The late, great Adam West is beloved for his role as Batman — but he should be just as well known for playing Ty Lookwell.
Long after he starred as the Caped Crusader, but long before he won a new generation of fans by voicing the Mayor of Quahog in Family Guy, Adam West made Lookwell — a television pilot that never got picked up, but should have been the hit that revived his career in the ’90s.
Written and produced by Conan O’Brien (yes, that Conan O’Brien) and Robert Smigel, Lookwell would have followed the adventures of Ty Lookwell, a washed-up star of a cancelled cop show who believes (incorrectly) that he can solve crimes in real life.
The show had the support of NBC chairman Brandon Tartikoff, but the pilot episode wasn’t able to find an audience, rating an abysmal 92nd out of the 92 shows that aired the week of July 22-28, 1991.
Needless to say, the show didn’t get picked up for a full season — but if there was any justice in the world, it would have been a hit.
The pilot episode’s off-beat sense of humour and surreal, metafictional premise has helped it build a cult following, and it’s now thought of as one of the all-time great failed pilots. West himself called it “the funniest pilot that never got sold”.
West did go on to build a latter-day career for himself as a comic actor, going on to appear in shows like The Simpsons, Futurama, The Ben Stiller Show, The Critic, 30 Rock, Fairly OddParents, The King of Queens, Animaniacs, Robot Chicken and, of course, Family Guy, often parodying himself as an eccentric, ‘washed-up’ actor, but Lookwell got there first.
West died in Los Angeles on the weekend, after being diagnosed with leukemia. He was 88.
For fans who grew up with Batman, though, he’s immortal — and we’ll always have this one episode of Lookwell, too.