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
5,137 2,871
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
3,402 3,251
Dexter is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Dexter Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayas

3
5,042 2,075
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
3,875 2,640
Lost is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Lost Naveen Andrews, Matthew Fox, Jorge Garcia

5
4,910 2,020
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
2,759 2,281
Sherlock is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Sherlock Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs

7
1,360 2,153
Cheers is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Cheers Ted Danson, Rhea Perlman, John Ratzenberger

8
2,862 1,783
Firefly is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Firefly Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk

9
1,682 1,724
That '70s Show is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
PeteBoyle added That '70s Show Topher Grace, Laura Prepon, Mila Kunis

10
2,202 1,677
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
2,012 1,351
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
1,518 1,070
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
1,306 1,413
Twin Peaks is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Twin Peaks Kyle MacLachlan, Russ Tamblyn, Sherilyn Fenn

14
1,714 1,531
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 Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece

15
1,012 1,398
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
2,192 1,371
Futurama is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Futurama Billy West, John DiMaggio, Katey Sagal

17
1,804 1,611
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
1,469 1,394
Scrubs is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Scrubs Zach Braff, Donald Faison, Sarah Chalke

19
1,536 1,258
Friends is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Friends Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow

20
1,659 1,449
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 1,241
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 Very Best of the Scumbag Alcohol Meme

22
1,325 897
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
1,069 1,163
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
1,217 1,311
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
913 1,022
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
500 1,050
Moonlighting is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
lostshadow added Moonlighting Cybill Shepherd, Bruce Willis, Allyce Beasley

27
916 568
M*A*S*H is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
M*A*S*H Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers, Loretta Swi

28
547 986
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

The Best Survivor Contestants That Ever Played

29
872 829
Star Trek: The Original Series is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Star Trek: The Original Series William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley

30
1,003 1,014
True Blood is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
True Blood Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell

31
680 1,160
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
1,011 1,045
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
1,096 867
Heroes is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Heroes Hayden Panettiere, Jack Coleman, Milo Ventimiglia

34
758 750
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
1,164 813
Sons of Anarchy is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Sons of Anarchy Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior

The Most Annoying TV and Film Characters Ever

36
528 781
The Americans is listed (or ranked) 36 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 ...

37
787 845
24 is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
24 Kiefer Sutherland, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Carlos Bernard

38
384 899
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
674 1,021
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
879 829
Doctor Who is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
NickMaes added Doctor Who Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith

41
783 802
Seinfeld is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Seinfeld Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards

42
1,096 803
American Horror Story is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
American Horror Story Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott, Evan Peters

Dirtiest Futurama Jokes We Still Can't Believe They Got Away With

43
779 1,018
Community is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Community Joel McHale, Danny Pudi, Donald Glover

44
631 803
Weeds is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Weeds Mary-Louise Parker, Hunter Parrish, Alexander Gould

45
584 1,013
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
757 405
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
396 762
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
661 847
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
755 378
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
647 660
Fringe is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Fringe Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, Jasika Nicole