Best TV The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots  

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Originally by Ranker Community
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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.

1
5,241 2,925
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
3,453 3,309
Dexter is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Dexter Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayas

3
5,145 2,125
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
3,955 2,694
Lost is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Lost Naveen Andrews, Matthew Fox, Jorge Garcia

5
4,995 2,063
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
2,810 2,323
Sherlock is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Sherlock Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs

7
1,383 2,192
Cheers is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Cheers Ted Danson, Rhea Perlman, John Ratzenberger

8
1,722 1,767
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
2,900 1,812
Firefly is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Firefly Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk

10
2,228 1,706
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
2,056 1,387
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
1,554 1,096
The Sopranos is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
The Sopranos James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco

13
1,747 1,556
Arrested Development is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Arrested Development Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, Portia de Rossi

14
1,321 1,437
Twin Peaks is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Twin Peaks Kyle MacLachlan, Russ Tamblyn, Sherilyn Fenn

The Best Fantasy TV Shows

15
1,023 1,420
Mad Men is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Mad Men Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser

16
1,838 1,644
The Big Bang Theory is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
The Big Bang Theory Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco

17
2,222 1,393
Futurama is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Futurama Billy West, John DiMaggio, Katey Sagal

18
1,494 1,419
Scrubs is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Scrubs Zach Braff, Donald Faison, Sarah Chalke

19
1,583 1,287
Friends is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Friends Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow

20
1,712 1,469
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
1,325 1,261
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 Best Princess Movies

22
1,352 913
House is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
SteveGraham added House Hugh Laurie, Omar Epps, Robert Sean Leonard

23
508 1,069
Moonlighting is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
lostshadow added Moonlighting Cybill Shepherd, Bruce Willis, Allyce Beasley

24
929 1,039
The Wonder Years is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
The Wonder Years Fred Savage, Dan Lauria, Daniel Stern

25
1,088 1,181
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
1,229 1,328
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
555 1,007
Downton Abbey is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
lemonhead added Downton Abbey Hugh Bonneville, Phyllis Logan, Elizabeth McGovern

28
1,027 1,036
True Blood is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
True Blood Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell

TV Shows Canceled Before Their Time

29
933 586
M*A*S*H is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
M*A*S*H Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers, Loretta Swi

30
883 841
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
695 1,178
Pushing Daisies is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Pushing Daisies Lee Pace, Anna Friel, Chi McBride

32
1,117 881
Heroes is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Heroes Hayden Panettiere, Jack Coleman, Milo Ventimiglia

33
1,034 1,063
Modern Family is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Modern Family Ed O'Neill, Sofía Vergara, Julie Bowen

34
771 764
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
542 792
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 Best Movies Based on TV Shows

36
1,187 824
Sons of Anarchy is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Sons of Anarchy Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior

37
388 910
The Mary Tyler Moore Show is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Linus added The Mary Tyler Moore Show Mary Tyler Moore, Edward Asner, Gavin MacLeod

38
796 858
24 is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
24 Kiefer Sutherland, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Carlos Bernard

39
685 1,031
30 Rock is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
30 Rock Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan

40
801 813
Seinfeld is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Seinfeld Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards

41
1,114 819
American Horror Story is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
American Horror Story Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott, Evan Peters

42
789 1,031
Community is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Community Joel McHale, Danny Pudi, Donald Glover

The Funniest Horror Movies

43
637 815
Weeds is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Weeds Mary-Louise Parker, Hunter Parrish, Alexander Gould

44
894 843
Doctor Who is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
NickMaes added Doctor Who Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith

45
594 1,023
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
778 415
The Simpsons is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
The Simpsons Dan Castellaneta, Nancy Cartwright, Julie Kavner

47
403 771
Northern Exposure is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
penguinchick added Northern Exposure Rob Morrow, Janine Turner, Barry Corbin

48
671 856
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
772 388
South Park is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
South Park Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Mary Kay Bergman

50
659 668
Fringe is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Fringe Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, Jasika Nicole