tv The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots

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List Rules 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.

1
+ - 1,014 569
Dexter is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Dexter Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter David Zayas

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+ - 1,188 570
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
+ - 878 516
Sherlock is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Sherlock Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman Una Stubbs

4
+ - 1,158 618
Lost is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Lost Naveen Andrews, Matthew Fox Jorge Garcia

5
+ - 1,036 480
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
+ - 1,054 473
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
+ - 345 398
Cheers is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Cheers Ted Danson, Rhea Perlman John Ratzenberger

8
+ - 484 313
The X-Files is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
The X-Files David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson Mitch Pileggi

9
+ - 418 202
Supernatural is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Supernatural Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles Jim Beave

10
+ - 525 332
Firefly is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Firefly Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres Alan Tudyk

11
+ - 423 364
Twin Peaks is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Twin Peaks Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean Mädchen Amick

12
+ - 577 358
How I Met Your Mother is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
How I Met Your Mother Josh Radnor, Jason Segel Cobie Smulders

13
+ - 551 423
Arrested Development is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Arrested Development Jason Bateman, Michael Cera Portia de Rossi

14
+ - 540 394
The Big Bang Theory is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
The Big Bang Theory Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons Kaley Cuoco

15
+ - 298 292
That '70s Show is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
That '70s Show Topher Grace, Laura Prepon Mila Kunis

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16
+ - 327 340
Mad Men is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Mad Men Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss Vincent Kartheiser

17
+ - 295 187
The Sopranos is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
The Sopranos James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco Edie Falco

18
+ - 419 344
Scrubs is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Scrubs Zach Braff, Donald Faison Sarah Chalke

19
+ - 469 313
Futurama is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Futurama Billy West, John DiMaggio Katey Sagal

20
+ - 435 303
Friends is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Friends Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox Lisa Kudrow

21
+ - 165 73
House is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
House Hugh Laurie, Omar Epps Robert Sean Leonard

22
+ - 410 328
Battlestar Galactica is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Battlestar Galactica Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell Jamie Bamber

23
+ - 277 237
The West Wing is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
The West Wing Martin Sheen, Rob Lowe Allison Janney

24
+ - 116 120
Downton Abbey is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Downton Abbey Hugh Bonneville, Phyllis Logan Elizabeth McGovern

25
+ - 244 258
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
+ - 292 266
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
+ - 109 150
Moonlighting is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Moonlighting Cybill Shepherd, Bruce Willis Allyce Beasley

28
+ - 228 210
The Wonder Years is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
The Wonder Years Fred Savage, Dan Lauria Daniel Stern

29
+ - 374 289
Modern Family is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Modern Family Ed O'Neill, Sofía Vergara Julie Bowen

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+ - 351 294
Community is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Community Joel McHale, Danny Pudi Donald Glover

31
+ - 106 137
The Mary Tyler Moore Show is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
The Mary Tyler Moore Show Mary Tyler Moore, Edward Asner Gavin MacLeod

32
+ - 133 50
M*A*S*H is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
M*A*S*H Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers Loretta Swi

33
+ - 265 274
30 Rock is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
30 Rock Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin Tracy Morgan

34
+ - 247 207
Star Trek: The Original Series is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Star Trek: The Original Series William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy DeForest Kelley

35
+ - 240 211
True Blood is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
True Blood Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer Sam Trammell

36
+ - 293 188
Heroes is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Heroes Hayden Panettiere, Jack Coleman Milo Ventimiglia

37
+ - 263 241
24 is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
24 Kiefer Sutherland, Mary Lynn Rajskub Carlos Bernard

38
+ - 239 266
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
+ - 241 179
Doctor Who is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Doctor Who Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman Matt Smith

40
+ - 82 82
Northern Exposure is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Northern Exposure Rob Morrow, Janine Turner Barry Corbin

41
+ - 264 216
Homeland is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Homeland Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin Rupert Friend

42
+ - 108 134
The Americans is listed (or ranked) 42 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 parents of stereotypical kids; at ...

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+ - 149 129
Star Trek: The Next Generation is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Star Trek: The Next Generation Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner Jonathan Frakes

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+ - 228 198
Chuck is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Chuck Zachary Levi, Yvonne Strahovski Joshua Gomez

45
+ - 141 132
Seinfeld is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Seinfeld Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus Michael Richards

46
+ - 77 93
Outlander is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Outlander Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan Tobias Menzies

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+ - 258 191
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
+ - 129 145
Weeds is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Weeds Mary-Louise Parker, Hunter Parrish Alexander Gould

49
+ - 162 133
Sons of Anarchy is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Sons of Anarchy Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal Mark Boone Junior

50
+ - 204 214
The Wire is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
The Wire Dominic West, Lance Reddick Sonja Sohn