
  • One Story Arc in Runaways was a Poorly-Disguised Pilot for "Excelsior", a support group for former teen heroes that ended up getting sent to chase the main characters. It was eventually launched as Loners, after it turned out that the trademark on "Excelsior" belonged to Stan Lee, who had put out a book about his experiences in comics by that title.
  • During the nineties, Spider-Man met during a battle with Hydra a superhero named "Shoc", obviously meant to appear in his own series. It was also pretty obvious who was his Secret Identity. Fortunately, he was quickly forgotten.
    • Spider-Man also spun off Slingers, a group of teen heroes that used discarded Spider-Man costumes from a time when he was wanted. The series failed, and the last we saw of them was when Jerk Jock Prodigy, while drunk, was arrested during the Civil War storyline, and the Hornet was killed by Wolverine during his "Agent of Hydra" story arc. Also, one of them, Ricochet, showed up in the Runaways storyline mentioned above, and not even superhero Ascended Fanboy Victor knew who he was, after identifying all his other no-name teammates (ouch).
    • The character Speedball first appeared in a Spider-Man annual that depicted him on the cover, soaring over both Spidey and Daredevil. The annual shoehorned Speedball into the main story and featured a solo back-up tale. This led to a short-lived solo series. Despite this, the character has been around for about thirty years, was a prominent member of New Warriors, and played a large role in Civil War.
    • Amazing Spider Man #86 was meant to set up the short-lived Black Widow solo series that appeared in Amazing Adventures.
  • Issue 99 of Gerard Jones's Justice League of America run was clearly an attempt to drum up support for a series about the altered children who took over the issue, the Strangebrood.
  • Kurt Busiek introduced the Power Company in an issue of JLA before quickly spinning them off in their own series.
  • In 2005, the anthology series Star Wars Tales featured two stories taking place in the Knights of the Old Republic era. One was issue sized while the other lasted only six pages. Two months after the release of the issue featuring the first story, a Knights of the Old Republic comic series was announced. It was likely, however, that both ideas were created around the same time, however.
  • The notorious 'Punisher Goes Black' storyarc in 1992 that guest-starred Luke Cage, Hero for Hire served as a pilot for the 1990s Cage series.
  • Another famous case is Wolverine. He first popped up in an issue of the Incredible Hulk. The creators wanted to use him in other titles but didn't have a clear idea what they wanted to do with the character. They ended up tossing him onto the "New" X-Men, in large part because he had been identified as Canadian and they wanted "international" characters for the new team.
  • The second and third issues of the original Youngblood series gave one of the flip-sides to Shadow Hawk and Supreme, respectively.
    • The fourth issue featured a prelude to Pitt, but without the flip-book format.
  • An odd example is Top Cow's 'Pilot Season', an annual series of one-shots intended to be pilots for new series!
  • The plot for Transformers Generation 2 was kicked of in a Crossover with G.I. Joe.
  • The final issues of the Superman: Grounded storyline were intended by writer Chris Roberson as (among other things) a backdoor pilot for a "Supermen of America" series.
  • Christopher Priest has admitted he only added the Korean heroine Mystek to the Justice League Task Force during his run to set her up for her own mini-series. When plans for the mini-series were axed, Priest quickly killed her off.
  • New Teen Titans Annual #2 introduced us to The Vigilante, who got his own comic book the following month.
  • The second-to-last Teen Titans storyline by Felicia Henderson was meant to be a backdoor pilot for a new Static comic book series. The DC relaunch delayed the series and by the time it launched a year later, it had been retooled to the point that it literally abandoned every bit of set-up introduced in the Teen Titans arc.
  • The Blue Beetle and Hardware team-up in The Brave and the Bold included an extremely obvious set-up for a new Hardware solo series.
  • US Marshal J.D. Hart features prominently in issues 42-44 of the original series of Jonah Hex, essentially acting as a co-star to Jonah in those issues. Hart was going to spun off into his own book, unofficially titled Dakota, but that book never eventuated and Hart eventually returned as a supporting character in Jonah Hex.


Note: remember, films that created with the idea of releasing a Series/Cartoon in mind are Pilot Movies and should be listed there.

  • Yes, this happens in film. Blade: Trinity was partially intended as a Poorly-Disguised Pilot for Hannibal King and Abigail Whistler's "Nightstalker" characters. It didn't work out.
  • Similarly, the Wolverine film has been stated to be a testing bed for films based on Gambit and Deadpool.
  • And Marvel seems to like this a lot, because their upcoming in-house-production films (of which Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk were the first two) are meant to collectively lead into an Avengers film, although both films are good in their own right.
    • And in these cases, the "pilot" part of them really only comes in through a scene at the end (and a deleted scene in The Incredible Hulk).
      • Actually in The Incredible Hulk there were actually many subtle references. Banner's research is mentioned to be based off of the old Super Soldier project the one that created Captain America. Also when pulling the serum from a deep freeze canister the labels mark it as products of Stark Industries. At the end of the film General Ross is approached in a bar by Tony Stark who says he warned him about screwing with the super soldier project.
      • It's played straighter in the sequel, Iron Man 2, which has unsubtle hints to both Captain America and Thor and a huge point of the movie is basically Nick Fury testing Tony Stark out for the Avengers.
    • For a more extreme example, Daredevil was basically hacked to pieces by Fox executives to serve as a pilot for the Elektra spin-off. When given the opportunity to put out the movie as it was originally conceived, the director cut Elektra's screentime substantially, restored a half dozen missing subplots, and turned it into a movie that was actually worthwhile.
  • Before the James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies came out, producers announced that they were planning a spinoff movie series featuring Michelle Yeoh's character Wai Lin. That never happened, but similarly, there was much talk of a spinoff featuring Halle Berry's Jinx character from Die Another Day. The extent to which they were truly serious about either notion is unclear. Some suspect the talk in each case was simply pre-release hype ("The heroine in our next picture is such a great character, we're giving her a movie series of her own!")
  • There was talk of a Catwoman movie as a follow-up to Batman Returns. Michelle Pfeiffer wasn't very excited about the project and it never came to fruition until long after the Batman movie franchise had died. Eventually, the project was revived as a vehicle for Halle Berry, resulting in Catwoman.
  • Godzilla vs. Megalon was intended in part to launch a new Giant Hero, the robotic Jet Jaguar, for Toho Studios.
  • Indiana Jones
  • The movie most of us know simply as "Fantastic Four 2" is actually called "Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer". It's not hard to guess whose movie they were trying to "rise", is it?
    • In some countries they decided not to beat around the bush, and translated the title as "Fantastic Four and Silver Surfer".
    • To make things worse, many things in the movie don't happen (like the appearance of the Big Bad) in order to allow for the Silver Surfer spinoff (which never happened).


  • You wouldn't think this could happen in book form, but it has. Nancy Drew Files #39: The Suspect Next Door focused heavily on Nancy's neighbor, a girl named Nikki Masters. Not too long after, Nikki got her own spin-off, a romance series called River Heights. It lasted about 16 issues before getting run off the face of the earth and is largely forgotten now.
  • Rinkitink in Oz is a book in the Oz series of books that was originally written as a standalone fantasy novel in the land of Pilgaree. It didn't get published in that form, but eventually, L. Frank Baum changed it into an Oz book just by putting in what amounted to a gratuitous Crossover with some Oz characters. Mind you, at this point in his career, Baum was finding that whether he liked it or not, his books could only be commercially successful if they were Oz books.
  • Brutally averted in Animorphs; A large cast of new characters, amply named the Axillary Animorphs, were introduced into the series near the climax. One would think this would mean shoehorning them into getting a spinoff right? Nope, they were all unceremoniously killed off.

Live Action TV

  • The "Kelly's Kids" episode of The Brady Bunch was meant to be a backdoor pilot. In that episode, Ken Berry played a friend of the Bradys who, with his wife, adopts not only a white orphan but also his black and Asian best friends as well, much to his bigoted neighbor's chagrin. The pilot didn't sell... or at least not until twelve years later, when the concept was revived as Together We Stand, a short-lived CBS sitcom starring Elliot Gould.
  • Diff'rent Strokes had a few:
    • Hello, Larry is often referred to as one of these, but actually debuted as a separate show. However, when NBC put it in the time slot directly following Diff'rent Strokes, they wrote in a connection between McLean Stevenson and Conrad Bain's characters that allowed for several crossovers between the shows. It was an (unsuccessful) attempt to boost ratings for Larry, but not a spinoff.
    • The Facts of Life started this way, following from the episode "The Girls School" (albeit with some significant changes from the pilot.)
    • The episode "Almost American" was a failed pilot for a show about immigrants studying for their citizenship exams, featuring a Czech immigrant named Milo.
  • The Facts of Life, in turn, tried to launch other shows this way. Seven times, in fact, none of which resulted in a series:
    • "Brian & Sylvia" was about Tootie's cousin's interracial marriage to a pre-MacGyver Richard Dean Anderson.
    • "The Academy" was a third-season episode about Stone Academy, a boys' school near Eastland. It failed, but they tried again with another Stone Academy episode with the same cast the next year, "The Big Fight."
    • "Jo's Cousin" would have led to a show about, well, Jo's cousin, a 14-year-old girl growing up in Brooklyn in a family full of men.
    • "Rumor Has It..." and "Peekskill Law" was a final-season two-parter that would have led into a show featuring Blair and her law-school mentor.
    • "Big Apple Blues", also from the final season, showcased Natalie and would have led to a show about her moving to New York and living in a Soho loft with several eccentric tenants.
    • Finally, the series' last episodes, "The Beginning of the End/Beginning of the Beginning", ended with Blair buying the Eastland school, turning it co-ed, and presiding over it in a would-be continuation series.
  • The Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Assignment: Earth" ends with Kirk and Spock assuring everyone that they are sure Roberta Lincoln (played by then-unknown Teri Garr) and her super-spy boss Gary Seven (played by Robert Lansing) will have many more interesting adventures to come. Sadly, they didn't; the most they got was an occasional appearance in the Expanded Universe.
  • Diagnosis: Murder had several episodes intended to be spin-offs but none were ever picked up:
    • "Retribution," a two-part episode was intended to be a pilot for "The Chief." Fred Dryer starred at the hard-nosed Los Angeles chief of police who played various political games to provide law and order. Neal McDonough would co-star as Ross Canin, a mob boss who was actually an undercover policeman acting as Masters' ultimate inside man.
    • "A Mime is a Terrible Thing to Waste" featured Rachel York as Randy Wofle, an eccentric woman with various jobs who gets involved in murder cases.
    • "Blood Ties" was to be a pilot for a series called "Whistlers" with rule-bending detective Amy Devlin (Kathy Evison) and her more outrageous partner Taylor Lucas (Zoe McLellan).
  • CSI did this to launch CSI: Miami, which in turn launched CSI: NY.
    • And the episode "Hollywood Brass" certainly feels like a PDP. Were they thinking about a Jim Brass spin-off set in LA?
    • Similarly with the episode "The Thing About Heroes" of CSI: NY, which introduced at least one major character from the Chicago police department.
    • Rumours circulated for a while about a possible CSI: London (although for accuracy, it should be SOCO London, as the real-life CSI equivalents of the British Police are called Scene Of (the) Crime Officers[1]) such that, when Mac Taylor of CSI: NY visited London, there was an expectant hush among some viewers... which dissipated almost immediately, since London was just a stock-footage pretty backdrop for a mystery phone call, part of a very definitely American story arc.
  • The final season of Highlander the Series is an Egregious example of this. It featured a string of episodes centered around various new female Immortals, an attempt to see which one the audience liked best for a female-centric spin-off. The attempt was unsuccessful, and ultimately, recurring Immortal Liz Gracen was spun off to the short-lived Highlander the Raven series.
    • Even more egregiously, one of those female test runs was called The Raven. That ended up being the name of the new series, even though it didn't star that character and Liz Gracen's character Amanda had never been associated with a black bird of portent before. It took an incredibly clumsy credit sequence that tried to make the case that thief Amanda is like a Native American mythological Trickster God Raven to justify the title. Why not just call it Rule of Cool and be done with it?
      • It is worth noting that the Raven of myth is quite an accomplished thief. His stories have him stealing all manner of things, chief among them the Sun itself.
  • The third season of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers began with a three-part episode titled "A Friend in Need", which was basically an advertisement for Saban's Masked Rider series, an Americanized version of Kamen Rider Black RX that premiered a few weeks after the three-parter aired. Aside for a passing mention during the Aquitian Rangers story arc and a brief cameo/team-up in a one-shot Masked Rider comic book by Marvel, Dex and the Rangers never encountered each other again. However, an episode of Power Rangers Time Force has Nadira watching an episode of Masked Rider on TV.
  • The Crossing Jordan episode "Sunset Division" is another example; however, the pilot has not been picked up.
  • Empty Nest began on The Golden Girls this way with the episode "Empty Nests". However, the actors, characters, and premise were very different from the show that actually made it to air - David Leisure was the only actor to be retained, and even he was playing a different character (in the pilot he was playing a test pilot called Oliver).
  • The Knight Rider episode "Mouth of the Snake" had Michael and KITT playing second fiddle to a Sentinel-like crimefighter and his sidekick in what appears to have been a Poorly-Disguised Pilot for a show that was never picked up. (Actually, it did; it was called Code of Vengeance, but was extremely short-lived and changed much about the premise, to the extent that most people couldn't tell it was a Spin-Off.)
  • MacGyver: "The Coltons", after a 3-4 minute scene with Mac, became entirely about the exploits of a family of bounty hunters, each of whom had previously appeared in the series separately. The series never came to pass, but individual Coltons did continue to turn up for the remainder of the series.
  • The Rockford Files had at least three Poorly Disguised Pilots during the run of the series. It did succeed in spinning off one short-lived series, Richie Brockelman Private Eye, a series that had already had one stand-alone pilot two years earlier on the NBC Mystery Movie.
  • Smallville had an episode almost entirely devoted to a reinvention of the classic Aquaman character, with little relation to the regular plot. It was later revealed that The WB planned to launch a Smallville-esque Aquaman series; this didn't come off, and the proposed series would have diverged widely from the episode's version of the character.
    • Actually the Aquaman pilot starred Justin Hartley as Aquaman, rather than Alan Ritchson, who played the character in Smallville. After the pilot failed, Hartley was cast as Green Arrow on Smallville.
    • Although nothing official has been stated, there was an episode of Smallville that quickly trapped Clark in order to bring in the newly formed Justice League (Green Arrow, Cyborg, Aquaman, and Impulse). This may have been testing the waters for a Justice League TV show, or it might just have been a ratings grab.
      • The actor who plays Green Arrow has dismissed ideas of starring in a GA spin-off, feeling that this would be disloyal to the series.
  • The Married... with Children episodes "Top of the Heap" and "Oldies but Young'uns" were used as test-pilots for the eventual spinoff Top of the Heap, which only lasted six episodes.
    • There were two more Poorly-Disguised Pilot attempts in the series, "Radio Free Trumaine", revolving around a radio station at Bud's college, and "Enemies", about a group of Kelly's friends and starring Alan Thicke. Neither was picked up by the network.
      • The finale, focusing on Kelly, was to be spun off into a series about her moving out, but disinterest and contract disputes prevented that.
  • The Gilmore Girls episode in which Jess goes to find his father in California was an obvious pilot for a series that was never picked up. Apparently, it was supposed to be called Windward Circle. Adrian Pasdar tried out for, but didn't get, the role of Jess's dad.
  • The 1996 Touched By an Angel episode "Promised Land" was a pilot for the series of the same name that would run for 3 seasons.
  • Even though the organization must have been involved in a large number of previous cases, NCIS only makes a prominent appearance in two episodes of JAG: "Ice Queen" and "The Meltdown", a two-parter Poorly-Disguised Pilot.
    • An interesting side note is the changes that were seen from this testing. Most notably, the female character was replaced by a Secret Service liaison, and the romantic tension between Abby and DiNozzo was completely dropped.
    • Further interesting side note: The first season of JAG played much more like NCIS than the rest of the series; in fact, the season ended in a never-resolved cliffhanger due to cancellation. The first season of NCIS retreads many episodes of that canceled season.
    • NCIS launched its own spinoff with the two-parter episode "Legend". The new series was billed as NCIS: Legend, but would eventually get the much-less-compelling name NCIS: Los Angeles.
  • The Bionic Woman episode "Biofeedback" appeared to be a Poorly Disguised Pilot for a series about another super-powered OSI agent, Darwin Jones.
  • Blatantly used in the episode of Grey's Anatomy in which Addison travels to California, the setting for her spin-off Private Practice.
  • One of the earliest examples of this was on The Danny Thomas Show, which had the title character arrested and sent to jail in the small town of Mayberry—home of Sheriff Andy Taylor and son Opie. This was the official pilot for The Andy Griffith Show.
  • The Andy Griffith Show produced one itself when Gomer Pyle joined the Marine Corps, leading to the spinoff Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C..
  • The last season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was full of Poorly Disguised Pilots, from reintroducing Faith to giving Dawn her own supporting cast for an episode.
    • Joss Whedon has also mentioned in interviews that Spike's one-episode appearance in Season Three was meant to appear like one of these, in order to distract from the rumors of the upcoming Angel spin-off. Two Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes that season can be seen with hindsight as genuine Poorly Disguised Pilots for Angel: "Anne" had the dark-fantasy-LA setting and some of the atmosphere, and "Amends" introduced the audience to the idea that Angel had way bigger issues than just the conflict between the happiness curse and loving Buffy.
  • Mork and Mindy and Laverne and Shirley spun off of Happy Days in this way. (Mork and Mindy didn't even take place in the same time period, which was handwaved away.)
    • Although the original Mork episode of Happy Days wasn't intended as a backdoor pilot, since it turned out to be a dream at the end. But Robin Williams proved so popular that Mork was retconned into a real person and spun off into his own series. Before Mork and Mindy premiered, the Happy Days Mork episode was rerun with the original ending replaced by a new ending revealing that Mork was real after all and had only made Fonzie think he'd been dreaming.
    • There was a much lesser-known spinoff called Out of the Blue about an angel named Random, that was tied in with an episode in which Chachi sells his soul to the devil. Yes, this was post shark-jumping.
    • And the final episode of Laverne and Shirley featured Carmine going to New York to try to become a Broadway Actor/Dancer in an obvious busted spin-off pilot.
    • And Happy Days was spun off this way from Love, American Style, which by the nature of the program could try out all kinds of pilots without making them too poorly disguised.
      • There was also the less successful Joanie Loves Chachi, where the title characters, regulars on Happy Days, finally fall in love and live near each other in Chicago.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch attempted a spinoff named Witchright Hall in an episode where Sabrina's cousin Amanda starred as a new student in a school for delinquent witches. The episode where Amanda's mother got together with a plumber was supposed to lead to a spinoff, too. Marigold had two daughters, he had three sons, you can do the math. Amanda had no spinoff luck.
  • The Quincy episode "Suffer the Little Children", with Tony Dow as an on-site therapist who lives with troubled families.
    • The very last episode of Quincy, "The Cutting Edge," was another one of these.
  • An episode in All in The Family's second season introduced Edith's cousin Maude Findlay, who was even more of a fiery liberal than Mike and massively feuded with Archie. When audiences responded favorably to the character, Norman Lear made the second season's final episode a pilot for a Spin-Off, where the Bunkers visit Maude and we meet the rest of her family (even though Carol is played by a different actress).
    • Also, the season 5 episode "The Jeffersons Move on Up", which had the Bunkers' neighbors moving to Manhattan as a springboard for their own series.
    • And the season 2 episode of Maude, titled "Florida's Goodbye" could also be considered a poorly disguised pilot for Good Times. However, it is interesting that in Good Times the Evans family had been inexplicably relocated from New York (where Florida's husband Henry was a firefighter) to Chicago (where husband James was often unemployed). And that the Findlays were never mentioned at any time during the series.
  • The Incredible Hulk TV series was given a follow-up made-for-TV movie trilogy after its cancellation, but the first two installments, "Return of the Incredible Hulk" and "Trial of the Incredible Hulk", were really just tryouts for other Marvel Comics heroes, namely Thor and Daredevil.
  • The last two episodes of Green Acres: one takes place in a hotel in Honolulu, the other is about Oliver's former secretary. Neither show got made, of course.
  • The final season of The Practice seemed like a lame last attempt to pump life into a dying show by adding a new main character, the "dastardly" Alan Shore, but it culminated in him leaving the firm and joining a new one, which spawned the more popular (and decidedly more comedy-based) Boston Legal.
  • When Murder, She Wrote star Angela Lansbury started to tire of the pace of a weekly network show, a strategy was devised that would allow the network to do a full season without Lansbury having to do a full season. Slightly more than half of the episodes of the season would be full adventures of Lansbury's character, mystery writer Jessica Fletcher. The remainder would be Poorly Disguised Pilots, for which Lansbury as Fletcher would film bookend sequences, explaining the new character we'd be seeing for the next hour—sometimes "real-world" acquaintances of Fletcher, sometimes Jessica's own fictional characters. Ironically, only one series ever actually spun off of Murder She Wrote -- The Law and Harry McGraw, whose title character had appeared in Murder She Wrote back in the very first season, long before the seasons heavy on the PDPs showed up.
  • The Man from U.N.C.L.E. second season episode "The Moonglow Affair" was a Poorly Disguised Pilot for the U.N.C.L.E. spinoff series The Girl from U.N.C.L.E..
  • The Stargate SG-1 two-parter "Lost City", the season 7 finale, is a Poorly Disguised Pilot for Stargate Atlantis, introducing Elizabeth Weir, ZPMs, and the Antarctic outpost. Originally, it was supposed to be a separate movie between the two series and the Antarctic outpost was supposed to be Atlantis itself, but the spin-off was moved to a different galaxy when SG-1 was renewed for the eighth season.
  • The Nanny had 2nd season episode "The Chatterbox", where Miss Fine took Maggie to get her hair done at a salon called "The Chatterbox", the workers at which had a surprising amount of screen time. The series wasn't picked up by CBS.
  • Charmed attempted to do this with the Billie character, but it didn't work out. I wonder why?
    • The 5th season opener, A Witch's Tail effectively served as one of these for Brad Kern's spin-off Mermaid, though the plan didn't make it past pilot stage. The producers claim that the PDP nature of A Witch's Tail was unintentional, and that it was only after making that episode that they realised the potential in the idea.
  • The Twilight Zone TOS episode "Cavender is Coming", a pitch for a sitcom about a bumbling guardian angel and his various encounters with other "deserving humans" in need of heavenly assistance. Just to make sure the viewer got the idea, it was even broadcast with a Laugh Track. (This was actually the second time the show tried to sell a series on this theme; "Mr. Bevis," in which the title character was under the care of a guardian angel, was the first. Neither sold.)
  • Walker, Texas Ranger had an episode called "Sons of Thunder", which served as the pilot for an identically named spin-off. The episode featured the new characters almost exclusively over the regular Walker cast.
  • The two-part Grand Finale of Filmation's The Secrets of Isis was evidently an excuse to get three high school "Super-Sleuths" on screen, to the point of neglecting the mandatory 1970s moral at the end.
  • Jack Webb would often use one of the shows he produced to promote or introduce another:
    • The Emergency episode "905-Wild" was a pilot for another Jack Webb production centered on animal control officers, starring Mark Harmon and Albert Popwell, which did not get picked up.
    • The Adam-12 episode, "A Clinic on 18th Street" served as the pilot for a show featuring Fraud Division. The cast of the pilot (including future Switch/Cagney and Lacey star Sharon Gless, who gets the Welcome Episode treatment), are all listed in the opening credits as "Special Guest Stars". Reed and Malloy only appear in the beginning and end of this story of a doctor peddling electronic health belts to diabetics and fake blindness cures to little girls. Jack Webb directed, but not in his trademark Dragnet style.
  • The entire last season of Alias was used as one, suddenly introducing three new characters into the mix who quickly became the main focus of the show as Vaughn and Weiss were removed as regular characters and Jennifer Garner's pregnancy was also given to Sydney, preventing her from going into the field much. When it became clear that things weren't going to work out, two of them were killed off with little resolution of their own story arcs.
  • Gossip Girl featured a backdoor pilot for a prequel spin-off (called Valley Girls) about the teenage life of Lily Bass. While the creation of the spin-off was announced before the backdoor pilot premiered, the network ended up canceling Valley Girls before it ever aired.
  • House had a PDP story-arc that lasted for several episodes. House and Wilson were feuding, and House hired a private investigator to follow him (and patients). The network admitted the character was introduced purposely to see if audiences would be interested in a spinoff. Reaction was mixed, and eventually the character disappeared. Not one single episode, but still definitely falls in this category.
    • Instead of being ultimately forgotten, the scrapped character returned lately on season 6 with a more reasonable tie to the plot and far less air time. He's also basically the same character only un-Flanderized.
  • Virtuality was a pilot presented as a special TV Movie.
  • Three's Company had one of these, to get the Ropers to their own show.
    • Considering that Three's Company was a remake of the British show Man About the House, it makes sense that the American version would attempt their own version of George and Mildred.
    • And the hour-long final episode rushed through wrapping up Terri and Janet's storylines in order to (literally) set the stage for Three's A Crowd, an Americanized version of Man About the House's spin-off Robins Nest.
  • Hercules: The Legendary Journeys had a couple of episodes at the end of the fourth season ("Twilight" and "Top God") that had Hercules and Iolaus reminiscing of their younger days as teenagers for no particular reason. These episodes served as the basis for a later spin-off titled Young Hercules, which aired on Fox Kids. Ian Bohen, the actor who originally played the "Young Hercules" in the flashback episodes, ended up being replaced by Ryan Gosling in the actual spin-off.
    • Just for clarification, Young Hercules already had a pilot in the form of a feature-length movie, which was filmed during the parent series' third season and being shopped around on its own. The parent series also did four "Young Hercules" episodes during its fourth season. "Regrets... I've Had A Few" was a holdover from the end of the third season and Word of God states it was done to allow Kevin Sorbo to vacation early. Word of God also states the remaining three ("Medea Culpa," "Twilight", and "Top God") were done to give Sorbo less to do so he could recover from health problems that year. That's not to say executives didn't consider the added benefit of making viewers aware of the "Young Hercules" concept ("Twilight" and "Top God" were likely filmed concurrently with the spin-off's production), but these episodes had more reasons behind them than being a Poorly-Disguised Pilot.
    • And of course there's the final two episodes of the first season which pretty was the pilot for Xena: Warrior Princess.
  • The Cosby Show episode "Cliff's Birthday" was intended to set up a sitcom vehicle for none other than Lena Horne, playing herself as the owner of a jazz club.
    • Tony Orlando's appearances running the community center and working with the problems of the poor kids there struck some as testing the possibility of a series based around his character.
      • Especially since there are several scenes with Tony and none of the regular cast.
        • Then there's A Different World, a spin-off series centered on the life of students at Hillman College.
  • The Punky Brewster episode "Fenster Hall" was one of these. It was twice the length of your average episode, and aside from a brief scene in the beginning, pushed Punky and Henry into the background, not featuring any of the other main cast members at all.
  • CHiPs featured an array of wacky martial artist characters called "Force Seven" who seemed to come out of nowhere for one episode. After the initial setup of the crime of the week, a phone call throws the story to them, while Ponch and John aren't seen again.
    • The series also tried to launch a series about two female cops called "Mitchell & Woods" in an episode called... guess.
  • Home Alone 4 started off as a stand-alone TV special, but during filming the producers decided that it would be a perfect lead-in to a Home Alone TV series, and got several of the key players to sign contracts for such a series, as well as making adjustments to the plot to facilitate it (Kevin's parents didn't get back together in the original script, but they did in the finished version). In the end though, Home Alone 4 failed miserably in the ratings, and the series was not to be.
  • Criminal Minds In season Five (The Fight) The team is "assisted" by a secondary team, lead by Forrest Whitaker. The other team is given the larger share of screen time, and the main cast is mainly given dialogue to allow the new team to expound on their back story. It took a few years, but they're getting their own show, Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior. And that worked out well.
  • Some have pointed that this might be the case of Cold Case Season 7 episode "Free Love" for a number of reasons: 1) Cold Case has been rumored to get canceled soon since the beginning of the season, 2) It wildly varies from other episodes, being set in New York as opposite to Philadelphia and having Lilly alone helping the FBI guy that was introduced two episodes earlier, with hints of them to become an Official Couple and 3) in the episode she considers joining the FBI, while he muses about the creation of a Cold Case FBI unit.
  • Charles in Charge had three episodes in the final season which were failed attempts at a pilot for a new series. In each a character would visit somewhere where there would be a character that looked suspiciously like one of the regular cast members. Ellen Travolta, who played Charles mom had an identical twin sister who ran a car wash in New York. Willie Aames' character Buddy had an identical cousin working in a hotel in Hawaii. Nicole Eggert's character had an identical cousin living in New Mexico.
  • Who's The Boss? had a two-part third season finale in which Mona visits her brother who runs a hotel in NYC, but the spin-off was canceled before it aired. Another episode launched Charmed Lives, which featured Fran Drescher and Donna Dixon and lasted three episodes. A third spinoff, Living Dolls, starred Leah Remini and Halle Berry as aspiring models; it had two Poorly-Disguised Pilot episodes, the first of which was omitted from the original run.
  • Charlie's Angels had an episode called "Toni's Boys" where the angels met a team of Gender-Flipped counterparts — three young studs (with a habit of taking off their shirts) and an older female mentor. Nothing ever came of it, but it seemed like an attempt to introduce a second show using the Charlie's Angels formula, but aimed at a female audience instead - their "Charlie," Toni, was played by Barbara Stanwyck (and unlike John Forsythe, she appeared on screen!).
  • The Dukes of Hazzard had more than one (the better-known one-season Enos was also a spinoff, but had a more traditional stand-alone pilot, and of course the character was already known by the Dukes audience):
    • The second season gave us "Mason Dixon's Girls", a Poorly-Disguised Pilot concerning a private detective and his two sexy Action Girl associates, the brunette Tinker and the blond Samantha. It's amazingly blatant, even setting aside the obvious Charlie's Angels ripoff. The show's then story editor Bruce Howard 'fessed up to it being a disguised pilot (it was in his contract that he could write a spinoff.)
    • "Jude Emery", a show about an unconventional Texas Ranger who drove a Korean War surplus Jeep and had a gun that didn't work, was another — a Walker, Texas Ranger ancestor written by the show's creator Gy Waldron (this was the final episode he wrote for the series - he'd been thrown off the show after the first season).
  • The third season finale of One On One, "Phatheadz," reduced star Flex Alexander to a bookending cameo and left out all the others to focus on a never-before-heard-of relative and the barber shop he ran, and the daughter of the owner of the shop (Shannon Elizabeth) who wanted it to become a hair salon. In the end they teamed up and called it "Pharenity" (Shannon wanted to call the salon "Serenity") - unlike most PDPs, this one also had a happy ending and eventually became the UPN sitcom Cuts.
  • Episode 6.19 of Bones, "The Finder", featured the show's main cast taking a back seat to a new collection of characters led by an old friend of Booth's played by Geoff Stults. Yep, it was a Poorly-Disguised Pilot for a new series which is also known as The Finder also created by Hart Hanson (the creator of Bones). (An early tip-off to the knowledgeable fan was this violated the normal format for episode titles: The X in the Y.)
  • The episode "3...2...1..." of Warehouse 13 was this for an as-of-yet unnamed spin-off of the show featuring HG Wells.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess had one in season 5 that explained that the Amazons were founded by a girl Trapped in Another World (played by Selma Blair of Cruel Intentions).
  • Early Edition had an episode that focused on a girl with psychic powers.
  • Big Time Rush premiered a two-part pilot episode (Big Time Audition) as a "sneak preview" on November 28, 2009, but the series itself debuted the following year on January 18.
  • An episode of the detective series Burke's Law served as a pilot to spin off another detective series, Honey West.
  • An episode of Different Strokes featured a woman who taught a class of immigrants a course on English. The show was never picked up, however this premise for a series was used in the sitcom What A Country.
  • That's So Raven had an episode entitled "Goin' Hollywood" featuring a young girl (Alyson Stoner) who acted on a fictional show about the 1950s called "Better Days". The series would have followed the girl's attempts to balance her acting career with her normal life as a middle schooler. The series was not picked up, but the idea was later re-tooled into the TV series Hannah Montana.
  • The producers of Starsky and Hutch considered giving informant Huggy Bear a spin-off. The second season episode "Huggy Bear and the Turkey" (which would have been the name of the proposed series) saw Huggy paired with former Sheriff "Turkey" Turquet (Dale Robinette) as Private Investigators who have been hired to find a woman's missing husband. The series was never made.
  • Magnum, P.I. had at least three:
    • The first season episode titled "J. Digger Doyle" presented the character of security expert Joy "Digger" Doyle of the episode title, in hope of launching her own series, but the idea didn't follow through.
    • The third season episode "Two Birds of a Feather" again served as a potential pilot for a new show, which didn't sell, but was heavily reworked to become Airwolf.
    • The fourth season episode "The Return of Luther Gillis" (a sequel to the same season's "Luther Gillis: File #521"), featuring old-fashioned hard-boiled St. Louis private eye Luther Gillis, was planned as a pilot for a spinoff - it didn't sell, but unlike J. Digger Doyle this character did appear in later episodes.
  • The Martin episode entitled "Goin' for Mine" was a backdoor pilot, about Pam James wanting an A&R job at a record label by trying to get an unsigned singer signed. Martin Lawrence, the star of the series was only shown in the cold open and the episode featured a number actors that were to star in the proposed series. The show was not picked up as a full series.
  • The Miami Vice episode entitled "Leap of Faith" was a backdoor pilot about a Youth Crime Unit going undercover as college students, a somewhat similar concept to the series 21 Jump Street. The show's main stars Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas are seen only in the first few minutes of this episode, and none of the other regulars appear at all.
  • Being Human (UK) had an episode centering on a young(looking) vampire named Adam, who ate up most of the screen time. He became a central character in the online young-adult spinoff Becoming Human.
  • The Mary Tyler Moore Show examples:
    • The final episode of its second season (this was before the concept of the Season Finale took off) was used for an attempted backdoor pilot starring Bill Daily as an incompetent city councilman.
    • The show had three actual Spin-Off series that averted this trope: Rhoda, Phyllis, and Lou Grant. Each of these shows had separately produced pilots.
    • One episode's plot involved Rhoda almost moving back to New York, a few seasons before Rhoda was launched. It doesn't appear to have been intended as a backdoor pilot per se, but may have been a trial balloon for the concept.
  • Cartoon Network has tried this twice, both times being in the form of Made for TV Movies: Re-Animated (which spawned Out of Jimmy's Head), and more recently Level Up.
  • Averted on Prison Break. The producers planned a spin-off with the working title Prison Break: Cherry Hill, which was to focus on a woman escaping from a maximum security prison. The main character was to be introduced in an episode of its parent show, but first it became too difficult to steer its serpentine plot in a direction that could accommodate Cherry Hill", then casting the lead became a chore, then finally the writers' strike made it more trouble than it was worth.
  • It would take less time to list the installments of The Disney Sunday Movie that weren't Poorly Disguised Pilots. And even less time to list the pilots that became series, because only one did (The Last Electric Knight, which became Sidekicks).

Web Comics

  • Not Invented Here was launched in Unshelved in fall 2009. Though it's not even poorly disguised, since they brought in the NIH artist as a guest artist.
  • Prior to receiving her own series and eventually becoming the Platypus Comix mascot, Mulberry Sharona made some guest appearances in Marin Meadow, a series the cartoonist decided to discontinue around the time he came up with Mulberry.

Web Original

  • Parodied in the AH Dot Com the Series episode "Ze Poorly-Disguised Pilot", which focuses on occasional guest stars The Germans and their adventures for a week instead.

Western Animation

  • One episode of Wait Till Your Father Gets Home featured a Crossover with Car 54, Where Are You?, introducing Gunther as Erma's brother in law. The episode quickly focuses on the officers trying to find a missing kid, with the Boyles shoved into the background.
  • The Andy Panda short "Knock Knock" was in actuality a vehicle short for Walter Lantz's intended new star Woody Woodpecker, with the bird getting much more screentime than Andy and his poppa.
  • Gargoyles had "Pendragon", which ended with a resurrected King Arthur heading out to wander the world in search of Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table. This was in fact a Poorly Disguised Pilot for a show that never came to fruition.
    • The World Tour arc was ripe with these. There was "The New Olympians", a Poorly-Disguised Pilot for... The New Olympians. "Sentinel" was a more subtle predecessor to Gargoyles 2198. Lampshaded in the creator's "ramble" on the episode:

Greg: The way this ended, you'd almost think we were setting up yet another spin-off. "That wacky alien Nokkar teams up with a doctor and two archeologists to save the world from invasion and learn a little something about getting along... all in one hotel room!"

    • Greg Weisman had a pretty terrible record with Gargoyles spin-off ideas. None of his ideas became series, and he had quite a few. However, with the transfer of Gargoyles to comics, where it's much easier to launch new series, one of the spin-offs, Bad Guys, is getting its own series.
    • To make it even more ridiculous, some of the World Tour episodes that WEREN'T intended as pilots could also qualify. Such as:
    • Other episodes set up elements that would lead to spinoffs:
      • "Future Tense" with the Phoenix Gate being thrown into the timestream, setting up "Timedancer".
      • "Walkabout" , "Bushido", "Kingdom" and "The Journey" all have elements that feature in the "Bad Guys" series.
  • Fan speculation ran rampant that the Justice League Unlimited episode "Far From Home" was designed as a Poorly Disguised Pilot for a Legion of Super-Heroes series that would have starred Supergirl and taken place in DCAU continuity; however, Bruce Timm and James Tucker have denied this. The fact that a Legion cartoon started up the next year, starring Superman, is apparently just a coincidence.
  • Two episodes of Thomas the Tank Engine's sixth series pushed the engines into the background, to focus on a group of construction vehicles called Jack and the Pack. The proposed series was not picked up, but 13 episodes were filmed and a few years later went straight-to-video (albeit with the titles altered to make it seem Thomas and Percy were the stars of most episodes).
  • The last episode of Hong Kong Phooey, "Comedy Cowboys", used its full half-hour length to introduce a bevy of new characters (Honcho, The Mysterious Maverick and Posse Impossible) all evidently itching to get their own cartoon. (Only one, Posse Impossible, succeeded when it appeared on CB Bears.)
    • Lampshaded in that Phooey does hardly anything in the episode, as they point out at the end.
  • Curiously, the Batman Beyond episode "Zeta" was not originally intended to be a pilot for The Zeta Project, but it was deemed a good enough premise that it got its own show, albeit one Cut Short by cancellation.
    • They did completely redesign Zeta for the spin-off to look more human-like, which doesn't stop Batman from recognizing him in the crossover episode.
  • The episode "The Fear" from The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians is acknowledged by its writers as having been intended to lead into a solo Batman series.
  • One of the higher-ups at Warner Bros. Animation in The Nineties must have liked Elmyra waaaay too much. The Tiny Toon Adventures episode "Take Elmyra Please" gave her a new, quirky family, consisting of her inventor father Mac, her spaced-out mother Emily, her super-strong baby brother, her superhero wannabe brother Duncan and her teenage sister Amanda, and eliminated much of her Acme Acres-style cartoonishness. Given that they had also pulled out all the stops on animation quality, it may have been more of an effort to make a failed pilot into a usable episode than vice versa. (The studio later managed to ruin Pinky and The Brain by forcing Elmyra into the mix.)
    • There was also an episode of TTA whose entire backstory was that Tiny Toons was going to be replaced with a new show, putting Buster's and Babs' jobs into jeopardy; Buster even frets about ending up on "Toonywood Squares". It featured three 1930s Warners characters (Foxy, Roxy and Goopy Gear, all from the Harman-Ising days of the studio) as part of the plot. Naturally, this was toward the end of TTA's run, and it was already known that the first season of Animaniacs (whose lead characters just happened to be Inspired By the Harman-Ising characters) was well into production, so there was some debate about whether this was a backdoor pilot in the same vein as the "Elmyra's Family" episodes.
  • Animaniacs seems to have tried the same thing with the Slappy Squirrel episode "One Flew Over the Cuckoo Clock", the pilot for a series featuring Slappy, Skippy and their friends and neighbors. The series (if that's what it was supposed to be) was not picked up, although Animaniacs had more luck with Pinky and The Brain.
  • Likewise, the Pinky and the Brain episode "Plan Brain From Outer Space" involves Brain meeting his penpal, who turns out to be brain-eating alien Zalgar the Brain Eater, who proceeds to try to hunt him down and...well, take a guess. The episode seems to be a pilot for a series featuring the titular character.
  • The Rugrats episode "All Growed Up" features an odd "vision into the future" where all the characters are about twelve years older and have their adventures grounded in something resembling reality, as opposed to the usually surreal and fantastic nature of the exploits of their toddler incarnations. Sure enough, the episode was quickly transformed into a series, Rugrats: All Grown Up!, which recycles the Rugrats characters into a junior high school.
    • All Growed Up was set 10 years in the future as it was a special feature for the 10 year anniversary. YMMV on whether it was a Poorly-Disguised Pilot or simply an incredibly popular episode the network decided to run with.
    • The episode where Suzie celebrates Kwanza with her family was meant to be this, as it was planned to have a spin-off featuring Suzie and her family. It never materialised.
  • Parodied in the DVD Commentary of the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "The Western Air Temple", where they joked that Haru, Teo, and the Duke messing around in the temple was one of these for a spin-off called The Last Street Luger with a lost pilot episode that consisted of 22 minutes of Teo riding around in his wheel-chair while passing various kinds of plants.
  • The Simpsons episode "22 Short Films About Springfield" was a backdoor pilot for a Simpsons spinoff called "Tales from Springfield" or something similar that would showcase the lives of the show's supporting cast. Unfortunately, the crew decided it would be too much work and the idea was abandoned.
    • The Simpsons also parodied this in "The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase". Three short stories were presented as supposed spinoffs of the show.
  • The Fairly OddParents had an episode in their fifth season that was an episode of the Show Within a Show Crash Nebula. It was actually a pilot for a proposed spin-off, but plans never got off the ground.
    • The episode "Love Triangle", in which Poof and Foop fight for the affections of a female fairy baby, also appears to be one of these, as the episode focuses almost entirely on the two babies while Timmy, Cosmo, and Wanda barely appear at all.
  • There was a two-part episode of Bravestarr called "Sherlock Holmes in the 23rd Century", which was clearly designed as a backdoor pilot for a potential new series that never entered production because Filmation had fallen upon hard times by this point (Bravestarr ultimately went on to become Filmation's final, fully produced series). This bore no relation to the later DiC Entertainment series Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century, which like the two part episode in question, was set in "New London" (Bravestarr was set on the planet of "New Texas").
  • Arthur had a "Postcards from Buster" special, a while before the series.
  • Inversion: Codename: Kids Next Door were actually supposed to be supporting characters in a series concept by Tom Warburton. Cartoon Network saw the potential of the neighbors, and next thing you know, a "Kenny and the Chimp" short without the KND (although the wacky scientist in that short did make a few appearances in the main show) ended up being part of the first KND episode instead of the other way around.
  • SpongeBob vs The Big One. Notice all the named characters introduced, including one whose name (or rather, a viewer-friendly anagram of his name) is shouted by SpongeBob every time he appears. Note the utter absence of the show's usual humor style. Note the fact that SpongeBob and the gang didn't act out of character so much as they acted without character. There could have been anybody standing in for them, and everything would have played out the same way.
    • There's also "The Bad Guy Club for Villains," which consists entirely of SpongeBob and Patrick watching an episode of Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy (similar to the "Crash Nebula" pilot above).
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force: The "Spacecataz" cold openings that aired during the third season were, when put together, intended to be the pilot of a spinoff miniseries featuring the Mooninites and Plutonians; the idea never got off the ground, and the show dropped the cold openings before the short could be aired in its entirety (though it's available on the volume 4 DVD.)
  • Thundarr the Barbarian did an episode where the heroes meet a male and female pair of younger adventurers; it was likely an example of this trope.
  • An inversion happened with the DuckTales (1987) episode where Uncle Scrooge becomes the crime fighting "Masked Mallard". Originally just a one shot story, the fans and writers liked it so much they started coming up with ideas for a sequel episode. Then finally deciding there were just too many good ideas that they wanted to do and created Darkwing Duck.
    • The episode "Double-O-Duck" where Launchpad gets mistaken for a James Bond-style secret agent seemed to be the set up for a spin off, though the James Bond right-holders weren't too thrilled with the "Double-O" part. F.O.W.L.(Fiendish Organization for Wold Larceny), introduced in the episode, became the main villains for Darkwing Duck.
  • Not really a pilot, but Cleveland got more attention than normal on Family Guy after his spin-off was announced.
  • Parodied in South Park with "Butters' Very Own Episode." The episode was actually used to set the stage for Butters to replace Kenny for a season as an Ascended Extra.
  • Tijuana Toads, a 1970s series produced by DePatie-Freleng, did this with Crazylegs Crane, Japanese Beetle, and the Blue Racer. The Blue Racer got his own series immediately after the Toads ended (with the Japanese Beetle appearing as a recurring character). Crazylegs Crane, however, had to appear in several Toads shorts (and even a few on the Blue Racer) before he finally got his own series in 1978, as a segment on the All-New Pink Panther Show.
  • Spider-Man: The Animated Series was rife with cameos from the rest of the Marvel universe, and the writers has since revealed that the two-parter with Daredevil was meant to launch another series, which ended up not being made.
  • Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends also featured various episodes where the Power Trio would encounter several other Marvel heroes, including the X-Men. Notably, Wolverine used the same Australian accent he used on the later "Pryde of the X-Men" pilot, even though he's Canadian.
  • The (alleged) Betty Boop short Popeye the Sailor. While Betty was in the cartoon for about 30 seconds, a certain one-eyed sailor took up most of the screentime, and then got his own cartoon series.
  • The My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episode Call Of The Cutie was supposed to serve as a pilot for a spinoff about the Cutie Mark Crusaders aimed towards a younger demographic than that of the main series, however, higher ups at Hasbro suggested that they should be incorporated into the main series first.
  • The "Adventures of Sir Johan and Peewit" episodes in Season 2 of The Smurfs came off as this.
    • This is the opposite of the original French language comic where the Smurfs originally appeared in the Johan et Pirlouit album La Flute A Six Schtroumpfs ("The Six Smurf Flute") before getting their own series. This also explains why the Smurfs take so long to turn up in the movie The Smurfs and the Magic Flute (based on the aforementioned album).
  • Plutos Judgement Day: Despite being labeled as a Mickey Mouse short, this is actually one of the first Classic Disney Shorts to focus almost entirely on Pluto.
  • Fluppy Dogs was intended as a pilot for a television series. The movie was not well-received, and the series was never picked up.
  • Groove Squad, an animated movie featuring three cheerleaders who gain super powers by drinking fruit smoothies (one with x-ray and telescopic vision, one with super strength and one with flight) and are given gadgets by a former secret agent to battle a world domination obsessed Mad Scientist (who happens to be the father of their Alpha Bitch school rival), was made as a pilot. The series was not picked up.
  • The Pixar Short Air Mater actually appears to be this to the spinoff film Planes.
  • Cartoon Network once had the "What A Cartoon!" show where three shorts would be presented, and viewers would vote for their favorite. The winner of the vote would usually receive its own show (Dexter's Laboratory, The Powerpuff Girls, Cow and Chicken, Johnny Bravo), but a lot of the shorts got their own show despite "losing" the competition (The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Courage the Cowardly Dog, Sheep in The Big City, Whatever Happened to... Robot Jones?, etc.)
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy's Grand Finale Big Damn Movie "Underfist" was very obviously trying to phase out the titular trio to cast focus on the otherwise minor characters that composed Underfist, but it never got off the ground.
  • DuckTales (1987) had two: The first was an episode called "Double-O-Duck" which featured Launchpad playing a role as a spy fighting against an organization called FOWL, used to test the grounds for a spinoff starring the pilot. The second was called "The Masked Mallard" featured Scrooge fighting crime as a vigilante superhero. Elements of these two episodes were later retooled into Darkwing Duck, with Launchpad working alongside the titular protagonist.
  • Wonder Pets had an episode featuring Ming-Ming visiting a cousin of hers that was a poorly disguised pilot for a possible spin-off series with Ming-Ming as the lead character, but said spin-off was never made.
  1. The NYPD relies on CSU--Crime Scene Unit