Submitted by [deleted] t3_yg5v4i in television

I should break this up by category but for this sake of discussion let's just say TV In general. The pilot of an episode really does set the tone of a show. I first was thinking of course "the Sopranos" is my favorite show, that's an easy one. After a quick rewatch, it's not as good of a pilot as I remember. The show totally was being pitched as a dark comedy akin to something like what Nurse Jackie became.

I think the first episode of the "West Wing" is the best pilot of all time. It sets up such a stunning cast with dramatic shots and crisp dialogue, all which becomes a theme throughout.



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AgentBurtScarnFBI t1_iu714ua wrote



Noy2222 t1_iu828n8 wrote

A better pilot wouldn't have crashed the plane.


TheFamilyJulezzz t1_iu7eva3 wrote

The first episode of Westworld is perfection.


nyquil99 t1_iu75v87 wrote

The pilot of “Prison Break” is very underrated. They get a lot done in that first hour.

“Alias,” “The Shield” and “Legion” are some other great ones.


jaymef t1_iu9mvrf wrote

The first season was phenomenal. Too bad the show jumped ship


virginia_boof t1_iub4rfb wrote

The Shield was perfect from start to finish. Very few shows (with at least 3+ seasons) have pulled off such a feat. I wish this sub talked about it more


nyquil99 t1_iub8xv6 wrote

I legit think every season is better than the one before. At the least, it never dips in quality.


nevereatpears t1_iud0tud wrote

Great show. I think it was slightly a victim of its time in the sense that in the middle it became too much of a procedural. I think if it was made today, it would be a bit tighter.


talldrseuss t1_iu76dq9 wrote

The Shield. Saw it during its original run so I didn't know what the main character was capable of. Drew me in instantly


McFeely_Smackup t1_iuc6c7h wrote

The last scene of the first episode just said "this isn't what you are used to" in a big way

Top 10 premier episode, top 2 finale


King_Wataba t1_iuh66r8 wrote

I used to go to this small movie store because he carried stuff you couldn't find at big stores. The guy who owned it always gave me amazing suggestions and this was one of them. I watched season 1 in one sitting and was hooked.


wednesdayware t1_iu77i60 wrote

The O.C. famously has one of the best pilot episodes of all time.


hotdoug1 t1_iu7wopr wrote

Fun fact: I worked at Fox when this premiered, it premiered alongside the show "Skin" (not to be confused with "Skins") which only lasted three episodes and premiered to horrible ratings.

The president addressed the company saying "American Idol is great for ratings, but it's not he future of Fox, the future of Fox is Skin and The O.C." That president was forced out 3 months later.

Also, the art department in the marketing wing of Fox had a hilarious poster hanging with The O.C. logo and the subtitle "Only Caucasians"


[deleted] OP t1_iu800y2 wrote



brochelsea t1_iu99gy2 wrote

Funnily enough, this description is what is gonna make me try the show again. Lol I've seen the pilot twice, & it's never what I'm wanting, but if the show turns into a cheesy teen drama, I can definitely jive with that!


ncghgf t1_iu7fe18 wrote

Despite all the show’s issues the first episode of the Walking Dead is still fantastic.


dicklaurent97 t1_iu8ja76 wrote

Arrested Development


Primetime22 t1_iuane5e wrote

Underrated answer. In 22 minutes we are thoroughly introduced to nine characters. We know their quirks, their flaws, their wants, their dynamics within the family, and pretty much all of them have moments where they are the funniest character on screen.


Mikethebest78 t1_iu74qk7 wrote

The first episode of "This is Us" could have been a theatrical release


MrDabollBlueSteppers t1_iu8cudq wrote

Mad Men

I'm shocked no one has mentioned it yet, the Pilot could just be a very good short movie


LilyMarie90 t1_iudjyv5 wrote

Yeah, I had to scroll down way too far to finally find your comment. The pilot is perfect. Even has a fully fledged twist at the end


jogoso2014 t1_iu7c34w wrote

LOST for me.

I enjoyed Alias as well


b1gmouth t1_iu70yis wrote

Yeah, like you, I found the Sopranos pilot very different tonally from the rest of the show upon rewatching. Possibly the best opening shot in the history of TV though. Rivaled only by LOST in that regard.

Speaking of which, my vote would be either LOST or Breaking Bad.


snoopwire t1_iu75bu9 wrote

Whenever someone says Breaking Bad S1 is slow I can't help but instantly think they're insane. Widespread sentiment on Reddit.

The pilot is an absolute balls to the walls rollercoaster.


b1gmouth t1_iu9ut02 wrote

Yeah that's crazy!

Come to think of it, Breaking Bad has one of the great opening shots in TV history too.


[deleted] OP t1_iu73cc3 wrote

Yes both great pilots. Need to give Lost a long overdue rewatch.


b1gmouth t1_iu9uy17 wrote

Yeah I recently completed a LOST rewatch and was surprised how well it held up. Highly recommended.


speashasha t1_iu8bzql wrote

SIX FEET UNDER - it draws you right in and makes you feel things for characters out of the gate. Also, Dead like Me, Pushing Daisies, Carnivale.


shashinqua t1_iu8q3c0 wrote

It’s sad Carnivale got canceled, and they never got a chance to finish the story.


Latter_Feeling2656 t1_iu71p28 wrote

Cheers, over Frasier and The Mary Tyler Moore Show.


Bobby_Marks2 t1_iudyjdn wrote

I find that Frasier takes a few episodes to find its feet. It takes 3-4 episodes to really establish that you're watching a comedy about two brothers out of touch with reality, and all the suffering they endure as a result.

I typically recommend people skip the first episode or two.


1964john t1_iu74xxn wrote

Hill Street Blues


jfb3 t1_iu75l86 wrote

I think they should have let Bobby and Renko die in the shootout. I would have loved that show to have a darker tone.

But, the world wasn't ready for that in 1981.


letphilsing t1_iubk74b wrote

well, they did die in the pilot. no other way to understand the pilot.

later... they listened to the water-cooler talk (old-timey version of social media) - which i didn't mind, they became more-rounded characters and were well worth following their growth.


jfb3 t1_iubmguu wrote

Yeah, I meant kept them dead.

They were the two characters I enjoyed watching the most though.


letphilsing t1_iubna82 wrote

agreed. Bringing them back to life ruined, or at least tarnished, a good story arc. But, they were a great part of the post-pilot portion of the show.

kinda win-win! One great pilot, so completely unexpected to see that show up on my tv.


McFeely_Smackup t1_iuc6ky6 wrote

It's funny how Hill Street Blues pioneered the "gritty cop drama" genre, and today it's quaint and semi comedy


Most_Victory1661 t1_iu7k7hx wrote

Lost Fringe Walking dead

Personal pick would be Terriers


ymcameron t1_iu9e7h1 wrote

Orphan Black. The very first scene of the show is so incredible at drawing the viewer into the mystery, and then Tatiana Maslany just continues to kill it for the next 5 seasons.


pappypapaya t1_iu7nfk8 wrote

Battlestar Galactica, The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, Arrested Development


blue_shadows t1_iu7vn7s wrote

Lost, so good, episode two which is part 2 of the pilot is amazing too. This show really knew how to write cliffhangers at the end of many episodes.


Heynony t1_iu7vzvz wrote

The Night Stalker (1972)

Not exactly a pilot but "inspiration" for the TV series that followed two years later.

Great script co-authored by Richard Matheson. Produced and directed by people who really knew how to get quality by doing TV, rather than trying to imitate theatrical movies on TV. Can't see it with fresh eyes today because the series itself just repeated the formula to death but the original was really good.


riesendulli t1_iu9b4k3 wrote

The OA

It’s the weirdest idea I have ever seen realized. It sets the mood but I did not expect to see something like this. By the end of ep2 you will feel it in your guts


TheNerdChaplain t1_iu7af0b wrote

I think the original pilot episode of "The Cage" for Star Trek is worth noting here, as it was 57 years from the pilot to pickup for Strange New Worlds.


Most_Victory1661 t1_iu7k4m4 wrote

I keep seeing this. 57 years for a pick up. Star Trek was picked up after a second pilot. Most of the original cast of the Cage was wanted for the second pilot. Majel was not going to be number one. For various reasons they didn’t return. Jeffrey Hunter thought himself as a movie star and really didn’t want to do tv. He wasn’t contractually obligated to return.

Strange New Worlds really is it’s own thing not a pick up from near 60 years ago. And it’s all Star Trek in various shapes and forms.


Bobby_Marks2 t1_iudyr41 wrote

And if you go with the second pilot, the one that actually got the show greenlit and aired, it too is a fantastic episode.

Where No Man Has Gone Before.


spinereader81 t1_iu7f7xc wrote


Freaks and Geeks

Roswell (WB version)

All in the Family

Fresh Prince


The Mary Tyler Moore Show





TheLordJames t1_iu7qxm0 wrote

I really enjoy the first episode of Designated Survivor. Unfortunately, it was downhill from there.


ETHogram t1_iu8bt26 wrote

Alias (DVD version) or Lost


AmnesiaInnocent t1_iub0my5 wrote

What's the difference between the DVD version and the broadcast version of the Alias pilot?


ETHogram t1_iub94aq wrote

The music rights expired and they replaced the non-original songs with cheaper, crappier ones on the streaming services. It ruins the show. To watch it as it aired on TV you have to buy the DVDs or pirate it.


Lejendry t1_iu9do4g wrote

Studio Sixty on the Sunset Strip.


raysofdavies t1_iua0hgb wrote

The Mad Men pilot is so good it got Matthew Weiner a job at the Sopranos


cold08 t1_iu8yqbm wrote

Glee has a solid pilot. It goes to shit almost immediately afterwards, but the pilot is almost perfect.


WhiteWolf3117 t1_iu8zakk wrote

Seeing almost exclusively dramas in this thread so i’ll propose two sitcoms: How I Met Your Mother, and Sunny. HIMYM is a wild sitcom pilot in that it lands with its concept and character dynamics nearly perfectly established from the jump, is really funny, and sets up the show perfectly. It’s still probably one of the best episodes of the series.

For Sunny, there’s technically the true pilot in Charlie Has Cancer or The Gang Gets Racist which is the premiere, but both are honestly great for the same reason so take your pick. A show that is not afraid to go so dark that it becomes absurd enough to be hilarious, especially upon revisiting them years later once you’re really in on the joke. So tonally different from what the show became, or what they show really excels at imo (these episodes are way too grounded to be peak Sunny) but a necessary foundation to get there.


guppyfresh t1_iu9govu wrote

Not some amazing drama series or anything, but The Last Man on Earth had a hilarious double episode pilot.


whris_cilson t1_iu9moqr wrote

The Black Donnellys, pity the show couldn't keep up.


dmick74 t1_iu7vnr5 wrote

A lot of great pilots. Many already mentioned here. My favorite is The Shield. Fringe‘s two-hour pilot is kind of fantastic too.


gregandrews t1_iu9nbad wrote

Walking Dead is a elite tier pilot. Dexter also was decent. Nothing compares to Lost though.


masiakasaurus t1_iuahfeh wrote

For a modern example, I would choose The Boys. It introduces the world and characters masterfully and contains no less than 3 iconic, shocking, yet well written and not gratuitous moments (Robin+Hughie, Translucent's defeat, and Homelander at the end).


SirZapdos t1_iuaiig5 wrote

Not sure if it counts as a pilot per se, but the first episode of Fargo is awesome. Not just for what happens (a lot) but for how glorious and seamless the transformations of Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman are into their characters.


varock12 t1_iuawafb wrote

24 - the real-time aspect to it was groundbreaking and drew you in immediately. In hindsight, there is SO much filler in that show but watching it for the first time, you can’t help but feel compelled to follow the thread hour by hour.


McFeely_Smackup t1_iuc67rh wrote

The Shield gets my vote.

The pilot spends the entire episode setting up Vic Mackey as a hard nose cop, trying to balance keeping drugs of the streets with being a good father, then hits you in the face with another side of the coin at the end


burglarysheepspeak t1_iuchg5u wrote

Stargate SG-1 pilot Children of the Gods was fantastic, really set up the show for what it became.


ButtExplosion t1_iucqq77 wrote

Has to be Homeland for me, one hell of a setup for the season


roxxe t1_iufumkx wrote


just goes downhill after


Yotsubauniverse t1_iughb0m wrote

Freaks and Geeks, straight up one of my favorite TV episodes of all time.


WalkerSunset t1_iu7syhl wrote

The Incredible Hulk or Werewolf, back when pilots were movies.