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.

1
5,228 2,909
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
3,444 3,298
Dexter is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Dexter Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayas

3
5,122 2,121
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
3,938 2,684
Lost is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Lost Naveen Andrews, Matthew Fox, Jorge Garcia

5
4,981 2,057
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
2,804 2,317
Sherlock is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Sherlock Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs

7
1,379 2,187
Cheers is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Cheers Ted Danson, Rhea Perlman, John Ratzenberger

8
1,719 1,758
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
2,892 1,807
Firefly is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Firefly Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk

10
2,224 1,702
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
2,049 1,383
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
1,549 1,092
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
1,744 1,552
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
1,319 1,432
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 1,416
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
2,217 1,388
Futurama is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Futurama Billy West, John DiMaggio, Katey Sagal

17
1,831 1,640
The Big Bang Theory is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
The Big Bang Theory Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco

18
1,491 1,414
Scrubs is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Scrubs Zach Braff, Donald Faison, Sarah Chalke

19
1,580 1,281
Friends is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Friends Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow

20
1,709 1,465
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
1,319 1,258
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
1,345 911
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
928 1,035
The Wonder Years is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
The Wonder Years Fred Savage, Dan Lauria, Daniel Stern

24
507 1,065
Moonlighting is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
lostshadow added Moonlighting Cybill Shepherd, Bruce Willis, Allyce Beasley

25
1,088 1,177
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 1,324
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
553 1,004
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
931 583
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
1,019 1,035
True Blood is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
True Blood Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell

30
879 840
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
692 1,175
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
1,111 880
Heroes is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Heroes Hayden Panettiere, Jack Coleman, Milo Ventimiglia

33
1,031 1,061
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
766 762
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
540 791
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
1,185 824
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
388 908
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
795 857
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 1,029
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
800 812
Seinfeld is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Seinfeld Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards

41
1,110 817
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
788 1,029
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
637 813
Weeds is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Weeds Mary-Louise Parker, Hunter Parrish, Alexander Gould

44
888 842
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
592 1,021
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
775 414
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
402 769
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
671 854
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
770 386
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
655 667
Fringe is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Fringe Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, Jasika Nicole