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.
list ordered by

1
+ - 4,790 2,591
Breaking Bad is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Breaking Bad Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn

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2
+ - 3,126 3,018
Dexter is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Dexter Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayas

3
+ - 4,566 1,843
Game of Thrones is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Game of Thrones Emilia Clarke, Peter Dinklage, Kit Harington

4
+ - 3,546 2,422
Lost is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Lost Naveen Andrews, Matthew Fox, Jorge Garcia

5
+ - 4,565 1,862
The Walking Dead is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
The Walking Dead Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies

6
+ - 2,490 2,090
Sherlock is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Sherlock Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs

7
+ - 2,687 1,596
Firefly is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Firefly Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk

8
+ - 1,254 1,971
Cheers is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Cheers Ted Danson, Rhea Perlman, John Ratzenberger

9
+ - 2,076 1,509
The X-Files is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
The X-Files David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi

10
+ - 1,497 1,606
That '70s Show is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
That '70s Show Topher Grace, Laura Prepon, Mila Kunis

11
+ - 1,609 1,368
Arrested Development is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Arrested Development Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, Portia de Rossi

12
+ - 2,064 1,224
Futurama is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Futurama Billy West, John DiMaggio, Katey Sagal

13
+ - 1,759 1,234
Supernatural is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Supernatural Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Jim Beave

14
+ - 1,351 981
The Sopranos is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
The Sopranos James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco

15
+ - 1,651 1,430
The Big Bang Theory is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
The Big Bang Theory Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco

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16
+ - 1,177 1,301
Twin Peaks is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Twin Peaks Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean, Mädchen Amick

17
+ - 1,364 1,246
Scrubs is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Scrubs Zach Braff, Donald Faison, Sarah Chalke

18
+ - 881 1,293
Mad Men is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Mad Men Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser

19
+ - 1,490 1,295
How I Met Your Mother is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
How I Met Your Mother Josh Radnor, Jason Segel, Cobie Smulders

20
+ - 1,181 776
House is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
House Hugh Laurie, Omar Epps, Robert Sean Leonard

21
+ - 1,232 1,112
Battlestar Galactica is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Battlestar Galactica Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Jamie Bamber

22
+ - 1,316 1,111
Friends is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Friends Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow

23
+ - 999 1,032
Freaks and Geeks is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Freaks and Geeks Linda Cardellini, John Francis Daley, James Franco

24
+ - 1,144 1,197
The West Wing is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
The West Wing Martin Sheen, Rob Lowe, Allison Janney

25
+ - 847 921
The Wonder Years is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
The Wonder Years Fred Savage, Dan Lauria, Daniel Stern

26
+ - 926 899
True Blood is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
True Blood Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell

27
+ - 465 930
Moonlighting is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Moonlighting Cybill Shepherd, Bruce Willis, Allyce Beasley

28
+ - 482 868
Downton Abbey is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Downton Abbey Hugh Bonneville, Phyllis Logan, Elizabeth McGovern

29
+ - 634 1,052
Pushing Daisies is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Pushing Daisies Lee Pace, Anna Friel, Chi McBride

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30
+ - 808 752
Star Trek: The Original Series is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Star Trek: The Original Series William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley

31
+ - 1,026 754
Heroes is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Heroes Hayden Panettiere, Jack Coleman, Milo Ventimiglia

32
+ - 801 518
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
+ - 1,076 715
Sons of Anarchy is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Sons of Anarchy Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior

34
+ - 700 640
Star Trek: The Next Generation is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Star Trek: The Next Generation Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes

35
+ - 721 689
Seinfeld is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Seinfeld Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards

36
+ - 638 907
30 Rock is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
30 Rock Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan

37
+ - 932 940
Modern Family is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Modern Family Ed O'Neill, Sofía Vergara, Julie Bowen

38
+ - 362 792
The Mary Tyler Moore Show is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
The Mary Tyler Moore Show Mary Tyler Moore, Edward Asner, Gavin MacLeod

39
+ - 594 697
Weeds is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Weeds Mary-Louise Parker, Hunter Parrish, Alexander Gould

40
+ - 1,024 702
American Horror Story is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
American Horror Story Lady Gaga, Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett

41
+ - 795 721
Doctor Who is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Doctor Who Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Matt Smith

42
+ - 679 802
24 is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
24 Kiefer Sutherland, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Carlos Bernard

43
+ - 441 734
The Americans is listed (or ranked) 43 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 ...

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44
+ - 741 910
Community is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Community Joel McHale, Danny Pudi, Donald Glover

45
+ - 542 907
Veronica Mars is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Veronica Mars Kristen Bell, Percy Daggs III, Jason Dohring

46
+ - 370 666
Northern Exposure is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Northern Exposure Rob Morrow, Janine Turner, Barry Corbin

47
+ - 595 751
Chuck is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Chuck Zachary Levi, Yvonne Strahovski, Joshua Gomez

48
+ - 599 783
Homeland is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Homeland Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin, Rupert Friend

49
+ - 677 323
The Simpsons is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
The Simpsons Dan Castellaneta, Nancy Cartwright, Julie Kavner

50
+ - 673 327
South Park is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
South Park Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Isaac Hayes