The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots TV Programs

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.

List Photo: user uploaded image
Collection Photo: via hbo
  • 68 ReRanks
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  • 2 See list ranked by
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  1. 1
    + 843
    - 424

    most listed
    Yvonne Strahovski, Julie Benz, John Lithgow

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  2. 2
    + 978
    - 439


    Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Bob Odenkirk

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  3. 3
    + 698
    - 409

    often listed
    Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Andrew Scott

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  4. 4
    + 926
    - 528


    Evangeline Lilly, Ian Somerhalder, Michelle Rodriguez

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  5. 5
    + 811
    - 383


    Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey, Natalie Dormer

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  6. 6
    + 856
    - 393


    Lauren Cohan, Andrew Lincoln, Laurie Holden

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  7. 7
    + 282
    - 317

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

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  8. 8
    + 229
    - 209

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

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  9. 9
    + 482
    - 355

    ranked low on reranks
    Charlize Theron, Ron Howard, Portia de Rossi

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  10. 10
    + 276
    - 267

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Christina Hendricks, January Jones, Jon Hamm

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  11. 11
    + 363
    - 276

    often listed but ranked low on reranks
    Heather Graham, Zach Braff, Sarah Chalke

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  12. 12
    + 430
    - 264


    Christina Hendricks, Summer Glau, Morena Baccarin

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  13. 13
    + 273
    - 134

    added by isadora
    Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, Misha Collins

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  14. 14
    + 340
    - 302

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Heather Graham, Sherilyn Fenn, Lara Flynn Boyle

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  15. 15
    + 486
    - 286


    Cobie Smulders, Alyson Hannigan, Neil Patrick Harris

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  16. 16
    + 369
    - 252


    Gillian Anderson, Lucy Lawless, David Duchovny

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  17. 17
    + 226
    - 131


    Steve Buscemi, Jamie Lynn Sigler, James Gandolfini

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  18. 18
    + 453
    - 315


    Kaley Cuoco, Mayim Bialik, Melissa Rauch

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  19. 19
    + 407
    - 252


    Katey Sagal, Frank Welker, Billy West

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  20. 20
    + 350
    - 278


    Grace Park, Lucy Lawless, Tricia Helfer

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  21. 21
    + 227
    - 188


    Rob Lowe, Mary-Louise Parker, Martin Sheen

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  22. 22
    + 206
    - 211


    Kristin Chenoweth, Anna Friel, Lee Pace

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  23. 23
    + 80
    - 107

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

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  24. 24
    + 242
    - 219


    James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel

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  25. 25
    + 322
    - 236


    Sofía Vergara, Sarah Hyland, Julie Bowen

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  26. 26
    + 342
    - 244

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

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  27. 27
    + 84
    - 104

    often listed & added by Linus
    Betty White, Mary Tyler Moore, Cloris Leachman

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  28. 28
    + 70
    - 70

    added by lemonhead
    Paul Giamatti, Maggie Smith, Shirley MacLaine

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  29. 29
    + 240
    - 234


    Emma Stone, Tina Fey, Elizabeth Banks

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  30. 30
    + 181
    - 172


    Danica McKellar, Robin Thicke, Fred Savage

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  31. 31
    + 321
    - 248

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

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  32. 32
    + 198
    - 180

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

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  33. 33
    + 206
    - 224


    Kristen Bell, Amanda Seyfried, Alyson Hannigan

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  34. 34
    + 52
    - 46

    added by penguinchick
    Teri Polo, Janine Turner, John Corbett

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  35. 35
    + 80
    - 102

    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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  36. 36
    + 58
    - 57

    added by Roseannadanna
    Sam Heughan, Caitriona Balfe, Graham McTavish

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  37. 37
    + 224
    - 185

    ranked low on reranks
    Claire Danes, Morena Baccarin, Damian Lewis

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  38. 38
    + 220
    - 207


    Elisha Cuthbert, Kiefer Sutherland, Janeane Garofalo

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  39. 39
    + 86
    - 39

    ranked low on reranks & added by SteveGraham
    Olivia Wilde, Jennifer Morrison, Hugh Laurie

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  40. 40
    + 104
    - 111


    Zooey Deschanel, Mary-Louise Parker, Kevin Nealon

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  41. 41
    + 192
    - 172


    Anna Paquin, Evan Rachel Wood, Deborah Ann Woll

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  42. 42
    + 111
    - 97

    added by Dismalhead
    Whoopi Goldberg, Patrick Stewart, Wil Wheaton

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  43. 43
    + 107
    - 97


    Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David

    ;
  44. 44
    + 67
    - 29


    Alan Alda, Jamie Farr, Harry Morgan

    ;
  45. 45
    + 246
    - 158

    ranked low on reranks
    Hayden Panettiere, Kristen Bell, Ali Larter

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  46. 46
    + 183
    - 147

    added by NickMaes
    Tom Baker, Eric Roberts, Jon Pertwee

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  47. 47
    + 204
    - 163


    Emma Roberts, Jessica Lange, Connie Britton

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  48. 48
    + 27
    - 51
    Here Come the Brides is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots

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

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  49. 49
    + 174
    - 184


    Idris Elba, Bobby Brown, Method Man

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  50. 50
    + 143
    - 165


    Jeffrey Jones, Timothy Olyphant, Sarah Paulson

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178 +

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