On this night 40 years ago, NBC rolled out a pilot that was not picked up as a series. I just can't bring myself to say that Momma the Detective is a "failed" pilot. How bad can it be?
here is the Ultimate 70s synopsis for this hour from writer/director Larry Cohen:
The story of Momma Sykes, a housekeeper with an uncanny knack for solving crimes. In the pilot episode, Momma attempts to solve the mysterious murder of a man in a hotel room despite the objections of her son, a New York police sergeant who balks at her intervening in his cases.
Wow! And it gets better. Momma is Esther Rolle! Also in the cast: Fritz Weaver, Laurence Luckenbill, Andrew Duggan, Paul Dooley, Jean Marsh, and Frank Converse!
Lee Goldberg's Unsold Television Pilots notes the syndicated title is See China and Die, and Wikipedia says it received a theatrical release in Europe as Hearsay, but isn't Momma the Detective better?
On January 9, 1981, this "special" opposed a new Dukes of Hazzard on CBS and the 1979 Topper (Kate Jackson and Andrew Stevens) on ABC. I think Momma is a clear winner. Esther Rolle as a housekeeper/detective sounds even better than Esther Rolle as a possible practitioner of the dark arts.