best TV The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots  

Ranker Community
Originally by Ranker Community
220.2k votes 18.1k voters 197.3k views 173 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
5,128 2,853
Breaking Bad is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Breaking Bad Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn

2
3,390 3,244
Dexter is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Dexter Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayas

3
5,029 2,058
Game of Thrones is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Game of Thrones Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke

4
3,866 2,627
Lost is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Lost Naveen Andrews, Matthew Fox, Jorge Garcia

5
2,750 2,270
Sherlock is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Sherlock Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs

6
4,887 2,020
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
1,356 2,141
Cheers is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Cheers Ted Danson, Rhea Perlman, John Ratzenberger

8
1,666 1,723
That '70s Show is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
PeteBoyle added That '70s Show Topher Grace, Laura Prepon, Mila Kunis

9
2,860 1,773
Firefly is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Firefly Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk

10
2,196 1,666
The X-Files is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
The X-Files David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi

11
1,999 1,348
Supernatural is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
isadora added Supernatural Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Katie Cassidy

12
1,306 1,401
Twin Peaks is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Twin Peaks Kyle MacLachlan, Russ Tamblyn, Sherilyn Fenn

13
1,006 1,394
Mad Men is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Mad Men Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser

14
1,712 1,521
Arrested Development is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Arrested Development Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, Portia de Rossi

The Best Fantasy TV Shows

15
1,508 1,069
The Sopranos is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
The Sopranos James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco

16
2,192 1,361
Futurama is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Futurama Billy West, John DiMaggio, Katey Sagal

17
1,467 1,384
Scrubs is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Scrubs Zach Braff, Donald Faison, Sarah Chalke

18
1,802 1,601
The Big Bang Theory is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
The Big Bang Theory Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco

19
1,531 1,247
Friends is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Friends Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow

20
1,652 1,437
How I Met Your Mother is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
How I Met Your Mother Josh Radnor, Jason Segel, Cobie Smulders

21
1,305 1,230
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

The Most Annoying TV and Film Characters Ever

22
500 1,039
Moonlighting is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
lostshadow added Moonlighting Cybill Shepherd, Bruce Willis, Allyce Beasley

23
1,321 886
House is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
SteveGraham added House Hugh Laurie, Omar Epps, Robert Sean Leonard

24
546 976
Downton Abbey is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
lemonhead added Downton Abbey Hugh Bonneville, Phyllis Logan, Elizabeth McGovern

25
1,067 1,153
Freaks and Geeks is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Freaks and Geeks Linda Cardellini, John Francis Daley, James Franco

26
1,217 1,301
The West Wing is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
The West Wing Martin Sheen, Rob Lowe, Allison Janney

27
912 1,012
The Wonder Years is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
The Wonder Years Fred Savage, Dan Lauria, Daniel Stern

28
906 566
M*A*S*H is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
M*A*S*H Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers, Loretta Swi

TV Shows Canceled Before Their Time

29
679 1,150
Pushing Daisies is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Pushing Daisies Lee Pace, Anna Friel, Chi McBride

30
870 819
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
1,002 1,004
True Blood is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
True Blood Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell

32
1,009 1,035
Modern Family is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Modern Family Ed O'Neill, Sofía Vergara, Julie Bowen

33
383 889
The Mary Tyler Moore Show is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Linus added The Mary Tyler Moore Show Mary Tyler Moore, Edward Asner, Gavin MacLeod

34
758 739
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
520 781
The Americans is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
The Americans Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Maximiliano Hernández - 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

36
1,094 857
Heroes is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Heroes Hayden Panettiere, Jack Coleman, Milo Ventimiglia

37
671 1,011
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
777 845
24 is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
24 Kiefer Sutherland, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Carlos Bernard

39
1,164 803
Sons of Anarchy is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Sons of Anarchy Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior

40
781 792
Seinfeld is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Seinfeld Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards

41
877 819
Doctor Who is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
NickMaes added Doctor Who Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith

42
779 1,008
Community is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Community Joel McHale, Danny Pudi, Donald Glover

16 Movie "In Jokes" You Probably Didn't Notice

43
584 1,003
Veronica Mars is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Veronica Mars Kristen Bell, Percy Daggs III, Jason Dohring

44
631 793
Weeds is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Weeds Mary-Louise Parker, Hunter Parrish, Alexander Gould

45
1,093 793
American Horror Story is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
American Horror Story Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott, Evan Peters

46
396 752
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
753 395
The Simpsons is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
The Simpsons Dan Castellaneta, Nancy Cartwright, Julie Kavner

48
661 837
Chuck is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
WarrenMitchell added Chuck Zachary Levi, Yvonne Strahovski, Joshua Gomez

49
343 778
Outlander is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Roseannadanna added Outlander Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan, Tobias Menzies

50
562 766
The Wire is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
The Wire Dominic West, Lance Reddick, Sonja Sohn