The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots

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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
    + 904
    - 462
    Dexter is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots

    most listed
    Dexter Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayas

  2. 2
    + 1,040
    - 473
    Breaking Bad is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots


    Breaking Bad Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn

  3. 3
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    - 439
    Sherlock is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots

    often listed
    Sherlock Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs

  4. 4
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    - 552
    Lost is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots


    Lost Naveen Andrews, Matthew Fox, Jorge Garcia

  5. 5
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    Game of Thrones is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots


    Game of Thrones Emilia Clarke, Peter Dinklage, Kit Harington

  6. 6
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    - 416
    The Walking Dead is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots


    The Walking Dead Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies

  7. 7
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    Cheers is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots

    the people's #1 & often listed
    Cheers Ted Danson, Rhea Perlman, John Ratzenberger

  8. 8
    + 252
    - 238
    That '70s Show is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots

    often listed & added by PeteBoyle
    That '70s Show Topher Grace, Laura Prepon, Mila Kunis

  9. 9
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    Arrested Development is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots


    Arrested Development Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, Portia de Rossi

  10. 10
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    - 282
    Firefly is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots


    Firefly Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk

  11. 11
    + 308
    - 154
    Supernatural is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots

    added by isadora
    Supernatural Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Jim Beave

  12. 12
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    - 266
    The X-Files is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots


    The X-Files David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi

  13. 13
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    - 292
    Mad Men is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Mad Men Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser

  14. 14
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    - 301
    Scrubs is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots


    Scrubs Zach Braff, Donald Faison, Sarah Chalke

  15. 15
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    - 308
    How I Met Your Mother is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots

    ranked low on reranks
    How I Met Your Mother Josh Radnor, Jason Segel, Cobie Smulders

  16. 16
    + 365
    - 323
    Twin Peaks is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Twin Peaks Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean, Mädchen Amick

  17. 17
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    - 336
    The Big Bang Theory is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots


    The Big Bang Theory Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nicholas Brendon, Alyson Hannigan

  18. 18
    + 245
    - 151
    The Sopranos is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots


    The Sopranos James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco

  19. 19
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    - 270
    Futurama is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots


    Futurama Billy West, John DiMaggio, Katey Sagal

  20. 20
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    - 294
    Battlestar Galactica is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots


    Battlestar Galactica Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Jamie Bamber

  21. 21
    + 244
    - 206
    The West Wing is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots


    The West Wing Martin Sheen, Rob Lowe, Allison Janney

  22. 22
    + 371
    - 258
    Friends is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots


    Friends Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow

  23. 23
    + 91
    - 124
    Moonlighting is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots

    often listed & added by lostshadow
    Moonlighting Cybill Shepherd, Bruce Willis, Allyce Beasley

  24. 24
    + 85
    - 80
    Downton Abbey is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots

    added by lemonhead
    Downton Abbey Hugh Bonneville, Phyllis Logan, Elizabeth McGovern

  25. 25
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    - 230
    Pushing Daisies is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots


    Pushing Daisies Lee Pace, Anna Friel, Chi McBride

  26. 26
    + 255
    - 233
    Freaks and Geeks is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots


    Freaks and Geeks Linda Cardellini, John Francis Daley, James Franco

  27. 27
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    - 183
    The Wonder Years is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots


    The Wonder Years Fred Savage, Dan Lauria, Daniel Stern

  28. 28
    + 340
    - 255
    Modern Family is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots

    ranked low on reranks
    Modern Family Ed O'Neill, Sofía Vergara, Julie Bowen

  29. 29
    + 92
    - 115
    The Mary Tyler Moore Show is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots

    often listed & added by Linus
    The Mary Tyler Moore Show Mary Tyler Moore, Edward Asner, Gavin MacLeod

  30. 30
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    - 245
    30 Rock is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots

    often listed
    30 Rock Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan

  31. 31
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    - 260
    Community is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots


    Community Joel McHale, Danny Pudi, Donald Glover

  32. 32
    + 113
    - 47
    House is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots

    ranked low on reranks & added by SteveGraham
    House Hugh Laurie, Omar Epps, Robert Sean Leonard

  33. 33
    + 215
    - 187
    Star Trek: The Original Series is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots

    added by The Enforcer
    Star Trek: The Original Series William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley

  34. 34
    + 87
    - 32
    M*A*S*H is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots


    M*A*S*H Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers, Loretta Swi

  35. 35
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    - 218
    24 is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots


    24 Kiefer Sutherland, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Carlos Bernard

  36. 36
    + 60
    - 57
    Northern Exposure is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots

    added by penguinchick
    Northern Exposure Rob Morrow, Janine Turner, Barry Corbin

  37. 37
    + 235
    - 195
    Homeland is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots


    Homeland Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin, Rupert Friend

  38. 38
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    - 238
    Veronica Mars is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots


    Veronica Mars Kristen Bell, Percy Daggs III, Jason Dohring

  39. 39
    + 85
    - 114
    The Americans is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots


    The Americans Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Holly Taylor 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

    ;
  40. 40
    + 64
    - 70
    Outlander is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots

    often listed & added by Roseannadanna
    Outlander Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan, Tobias Menzies

  41. 41
    + 115
    - 122
    Weeds is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots


    Weeds Mary-Louise Parker, Hunter Parrish, Alexander Gould

  42. 42
    + 125
    - 105
    Star Trek: The Next Generation is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots

    added by Dismalhead
    Star Trek: The Next Generation Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes

  43. 43
    + 203
    - 181
    True Blood is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots


    True Blood Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell

  44. 44
    + 203
    - 155
    Doctor Who is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots

    added by NickMaes
    Doctor Who Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Matt Smith

  45. 45
    + 260
    - 164
    Heroes is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots

    ranked low on reranks
    Heroes Hayden Panettiere, Jack Coleman, Milo Ventimiglia

  46. 46
    + 117
    - 109
    Seinfeld is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots


    Seinfeld Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards

  47. 47
    + 220
    - 171
    American Horror Story is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots


    American Horror Story Lady Gaga, Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett

  48. 48
    + 31
    - 61
    Here Come the Brides is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots

    often listed & added by mclewis
    Here Come the Brides Bruce Lee, Joan Blondell, David Soul

  49. 49
    + 180
    - 196
    The Wire is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots


    The Wire Dominic West, Lance Reddick, Sonja Sohn

  50. 50
    + 105
    - 122
    Fawlty Towers is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots


    Fawlty Towers John Cleese, Prunella Scales, Andrew Sachs

181 +

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