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A Tale of Two Years and 'Three Inches'

The pilot for the putative underpowered superhero series gets an airdate


Three Inches

Stephanie Jacobsen, Noah Reid, and James Marsters on the set of Three Inches.

Photo by Andre

Here's a little window on the tortuous production process you face when you try to get your quirky new TV show on the air. A full year and nine months ago, in March 2010, we heard that Syfy had ordered a 90-minute pilot from Harley Peyton (writer of 14 episodes of Twin Peaks) about a slacker who ends up with an underwhelming superpower -- the ability to psychokinetically move objects all of three inches -- and subsequently teams up with a group of similarly low-wattage superheroes.

That journey has now ended, with an airdate quietly scheduled for the unsold pilot during the fallow week between the year-end holidays. So what happened to this promising show that everyone, from the network execs on down, talked up at every turn?

The Long and Winding Road

After that initial announcement of the pilot order in March 2010, updates followed at irregular intervals. In August 2010 we heard that the pilot had been cast, with the hero played by boyish Canadian actor Noah Reid and a supporting cast that mixed in a few more familiar names (James Marsters, Andrea Martin, Stephanie Jacobsen, Naoko Mori, Kyle Schmid, and Brandon Jay McLaren). The pilot was filmed in Toronto the following month under director Jace Alexander.

The characters were described as follows: Reid as Walter Spackman, a "professional daydreamer" and underachiever who's struck by lightning and develops his unique "super" power; Marsters as Troy Hamilton, the mentor to the band of heroes, who recruits Walter; Carlo De Los Rios as Caros aka The Human Smell; Andrea Martin as Belinda Spackman, Walter's mom; Schmid as the smug Captain Normal, whose superpower is that he doesn't have one; the beautiful Mood Swing, who has the ability to shape the emotions of anyone she meets at close range; Mynah Bird, who can duplicate and recite any sounds she hears; plus wild cards like The Bugmaster and Time Zone.

Trouble with the Alpha Dog

In December 2010 came word that Syfy was looking to retool the show as a half-hour so it resembled Alphas less -- which was surprising, considering the tongue-in-cheek Three Inches was conceptually closer to Mystery Men or the UK No Heroes and other send-ups of the superhero genre than to the more earnest Alphas. At the time Syfy honcho Mark Stern said the two shows were "slightly different in tone but very similar in subject matter" and needed to be differentiated.

In March Three Inches was announced in Syfy's "upfront" materials under the category of half-hour scripted series in development. Then in June 2011 came the intriguing news that Stern, who'd called Three Inches "fun, smart, offbeat spin on the superhero genre" back in March 2010, hadn't given up on the show -- despite what he implied was still a problematic perceived overlap with Alphas. "We're looking at another way to get Three Inches going," Stern told Assignment X. "We love it, so we're trying to figure out a way to do both right now."

Meanwhile, the cast was taking up various other projects, most of them short-term. In April Reid took on a role in a miniseries adaptation of Titanic starring Linus Roache, while Blood Ties veteran Schmid did a stint on season 2 of Syfy's Being Human.

Bad News and Good News

Then in July, the network evidently gave up trying to reconcile the two shows. Co-star James Marsters announced on his official Facebook page that "Syfy has decided not to proceed with THREE INCHES to series. However, they do have plans to air the pilot sometime in the near future. We will announce the airdate here as soon as we are advised."

And now, the culmination of that long process: Syfy, which hypes everything on its grid from Scare Tactics to Snowmageddon, has quietly slipped the Three Inches pilot onto its schedule for Thursday, Dec. 29 at 9 p.m. ET. That Thursday night slot, in case you're wondering, is normally occupied by random Hollywood movies.

Is this really the end of the road for Three Inches? Stranger things have happened than a TV movie getting enough buzz and ratings to be called up to series. But Harley Peyton will have the unusual satisfaction of knowing that all that hard work and a year of his life, instead of being seen only by a clutch of network execs and disappearing into the vault forever, will at least be out there. It might not have become a series, but 90 minutes of his vision still got shared with the world - and that's a lot more than most people get.

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