Eddie Murphy + James Brown persona + 1989 = failed TV pilot?

If you Google, "What's Alan Watching?" you'll likely end up at TV critic Alan Sepinwall's column on HitFix. But in 1989, What's Alan Watching? was a TV sitcom pilot Paramount had produced for CBS that didn't make get a green light. Nothing weird about that, right? Most pilots don't get ordered to series.

But this show's pilot featured Eddie Murphy doing his James Brown impersonation. It starred Corin Nemic (who went on to star in Parker Lewis Can't Lose the following year) as a teenager who blends his real life with what's on his TV, Fran Drescher as his mother (a few years before The Nanny), and parts in the pilot for Shelly Berman, George Carlin, the Smothers Brothers, Ellen Cleghorne, and as the end credits show, bit parts for Pauly Shore and Brent Spiner.

CBS aired it once, and that single airing earned TCA (Television Critics Award) honors. Go figure.

Here's a clip from the final segments, featuring Eddie Murphy as James Brown in 1989. Roll it!


Thanks, Questlove!

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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