The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots TV Programs
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The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots

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.

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  1. 1
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    most listed
    Yvonne Strahovski, Julie Benz, Mos Def

    ) open
  2. 2
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    Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Giancarlo Esposito

    ) open
  3. 3
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    Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Andrew Scott

    ) open
  4. 4
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    Evangeline Lilly, Ian Somerhalder, Michelle Rodriguez

    ) open
  5. 5
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    the people's #1 & often listed
    Kirstie Alley, Woody Harrelson, Kelsey Grammer

    ) open
  6. 6
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    Lauren Cohan, Norman Reedus, Andrew Lincoln

    ) open
  7. 7
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    ranked low on reranks
    Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey, Natalie Dormer

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  8. 8
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    often listed & added by lostshadow
    Bruce Willis, Cybill Shepherd, Curtis Armstrong

    ) open
  9. 9
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    ranked low on reranks
    Heather Graham, Zach Braff, Sarah Chalke

    ) open
  10. 10
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    often listed & added by PeteBoyle
    Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher, Laura Prepon

    ) open
  11. 11
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    added by lemonhead
    Tatiana Maslany, Jordan Gavaris, Dylan Bruce

    ) open
  12. 12
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    Christina Hendricks, Summer Glau, Morena Baccarin

    ) open
  13. 13
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    Charlize Theron, Ron Howard, Portia de Rossi

    ) open
  14. 14
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    Christina Hendricks, January Jones, Jon Hamm

    ) open
  15. 15
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    often listed & added by Linus
    Mary Tyler Moore, Betty White, Ed Asner

    ) open
  16. 16
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    Heather Graham, Lara Flynn Boyle, Sherilyn Fenn

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  17. 17
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    Grace Park, Tricia Helfer, Lucy Lawless

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  18. 18
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    Gillian Anderson, Lucy Lawless, David Duchovny

    ) open
  19. 19
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    often listed
    Kristin Chenoweth, Anna Friel, Lee Pace

    ) open
  20. 20
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    Kaley Cuoco, Mayim Bialik, Melissa Rauch

    ) open
  21. 21
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    Cobie Smulders, Alyson Hannigan, Neil Patrick Harris

    ) open
  22. 22
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    often listed & added by lemonhead
    Paul Giamatti, Shirley MacLaine, Maggie Smith

    ) open
  23. 23
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    Sofía Vergara, Sarah Hyland, Julie Bowen

    ) open
  24. 24
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    often listed
    Robin Thicke, Fred Savage, Danica McKellar

    ) open
  25. 25
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    added by isadora
    Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, Misha Collins

    ) open
  26. 26
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    ranked low on reranks
    Katey Sagal, Frank Welker, Billy West

    ) open
  27. 27
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    Emma Stone, Tina Fey, Elizabeth Banks

    ) open
  28. 28
    + 29
    - 9

    added by penguinchick
    Teri Polo, Janine Turner, John Corbett

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  29. 29
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    Mary-Louise Parker, Rob Lowe, Martin Sheen

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  30. 30
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    Alison Brie, Chevy Chase, Gillian Jacobs

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  31. 31
    + 195
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    James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel

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  32. 32
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    ranked low on reranks
    Steve Buscemi, Jamie Lynn Sigler, James Gandolfini

    ) open
  33. 33
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    added by mclewis
    Bruce Lee, Joan Blondell, Bobby Sherman

    ) open
  34. 34
    + 158
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    added by The Enforcer
    William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, George Takei

    ) open
  35. 35
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    - 15

    added by Roseannadanna
    Bill Paterson, Caitriona Balfe, Graham McTavish

    ) open
  36. 36
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    Kristen Bell, Amanda Seyfried, Alyson Hannigan

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  37. 37
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    Elisha Cuthbert, Kiefer Sutherland, Lana Parrilla

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  38. 38
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    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Keri Russell, Noah Emmerich, John McIntire 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

    ) open
  39. 39
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    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Zooey Deschanel, Mary-Louise Parker, Kevin Nealon

    ) open
  40. 40
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    added by NickMaes
    Eric Roberts, Tom Baker, Paul McGann

    ) open
  41. 41
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    ranked low on reranks
    Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Matthew Perry

    ) open
  42. 42
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    added by Dismalhead
    Whoopi Goldberg, Patrick Stewart, Wil Wheaton

    ) open
  43. 43
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    ranked low on reranks
    Hayden Panettiere, Kristen Bell, Ali Larter

    ) open
  44. 44
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    Anna Paquin, Evan Rachel Wood, Deborah Ann Woll

    ) open
  45. 45
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    Claire Danes, Morena Baccarin, Damian Lewis

    ) open
  46. 46
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    Emma Roberts, Jessica Lange, Connie Britton

    ) open
  47. 47
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    Idris Elba, Bobby Brown, Method Man

    ) open
  48. 48
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    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    John Cleese, Andrew Sachs, Connie Booth

    ) open
  49. 49
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    Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, John Noble

    ) open
  50. 50
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    Jeffrey Jones, Timothy Olyphant, Sarah Paulson

    ) open
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