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Poorly Disguised Pilot
aka: Backdoor Pilot
"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 Spinoff 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.

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:

Before the concept of the Season Finale took off, these were often aired as the last episode of a season.

The Opposite Trope is Fully Absorbed Finale, when what is functionally the last episode of a show appears in another show. See also Pilot Movie.


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  • In Fables, Jack goes to Hollywood and makes a trilogy of LOTR-ish films about himself. He eventually gets caught and exiled from Fabletown, leading into the Jack of Fables series.
  • The first three issues of the Re Tool 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. Likewise, Heroic Spotlight.
  • 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 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" and was renamed Xemnu the Titan once the Incredible Hulk showed up to avoid confusion).
  • 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.
      • Marvel would revive Amazing Fantasy in the 2000s; no series was launched directly from it, but Arana would eventually get her own title as Spider-Girl. More successful than her was probably Amadeus Cho, who co-starred in The Incredible Hercules. Only a few other characters, such as Dr. Monica Rappaccini, Death's Head 3.0, Monstro, and Vampire by Night, ever showed up anywhere after the series, and even then mostly in supporting roles.
  • 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. The series lasted from 1956 to 1970, and was briefly revived from 1977 to 1978. The series introduced and/or spotlighted:
    • Fred Farrell, Fire Fighter debuted in issue #1 (April, 1956). Did not make it as a protagonist but has had his share of appearances in crossover stories.
    • Issue #2 (May, 1956) was a theme issue for stories set in the wilderness, introducing three would-be protagonists. The first was Eagle Feather, a Native American shepherd who has to hunt and kill the mountain lion which preyed on his sheep. The second was an unnamed Orphan Runaway who managed to bond with a stray dog and save lives in a fire. The third was Billy, a trained circus bear, who is lost in the woods and has to survive in his new surroundings. The issue was not deemed popular enough to have sequels.
    • issue #3 (July, 1956) featured Doug the "sardine", a trainee frogman (term for combat divers) who has to prove to his fellows that his short stature is not a liability to the team. Again not a winning concept for an ongoing series.
    • The Flash /Barry Allen debuted in issue #4 (October, 1956). He also headlined issues #8 (June, 1957) and #13-14 (April-June, 1958). The character had enough positive feedback for DC to revive the old The Flash series with Barry as the protagonist, starting with issue #105 (March, 1959). His ongoing lasted to 1985, making the greatest hit to graduate from Showcase.
    • Issue #5 (November, 1956) was another theme issue, featuring "manhunters" (people who take part in an organized search for a wanted man or fugitive). The protagonists were Detective Harry Fowler, FBI Agent Don Reed, and Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist Frank Drew who was hunting master criminal The Eel around the globe. None of the characters was deemed popular enough to reuse in later stories.
    • The Challengers of the Unknown debuted in #6 (February, 1957). They also headlined #7 (April, 1957) and #11-12 (December, 1957-February, 1958). They gained enough positive feedback to gain their own series, starting in May, 1958. Their original series was published regularly to 1970, and sporadically to 1978 when it was cancelled for good.
    • Lois Lane headlined issues #9-10 (August-September, 1957). Feedback was positive enough for Lois to gain her own series, starting in March, 1958. Her ongoing lasted to 1974.
    • Space Ranger debuted in #15 (August, 1958). This hero of The Future also headlined #16 (September, 1958), but failed to generate enough interest to launch an ongoing. He instead became the cover character of the anthology Tales of the Unexpected starting with issue #40 (August, 1959). He maintained this position to 1964.
    • Adam Strange debuted in #17 (December, 1958). He also headlined #18-19 (February-April, 1959). Feedback and sales were not enough to give him an ongoing, but were also too good to discontinue the character. He became the cover character of the anthology Mystery in Space, starting with issue #53 (August, 1959). He was regularly featured there to 1965.
    • Rip Hunter, Time Master debuted in #20 (June, 1959). He also headlined #21 (July, 1959) and #25-26 (March-May, 1960). The Time Traveler generated enough interest to "graduate" to his own ongoing series, starting in April, 1961. His ongoing lasted to 1965.
    • Green Lantern /Hal Jordan debuted in #22 (October, 1959). He also headlined #23-24 (December, 1959-February, 1960). Feedback and sales were positive enough for Hal to "graduate" to his own ongoing series, starting in August, 1960. His ongoing was regularly published to 1972. It was revived in 1976 and (with a couple of revamps on the way) lasted to 1988.
    • The Sea Devils debuted in #27 (August, 1960). They also headlined #28-29 (October-December, 1960). They were a quartet of scuba-diving adventurers with notable similarities to both the earlier Challengers of the Unknown and the later Fantastic Four. Feedback and sales were positive enough for them to "graduate" to their own ongoing series, starting in October, 1961. It lasted to 1967.
    • Aquaman and Aqualad headlined issues #30-33 (February-August, 1961). While the main character was already appearing in anthology series, this trial run established that Aquaman could work with longer stories. He "graduated" to his own ongoing series, starting in January 1962. His ongoing was published to 1971, was revived in 1977 and was cancelled in 1978.
    • The Atom /Ray Palmer debuted in #34 (October, 1961). He also headlined issues #35-36 (November-December, 1961). Feedback and sales were positive enough for him to "graduate" to his own ongoing series, starting in July, 1962. His ongoing lasted to 1969, with a brief revival in 2010.
    • The Metal Men debuted in #37 (March-April, 1962) and were reportedly intended as a one-shot concept to begin with. But due to positive feedback, they also headlined #38-40 (June-September, 1962) and "graduated" to their own ongoing series, starting May, 1963. Their series was regularly published to 1970, had revivals in 1973 and 1976, and was cancelled in 1978.
    • A revamped version of 1940s character Tommy Tomorrow headlined issues #41-42 (November, 1962-January, 1963), #44 (May, 1963), and #46-47 (September-December, 1963). The regular Tommy stories typically featured the character as an experienced officer, while the revamped stories covered his training years and the earliest points of his career. Neither version generated reader interest, so the character landed from Showcase to Comic Book Limbo.
    • James Bond headlined issue #43 (March, 1963). Basically, DC gained the rights to reprint a British comic book adaptation of the film Dr. No. While they also licensed the rights to create their own stories with the character, they never used them and the license expired c. 1972.
    • Sgt. Rock headlined issue #45 (August, 1963). He was already the cover character of an anthology series, but DC apparently considered him for "graduation" to his own series. He did not "graduate", and continued dominating the anthology title Our Army at War to 1977. The series was then renamed after him.
    • Cave Carson headlined issues #48-49 (January-March, 1964) and #52 (October, 1964). The character was a spelunker and Tunnel King. Again there was little to no reader interest and the character ended up in Comic Book Limbo.
    • King Faraday headlined issues #50-51 (May-July, 1964). In this case the stories were reprints of his 1950s Spy Fiction adventures. While it was hoped that the stories would enough to warrant a revival of the character, there was no reader interest and consequently no revival.
    • G.I. Joe headlined issues #53-54 (November, 1964-January, 1965). An adaptation of a then-new toy from Hasbro, again nothing really came of it.
    • Doctor Fate and Hourman headlined issues #55-56 (April-June, 1965). DC had recently revived the Justice Society of America and was variously testing the waters for further use of the characters involved. These issues did not generate enough interest for either hero to get his own series. Their lasting mark was a successful revival of 1940s villain Solomon Grundy who would become a recurring character again. As for the heroes, they remained supporting characters of the Justice League of America for several years.
    • Enemy Ace headlined issues #57-58 (August-October, 1965). He was then a fairly recently-created character and the stories helped flesh him out, but again not enough reader interest and no series for him. At least for a while. He became the cover character of the anthology Star-Spangled War Stories from 1968 to 1970.
    • The Teen Titans headlined issue #59 (December, 1965). Feedback was positive and the Titans "graduated" to their own series in February, 1966. Their ongoing series was published regularly to 1973, was revived in 1976, and cancelled in 1978.
    • The Spectre headlined issues #60-61 (February-April, 1966) and #64 (October, 1966). The character had not been used in two decades and these issues successfully revived him. It took a while to fully re-establish him but he "graduated" to his own series in December, 1967. His ongoing series lasted to 1969.
    • The Inferior Five debuted in #62 (June, 1966). They also headlined issues #63 (August, 1966) and #65 (November, 1966). A Super Team consisting of inept super-heroes, they were positively received. They "graduated" to their own title in April, 1967. Their ongoing was published regularly to 1968, and then was briefly revived in 1972.
    • B'wana Beast debuted in #66 (February, 1967). He also headlined issue #67 (April, 1967). He was a Beastmaster who could create Mix-and-Match Critters. The character received mostly negative feedback and a planned third issue was never created. The character fell to Comic Book Limbo.
    • The Maniaks debuted in #68 (May, 1967). They also headlined issues #69 (July, 1967) and #71 (November, 1967). The characters were a rock group consisting of three guys and one woman, having wacky adventures. The woman Silver Shannon served as Ms. Fanservice and the Gold Digger in search of rich mates. At the finale of each issue the Maniaks would Break the Fourth Wall and appeal to readers, asking them to support their tryout in Showcase. It didn't work and the Maniaks entered Comic Book Limbo. Silver seems to be the only character actually remembered by later writers, as she was revived as a supporting character in the Power Company (2002).
    • Binky Biggs, the 1940s teenage humor character, headlined issue #70 (September, 1967). DC was at the time attempting to revive its defunct teenage humor-line in an apparent attempt to compete with Archie Comics. It seems DC didn't really wait long enough to do a proper tryout, as he did "graduate" to his own series after a single issue. His original series Leave it to Binky was revived with issue #61 (June, 1968) and lasted under this name to 1970. The series was then renamed to Binky, and continued to 1971. It was again briefly revived in 1977, but that was the end of it and the character.
    • Issue #72 (February, 1968) reprinted older Western Stories, notably including sample stories of the Trigger Twins and Johnny Thunder. They were characters from the classic Western line of DC which had lasted from 1948 to 1961. Whether DC was seriously considering revivals for them, or this was a Filler issue is unknown. But nothing came of it.
    • The Creeper debuted in #73 (April, 1968). DC did not really wait for feedback and immediately launched an ongoing series for him: Beware the Creeper (May, 1968). It lasted to 1969.
    • Anthro debuted in #74 (May, 1968). He was supposedly the first Cro-Magnon boy born to a Neandertal tribe. His adventures were supposed to chronicle the birth of modern humanity, his descendants. Again DC did not really wait for feedback and launched an ongoing for him in August, 1968. It lasted to 1969.
    • Hawk and Dove debuted in #75 (June, 1968). They were two heroic siblings with opposing ideologies, serving as Straw Characters. Hawk was a militant guy who advocated violence in support of a proper cause, and let his fists do the talking for him. Dove was a pacifist who advocated finding peaceful resolutions and reaching a compromise. Their solutions to any given situation were supposed to reflect upon the political and ideological conflicts of 1960s. DC once more did not wait for feedback and launched an ongoing for them in September 1968, The Hawk and the Dove. It lasted to 1969.
    • Bat Lash debuted in #76 (August, 1968). DC was inspired by the popularity of Spaghetti Westerns to launch a new Western series, but with a twist. In contrast to the unambiguous heroes of their older series in the genre, Bat was a Loveable Rogue, a Womanizer, a Professional Gambler, and a Reluctant Warrior. He did not actively look for trouble, but his Walking the Earth often landed him in troubled places. DC was too confident in the concept to wait for feedback, and launched an ongoing for him in November, 1968. It lasted to 1969.
    • Angel and the Ape debuted in #77 (September, 1968). Without waiting for feedback, DC launched their ongoing series in December, 1968. It kept its name for 3 issues, then was renamed to Meet Angel to emphasize the female partner of the duo. Under the new name it lasted to the end of 1969.
    • Jonny Double debuted in #78 (November, 1968). He was a Perpetually Broke Private Detective who tried to make a living on what his customers were willing to pay him. DC was not eager to give him an ongoing series, so the character went straight to Comic Book Limbo. In this case, however, writers of the 1970s did find use of him in several series headlined by more popular characters. So Jonny is better known for supporting roles in stories of the Challengers of the Unknown, Supergirl, Wonder Woman, and Kobra.
    • Dolphin debuted in #79 (December, 1968). She was a mysterious Apparently Human Merwoman with an implied Wild Child background. Her first appearance covered her first contact with human civilization and learning basic language skills. Again DC had no real plans for her and she went straight to Comic Book Limbo. In the 1980s she became a member of the Super Team Forgotten Heroes, which consisted of other characters who had not been used in a while, took part in the Crisis on Infinite Earths, and had a team-up with Animal Man. In the 1990s, she joined the supporting cast of Aquaman.
    • The Phantom Stranger headlined issue #80 (February, 1969). In this case DC was eager to revive the 1950s character, and launched his new series in June, 1969. It was regularly published to 1976. It had a brief revival in 2010.
    • Windy and Willy debuted in #81 (March, 1969). They were actually modified versions of older characters. DC had earlier published a comic book adaptation of The Many Loves Of Dobie Gillis and wished to reuse it, in another attempt to appeal to the market for teen-humor stories. But they weren't willing to pay the owners of the television show just to reprint stories they already legally owned. So, the original protagonists Dobie Gillis and Maynard G. Krebs were modified to Willy and Windy. Once again DC did not wait for any feedback ,and launched a new ongoing for the duo in June, 1969. It flopped in sales and was cancelled after only 4 issues. It was the least successful series to come out of the pages of Showcase.
    • Nightmaster debuted in #82 (May, 1969). He also headlined issues #83-84 (June-August, 1969). The basic concept was that modern-day rock musician Jim Rook and his girlfriend Janet Jones walk into The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday and find themselves in a Sword and Sorcery dimension. Jim learns that he is a descendant and a Legacy Character to a local sword-wielding hero. Inheriting the Sword of Night, a Cool Sword with mystical powers, Jim becomes the Nightmaster and gets involved in the conflicts of his new home dimension. The Nightmaster did not sell well enough to "graduate" to an ongoing series, and went straight to Comic Book Limbo. He was revived in the 1990s with cameos in Animal Man and The Books of Magic, and more substantial roles in Primal Force and Swamp Thing. In the 2000s, he joined the Shadowpact.
    • Firehair debuted in #85 (September, 1969). He also headlined issues #86-87 (November-December, 1969). Firehair was a white boy Raised by Natives, named for his Red Hair. As an infant in the Old West, Firehair experienced the violent death of his parents at the hands of the Blackfoot tribe of Native Americans. But the leader of the tribe decided to raise the boy as his own son. As a young adult, Firehair finds himself with all the supreme fighting skills of the Mighty Whitey, but none of the respect. His own tribe despises him because of his looks, while the White Man sees his as a strange-looking Savage Indian. So he starts Walking the Earth, trying to find a place which will truly accept him, and saving some lives in the process. According to his origin story, a shaman predicted that his destiny will be to be constantly despised by both his own people and by anyone he tried to help. The concept did not sell well enough and Firehair went straight to Comic Book Limbo. He was revived in 1971, when he briefly became the second feature of the Tomahawk series.
    • Jason Grant debuted in #88 (February, 1970). He also headlined issues #89-90 (April-June, 1970). The story had a young man on a personal quest. In a Deathbed Confession, Jason's "father" reveals that Jason is adopted. His real father had been killed by orders of Crime Lord Tuborg. The same man who caused the fatal wounds of the adoptive father. Now Jason has to locate his Long Lost Sister, and the hidden records or evidence of Tuborg's past misdeeds. Armed with a grainy photo, a guitar and a second-hand import motorbike, Jason wonders Western Europe to fulfill his quest. The concept did not sell well and Jason went to Comic Book Limbo. He has had a couple of cameos over the years, but nothing substantial.
    • Manhunter 2070 debuted in #91 (August, 1970). He also headlined issues #92-93 (August-September, 1970), which were originally the last issues of Showcase. This version of Manhunter is a space-traveling Bounty Hunter. In 2053, young Starker witnessed the murder of his father and was himself enslaved by Space Pirates. He spend his years of captivity in secretly studying and learning as many of his captors' skills as he could. Which he eventually used to bargain for a position in their crew. He used said position to destroy them from within, killing all those involved with the murder of his father and delivering the rest to the authorities. This act taught him that one can make a living by hunting outlaws. By 2070, Starker is a veteran bounty hunter with a ruthless streak. The concept did not sell well enough to give him a series and this Manhunter went to Comic Book Limbo. Several writers have since revived him for various space-faring adventures.
    • The Doom Patrol headlined issues #94-96 (September, 1977-January, 1978), the first ones of the revived series. With most of the original members dead, these issues got to introduce some new blood. The new version was not popular enough to "graduate" to their own series, though they served well as guest-stars in various titles.
    • Power Girl headlined issues #97-99 (February-April, 1978). Though possibly well-received, the DC Implosion resulted in the cancelling of many of the ongoing titles of the company. It was no time to launch a new title.
    • Issue #100 (May, 1978) was a Milestone Celebration and a change of pace of the series. Instead of a sales pitch for a new series, this featured a Massive Multiplayer Crossover. A Crisis of some type requires heroes from different eras to join forces and try to rescue reality itself. These heroes happened to include almost every character to ever headline Showcase, in a celebration of the series' history. Most characters get cameos, but the story serves as A Day in the Limelight for Lois Lane and Angel O'Day who co-operate in actually ending the Crisis.
    • Hawkman /Katar Hol headlined issues #101-103 (June-August, 1978). Basically he had a crossover with Adam Strange, featuring a war between the planets Rann and Thanagar. Nothing came of it, and Hawkman remained a featured player in the Justice League of America.
    • OSS headlined issue #104 (September, 1978), with stories set in World War II and featuring various agents. Possibly a sales pitch for a war-themed series, but nothing came of it. Showcase itself was cancelled at this point, though there were two more issues awaiting publication. Their material became available later through other formats.
    • Deadman would have headlined #105, as a sales pitch to get him an eponymous series. No such luck until 1985.
    • The Creeper would have headlined #106, since there were creators campaigning to get him a second series. No such luck until 1997.
    • There were known plans for subsequent issues. At least one featuring the Huntress /Helena Wayne and a World of Krypton story which would further flesh out the background of Superman's doomed homeworld. This version of Huntress would get a backup series in the Wonder Woman comic which was often more popular than the main feature, while World of Krypton would be published as a mini-series in 1979.
  • DC tried to get a second try-out book off the ground in the mid-70s, partially as a replacement to the by-then-canceled Showcase. It was called First Issue Special, and it started because publisher Carmine Infantino realized first issues sold better and wanted a series where every issue was the first (seriously). Incidentally, this meant that each premise was only afforded one issue, whereas most often in Showcase a feature would headline for two or three issues. It only ran for 12 issues, and it only launched one comic, Warlord. Warlord ended up running about ten times as long as First Issue Special did — from 1976 to 1988. About half of the other issues featured established characters like the Creeper or Dr. Fate; the non-Warlord characters created for First Issue Special mostly disappeared after their headlining ish, though the Green Team received a quickly-canceled revival in 2013.
  • 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.
    • Some of this was due to the introduction of The Comics Code. Moral Guardians convinced comic publishers to ban horror-related subjects like vampires, ghouls, and the undead, and those titles floundered for awhile, eventually throwing out different subjects and characters to see what would stick, easy enough to do as many of them were anthology comics with 3-4 stories per issue. Journey Into Mystery started telling the story of The Mighty Thor, the Incredible Hulk (after his one-shot series was canceled) started to guest star in Tales to Astonish. Tales of Suspense was a sci-fi anthology, and the stories introducing Iron Man and reintroducing Captain America spawned their own titles.
    • 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!
      • The Guardians of the Galaxy got this treatment twice. First were introduced in Marvel Super Heroes in the late 60s and nothing came of it. A few years later they made guest appearances in Marvel Two-In-One and The Defenders before they got their own book as the stars of Marvel Presents.
  • 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 about 15 years!
  • 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 The 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 his Secret Identity was. Fortunately, he was quickly forgotten.
    • 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 30 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. This didn't pan out, and the Strangebrood never showed up again anywhere.
  • 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 'The Punisher Goes Black' story arc in 1992 that guest-starred Luke Cage served as a pilot for the 1990s Cage series.
  • The Punisher himself had his own pilot in the pages of Spider-Man (man, Spidey is popping up a lot).
  • 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 "X-Men", in large part because he had been identified as Canadian and they wanted "international" characters for the new team.
  • Chuck Austen's final few issues of The Avengers served as a springboard for the New Invaders. This was a particularly egregious example, as the finished product read like an Invaders story that just happened to guest star a few of the Avengers.
  • The second and third issues of the original Youngblood series gave one of the flip-sides to Shadowhawk and Supreme, respectively. The fourth issue featured a prelude to Pitt, but without the flip-book format.
  • 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.
  • U.S. 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 be 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.
  • The ninth issue of the original What If? series was probably intended to be this for a series starring the various heroes from Marvel's 1950s comics. Which did happen, albeit 30 years later, with Agents of Atlas. A much later issue of What If was the basis for the entire Marvel Comics 2 universe and Spider-Girl.
  • The current Nova volume had a story arc where the character met Justice and Speedball, two of the washed-up former members of the New Warriors. Around the same time, Superior Spider-Man Team-Up featured an arc where Otto encountered a new heroine named Sun Girl. The characters involved soon met and teamed up for the Marvel NOW! relaunch of New Warriors.
  • Uncanny X-Men #358 (August, 1998) was a spotlight issue for the Odd Couple of Bishop and Deathbird, established earlier, with them gaining a new ally and getting involved in a struggle against another version of The Empire in space. The issue is often commented on, in retrospect, as seeming to serve as a pilot or sales pitch for a Space Opera series or storyline, but if so the plans never materialized.
  • The crossover between Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog and Image Comics served as a pilot episode for writer Ken Penders' incredibly short-lived, creator-owned The Lost Ones series.
  • The final arc of Ultimate Spider-Man featured a team-up between Spidey (Miles), Cloak & Dagger, Spider-Woman, and Bombshell. This same group appeared in the Cataclysm: Ultimate Spider-Man mini-series before being spun-off in their own book as the All-New Ultimates.
  • Early 00's Crisis Crossover Maximum Security was clearly an attempted launching pad for a few concepts, including a cosmic Avengers team and former stand-in Captain America US Agent. Agent did get his own series, but it was short lived.
  • Whether intended as one or not, the Fantastic Four three-parter that introduces Galactus serves as a backdoor pilot for the Silver Surfer.

Note: Remember, films that are created with the idea of releasing an Animated Adaptation in mind are Pilot Movies and should be listed there.
  • A large chunk of the plot in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, such as Harry Osbourne's transformation into the Green Goblin and subsequent meeting with Gustav Fiers in The Stinger, was clearly meant to set up the Sinister Six movie.
  • 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 X-Men Origins: Wolverine has been stated to be a testing bed for films based on Gambit and Deadpool.
    • The fact that the two were the most common points of criticism (Gambit for Advertised Extra, Deadpool for They Changed It, Now It Sucks) would tell you it didn't work. However, Ryan Reynolds' Wade Wilson from before his disfigurement (and the Post Credits Sequence with him) was considered quite awesome and so far, he's still intended to be the lead actor should a Deadpool film be made. However, though the movie left him salvageable (with the brainwashing apparently undone in the end, he's free to put on a mask and act like the Wade from the scenes people liked while having the comics' version of the face behind the mask) it still probably won't follow from the movie because comic Deadpool usually doesn't have Eye Beams or Teleportation.note 
  • And Marvel seems to like this a lot, because their first five films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe were meant to collectively lead into an Avengers film.
  • 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!"), although they did seem to at least make effort for the Jinx movie, for which they hired Stephen Daldry as director, got two months into writing the screenplay and had the series' production and costume designers create some early concept art before the poor performances of Charlies Angels Full Throttle, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life and especially Catwoman led to it being canned.
  • 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
  • Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer is one for Silver Surfer. 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.
  • 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(one of whom was pre-SNL David Spade as a young medical intern).
    • 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. The episode was originally written as a straight pilot and then reworked to include the Trek characters when a buyer couldn't be found. Note how Kirk and Spock are rather awkwardly shoehorned into a storyline to which they contribute very little. As Kirk himself put it in the episode, "I have never felt so helpless."
    • One reason the pilot failed to sell is that Robert Lansing (who had previously quit "12 O'Clock High") made it clear he wasn't interested in returning to the weekly TV grind (not at that time, anyway - he was later a regular on Automan and Kung Fu: The Legend Continues).
    • The final season of Star Trek: The Next Generation featured the episode "Lower Decks" which, for the first time, focused the A-plot on four younger crew members, three of whom had never been seen before and a fourth who got a lot more character development. There were a flurry of rumors that the four young officers were going to be the stars of the recent-announced spin-off series Star Trek: Voyager. This turned out to be untrue, though Alexander Enberg, who played young Vulcan engineer Taurik in that episode, appeared as young Vulcan engineer Vorik in a recurring status on Voyager, the name likely changed to avoid the need for royalties.
  • 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).
    • Ironically, Diagnosis: Murder itself was a spinoff of Jake And The Fatman (which itself, in turn, spun off from Matlock).
  • CSI: Crime Scene Investigation 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 Officersnote ) 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 is an 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. 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?
  • 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 was never 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. The proposed series would have diverged widely from the episode's version of the character; in the unaired pilot, Aquaman was played by Justin Hartley 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 of America (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 original actor playing Green Arrow has dismissed ideas of starring in a GA spin-off, feeling that this would be disloyal to the series. The resulting show is not even a spinoff, but has since gone forward starring a different actor with a completely different plot and version of the character.
    • The third-to-last episode of Smallville centered on Booster Gold and Blue Beetle, possibly as a test for a future series, but nothing has come of it since then.
    • Arrow's episodes with Barry Allen are said to be leading up to a new Flash series; we'll see what happens since they didn't exactly leave the world drooling for one.
      • The CW has picked up a new Flash series called The Flash to debut in September 2014.
  • Married... with Children
    • The episodes "Top of the Heap" (the 100th episode and one of the few episodes that didn't have the entire Bundy family. It had Al in the beginning trying to get his TV back from his friend and in the ending where Al breaks in and takes the TV) and "Oldies but Young'uns" (which didn't focus much on Al's friend and his dim-witted son played by Matt Le Blanc, but did have them in the plot for the B-story about Kelly dating the dim-witted son) were used as test-pilots for the eventual spinoff Top of the Heap, which only lasted six episodes.
    • "Radio Free Trumaine", revolving around a radio station at Bud's college (with Steve Rhoades getting a job as a college dean), 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 and starting her own life away from the Bundys. Contract disputes and lack of interest kept that from happening.
    • Another Married...With Children spin-off would have been centered on Al and his friends from "NO MA'AM" (National Organization for Men Against Amazonian Masterhood), but the FOX network was afraid that it would have been too misogynistic.
  • 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 organizations must have been involved in a large number of previous cases, the NCIS team lead by Gibbs only appears in two episodes of JAG: "Ice Queen" and "The Meltdown" in the 8th season, 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 by NBC, before the show was picked up by CBS. The first season of NCIS retreads many episodes of that canceled season.
      • And NCIS as an organization is in fact mentioned in many JAG episodes, and NCIS special agents do appear, prior to the launch of the now famous show, such as in the never-resolved cliffhanger "Skeleton Crew" alluded to above. However The Main Characters Do Everything trope prevented them from having a bigger role on JAG.
    • NCIS launched its own spinoff with the two parter episode "Legend". The new series was billed as Legend, other titles included NCIS: OSP (Office of Special Projects) and NCIS: Undercover, but would eventually get the much-less-compelling name NCIS: Los Angeles.
    • NCIS Los Angeles tried to launch another spinoff in a two-parter titled "Red", featuring a mobile NCIS unit; this appears to have been passed on as of May 2013.
    • The upcoming NCIS New Orleans starring Scott Bakula will be introduced as a two parter in NCIS
  • The Bionic Woman:
    • Episode "Biofeedback" appeared to be a Poorly Disguised Pilot for a series about another super-powered OSI agent, Darwin Jones.
    • The second episode featuring Max the bionic dog only had Jamie Sommers in it at the very beginning and the very end; sadly, The Bionic Dog never got produced as a series.
  • The Six Million Dollar Man episode The Ultimate Imposter, barely featuring Steve Austin at all, was a Poorly Disguised Pilot for a series about an OSI agent who had skills directly uploaded to his brain. The series was never made, and eventually resulted in an unrelated TV movie.
    • The Six Million Dollar Man episode that introduced the Bionic Woman was, ironically, not one of these at all; Jamie died at the end and was intended to stay dead. She was loved enough that she got better.
  • Blatantly used in the episode of Grey's Anatomy in which Addison travels to California, the setting for her spin-off Private Practice.
  • The Andy Griffith Show both was one, and spawned one of its own.
    • The Danny Thomas Show had the title character arrested and sent to jail in the small town of Mayberry — home of Sheriff Andy Taylor and son Opie.
    • Later, The Andy Griffith Show produced episode "Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C." 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 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.
  • 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.
  • All in the Family:
    • One episode of the 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 the spinoff Maude, where the Bunkers visit Maude and we meet the rest of her family (even though Carol is played by a different actress).
    • The season 5 episode "The Jeffersons Move on Up" had the Bunkers' neighbors moving to Manhattan as a springboard for their own series.
    • The season 2 episode of Maude, titled "Florida's Goodbye," could also be considered a poorly disguised pilot for Good Times. However, in Good Times the Evans family had inexplicably relocated from New York (where Florida's husband Henry was a firefighter) to Chicago (where husband James was often unemployed), and the Findlays were never mentioned at any time during the series.
  • The Incredible Hulk 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 The Mighty 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 WroteThe 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; in fact, if the show has a Scrappy, it's her. 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 (it would be decades before CBS had shows about guardian angels on their schedule).
  • 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 & 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 (it worked, although The Ropers wasn't nearly as big a hit).
    • 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 about 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 PDP for Xena.
  • The Cosby Show had the episode "Mr. Quiet", which introduces the local youth center, run by a nice guy named Tony (played by Tony Orlando!) and staffed by some interesting, quirky characters, each of whom gets honest-to-god title cards in the closing credits, something that had never happened before on the series. The episode spends almost as much time with Tony and his pals as it does on the Huxtables, and their plots only sort of relate to each other. The Huxtables are clearly starring in the B-plot of the episode. No series was born from Tony and the youth center, however.
  • 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 and 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.
  • The TV remake of Stephen King's novel Carrie would have been a better and more faithful adaptation than the big screen version if the producers hadn't decided to try and turn it into a pilot for a TV series by adding an absurd new ending. Suffice it to say, the network wasn't interested and what resulted was a decent movie that gets done in by a terrible ending.
  • Criminal Minds: In season five's "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. The following year they got their own show, Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior. And that worked out well.
  • The Season 7 Cold Case episode "Free Love" looked like a PDP for two reasons: 1) it wildly varied from other episodes, being set in New York instead of Philadelphia; having Lilly alone helping the FBI guy who was introduced two episodes earlier; and hints of them becoming an Official Couple, and 2) she considers joining the FBI in the episode, while he muses about the creation of a Cold Case FBI unit. Nothing came of it, though.
  • 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.
  • Whos The Boss had a two-part third season finale in which Mona visits her brother who runs a hotel in NYC, but the planned spin-off was canceled before the episode aired because ABC feared that Mona's absence would hurt the parent show. 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). According to the DVD special features, what actually happened here was that the original show, Amazon High, was developed separately from Xena, but wasn't picked up, so they decided to get a cheaper episode of Xena out of it.
    • The series was eventually reworked into Cleopatra 2525 with the girl from the present day ending up in the future instead of the past.
  • 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 Burkes Law served as a pilot to spin off another detective series, Honey West.
  • 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 Hannah Montana.
  • The producers of Starsky & 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 of actors that were to star in the proposed series. The show was not picked up as a full series.
  • The last original episode of Miami Vice shown on NBC, "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 (and The Mod Squad, which predated both). 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 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 averted this trope with its three actual Spinoff series, which all had separately produced pilots. However:
    • The final episode of its second season was used for an attempted backdoor pilot starring Bill Daily as an incompetent city councilman.
    • 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).
  • The Home Improvement episode "Talk to Me" had Real Life friends Dave Chappelle and Jim Breuer appearing as two friends that were in the Tool Time audience and get advice from Tim about relationships (which unsurprisingly leads to trouble for all three). The intent was apparently for the duo to get their own Spin-Off show from there, but then Executive Meddling intervened. Buddies saw much of it - leading to it not premiering for a year and Breuer replaced by Christopher Gartin. The show bombed out quickly and Chappelle considers it an Old Shame.
  • Dawson's Creek introduced a new character, Will Krudski, into the gang for one episode in Season 3, who would serve as the protagonist for spin-off series Young Americans.
  • Between 1956 and 1989, it was not uncommon for American networks to fill time in the summer months by airing failed pilots. Since actually saying "Hey, come watch these shows that we passed on!" wasn't likely to draw viewers in, the networks often packaged them as Poorly Disguised Pilots of a different sort. By dressing them up as part of a "series", they could perhaps pick up a few more viewers by hiding the fact that they were failed pilots. This web article describes the phenomenon and provides several examples of the form, with titles like Preview Tonight, Comedy Theatre, and the longest-running, Vacation Playhouse, which ran on ABC from 1963 to 1967.
  • There is a run of episodes during Season 9 of Roseanne that revolve around Roseanne and Jackie causing a commotion amongst rich folk while wearing expensive, tacky clothes. In case you didn't already suspect it was a stealth pilot for Roseanne's planned American version of Absolutely Fabulous, the stars of the original British version even turn up in one of the episodes.
  • The 1950s western series Trackdown had an episode called "The Bounty Hunter" which was a stealth pilot for Wanted: Dead or Alive.
  • Spoofed in NTSF:SD:SUV:: with the "Time Angels" episode, which sees NTSF:SD:SUV agents team up with a group of hot time-traveling crime fighters who basically do everything and overshadow the regular cast. As Trent Hauser says at the end of the episode, "If they had weekly adventures I could watch or DVR, I would do it in a heartbeat." During credits, there's a fake ad for the Time Angels spinoff. Note that, since NTSF:SD:SUV:: itself spun off from Childrens Hospital after a one-off gag appearance, a Time Angels show isn't out of the question. In season three the gag got even more blatant, with an entire episode dedicated to the Time Angels wherein only two regular characters show up, and even then only in the Framing Device..
  • Eight Is Enough had a two-part episode where David, the oldest son, who was about to get married, inexplicably drove off with his fiance's sister, where they got involved with competitive hang gliding before driving off into the sunset. (When the pilot did not get picked up, David returned, got married to his original fiance...and later got divorced.)
  • The Office (US) season 9 episode "The Farm" was originally the pilot for a Spin-Off about Dwight's family. When the pilot wasn't picked up, it was re-edited into an episode of the regular series.
  • The pilot of Garrison's Gorillas was made as an episode of Combat, although it ended up not being shown as part of that series.
  • iCarly episode "iMeet Fred" is the forerunner to the Fred show.
  • Dallas had an episode "Return Engagement" which allowed Knots Landing to begin by showing Gary and Val getting married and moving into the cul-de-sac house recently built by Bobby Ewing.
  • Pretty Little Liars launched Ravenswood this way, using the Season 4 Halloween episode as a setup for the Spin-Off. The main plot of the episode involved the girls looking for A in the town of Ravenswood, while the B-plot featured Caleb meeting Miranda Collins while riding a bus to Ravenswood to help Hanna. Once they arrive, Caleb and Miranda get dragged into one of the mysteries of the town and at the end, Caleb stays behind so he can help Miranda figure things out.
  • The William Hartnell-era Doctor Who 'cutaway episode' "Mission to the Unknown" is the only episode of Doctor Who not to feature either the Doctor or his companions. It was an attempt at pitching a spinoff Dalek Space Opera series for an American audience, and so the episode focuses on members of an anti-Dalek military force as well as establishing the Daleks in alliance with a bunch of never-seen-before alien species (which also all had silly voices and outrageous designs, for Toyetic reasons). A pilot for this series was written, but never made, although Big Finish recorded an audio adaptation of it, and some of the ideas wormed their way into Blakes 7 later on.
    • Whether intended as one or not, "School Reunion" is one, setting up the premise of The Sarah Jane Adventures by establishing old-school companion Sarah Jane Smith as still in the monster-busting game and in the company of K9.
    • The two-parter that introduces the Torchwood Institute in its modern incarnation is this, though less blatant, as Jack Harkness is not directly mentioned and no Torchwood regulars note  appear in either episode.
  • The Supernatural episode "Bloodlines" (S09, Ep20) was supposed to be a pilot for, well, Supernatural: Bloodlines. It barely featured the main characters, introduced many new ones in a very different setting (a big metropolis, as opposed to the small towns & backwoods environment of most Supernatural episodes), and had important divergences with the show's canon. The episode even ends with a cliffhanger which is a blatant Sequel Hook. The spinoff ended up not being picked up by the network.
  • The Barnaby Jones episode "The Killin' Cousin," set up as a pilot for a series called Tarkington, featured a father-and-son pair of detectives (the Tarkingtons) who believed Betty Jones murdered two of her cousins. The episode was a three-time loser - the pilot didn't sell, it was the final episode of Barnaby Jones, and it was the last episode of any series from QM Productions to air.
  • Barry Allen's appearances on Arrow was this for his own show The Flash (2014).

     Video Games 
  • One of the major plots you spend time investigating in Another Code R is the mystery of Matt's father and what drove his business into the ground. While the bulk of the mysteries surrounding it are solved and tie in well to the main story, the final fate of his father is unresolved. It was supposed to lead into a separate game where Matt would resolve this plot, but cruel fate had the company go under before it could be produced.
  • The nightmare minigame in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was a tech demo for an original game that was being developed by the Zone of the Enders team titled Guy Savage. However, Guy Savage was canceled and the minigame was removed in later versions of MGS3.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
  • Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne's bonus campaign "The Founding of Durotar", with its shift from RTS to RPG gameplay, was a PDP for World of Warcraft.

    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 Peter Paltridge decided to discontinue around the time he came up with Mulberry.
  • Although T Campbell has never said so outright, the Penny and Aggie arc "The New Reality" appears to have been in part a trial run for a spin-off set in Hollywood and focusing on Sara (like the arc itself). In late 2010, Campbell held an eBay auction for the privilege of having a character named after the highest bidder, in a new webcomic to be launched the following year. The listing stated that names which appeared in the Penny and Aggie cast page would be ineligible, as would the names "Lucy, Hilary or Martin," three of the characters from "The New Reality" arc. In the end, Campbell followed P&A with an entirely different spin-off, QUILTBAG, which starred Sara and Lisa as college roommates.

    Web Original 

    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.
    • Wait Till Your Father Gets Home was one of two animated segments of Love American Style prepared as potential pilots (this was titled "Love And The Old Fashioned Father"). The second, Melvin Danger (as "Love And The Detective"), did not get past its initial airing on Style.
  • 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 rife 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!"
    • Other episodes set up elements that would lead to spinoffs:
      • "Future Tense" with the Phoenix Gate being thrown into the timestream, setting up "Timedancer" (which also never came to fruition).
      • "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 Superheroes series that would have starred Supergirl and taken place in DCAU continuity; however, Bruce Timm 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. And in a way, it eventually did, since it was written by Alan Burnett, who went on to produce Batman: The Animated Series.
  • 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 shows the Rugrats as junior high schoolers.
    • 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 materialized.
  • 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" that would showcase the lives of every character on the show who wasn't a member of The Simpson family. But the crew decided it would be too much work and the idea was abandoned.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • "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.
  • DuckTales:
    • The 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 Enterprises, 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 crossovers with the rest of the Marvel Universe, and the writers have since revealed that the two-parter with Daredevil was meant to launch another series, which ended up not being made. Also the last episode of season 4 really seems like they were trying start a Prowler TV spinoff.
  • 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 "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).
  • Disney produced a CG/hand-drawn animated hybrid movie that served as the pilot to the TV series Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, book-ended by the CG characters from Toy Story actually watching the movie in Andy's room.
  • Pluto's 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Given the theme song is entirely about the Boo Brothers, with Scooby-Doo hardly mentioned, it's hard to believe that Scooby-Doo Meets the Boo Brothers wasn't intended as a pilot for a Boo Brothers series.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures had several, notably the episodes with Elmyra's family.
    • The first one introduced us to Mr. Skullhead, as the subject of Elmyra's imaginary TV show. He went on to become a recurring character in Animaniacs.
    • Elmyra ended up starring in another show anyway, but her family (and even Furrball) got left out of it.
    • "Fields of Honey" and "Two-Tone Town" were also suspected of being this; the latter even lampshades the show's eventual replacement (with "ACME Oop!", a.k.a Animaniacs).
  • Speaking of Animaniacs, "Spellbound" gave Pinky and the Brain a full half-hour story before getting their own show.
  • Secret Mountain Fort Awesome has the episode "Uncle Grandpa" nearing the end of its run, starring a completely different cast and only brief appearances from the main characters. Eventually, Uncle Grandpa was greenlit for its own series. As a side-note, Uncle Grandpa was the star of the pilot the show was based on, before a tremendous Re Tool; the Disguistoids only had a brief appearance and were seemingly mindless monsters.
  • Superman: The Animated Series had "In Brightest Day", an episode that focused primarily on the origin of Green Lantern, and did a pretty good job of establishing his mythology and arch-enemy Sinestro. Superman was a secondary character at most, and a victim of The Worf Effect. Ultimately, though, no new GL show came of it and when Justice League came along, the main Lantern was John Stewart. This episode remains Kyle Rayner's only animated appearance, if we don't count a few tiny cameos in JLU.

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alternative title(s): Backdoor Pilot; Thinly Disguised Pilot
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