SF Sketchfest Review: Dead Pilot’s Society at Eureka Theater, 1/10/16

by Dakin Hardwick on January 12, 2016

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The Dead Pilots Society is a podcast hosted by Ben Blacker and Andrew Reich. The premise is simple: there are hundreds of scripts for pilots out there that never get filmed. Many of them are fine pieces of writing, but the tv networks simply didn’t have use for them. So, they bring in actors and do them “Reader’s Theater” style. Toady at the Eureka, we were treated to two sitcom pilots that were both optioned by networks, but never made it to production. Today was their first time doing it with an audience.

The first one we were treated to was a script written by Reich himself. It was simply titled “The Doolah.” It was the tale of a young man that accidentally stumbles across a class on how to be a Doolah, and then makes it his life’s work. Of course, nobody expects a male Doolah. Hilarity ensues.

Ok. I’m making light of this one. It was actually a high concept sitcom that, at least in this scenario, worked really well! Mark Gagliardi portrayed our playboy Doolah, Mitch Kerby, as a vulgar genius. His comic timing was spot on, and was quite believable in this role. Kathryn Smith-McGlynn portrayed the ghost of Kerby’s Doolah instructor with similar comic wit. The whole thing was laughs and heart, the kind of thing network tv screams for! I didn’t understand why this wasn’t picked up… Maybe it was because a Doolah only spends a short time with the mother, so they were afraid of having to introduce a new family every year? People couldn’t relate to somebody who talks to a ghost? They claimed that TNT dropped it because they were leaving the comedy business, which could be true. No matter, I’m still bummed we will never get to see this show.

Our second and last pilot was something that John Hodgman had written for FX. It was called, “Only Child,” and was set to star John Hodgman as a 14 year old boy with his own apartment. In 1984. The rest of the cast would be age appropriate for their parts except Hodgman. They even brought teenagers out to play these parts!

It was full of all the stuff you expect from Hodgman. A lot of stuffy, nerdy characters. A lot of bullies that are simply bullies. A nemesis that’s a pot smoking teacher that has kids over and gets them drunk and high. An awkward crush (portrayed by Abby Wait, who will be in to big things one day), an awkward best friend, and a music teacher named Dr Mister.

It was cute, with some good laughs. Also a few too many gay jokes that I couldn’t tell if they were routed in homophobia, or just trying to emulate the way 14 years old boys talk to each other. The narration tended to come off a little too “The Wonder Years.” Both of these issues came off as lazy writing.

In the end, I give “The Doolah” and A, and we really need that one to go live. Sadly, “Only Child,” despite some great creative moments, just felt a bit forced. I give it a C. As a whole, however, Dead Pilots Society is solid fun, and you should subscribe today.

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