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
    + 622
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    most listed Yvonne Strahovski, Julie Benz, Mos Def

    ) open
  2. 2
    + 702
    - 300

    Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Giancarlo Esposito

    ) open
  3. 3
    + 516
    - 277

    Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Andrew Scott

    ) open
  4. 4
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    - 415

    Evangeline Lilly, Ian Somerhalder, Michelle Rodriguez

    ) open
  5. 5
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    - 278

    Lauren Cohan, Norman Reedus, Andrew Lincoln

    ) open
  6. 6
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    - 270

    Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey, Natalie Dormer

    ) open
  7. 7
    + 206
    - 218

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

    ) open
  8. 8
    + 206
    - 172

    Christina Hendricks, January Jones, Jon Hamm

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

    ) open
  10. 10
    + 150
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    added by PeteBoyle Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher, Laura Prepon

    ) open
  11. 11
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    - 35

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

    ) open
  12. 12
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    Heather Graham, Lara Flynn Boyle, Sherilyn Fenn

    ) open
  13. 13
    + 397
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    ranked low on reranks Charlize Theron, Ron Howard, Portia de Rossi

    ) open
  14. 14
    + 292
    - 217

    Grace Park, Tricia Helfer, Lucy Lawless

    ) open
  15. 15
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    ranked low on reranks Christina Hendricks, Summer Glau, Morena Baccarin

    ) open
  16. 16
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    added by lemonhead Tatiana Maslany, Jordan Gavaris, Dylan Bruce

    ) open
  17. 17
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    often listed & added by Linus Mary Tyler Moore, Betty White, Ed Asner

    ) open
  18. 18
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    Emma Stone, Tina Fey, Elizabeth Banks

    ) open
  19. 19
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    often listed & ranked high on reranks Kristin Chenoweth, Anna Friel, Lee Pace

    ) open
  20. 20
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    - 17

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

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  21. 21
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    ranked low on reranks Gillian Anderson, Lucy Lawless, David Duchovny

    ) open
  22. 22
    + 337
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    ranked low on reranks Kaley Cuoco, Mayim Bialik, Melissa Rauch

    ) open
  23. 23
    + 351
    - 224

    ranked low on reranks Cobie Smulders, Alyson Hannigan, Neil Patrick Harris

    ) open
  24. 24
    + 153
    - 90

    Steve Buscemi, Jamie Lynn Sigler, James Gandolfini

    ) open
  25. 25
    + 254
    - 189

    Sofía Vergara, Sarah Hyland, Julie Bowen

    ) open
  26. 26
    + 343
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    Katey Sagal, Frank Welker, Billy West

    ) open
  27. 27
    + 190
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    James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel

    ) open
  28. 28
    + 166
    - 143

    Mary-Louise Parker, Rob Lowe, Martin Sheen

    ) open
  29. 29
    + 136
    - 132

    Robin Thicke, Fred Savage, Danica McKellar

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  30. 30
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    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
  31. 31
    + 138
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    ranked low on reranks & added by isadora Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, Misha Collins

    ) open
  32. 32
    + 154
    - 143

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

    ) open
  33. 33
    + 22
    - 11

    added by mclewis Bruce Lee, Joan Blondell, Bobby Sherman

    ) open
  34. 34
    + 275
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    ranked low on reranks Alison Brie, Chevy Chase, Gillian Jacobs

    ) open
  35. 35
    + 74
    - 77

    Zooey Deschanel, Mary-Louise Parker, Kevin Nealon

    ) open
  36. 36
    + 176
    - 163

    Elisha Cuthbert, Kiefer Sutherland, Lana Parrilla

    ) open
  37. 37
    + 154
    - 131

    Anna Paquin, Evan Rachel Wood, Deborah Ann Woll

    ) open
  38. 38
    + 27
    - 11

    added by Roseannadanna Bill Paterson, Caitriona Balfe, Graham McTavish

    ) open
  39. 39
    + 21
    - 7

    added by penguinchick Teri Polo, Janine Turner, John Corbett

    ) open
  40. 40
    + 159
    - 177

    Kristen Bell, Amanda Seyfried, Alyson Hannigan

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  41. 41
    + 251
    - 202

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

    ) open
  42. 42
    + 78
    - 66

    added by Dismalhead Whoopi Goldberg, Patrick Stewart, Wil Wheaton

    ) open
  43. 43
    + 176
    - 150

    Claire Danes, Morena Baccarin, Damian Lewis

    ) open
  44. 44
    + 138
    - 109

    added by NickMaes Eric Roberts, Tom Baker, Paul McGann

    ) open
  45. 45
    + 193
    - 125

    Hayden Panettiere, Kristen Bell, Ali Larter

    ) open
  46. 46
    + 122
    - 140

    Jeffrey Jones, Timothy Olyphant, Sarah Paulson

    ) open
  47. 47
    + 75
    - 88

    John Cleese, Andrew Sachs, Connie Booth

    ) open
  48. 48
    + 78
    - 75

    Michael C. Hall, James Cromwell, Lauren Ambrose

    ) open
  49. 49
    + 151
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    Idris Elba, Bobby Brown, Method Man

    ) open
  50. 50
    + 148
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    Emma Roberts, Jessica Lange, Connie Britton

    ) open
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