The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots TV Programs

The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots

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35,428 votes 3,534 voters 95,194 views 160 items tags f p @

List Criteria: Pilot episodes only

The greatest TV pilots of all-time are single episodes of television that introduced us to what would soon be iconic characters and casts. A TV pilot is the first episode of a TV sitcom, drama, cartoon, or even reality show that introduces the cast and story to audiences and asks them (in as little as 22 minutes) to stick around and watch the show throughout its run. While many of these shows are now considered to be among the best TV shows of all time, many didn't know they were watching the beginnings of history when they tuned in to these top TV pilot episodes.

Some of the greatest TV pilots featured things you didn't think you'd ever hear on television (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia), the introduction of characters that would drive the top cult TV shows of all-time (Twin Peaks, The X-Files), and even moments in TV history that- even a decade before their release- would have been censored and disallowed from ever airing on television (The Following). These greatest TV pilots became some of the best TV shows currently on the air with some of the greatest TV characters ever.

What was the best TV pilot ever? That's what this list is here to help the TV viewing public decide. This list is a round-up of the best sitcom pilots, best sci-fi pilots, and the best drama pilots ever to make it to air on television. If you don't see your favorite TV pilot on the list, make sure to add it so it can compete for the #1 spot on the list of the all-time greatest TV pilots.


List Photo: user uploaded image
Collection Photo: via hbo
  • 64 ReRanks
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  1. 1
    + 816
    - 403

    most listed
    Yvonne Strahovski, Julie Benz, John Lithgow

    ;
  2. 2
    + 946
    - 421


    Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Bob Odenkirk

    ;
  3. 3
    + 670
    - 392

    often listed
    Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Andrew Scott

    ;
  4. 4
    + 897
    - 509


    Evangeline Lilly, Ian Somerhalder, Michelle Rodriguez

    ;
  5. 5
    + 775
    - 366


    Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey, Natalie Dormer

    ;
  6. 6
    + 836
    - 377

    ranked low on reranks
    Lauren Cohan, Andrew Lincoln, Laurie Holden

    ;
  7. 7
    + 267
    - 307

    the people's #1 & often listed
    Kirstie Alley, Kelsey Grammer, Woody Harrelson

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  8. 8
    + 219
    - 193

    often listed & added by PeteBoyle
    Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher, Laura Prepon

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  9. 9
    + 270
    - 250

    often listed
    Christina Hendricks, January Jones, Jon Hamm

    ;
  10. 10
    + 468
    - 342


    Charlize Theron, Ron Howard, Portia de Rossi

    ;
  11. 11
    + 353
    - 264

    often listed but ranked low on reranks
    Heather Graham, Zach Braff, Sarah Chalke

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  12. 12
    + 468
    - 274


    Cobie Smulders, Alyson Hannigan, Neil Patrick Harris

    ;
  13. 13
    + 419
    - 252


    Christina Hendricks, Summer Glau, Morena Baccarin

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  14. 14
    + 252
    - 125

    added by isadora
    Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, Misha Collins

    ;
  15. 15
    + 327
    - 288

    often listed
    Heather Graham, Sherilyn Fenn, Lara Flynn Boyle

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  16. 16
    + 437
    - 306


    Kaley Cuoco, Mayim Bialik, Melissa Rauch

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  17. 17
    + 354
    - 244


    Gillian Anderson, Lucy Lawless, David Duchovny

    ;
  18. 18
    + 216
    - 122


    Steve Buscemi, Jamie Lynn Sigler, James Gandolfini

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  19. 19
    + 76
    - 96

    often listed & added by lostshadow
    Bruce Willis, Cybill Shepherd, Curtis Armstrong

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  20. 20
    + 341
    - 269


    Grace Park, Lucy Lawless, Tricia Helfer

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  21. 21
    + 393
    - 240

    ranked low on reranks
    Katey Sagal, Frank Welker, Billy West

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  22. 22
    + 199
    - 200


    Kristin Chenoweth, Anna Friel, Lee Pace

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  23. 23
    + 177
    - 163


    Danica McKellar, Robin Thicke, Fred Savage

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  24. 24
    + 79
    - 96

    often listed & added by Linus
    Betty White, Mary Tyler Moore, Cloris Leachman

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  25. 25
    + 314
    - 227

    ranked low on reranks
    Sofía Vergara, Sarah Hyland, Julie Bowen

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  26. 26
    + 233
    - 209


    James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel

    ;
  27. 27
    + 217
    - 177


    Rob Lowe, Mary-Louise Parker, Martin Sheen

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  28. 28
    + 66
    - 60

    often listed & added by lemonhead
    Paul Giamatti, Maggie Smith, Shirley MacLaine

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  29. 29
    + 234
    - 225


    Emma Stone, Tina Fey, Elizabeth Banks

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  30. 30
    + 314
    - 242


    Alison Brie, Chevy Chase, Donald Glover

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  31. 31
    + 331
    - 234

    ranked low on reranks
    Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Matthew Perry

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  32. 32
    + 188
    - 174

    added by The Enforcer
    William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, George Takei

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  33. 33
    + 47
    - 38

    added by penguinchick
    Teri Polo, Janine Turner, John Corbett

    ;
  34. 34
    + 202
    - 216


    Kristen Bell, Amanda Seyfried, Alyson Hannigan

    ;
  35. 35
    + 54
    - 47

    added by Roseannadanna
    Sam Heughan, Caitriona Balfe, Graham McTavish

    ;
  36. 36
    + 215
    - 197


    Elisha Cuthbert, Kiefer Sutherland, Janeane Garofalo

    ;
  37. 37
    + 77
    - 93

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Noah Emmerich A pair of deep-cover Soviet spies masquerades as a typical DC couple whose children, neighbors, coworkers & friends are completely unaware of their activities. At home, they're the stereotypical

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  38. 38
    + 102
    - 101


    Zooey Deschanel, Mary-Louise Parker, Kevin Nealon

    ;
  39. 39
    + 188
    - 162


    Anna Paquin, Evan Rachel Wood, Deborah Ann Woll

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  40. 40
    + 237
    - 152

    ranked low on reranks
    Hayden Panettiere, Kristen Bell, Ali Larter

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  41. 41
    + 107
    - 91

    added by Dismalhead
    Whoopi Goldberg, Patrick Stewart, Wil Wheaton

    ;
  42. 42
    + 197
    - 156


    Emma Roberts, Jessica Lange, Connie Britton

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  43. 43
    + 27
    - 42
    Here Come the Brides

    often listed & added by mclewis
    Bruce Lee, Joan Blondell, David Soul

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  44. 44
    + 79
    - 32

    added by SteveGraham
    Olivia Wilde, Jennifer Morrison, Hugh Laurie

    ;
  45. 45
    + 178
    - 138

    added by NickMaes
    Tom Baker, Eric Roberts, Jon Pertwee

    ;
  46. 46
    + 218
    - 177


    Claire Danes, Morena Baccarin, Damian Lewis

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  47. 47
    + 54
    - 25


    Alan Alda, Jamie Farr, Harry Morgan

    ;
  48. 48
    + 100
    - 90


    Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David

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  49. 49
    + 92
    - 110


    John Cleese, Andrew Sachs, Connie Booth

    ;
  50. 50
    + 186
    - 160

    added by WarrenMitchell
    Yvonne Strahovski, Matt Bomer, Linda Hamilton

    ;
161 +

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