TV The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots  

Originally by
199.0k votes 16.5k voters 189.2k views 171 items Embed

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
4,817 2,604
Breaking Bad is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Breaking Bad Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn

The Best Fantasy TV Shows The Best Netflix Original Documentary Series

2
3,141 3,036
Dexter is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Dexter Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayas

3
4,598 1,852
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
3,565 2,433
Lost is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Lost Naveen Andrews, Matthew Fox, Jorge Garcia

5
4,583 1,868
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
2,506 2,096
Sherlock is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Sherlock Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs

7
2,703 1,601
Firefly is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Firefly Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk

8
1,257 1,973
Cheers is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Cheers Ted Danson, Rhea Perlman, John Ratzenberger

9
2,084 1,513
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
1,506 1,608
That '70s Show is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
PeteBoyle added That '70s Show Topher Grace, Laura Prepon, Mila Kunis

11
1,614 1,372
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
2,070 1,228
Futurama is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Futurama Billy West, John DiMaggio, Katey Sagal

13
1,359 982
The Sopranos is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
The Sopranos James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco

14
1,188 1,305
Twin Peaks is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Twin Peaks Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean, Mädchen Amick

15
1,660 1,434
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

TV Shows Canceled Before Their Time The Best Re-Casting of Famous TV Roles

16
1,764 1,239
Supernatural is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
isadora added Supernatural Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Jim Beave

17
1,371 1,250
Scrubs is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Scrubs Zach Braff, Donald Faison, Sarah Chalke

18
887 1,295
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
1,496 1,298
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
1,186 778
House is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
SteveGraham added House Hugh Laurie, Omar Epps, Robert Sean Leonard

21
1,239 1,115
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
1,326 1,113
Friends is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Friends Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow

23
1,006 1,034
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
1,148 1,200
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
852 923
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
926 902
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
469 931
Moonlighting is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
lostshadow added Moonlighting Cybill Shepherd, Bruce Willis, Allyce Beasley

28
485 871
Downton Abbey is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
lemonhead added Downton Abbey Hugh Bonneville, Phyllis Logan, Elizabeth McGovern

29
639 1,054
Pushing Daisies is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Pushing Daisies Lee Pace, Anna Friel, Chi McBride

The Top Untrue Myths About Animals Awesome Superpowers We'd Give Anything to Have

30
812 753
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
1,028 757
Heroes is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Heroes Hayden Panettiere, Jack Coleman, Milo Ventimiglia

32
805 519
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
1,081 717
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
703 642
Star Trek: The Next Generation is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Dismalhead added Star Trek: The Next Generation Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes

35
727 690
Seinfeld is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Seinfeld Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards

36
936 941
Modern Family is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Modern Family Ed O'Neill, Sofía Vergara, Julie Bowen

37
641 911
30 Rock is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
30 Rock Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan

38
363 794
The Mary Tyler Moore Show is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Linus added The Mary Tyler Moore Show Mary Tyler Moore, Edward Asner, Gavin MacLeod

39
1,028 704
American Horror Story is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
American Horror Story Lady Gaga, Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett

40
596 699
Weeds is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Weeds Mary-Louise Parker, Hunter Parrish, Alexander Gould

41
800 723
Doctor Who is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
NickMaes added Doctor Who Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Matt Smith

42
681 804
24 is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
24 Kiefer Sutherland, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Carlos Bernard

43
443 736
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 ...

The Greatest Characters We Watched Grow Up on TV The Best Concert Movies Streaming on Hulu

44
743 913
Community is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Community Joel McHale, Danny Pudi, Donald Glover

45
543 910
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
373 668
Northern Exposure is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
penguinchick added Northern Exposure Rob Morrow, Janine Turner, Barry Corbin

47
598 754
Chuck is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
WarrenMitchell added Chuck Zachary Levi, Yvonne Strahovski, Joshua Gomez

48
682 324
The Simpsons is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
The Simpsons Dan Castellaneta, Nancy Cartwright, Julie Kavner

49
601 785
Homeland is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Homeland Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin, Rupert Friend

50
676 329
South Park is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
South Park Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Isaac Hayes