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
4,848 2,622
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
3,165 3,053
Dexter is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Dexter Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayas

3
4,633 1,869
Game of Thrones is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Game of Thrones Emilia Clarke, Peter Dinklage, Kit Harington

4
3,593 2,446
Lost is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Lost Naveen Andrews, Matthew Fox, Jorge Garcia

5
4,606 1,887
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
2,528 2,106
Sherlock is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Sherlock Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs

7
2,731 1,616
Firefly is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Firefly Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk

8
1,267 1,983
Cheers is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Cheers Ted Danson, Rhea Perlman, John Ratzenberger

9
2,094 1,524
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
1,518 1,620
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
1,624 1,387
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
2,086 1,238
Futurama is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Futurama Billy West, John DiMaggio, Katey Sagal

13
1,788 1,247
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
1,202 1,316
Twin Peaks is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Twin Peaks Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean, Mädchen Amick

15
1,370 991
The Sopranos is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
The Sopranos James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco

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16
1,676 1,444
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
1,381 1,261
Scrubs is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Scrubs Zach Braff, Donald Faison, Sarah Chalke

18
897 1,308
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
1,511 1,306
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
1,194 787
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
1,248 1,125
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

22
1,344 1,119
Friends is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Friends Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow

23
1,012 1,041
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
1,157 1,206
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
856 930
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
937 909
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
473 937
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
491 879
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
644 1,061
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
821 757
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
1,038 763
Heroes is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Heroes Hayden Panettiere, Jack Coleman, Milo Ventimiglia

32
815 523
M*A*S*H is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
M*A*S*H Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers, Loretta Swi

33
1,085 721
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
710 649
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
734 695
Seinfeld is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Seinfeld Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards

36
941 946
Modern Family is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Modern Family Ed O'Neill, Sofía Vergara, Julie Bowen

37
643 918
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
364 800
The Mary Tyler Moore Show is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Linus added The Mary Tyler Moore Show Mary Tyler Moore, Edward Asner, Gavin MacLeod

39
1,036 710
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
597 705
Weeds is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Weeds Mary-Louise Parker, Hunter Parrish, Alexander Gould

41
809 730
Doctor Who is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
NickMaes added Doctor Who Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Matt Smith

42
684 810
24 is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
24 Kiefer Sutherland, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Carlos Bernard

43
445 743
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
747 921
Community is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Community Joel McHale, Danny Pudi, Donald Glover

45
547 916
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
377 672
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
610 759
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
689 329
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
602 791
Homeland is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Homeland Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin, Rupert Friend

50
682 335
South Park is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
South Park Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Isaac Hayes