David Shore conceived the series to be about a grumpy, retired racehorse who was so exhausted and worn out by years of racing that he became addicted to painkillers…but he was also a genius doctor. The name of the show was, simply, Horse. When Shore pitched it, Fox executives thought he’d said “House,” so they told Shore to rewrite it about a pill-addicted house that was also a genius doctor. Then everybody realized it would be far easier to film if the title character was just a guy named House walking around a hospital, instead of a suburban mid-century split-level. Oddly, Hugh Laurie was attached to the role from day 1.
I Dream of Jeannie (1965-1970)
Creator Sidney Sheldon’s pilot script was called I Dream of Jennie. It was about an astronaut, Major Tony Nelson, who stumbles upon a barn-sized magic lamp. He rubs it, and from it emerges a sexy horse, dressed like a harem girl. Major Nelson names her Jennie. CBS executives told Sheldon that since Jennie looked like a genie, and since the name Jennie was so close to Jeannie, that he should make the show about a genie named Jeannie. That hadn’t occurred to Sheldon, so the role of Jennie the Horse was recast with human Barbara Eden.
That Girl (1966-1971)
The iconic show about a single woman living alone in the big city defined a new generation of Baby Boomers, and was one of the first sitcoms to actually reflect emerging social trends. The show’s pilot was about a horse who left her horse farm in New Jersey to be a horse actress in New York City. Then creator Sam Denoff realized that the only play his character could get cast in was Equus, a show about horse-fucking that couldn’t even be mentioned on TV in 1966, he reluctantly agreed to change the show to be about the darling Marlo Thomas, a person.
The Monkees (1966-68)
Have you ever seen that weird ‘60s show Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp, about a group of spies by day, rock stars by night, that were played by chimpanzees with overdubbed voices? That was a big hit for ABC, so NBC wants its own monkey rock band show. It bought a pilot for a show about a zany rock band called The Monkees. Inexplicably, the show didn’t take the obvious road, and instead of casting chimpanzees, they cast three horses as the Monkees (along with Peter Tork). During music recording sessions, however, the horses kept sneaking into the studio late at night to overdub Tork’s bass parts, so producers fired them and replaced them with Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith, and Mickey Dolenz. NBC executives were convinced the show would bomb, because they didn’t think audiences would understand how a show about people could be called The Monkees.
Cagney and Lacey (1981-1988)
The procedural cop show was at first a cop show with a science-fiction angle. It took place in an alternate universe, where the roles of humans and horses were reversed. The title roles of Cagney and Lacey were two New York horseback police officers who rode around on humans (which were portrayed by Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless). During the Horse Actors Strike of 1981, the show was quickly retooled to be just about lady cops, and Daly and Gless stepped into the roles of the now humanoid Cagney and Lacey, respectively.
Mister Ed (1958-1966)
It was originally about a guy named Wilbur who secretly kept a human locked up in his barn. And the human didn’t talk. And it wasn't a comedy.