Even when a pilot is picked up by the network, the process isn't done:
Some roles may be recast: Sometimes networks decide to recast roles and spend the time and money to reshoot scenes that feature the recast actor.
Actress Lizzy Caplan ("The Class") replaced another actor in a pilot that was never picked up. Then she herself ended up being replaced on the same project.
"I found out while I was in Prague spending all the money I thought I was going to make," Caplan said.
Characters may be added or dropped: Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) was not in the "Seinfeld" pilot but was added in the second episode.
Characters may change: Although never stated in the script, Sean Maguire ("The Class") played a character on UPN's "Eve" who was intended to be gay, and he played the role "with a certain quality" while filming the pilot. Six episodes into the series, producers changed their minds and decided to make the character heterosexual.
"The executive producer said, this is a black show and you're already the token white guy and token British. Making him gay as well, it's too many tokens," Maguire recalled. "So it morphed into him being metrosexual instead of gay."
Back to the drawing board: "The Wedding Bells" premiered last week on Fox, but the series began life as a failed ABC pilot called "The DeMarco Affairs." ABC passed on "DeMarco" in spring 2004.
"To be frank, we didn't do it that well," said executive producer David E. Kelley. "It wasn't funny enough, and it didn't make it."
After Fox was unhappy with its own wedding-themed series last summer, the network approached Kelley about giving the concept another try. A new script was written, a new cast assembled and "The DeMarco Affairs" was reborn as "The Wedding Bells."
Such a prolonged gestation is rare. Usually, if what industry insiders call a "busted pilot" is going to have any sort of future, alterations will be made quickly. CBS shot an earlier pilot of its Friday night hit "NUMB3RS" before the current incarnation of the series went on the air.
"The test audience told the network they loved the idea that you could use math to solve crimes, but they didn't like the execution," said former CBS senior vice president of drama development Laverne McKinnon. "In typical television fashion, we'd say, 'Oh well, that's too bad,' and go on to something else."
But because the test audience was positive about the show's concept and there was passion for the series inside CBS, executives decided to give it another shot, rewriting and filming a second pilot. Test audiences liked the second pilot better, and the network had renewed confidence in the show and put it on the air, where "NUMB3RS" is now in its third season.