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.
list ordered by

1
5,263 2,934
Breaking Bad is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn

2
3,462 3,320
Dexter is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayas

3
5,156 2,135
Game of Thrones is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke

4
3,977 2,698
Lost is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Naveen Andrews, Matthew Fox, Jorge Garcia

5
5,009 2,069
The Walking Dead is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies

6
2,818 2,327
Sherlock is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs

7
1,394 2,197
Cheers is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Ted Danson, Rhea Perlman, John Ratzenberger

8
1,728 1,774
That '70s Show is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
PeteBoyle added Topher Grace, Laura Prepon, Mila Kunis

9
2,905 1,819
Firefly is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk

10
2,235 1,712
The X-Files is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi

11
2,061 1,395
Supernatural is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
isadora added Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Katie Cassidy

12
1,562 1,100
The Sopranos is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco

13
1,755 1,564
Arrested Development is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, Portia de Rossi

14
1,328 1,441
Twin Peaks is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Kyle MacLachlan, Russ Tamblyn, Sherilyn Fenn

15
1,027 1,426
Mad Men is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser

16
1,842 1,652
The Big Bang Theory is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco

17
2,229 1,399
Futurama is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Billy West, John DiMaggio, Katey Sagal

18
1,498 1,426
Scrubs is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Zach Braff, Donald Faison, Sarah Chalke

19
1,596 1,289
Friends is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow

20
1,720 1,476
How I Met Your Mother is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Josh Radnor, Jason Segel, Cobie Smulders

21
1,329 1,267
Battlestar Galactica is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Jamie Bamber

22
1,357 917
House is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
SteveGraham added Hugh Laurie, Omar Epps, Robert Sean Leonard

23
512 1,072
Moonlighting is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
lostshadow added Cybill Shepherd, Bruce Willis, Allyce Beasley

24
933 1,043
The Wonder Years is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Fred Savage, Dan Lauria, Daniel Stern

25
1,094 1,184
Freaks and Geeks is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Linda Cardellini, John Francis Daley, James Franco

26
1,232 1,331
The West Wing is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Martin Sheen, Rob Lowe, Allison Janney

27
558 1,011
Downton Abbey is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
lemonhead added Hugh Bonneville, Phyllis Logan, Elizabeth McGovern

28
939 589
M*A*S*H is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers, Loretta Swi

29
887 844
Star Trek: The Original Series is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley

30
1,027 1,042
True Blood is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell

31
700 1,181
Pushing Daisies is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Lee Pace, Anna Friel, Chi McBride

32
1,120 885
Heroes is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Hayden Panettiere, Jack Coleman, Milo Ventimiglia

33
774 768
Star Trek: The Next Generation is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Dismalhead added Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes

34
1,036 1,068
Modern Family is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Ed O'Neill, Sofía Vergara, Julie Bowen

35
545 795
The Americans is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
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 kids; at work, they pose as travel agents; but at night, they weave a web of confidants, lovers, dupes, and historical figures from the Regan-era Cold War. The startlingly realistic plot twists force the viewer to consider the real cost of an undeclared war, what it takes to protect one's beliefs, if it's worth it, and if it actually worked for either side

36
1,188 829
Sons of Anarchy is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior

37
392 913
The Mary Tyler Moore Show is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Linus added Mary Tyler Moore, Edward Asner, Gavin MacLeod

38
797 863
24 is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Kiefer Sutherland, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Carlos Bernard

39
688 1,036
30 Rock is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan

40
804 819
Seinfeld is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards

41
1,118 824
American Horror Story is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott, Evan Peters

42
793 1,037
Community is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Joel McHale, Danny Pudi, Donald Glover

43
640 817
Weeds is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Mary-Louise Parker, Hunter Parrish, Alexander Gould

44
896 848
Doctor Who is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
NickMaes added Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith

45
598 1,027
Veronica Mars is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Kristen Bell, Percy Daggs III, Jason Dohring

46
782 420
The Simpsons is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Dan Castellaneta, Nancy Cartwright, Julie Kavner

47
405 775
Northern Exposure is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
penguinchick added Rob Morrow, Janine Turner, Barry Corbin

48
673 862
Chuck is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
WarrenMitchell added Zachary Levi, Yvonne Strahovski, Joshua Gomez

49
662 673
Fringe is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, Jasika Nicole

50
774 394
South Park is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Mary Kay Bergman