Today, we look at how Jake and the Fatman, itself a backdoor pilot spinoff of Matlock, then spun off Diagnosis: Murder through a backdoor pilot.
This is Back Door Blues, a feature about “backdoor pilots.” Backdoor pilots are episodes of regular TV series that are intended to also work as pilots for a new series. Sometimes these pilots get picked up, but a lot of times they did not get picked up. I’ll spotlight examples of both successful and failed backdoor pilots.
December is a month of Back Door Blues!
CONCEPT: Diagnosis: Murder – A brilliant medical doctor also helps the police solve crimes.
SERIES IT AIRED ON Jake and the Fatman
As I noted the other day, Jake and the Fatman” rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”>Jake and the Fatman began life as a backdoor pilot on Matlock. Well, naturally, producer Fred Silverman wanted to keep the spinoff train a-coming, so in Jake and the Fatman‘s fourth season episode, “It Never Entered My Mind,” in March of 1991, McCabe (William Conrad) is in the hospital, and while there, a hospital administrator is murdered, and McCabe helps his doctor, Dr. Mark Sloan (Dick Van Dyke), solve the murder, along with Sloan’s interns.
DID THE PILOT GO TO SERIES? Yes, but in a roundabout way, as Diagnosis: Murder was initially a series of TV movies, before eventually becoming a TV series, which ran for quite a long time. Dick Van Dyke was the only person to make it from Jake and the Fatman to the TV movies, and only Van Dyke and his son, Barry Van Dyke, made it from the TV movies to the TV show, as everyone else was replaced. Sloan also went from a childless widow to his son becoming his main police contact.
SHOULD IT HAVE? Definitely. Van Dyke was excellent as Dr. Mark Sloan, and the show worked well.
Okay, that’s it for this installment of Back Door Blues! I KNOW the rest of you have suggestions for other interesting backdoor pilots, so drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org (don’t suggest in the comments, as this way, it’ll be a surprise!).