Entertainment

The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots 

Ranker Community
Originally by Ranker Community
Updated January 3, 2019 230.7k votes 19.1k voters 205.1k views 154 items

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
Breaking Bad is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Starring Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn (AMC)
2
Game of Thrones is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Starring Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke (HBO)
3
Lost is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Starring Naveen Andrews, Matthew Fox, Jorge Garcia (American Broadcasting Company)
4
The Walking Dead is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Starring Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies (AMC)
5
Dexter is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Starring Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayas (Showtime)
6
Sherlock is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs (British Broadcasting Corporation)
7
Firefly is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Starring Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk (Fox Broadcasting Company)
8
Supernatural is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
isadora added Starring Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Katie Cassidy (The WB Television Network, The CW Television Network)
9
Cheers is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Starring Ted Danson, Rhea Perlman, John Ratzenberger (NBC)
10
The X-Files is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Starring David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi (Fox Broadcasting Company)
11
Friends is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Starring Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow (NBC)
12
Arrested Development is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Starring Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, Portia de Rossi (Fox Broadcasting Company)
13
That '70s Show is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
PeteBoyle added Starring Topher Grace, Laura Prepon, Mila Kunis (Fox Broadcasting Company)
14
House is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
SteveGraham added Starring Hugh Laurie, Omar Epps, Robert Sean Leonard (Fox Broadcasting Company)
15
The Big Bang Theory is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Starring Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco (CBS)
16
The Sopranos is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Starring James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco (HBO)
17
Mad Men is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Starring Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser (AMC)
18
Futurama is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Starring Billy West, John DiMaggio, Katey Sagal (Comedy Central, Fox Broadcasting Company)
19
How I Met Your Mother is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Starring Josh Radnor, Jason Segel, Cobie Smulders (CBS)
20
M*A*S*H is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Starring Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers, Loretta Swi (CBS)
21
Twin Peaks is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Twin Peaks Starring Kyle MacLachlan, Russ Tamblyn, Sherilyn Fenn (ABC, Showtime)
22
Battlestar Galactica is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Starring Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Jamie Bamber (Syfy)
23
Star Trek: The Next Gene... is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
24
Community is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Starring Joel McHale, Danny Pudi, Donald Glover (Comedy Central, NBC)
25
The Wonder Years is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Starring Fred Savage, Dan Lauria, Daniel Stern (American Broadcasting Company)