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 Season 2 finale was meant to lead into a spin-off starring Mockingbird, which is why the episode ends with her supposedly leaving the team. ABC ended up passing, so Mockingbird was reabsorbed into the show the very next episode. Said episode also Retconned the scene where she expressed the desire to leave the team by claiming she was actually saying she couldn't stand her Will They or Won't They? dynamic with Hunter anymore.
The main storyline of Season 2 was meant to introduce the concept of The Inhumans in anticipation of the live-action movie that was planned at the time. The film was regulated to Development Hell after being removed from Marvel's movie slate, leading eventually to the series finally premiering in 2017.
During season 3 ABC ordered a pilot for a Mockingbird & Hunter spin-off, Marvel's Most Wanted. This led to the episode Parting Shot in the back half of season 3, focusing heavily on Bobbi/Mockingbird and Hunter and ending in them opting to be disavowed to save SHIELD, leaving them out of the team and free to star in their own show. A pilot was filmed, but was passed on by ABC.
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.
One episode of the second season introduced Edith's cousin Maude Findlay, who was even more of a fiery liberal than Mike and feuded massively with Archie. When audiences responded favorably to the character, Norman Lear made the second season's final episode a pilot for the spinoffMaude, 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.
Season 2, Episode 16, titled "Suicide Squad", was a backdoor pilot for a show based on the titular team. The episode focused mainly on the story of John Diggle working with the team that A.R.G.U.S. had put together in the background of the show, using villains from the second season on the team, most notably the character of Deadshot. The episode was mean to launch interest in the character so they could spin-off into their own show, however, this idea was halted by two main factors. Partially because The CW had already began planning a spin-off of the character Barry Allen on the the show, which would later go on to become The Flash. But the main factor was the 2016 film Suicide Squad, which used a few of the same characters. Warner Bros decided that it would be confusing to have two versions of these characters, as they weren't that well known and to take the characters off of the show entirely to make way for the film's versions.
Season 2, Episode 20 was originally supposed to be a backdoor pilot for a spin-off starring Barry Allen, with the episode featuring Barry becoming The Flash and donning his costume for the first time. The network felt the concept was strong enough to stand on its own legs, and instead decided to do Barry's origin in his own TV show, which successfully premiered to massive ratings. That said, in order to build some continuity between the two series the 19th episode did introduce Cisco Ramon and Caitlin Snow, two characters who would serve as primary members of the Flash's main cast.
The 8th episodes of The Flash's second Season and Arrow's fourth season were a two-part crossover introducing Hawkgirl, Hawkman, and Vandal Savage, and focused on their backstories, setting up the main plot of Legends of Tomorrow. The episodes were even titled "Legends of Today" and "Legends of Yesterday".
The penultimate episode of Season 8 (and the series as a whole), titled "Green Arrow and the Canaries'', was designed to be a jumping off point for a series of the same name, focusing on Oliver's daughter, Mia, becoming the new Green Arrow in 2040, joined in heroics by a time-displaced Laurel Lance and Dinah Drake. It was ultimately not picked up, however.
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.
Barney Miller: Two of the very rare occasions in which the show left the squad room were for Poorly Disguised Pilots.
Season 2 episode "Fish" (Dec. 4, 1975), besides being the first appearance of Steve Landesberg as Sgt. Dietrich, also takes place mostly at Fish's house and introduces his daughter Beverly. It was in fact a back-door pilot for a Fish spinoff series. Fish the series didn't debut until 1977 and it was without Beverly.
"Wojo's Girl" part 2 takes place entirely in Wojo's apartment, and the only characters who appear in the episode are Wojo and his new girlfriend Nancy. This was a backdoor pilot for a proposed spinoff series called "Off Duty" which would follow the detectives' lives away from work. Nothing further came of it.
Baywatch: "Showdown at Malibu Beach High" focused on Matt and Summer's high school, with a whole bunch of new teen characters (including one played by Elizabeth Berkley of Saved by the Bell fame) eating up most of the screen time. It seemed like the show was setting up a Spin-Off set at the eponymous high school, with C.J. (Pamela Anderson) acting as the kids' coach.
Being Human had an episode centering on a young vampire named Adam, who ate up most of the screen time. He became a central character in the online young-adult spinoff Becoming Human.
Near the end of season two, Kelly Taylor (Jennie Garth) tries to pursue a relationship with one of Dylan McKay's (Luke Perry) friends named Jake Hanson (Grant Snow) after they meet while he's doing contracting work at her parents' house. After several episodes of romantic tension, it finally culminated in an episode where he moved to an L.A. apartment complex and Kelly let go for good. This then became Melrose Place, which revolved around the tenants of the complex where Jake lived.
Melrose, in turn, had an episode where Amanda Woodward's mother Hilary (played by Linda Gray) appeared and revealed that she was the owner of a modeling agency. This was a backdoor pilot for another spinoff, Models Inc., which followed the mother and a group of up-and-coming models at the agency.
A sixth-season episode 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. It was a backdoor pilot for a new series called The Finder, also created by Hart Hanson (the creator of Bones). (An early tip-off for knowledgeable fans was that this violated the normal format for episode titles: The X in the Y.)
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.
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 appearance in Season Three's "Lovers Walk" 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 backdoor 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.
An episode of the detective series Burke's Law served as a pilot to spin off another detective series, Honey West.
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 got done in by a terrible ending.
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.
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!).
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.
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 the eponymous episode "Mitchell & Woods."
The episode "Mr. Quiet" 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. Although Denise had been at Hillman for a while, the PDP on The Cosby Show was the finale of its third season, which featured the entire family traveling to Hillman both to visit Denise and for a special ceremony honoring the university president. ADW premiered the following fall—though without any of the friends of Denise featured in the previous episode.
Crazy Like a Fox: The Reunion Movie "Still Crazy Like A Fox," filmed a year after the show was cancelled, was intended to revive interest in the concept.
In season five's "The Fight," the team is "assisted" by a secondary team, led 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.
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 CSI NY episode "The Thing About Heroes", 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 The NYPD relies on CSU—Crime Scene Unit) 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.
Dallas had an episode called "Return Engagement", which allowed Knots Landing to begin by showing Gary and Val getting married and moving into the cul-de-sac house recently bought by Bobby Ewing.
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.
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).
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.
"Sister Michael Wants You" had Delta Burke as a nun solving murders.
"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).
"How to Murder Your Lawyer" featuring Mitchell Whitfield as Arnold Baskin, a bumbling tax attorney by day and (Steve's) law course professor at evening, and Leah Remini as his wisecracking student Agnes Benedetto who happens to work as an assistant at his law firm. Together they would have sold crimes - if the series had been made.
A common criticism of the second season of Daredevil was that a lot of it was essentially setting up two future spinoffs rather than focusing on its main story, when it came to the inclusion of Frank Castle and Elektra Natchios. The two characters had something of a tug-of-war with Matt regarding their own plotlines, to the point that Matt basically was taking a backseat in his own show. And both characters had their storylines end in such a way that they could have been left where they were, continued in the next season of Daredevil, or used as a springboard for their own series. Essentally, The Punisher storyline became the launching pad for Frank to get his own show which came out in November 2017, while the Elektra storyline set up the Hand for Iron Fist and The Defenders.
The first season of Jessica Jones was a springboard for Luke Cage before the release of his own show's first season. Justified here, since Luke and Jessica had romantic history in the comics, and furthermore Luke Cage was always part of the master plan. The second season has the same case of this, with them setting Trish up to become her comicbook alter ego Hell Cat. Then subverted when instead of getting another anti-hero spin-off like Frank, Trish becomes one of the main villains of season 3.
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 William Hartnell-era "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 Blake's 7 later on.
The Troughton story "The Invasion" was a rare case of a Poorly Disguised Pilot being a pilot for the show itself, as it was a test run for an impending huge Retool the idea was to drop most of the space travel and Genre Roulette to focus on Earthbound adventure stories in a military setting, and bring back Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart (a stand-out character from "The Web of Fear") as a regular. So "The Invasion" was a big eight-episode arc featuring the Second Doctor teaming up with Lethbridge-Stewart to fight Cybermen in 20 Minutes into the Future London.
There's no direct evidence, but many suspect "The Space Pirates" was an existing (possibly abandoned) idea of Robert Holmes for an original IP, hastily adapted into a Doctor Who story. People who believe this theory note that the story was written in days to fill a hole when several other stories fell through, meaning Holmes would have been more likely to have gone through his spec script drawer rather than concoct a whole original story. The story on screen also has notable Pinball Protagonist and Out of Focus problems with regards to the Doctor's role, and an unusual level of detail into the worldbuilding and guest characters by the standards of the show at that time, which implies the Doctor's last-minute inclusion in a previously planned story.
"School Reunion" wasn't intended this way but became one regardless, 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 as defined by characters, not actors Freema Agyeman was in both, but as two different characters appear in either episode.
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).
Eight is Enough had a two-part episode where David, the oldest son, who was about to get married, inexplicably drove off with his fiancée'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 fiancée...and later got divorced.)
The Emergency! episode "905-Wild" was a pilot for a Jack Webb production centered on animal control officers, starring Mark Harmon and Albert Popwell, which did not get picked up.
The last episode of Ensign O'Toole, "Operation Geisha", only features short appearances by Ensign O'Toole and Lieutenant St. John. The episode stars a former acquaintance of St. John and his friend. St. John's friend is supposedly a big operator, but is really a failed businessmen trying to scrape up $1300 in order to avoid being deported back to the states. Coincidentally, this serves as a sort of bookend to the first episode, "Operation Kowana", also taking place in Japan.
"Brian & Sylvia" was about Tootie's aunt'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 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.
Season 2s "Nell and the Kid", which featured Don Rickles as Max, a deli owner who takes in a homeless girl. He was even added to the opening credits for that episode. Rickles did not get along well with the show's lead, Nell Carter (he referred to her as a "mud slide"), and the proposed spinoff never happened.
In addition to at least two other backdoor pilots, a late Season 6 episode Parents Weekend, where Nell visits Samantha at college, was said to be a test episode for a possible Season 7/continuation series starring Carter and Lara Jill Miller (with Nell being hired as a housemother to Sam and her dorm-mates as both pursue college degrees). Nothing happened except the show being cancelled shortly thereafter.
The Golden Girls had an episode called "Empty Nests", which in turn spun off the series Empty Nest (and thus indirectly Nurses). 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).
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.
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 1984 German Rolf Zuckowski TV special Grosse Show für kleine Leute (Big Show for Small People) practically feels like the pilot for a intended TV series, with it having guest stars (including Uncle Travelling Matt from Fraggle Rock stopping by to promote The Muppets Take Manhattan) and musical numbers and the like, as well as a mascot character in the form of Leopold the penguin.
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. Robin Williams proved so popular that Mork was retconned into a real person and spun off into his own series. Before Mork & 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.
And the final episode of Laverne & 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.
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. 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. Notably, 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 final two episodes of the first season were a backdoor pilot for Xena.
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?
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 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.
The Hooperman episode "Nick Derringer, P.I.", revolved around Hooperman teaming up with a pint-size private eye in order to bring down an elusive drug dealer. It never got picked up.
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. 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.
The iCarly episode "iMeet Fred" is the forerunner to the Fred show.
Two eighth-season episodes introduce the NCIS team lead by Gibbs: "Ice Queen" and "The Meltdown". 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.
Notably, 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.
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 Angelesnote and, much like the original, one female main character was replaced: Hetty didn't appear until the new series proper.
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.
NCIS New Orleans, starring Scott Bakula, was introduced as a two parter in the mainline series.
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 backdoor pilot. 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.
When the 1961, Jackie Gleason-helmed game show You're in the Picture turned out to be an outright flop, it was quietly cancelled. In its timeslot the following week, Gleason, on a bare stage, instead delivered a half-hour, self-deprecating monologue "apologizing" for the previous week's program, and reminisced about other notable flops he had been involved in. After receiving better ratings and reception than the show itself, CBS allowed Gleason to fulfill the series' commitment by producing the remaining episodes as an informal, one-on-one interview series.
MacGyver (1985): "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 first season episode "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, featuring William Lucking as Sam Huston Hunter, a blatant Expy of his Tales of the Gold Monkey character Gandy Dancer. The pilot 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 short-lived series Mancuso FBI was a series based on a successful 1988 NBC political thriller mini-series titled Favorite Son (the Mancuso was Nick Mancuso played by Robert Loggia, who was an aging FBI agent investigating the assassination of the leader of the Nicaraguan Contras in a shooting that wounded a U.S. Senator and Vice-Presidential candidate). The series was picked up but only lasted through the 1989-90 season.
The episode "Top of the Heap" (the 100th episode) was 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 LeBlanc, 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.
Bizarrely, Top of the Heap had its own spin-off of sorts, Vinnie & Bobby, which focused on the son and his roommate Bobby. It only lasted seven episodes.
"Radio Free Trumaine", revolving around a radio station at Bud's college (with Steve Rhoades getting a job as a college dean).
"Enemies", about a group of Kelly's friends and starring Alan Thicke.
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 Martin episode "Goin' for Mine" was a backdoor pilot, about Pam wanting an A&R job at a record label by trying to get an unsigned singer signed. Martin Lawrence's titular character 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 final episode of its second season was used for an attempted backdoor pilot starring Bill Daily as an incompetent city councilman. When the show wasn't picked up by CBS, Daily was then cast in another MTM production, The Bob Newhart Show, the following year.
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.
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.
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, such as "Good-Bye Charlie" (about a bumbling private eye and his girlfriend inadvertently solving a murder by trying to cash in on a dead relative's will). Ironically, only one series ever actually spun off of Murder She Wrote — The Law and Harry McGraw, whose title character had appeared in Murder She Wrote back in the very first season, long before the seasons heavy on the PDPs showed up.
The Nanny had a second-season episode called "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.
Season nine of New Tricks had an episode called Glasgow: UCOS where two members of the team travelled from London to Glasgow to advise and assist a Glasgow Cold Case Squad. The only part of the regular show's sets were the opening scene in an empty office, and only Gerry and Steve appeared of the regular cast. The ratings were ultimately not positive enough for Glasgow: UCOS to be greenlit though.
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 final season of The 100 has "Anaconda" which flashes back to the immediate aftermath of the nuclear war a century earlier. This sets up a possible prequel series exploring the origins of the Grounders.
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.
The Outer Limits (1995): "Rule of Law", about a judge who keeps law and order on an alien planet, and "Time To Time", about a girl who gets recruited into a time travel organization, were failed attempts at spinoffs.
The entire final season of The Practice is this for its Spin-Off, Boston Legal. The final season sees an influx of new characters that will all be in the new series as the storylines of existing Practice characters are being wrapped up.
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 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.
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 (in which nonethe regulars besides the Q-man.
The Rockford Files had at least three Poorly Disguised Pilots during the run of the series, including the episode "Just Another Polish Wedding" (in which Jim gets Gandy a job with his P.I. buddy Marcus "Gabby" Hayes). 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.
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.
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 episode The Ultimate Imposter barely featured Steve Austin at all, and was a backdoor 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.
"Aqua" was 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 called Mercy Reef. 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 and Ritchson keep guest-starring as Aquaman.
There was an episode of Smallville, "Justice", 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 Stargate SG-1 two-parter "Lost City", the season 7 finale, is a backdoor 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 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.
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).
Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Disaster" early in Season 5 was partly built around two somewhat minor characters, Ensign Ro and Chief O'Brien interacting & taking a larger focus as a trial run for them to move onto Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It was a success as O'Brien moved over, although Ro's actress declined to join the new series.
Strong Medicine had the episode "First Response," a contrived pilot for an Emergency!-like paramedic-focused spinoff that was never picked up.
The episode "Bloodlines" from Season 9 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 and 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 episode "Wayward Sisters" in Season 13 was intended to be a pilot for a new series to be called Supernatural: Wayward Sisters, with a largely female cast. Here, however, several episodes were spent building up the premise, as opposed to "Bloodlines", which dropped the audience into a new setting without warning. Also, unlike "Bloodlines", it's centered around long-established and well-liked characters rather than bringing in entirely new ones that the audience is suddenly supposed to care about. Though it was better-received, it still ended up not being picked up by the network. Subsequently, its plot was hastily reintegrated to the main series.
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.
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.
The Titans episode "Doom Patrol" introduced the titular band of oddball heroes, including Brendan Fraser as Robotman and Matt Bomer as Negative Man. With a few exceptions (such as the role of the Chief being recast with Timothy Dalton), they would all return for Doom Patrol. Strangely, that show is not a Spin-Off, but a completely different series with a separate plot that just happens to star many of the same actors. In fact, when the two made a brief cameo in Crisis on Infinite Earths, they were put in different universes.
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.
The third season episode "True Mall" of the series True Jackson,VP was a backdoor pilot for a show about a bunch of teens working in a mall. One of the characters was played by Raini Rodriguez and her characterization was that she worked at several businesses in the mall. Interestingly, Raini went on to star in the Disney Channel show Austin&Ally where she played a very similar character who seemed to accept any job she was offered.
The Twilight Zone (1959) 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 aboutguardian angels on their schedule).
Victorious: Downplayed in the episode "Star Spangled Tori". The episode involves a plot line where Cat moves in with her grandmother to set up Sam & Cat. However, this is a subplot and the episode primarily focuses on Tori's plot line.
Virtuality was a pilot presented as a special TV Movie.
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 episode "3...2...1..." of Warehouse 13 was this for an as-of-yet unnamed spin-off of the show featuring HG Wells.
In the Webster episode "Almost Home", Webster visits Jack, a close friend of his father who never appeared in any other episode. Jack, played by country musician Mac Davis, is a country musician who now works at a foster home. The whole episode revolves around the people at the foster home and Webster is an extra.
Who's the Boss? had a two-part third season finale in which Mona visits her brother who runs a hotel in NYC, but the 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.
The second season episode "The Girl from Ilandia" was a pilot for a series that wound have followed Amadonna, a super-powered 12-year-old girl from the other-dimensional land of Ilandia.
Season three's episode "The Man Who Could Not Die" introduced an immortal, indestructible man who by episode's end was preparing to embark on a quest to find a cure. A comedy relief indestructible chimp was thrown in for good measure.
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). 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 idea was eventually reworked into Cleopatra 2525 with the girl from the present day ending up in the future instead of the past.
Young & Hungry episode "Young & Sofia" is a pilot for a spin-off about Logan Rawlings, the owner of a media company who hires Sofia.