What Do Amy Poehler, Jason Segel, and Kevin Hart Have In Common? This Failed Judd Apatow Pilot
Twenty years ago, Amy Poehler hadn’t yet joined the cast of Saturday Night Live. Jason Segel had one short-lived TV series under his belt. And Kevin Hart was almost entirely unknown. Yet the three came together for what could have been a life-changing TV series with the help of Judd Apatow. Learn more about the show here.
Judd Apatow is known for many successful films and TV shows
Today, Apatow is known as a director (Trainwreck), a writer (Heavyweights), and producer (both of those, plus Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Superbad, and many more) for a host of popular films. He’s even held all three titles for such movies as The 40 Year-Old-Virgin, Funny People, and his most recent, The King of Staten Island.
That’s not to take away from his work on the small screen. He got his start writing stand-up specials for Tom Arnold and working on The Ben Stiller Show and The Larry Sanders Show. More recently, he’s produced the HBO series Girls and Crashing. He also co-created the Netflix show Love.
But he’s had projects that didn’t work out
Despite all of these successes, not everything Apatow’s tried has stuck. His film Making Amends with Owen Wilson never got off the ground. Nor did his sitcom Sick in the Head (which would have featured Poehler in the main cast).
Even those that do get made don’t always work out. In addition to critically panned films like Year One, two of his early TV series only lasted one season. Freaks and Geeks (starring Segel), though considered a cult hit, was quickly canceled by NBC in 2000. Then Fox took the ax to a show Apatow created, Undeclared, in 2002.
His pilot, ‘North Hollywood’ stars 3 well-known actors
That’s where Poehler, Segel, and Hart come in. It’s not a coincidence that all three had recurring roles in Undeclared, given their work on the pilot for North Hollywood. In it, they star as three roommates who are aspiring actors living in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, known as — naturally — North Hollywood.
Poehler plays Wendy, who decides she must quit her job as actor Judge Reinhold’s assistant to focus on her dreams. Segel is Gary, who is sick of working as Frankenstein’s monster at Universal Studios when he lands his first-ever audition. Then there’s Hart. He plays a version of himself, who has more money than the others due to a beer commercial he landed.
Here’s who else makes an appearance
While those three are the central characters, a few other well-known faces appear. January Jones plays May, a student from Gary’s acting class who he tries to impress. Reinhold plays himself, as does Colin Hanks, who beats Gary out for the lead role in the very real film Orange County.
Apatow told Vanity Fair in June 2020 that he knew all of these actors had a bright future, despite the pilot’s lack of success. “I always thought they would call and go, ‘OK, we don’t want to do this show. But we can tell all these people are gonna be stars.’ And they never called, they showed no interest in anybody.”
Why didn’t ‘North Hollywood’ get picked up?
“We made this show, probably, mainly inspired by the vibe of Curb Your Enthusiasm,” Apatow said of the series. “ABC said they wanted edgy programming. And we really had the best time making it, but in the middle of making it, we heard that ABC changed their theory about what they wanted the network to be.”
He continued, adding, “They wanted it to be more retro, like Happy Days. And while we were shooting, we thought, ‘They’re never, ever going to order this.’ And they didn’t.”