Lost pilot found: USA’s ‘To Love & Die’

12.25.08 9 years ago 2 Comments

Alan Zenuck/USA

When I left Zap2it.com after six years and cleared out my drawers (which sounds dirty, as I read back over it), I kept only about a tenth of my accumulated swag, mostly weird bobblehead dolls (Al Franken and Barney from “HIMYM”), “Simpsons” paraphernalia and an embarrassment of coffee mugs (ceramic and to-go).

I kept even fewer screeners, including several episodes of FOX’s “Method & Red,” since getting that underrated comedy released on DVD has been a personal crusade of mine for several years.

But I held onto the pilots for FOX’s “The Ortegas” and “Still Life,” plus The CW’s “Fearless” and NBC’s “Thick and Thin.” Practically everybody in Hollywood has been involved with a pilot or two that never got sent to series. I’m more interested in the even-more-frustrating subset of pilots that were actually ordered to series and, in some cases, shot multiple episodes that never aired and have vanished onto a scrap-heap or a little-seen clip reel for the actors involved. 

Most often, those pilots vanish entirely. Sometimes critics see them — like the four mentioned above — and wonder what the networks involved thought they were doing when they ordered them in the first place. And sometimes, in rare cases, the networks decide to get a smidge of value out of the pilots and present them as “original movies,” as if that were what they were meant to be all along. Viewers were able to see Chad Michael Murray in The CW’s “The Lone Ranger,” for example. And the Spike Lee directed “Sucker Free City” aired on Showtime.

Audiences who like that sort of inside glimpse at the Hollywood sausage factory should tune into USA on Tuesday, Dec. 30 to watch “To Love & Die.”

Written by Sara Goodman, produced by Lorne Michaels (“Saturday Night Live”) and directed by Mark Piznarski (“Gossip Girl”), “To Love & Die” stars Shiri Appleby as a young woman who learns that her estranged father (Tim Matheson) is a hired killer and decides to go into the family business. Ivan Sergei, Frances Fisher and Tyron Leitso co-star. 

USA is presenting “To Love & Die” as an original movie, the sort of original movie you only schedule one week before airing and that you bury on a late December evening where barely anybody is watching TV. USA is so enthusiastically behind the telefilm that the network website is still listing a screening of “The Inside Man” for that 8 p.m. hour as of Christmas morning. 

“To Love & Die” was ordered as a 90-minute pilot back in the fall of 2006. In July of 2007, USA ordered “To Love & Die” to series and presented a number of clips at the Television Critics Association press tour.

Now I have a soft spot for Appleby, but I found the clips to be darkly funny and appealing. I figured the main role would be a great chance for Appleby to transition from “Roswell” to more grow-up roles (I liked her in several unseen indies and even in ABC’s short-lived [and awful] “Six Degrees”). Several of my colleagues agreed.

We waited and waited for USA to announce a premiere date as other new shows moved up USA’s queue and premiered first. Appleby signed on to appear on NBC’s “E.R.” this season. Sergei has popped up on several shows including “CSI: Miami” and “Army Wives.” Fisher did “Eureka” and “The Shield.” Matheson has been typically hard-working.

After reading USA’s afterthought of a press release announcing the reconfigured premiere, I shot an e-mail to a USA publicist looking for a little more info on the show’s fate and on whether or not the USA website’s schedule would ever update.

So far, no response, which is another one of the advantages of making this sort of announcement on The Night Before The Night Before Christmas.

But no matter. I’ve added “To Love & Die” to the HitFix calendar and I’ll certainly DVR it. I’ll let you know how it is.

Oh and seriously, about that “Method & Red” DVD? I’ll have you know that I have a petition with nearly 90 signatures on it…

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