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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.

The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots TV Programs
  • 62 ReRanks
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  1. 1
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    most listed
    Yvonne Strahovski, Julie Benz, John Lithgow

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  2. 2
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    Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Bob Odenkirk

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  3. 3
    + 621
    - 358

    often listed
    Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Andrew Scott

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  4. 4
    + 832
    - 490


    Evangeline Lilly, Ian Somerhalder, Michelle Rodriguez

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  5. 5
    + 718
    - 339


    Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey, Natalie Dormer

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  6. 6
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    - 354

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

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  7. 7
    + 251
    - 287

    the people's #1 & often listed
    Kirstie Alley, Kelsey Grammer, Woody Harrelson Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial

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  8. 8
    + 250
    - 229


    Christina Hendricks, January Jones, Jon Hamm

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  9. 9
    + 192
    - 174

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

    ; watch now
  10. 10
    + 445
    - 327


    Charlize Theron, Ron Howard, Portia de Rossi Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial

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  11. 11
    + 336
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    ranked low on reranks
    Heather Graham, Zach Braff, Sarah Chalke

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  12. 12
    + 310
    - 274


    Heather Graham, Sherilyn Fenn, Lara Flynn Boyle Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial

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  13. 13
    + 394
    - 239


    Christina Hendricks, Summer Glau, Morena Baccarin Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial

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  14. 14
    + 211
    - 108

    added by isadora
    Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, Misha Collins

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  15. 15
    + 329
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    Grace Park, Lucy Lawless, Tricia Helfer

    ; watch now
  16. 16
    + 325
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    Gillian Anderson, Lucy Lawless, David Duchovny Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial

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  17. 17
    + 67
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    often listed & added by lostshadow
    Bruce Willis, Cybill Shepherd, Curtis Armstrong

    ; watch now
  18. 18
    + 422
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    Cobie Smulders, Alyson Hannigan, Neil Patrick Harris Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial

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  19. 19
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    Kaley Cuoco, Mayim Bialik, Melissa Rauch

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  20. 20
    + 199
    - 110


    Steve Buscemi, Jamie Lynn Sigler, James Gandolfini Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial

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  21. 21
    + 168
    - 150


    Danica McKellar, Robin Thicke, Fred Savage

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  22. 22
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    Kristin Chenoweth, Anna Friel, Lee Pace

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  23. 23
    + 73
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    often listed & added by Linus
    Betty White, Mary Tyler Moore, Cloris Leachman

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  24. 24
    + 374
    - 232

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

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  25. 25
    + 56
    - 45

    often listed & added by lemonhead
    Paul Giamatti, Maggie Smith, Shirley MacLaine Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial

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  26. 26
    + 225
    - 214


    Emma Stone, Tina Fey, Elizabeth Banks

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  27. 27
    + 203
    - 165


    Rob Lowe, Mary-Louise Parker, Martin Sheen

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  28. 28
    + 295
    - 216


    Sofía Vergara, Sarah Hyland, Julie Bowen

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  29. 29
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    ranked low on reranks
    Alison Brie, Chevy Chase, Donald Glover

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  30. 30
    + 219
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    James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel

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  31. 31
    + 45
    - 34

    added by Roseannadanna
    Sam Heughan, Caitriona Balfe, Graham McTavish

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  32. 32
    + 40
    - 28

    added by penguinchick
    Teri Polo, Janine Turner, John Corbett

    ; buy at  
  33. 33
    + 177
    - 165

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

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  34. 34
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    - 226

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

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  35. 35
    + 180
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    Kristen Bell, Amanda Seyfried, Alyson Hannigan Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial

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  36. 36
    + 204
    - 186


    Elisha Cuthbert, Kiefer Sutherland, Janeane Garofalo Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial

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  37. 37
    + 26
    - 33

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

    ; buy at  
  38. 38
    + 94
    - 95


    Zooey Deschanel, Mary-Louise Parker, Kevin Nealon

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  39. 39
    + 66
    - 84

    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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  40. 40
    + 175
    - 153


    Anna Paquin, Evan Rachel Wood, Deborah Ann Woll Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial

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  41. 41
    + 222
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    ranked low on reranks
    Hayden Panettiere, Kristen Bell, Ali Larter

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  42. 42
    + 95
    - 84

    added by Dismalhead
    Whoopi Goldberg, Patrick Stewart, Wil Wheaton Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial

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  43. 43
    + 182
    - 149


    Emma Roberts, Jessica Lange, Connie Britton Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial

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  44. 44
    + 161
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    added by NickMaes
    Tom Baker, Eric Roberts, Jon Pertwee

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  45. 45
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    - 170


    Claire Danes, Morena Baccarin, Damian Lewis

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  46. 46
    + 60
    - 25

    added by SteveGraham
    Olivia Wilde, Jennifer Morrison, Hugh Laurie

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  47. 47
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    - 20


    Alan Alda, Jamie Farr, Harry Morgan

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  48. 48
    + 86
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    John Cleese, Andrew Sachs, Connie Booth

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  49. 49
    + 132
    - 153


    Jeffrey Jones, Timothy Olyphant, Sarah Paulson Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial

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  50. 50
    + 165
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    Idris Elba, Bobby Brown, Method Man Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial

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