best TV The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots  

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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.
list ordered by

1
5,000 2,727
Breaking Bad is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Breaking Bad Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn

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2
3,282 3,160
Dexter is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Dexter Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayas

3
4,859 1,951
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
3,748 2,524
Lost is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Lost Naveen Andrews, Matthew Fox, Jorge Garcia

5
4,759 1,958
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
2,643 2,174
Sherlock is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Sherlock Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs

7
2,814 1,677
Firefly is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Firefly Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk

8
1,313 2,048
Cheers is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Cheers Ted Danson, Rhea Perlman, John Ratzenberger

9
2,158 1,576
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
1,580 1,671
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
1,668 1,449
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
2,162 1,285
Futurama is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Futurama Billy West, John DiMaggio, Katey Sagal

13
1,897 1,294
Supernatural is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
isadora added Supernatural Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Jim Beave

14
1,753 1,503
The Big Bang Theory is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
The Big Bang Theory Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco

15
1,236 1,355
Twin Peaks is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Twin Peaks Kyle MacLachlan, Russ Tamblyn, Sherilyn Fenn

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16
1,422 1,031
The Sopranos is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
The Sopranos James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco

17
1,432 1,299
Scrubs is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Scrubs Zach Braff, Donald Faison, Sarah Chalke

18
942 1,346
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
1,583 1,352
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
1,274 818
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
1,440 1,161
Friends is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Friends Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow

22
1,283 1,160
Battlestar Galactica is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Battlestar Galactica Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Jamie Bamber

23
1,045 1,078
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
1,182 1,238
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
891 959
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
976 940
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
489 972
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
520 916
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
663 1,091
Pushing Daisies is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Pushing Daisies Lee Pace, Anna Friel, Chi McBride

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30
850 784
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
855 547
M*A*S*H is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
M*A*S*H Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers, Loretta Swi

32
1,073 798
Heroes is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Heroes Hayden Panettiere, Jack Coleman, Milo Ventimiglia

33
1,131 747
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
741 677
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
977 974
Modern Family is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Modern Family Ed O'Neill, SofĂ­a Vergara, Julie Bowen

36
770 725
Seinfeld is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Seinfeld Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards

37
661 944
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
851 756
Doctor Who is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
NickMaes added Doctor Who Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith

39
1,069 734
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
372 828
The Mary Tyler Moore Show is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Linus added The Mary Tyler Moore Show Mary Tyler Moore, Edward Asner, Gavin MacLeod

41
617 733
Weeds is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Weeds Mary-Louise Parker, Hunter Parrish, Alexander Gould

42
713 830
24 is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
24 Kiefer Sutherland, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Carlos Bernard

43
461 764
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 ...

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44
567 940
Veronica Mars is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Veronica Mars Kristen Bell, Percy Daggs III, Jason Dohring

45
766 948
Community is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Community Joel McHale, Danny Pudi, Donald Glover

46
388 698
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
650 779
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
726 347
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
617 812
Homeland is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Homeland Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin, Rupert Friend

50
719 354
South Park is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
South Park Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Isaac Hayes