|Dane Cook: The Lost Pilots (2005)
Starring: Dane Cook, Justine Bateman, Pat Finn, Bre Blair, Joel David Moore, Liz Vassey
Director: John Whitesell and David Steinberg
I’m as much of a TV geek as anybody (like that’s a revelation to anyone who regularly reads this site), so I’m the first person to stand up and applaud a studio for listening to fans and releasing an unheralded or underrated show on DVD. That having been said, however, when a network takes a pass on a show, then later decides to offer up its pilot for commercial sale – notable recent examples have included “Aquaman” and “The Amazing Screw-On Head” – it’s hard not to look at that and view it as a little shady. It’s, like, “Well, this wasn’t good enough to actually put on the air, but it’s good enough to sell to suckers like you so that we can recoup a little bit of the production costs.”
Wow, does “Dane Cook: The Lost Pilots” bear that stench.
Back in 2005, when Cook’s star was rising high, television came a’courtin’, and they found him ready and waiting to give it a try. Hey, they even had the perfect title for the sitcom: “Cooked.” (If my understanding of Hollywood is accurate, I’m guessing it probably took one guy about 30 seconds to come up with the name of the show, but then studio politics necessitated that a six-man writing team nonetheless spend two weeks to try – and subsequently fail – to come up with anything better.) As it happens, no one was willing to give the show a try, so they decided to go back to the drawing board and place Cook in a new premise. Though, of course, rather than waste a perfectly good title, they called their second attempt “Cooked” as well. It, too, was denied a pick-up.
Um, has anyone tried pitching either of these shows under a different title?
In the first series, Cook plays a stand-up comedian who has just been added to the cast of a new sitcom as the ubiquitous “wacky best friend” and, as the pilot begins, he’s preparing for his impending television success by touring a possible new apartment with his girlfriend. Within a few minutes, however, his girlfriend dumps him because he doesn’t want her to move in with him and the producers of the sitcom dump him because they think an Irish setter has better comedic chops. (No comment.) With limited options, Cook moves in with his brother and his wife and kids and returns to his old job at an insurance firm, and, in an attempt to be responsible, begins a quest for respect at work while attempting to woo back his ex. It’s cookie-cutter sitcom clichés all around, and one has to believe that this existed in embryonic form long before it was ever pitched to Cook. Certainly, there’s nothing about it that indicates that it was written specifically for him.
Fortunately, the second series has considerably more character to it, but then, that’s evident just from the descriptions on the back of the DVD case:
- Cooked #1: “Dane is a stand-up comedian who, after living the easy life, loses it all and schemes relentlessly to get it back.”
- Cooked #2: “Dane is a charismatic guy who’s always looking forward to his next life experience. His best friends, Mike, the perennial cynic, and Dakota, the girl-next-door, accompany him as he tries to trade an antique electric chair for a knife-wielding Samurai monkey trained in the martial arts.”
Hmmmmm, let me think: which one would I rather watch?
There’s really not a lot more that needs to be said about the second incarnation of “Cooked,” except that it’s definitely funnier. Maybe not a lot funnier, mind you, but there are definitely a couple of laugh-out-loud moments, though the fact that the biggest laugh isn’t even from Cook surely says something. (By the way, to save you from having to buy the DVD strictly for that laugh, it comes courtesy of dependable character actor Tracey Walter, who, in his role as the Samurai monkey dealer, gives Cook and his friends the monkey outfits – sailor suit, business suit, and warrior armor – that are included as part of the package. “Gregory does ‘em,” he says, gesturing to his associate. “Oddly, he started making them years before we ever had any monkeys here.”)
Few would disagree that, of the pair of Cook’s sitcom attempts, the second version is the one you’d rather have seen make it on the air, as it’s definitely the one that comes at least somewhat close to capturing his manic onstage presence. Neither, however, really does him any favors. Even in “Cooked #2,” the show is structured so that he’s painted as one of those guys who isn’t comfortable with anyone but himself having the last punchline in a scene. (He also doesn’t seem to like quiet moments, either, always filling them with chatter.) Honestly, though, it’s a little strange that the networks took a pass on either of them, given his popularity at the time they were made.
But, then again, who would’ve thought that Dane Cook would’ve stayed popular this long?Special Features: For what it’s worth, Sony put more into the special features of this disc than you’d ever have expected them to. In fact, come to think of it, they put more into the special features for these two rejected TV pilots than they do the majority of their full-season TV DVD releases, which, frankly, is a little ridiculous. Still, Cook’s fans will no doubt enjoy the collection of gags, antics and ad-libs, and deleted scenes that have been included on this disc. What really would’ve been interesting, though, is if they could’ve gotten Cook to do audio commentary and offer up his opinion of the shows, and why he thinks they didn’t get picked up. Guaranteed, that would’ve been way funnier than the shows themselves actually are.