The web series Shark Jumping, hosted by freelance journalist Beth Elderkin and Onion and StarWipe contributor Tim Sampson, is devoted to showcasing “the best, worst, and most hilarious TV shows and made-for-TV movies.” This summer, Shark Jumping is launching a series-within-a-series called Once A Pilot…, focusing on failed pilots—those unhappy televisual experiments that were either canceled after a single episode or never picked up as a series. Some never even aired on network television, surfacing only in bootleg form on the internet. The timing for Shark Jumping could not be better, since summer is traditionally “pilot season” in Hollywood, when execs consider hundreds of pitches for potential TV shows. At the outset of their video, Elderkin and Sampson discuss the relentless Darwinism of the television industry. It is incredibly difficult to get a show on the air and keep it there for more than a season. Failures pile up quickly and are soon forgotten. In that spirit, Elderkin and Sampson deconstruct a failed pilot and determine exactly why it flopped. The first show to receive this treatment is an infamous British offering from 1990: the Hitler sitcom Heil Honey I’m Home!
At first glance, it’s not difficult to see why Heil Honey failed. It’s a 1950s-style domestic comedy in which a bumbling, pre-WWII Adolf Hitler (Neil McCaul) and Eva Braun (DeNica Fairman) live next door to a Jewish family, the Goldensteins. The show is meant to be tasteless and shocking, so it’s not surprising that audiences rejected it at first sight. But, as Elederkin and Sampson point out, Mel Brooks’ The Producers mined Hitler for laughs, both in film and on Broadway. And shows like 30 Rock and South Park have made jokes about murderous dictators, too. So what’s wrong with Heil Honey? The British show seems to have no point to it, satirical or otherwise, other than to offend. It has nothing of value to say about either Hitler or old sitcoms. So it fails.
Shark Jumping has just begun its descent into the heart of showbiz darkness. Next up for them is a look at the never-to-be 2001 reboot of Electra Woman And Dyna Girl. In this thwarted rendition, Electra Woman (Markie Post) is an embittered, washed-up alcoholic living in a trailer. How did this not get a 13-episode pickup?