1. True Detective, in my opinion. I don’t watch many series (because if the pilot is not good I usually don’t bother watching the rest) but this one got me going from the start.
2. Pushing Daisies. I really miss that show. I was laying in bed in the middle of the night last week thinking about it how good it was. Quirky and just wonderful.
3. Fargo. The ending of the pilot was shocking and really set the tone for the rest of the amazing first series.
4. The 2000s reboot of Battlestar Galactica — HELL of a Pilot, HELLLLLLL of a show.
5. Dead Like Me was fantastic. Poignant, funny, dark, and charming!
6. Scrubs. In the pilot it not only showcased the personality of all relevant characters, it also gave a great taste of the humor to expect while still filling it with a believable and interesting story.
I love Scrubs and I think it’s one of the most entertaining shows ever.
7. It’s no longer on the air, but the show Castle (Nathan Fillion, Stana Katic) had a really solid pilot episode.
8. That 70s Show. Forman stealing 4 warm beers from Red and Kitty’s party.
9. BBC’s Sherlock had a great first episode. The graphics on screen are commonplace now, but that was pretty cool to me at the time.
10. Community, because it introduces all the main characters, their backgrounds, and the direction of the show all in about twenty minutes.
11. Orphan Black. This show is not nearly as well known as it should be. Tatiana Maslany is an amazing actress.
12. Ozark. That show goes 0-60 reeeeeal quick.
13. Mad Men. Really makes you think a certain way about Don Draper and those around him, then has a massive twist at the end which leaves you wanting more.
14. Westworld. The heavy ideas kept coming fast one after the next and I thought ‘whoa, slow down and pace yourselves, guys!’ but I was eating it all up throughout episode 1.
15. Veronica Mars. Introduced all of the plot and story for a season long arc without skipping a beat, while also making you want to know more about the characters.
16. The Sopranos. We immediately get a psychological snapshot of Tony, and the constant tension that characterizes the universe of the series is established along with the dynamics between characters that pushes the story. In my opinion, this series ushered in the golden age of television.
17. X-Files… it set the mood perfectly for that show (as long as you ignore the awful sound quality compared to later episodes in the first season).
18. Bob’s Burgers. They came right out of the gate with the fully developed characters and humor that are still going strong.
19. First episode of Hannibal is really good. It really dove straight into how Will thinks and how him and Hannibal interact with each other and the people around them.
20. The Chapelle Shows first episode had Clayton Bigsby the Black and Blind Klansman.
21. Mr. Robot. Coming from an IT field, having a TV show get hacking so right from the first episode was a breath of fresh air. After years of the cheesy graphical interface with skull and crossbones and shit to represent hacking on movies and TV, seeing a show consistently use realistic command line interfaces, IP addresses, software, peripheral devices, social engineering, etc… is amazing.
22. Breaking Bad. I forgot just how much craziness happens in the pilot alone, until I rewatched it. I always remembered it as being spread out across a couple episodes but no, it’s all packed into the first hour.
23. The Good Place! I was so hooked and binged the first season in like two days when I started watching it.
I just love the show in general though. I feel like almost all of their jokes land and the humor is just so perfectly crafted and meshes well with the characters and situations they’ve created. First season is definitely the best but 2 and 3 are still so enjoyable!
24. Brooklyn 99. I usually take several episodes to get invested in a comedy series, but B99 had me hooked from the beginning.
25. Archer. “The thought of me dying gave you an ERECTION?!”
26. Friday Night Lights really is the best pilot ever. I thought I knew exactly what show I was watching, then street’s injury happened and I was just speechless for the rest of the episode. When it finished I honestly had no idea what the hell I had just seen.
27. Heroes. I love the pilot so much. The whole first season is great but the “save the cheerleader, save the world” arc is my favorite part to watch over and over. Too bad the rest of the series goes downhill from there.
28. Penny Dreadful sucks you in and keeps you hooked right from the pilot. I need to rewatch the series at some point.
29. Suits. 2 hour episode, best one of the 9 seasons. Could watch it over and over.
30. Cheers was really well done, all of the characters had really great intros, and great interactions with each other.
31. The Wire. The first scene is absolutely brilliant, and sets the stage for a show unlike any other before or since.
32. LOST. I don’t know why but I’ll never forget the way Locke smiled at Kate while eating that orange.
33. Game Of Thrones, really puts into perspective of what kind of show it is right away.
34. The Americans. I re-watched recently and was surprised at how many of my favorite scenes from the first season were actually in the pilot episode.
35. Shameless does a good job of pulling you in with the pilot
36. Futurama. That show had me hooked from the start and 20 years later it’s still an amazing pilot episode and series as whole. It’s also pretty amazing they setup something in the pilot that would be a major plot point many seasons later with Nibbler’s shadow.
37. Eureka! The pilot had such a sense of mystery and wonder, I loved it! Unfortunately, by the time it’s over you know exactly what’s going on and the rest of the show, while fun, is not nearly as interesting as the pilot.
38. Person Of Interest. I love this series! There’s some amazing one liners that are so deadpan and I still crack up at all of Fusco’s names for Root. Plus Jim Caviezel is pretty easy on the eyes too!
39. I thought that the pilot episode of Sleepy Hollow was fantastic. Subsequent episodes lagged behind a bit, and I stopped watching around season 3 I think, but the pilot episode was absolutely solid.
40. The Walking Dead. I lost interest later in the series (like season 4 or something), but that first episode is awesome.
41. Last Man On Earth. Almost zero dialogue all the way through, just a man with nothing to do but kill time and be ridiculously silly.
42. Arrested Development had a perfect pilot in my opinion. Funny from the start and introduced all the characters.
43. Letterkenny. The cold open is so fucking fire, and the show only gets better from there.
44. The Shield sets up every single character motivation, personality, and conflict for the whole series in the very first episode. You know who, what, and why for the entire series.
The last seconds of the first episode weighs on the main characters and haunts them until the last seconds of the final episode of the series.
The best cop drama of all time, hands down.
45. White Collar. So underrated, I really enjoyed most of its seasons. I think I’m due for a rewatch
46. Burn Notice. There are a few actors who I feel were born for their role and one of them is Jeffrey Donovan as Michael Westen.
47. Justified. Perfect introduction to Raylan Givens.
48. Prison Break. It’s fucking mental. The tattoos, the ridiculous dialogue, the matchstick Taj Mahal. Ridiculous show overall, but a lot of fun.
49. Fringe. I wasn’t really sure about this show at first. But the first exchange between Olivia and Walter about the pudding had my laughing out loud. John Noble carried that show for me.
50. Twin Peaks. Damn fine pilot episode.
51. Gravity Falls. That was such a great show. I respect that they ended where they ended but I still want more of that universe (maybe a spinoff or sequel show).
52. Preacher. That show has been a fun ride. I don’t know anyone personally that watches it sadly.
53. Designated Survivor, I am in fact willing to defend that it is the best 46 minutes of television ever. It not only sets up each and every character and their personalities, but it also puts you into that uncomfortable and unnerving feeling. As if what happening on screen is what’s happening in real life. The first five minutes of the show, while they may be shocking, they play up the tone of the show to perfection.
54. This Is Us. The utilization of the two time lines used as a twist was impressive.
55. The Expanse. I was hooked from the first five minutes when I saw Julie Mao floating in zero gravity, trapped in a room and screaming for help.
My first thoughts were, “Being trapped alone in space has to be one of the worst forms of torture.”
The show has only gotten better and I feel that each season was better than the last.
56. I still remember watching the How I Met Your Mother pilot. Little did I know the journey that it would take me on from the highs to the lows. I really felt like I grew with the characters. While the last season(s) were so-so, I still look back fondly on it. It’s such a small thing, but their usual bar hangout always reminds me of my favorite hangout, Shenanigans, in Louisville.
57. Supernatural. The best quotes came from the first episode.
58. Lucifer, I love it when he’s in his car with the devil themed music and the great view of LA.
59. Rick and Morty’s first episode encompassed everything great about the show.
60. Chuck. Everything in the pilot episode was perfect; the story, the setup, the characters, the soundtrack, the plot device… Just everything.
61. The Man in the High Castle had a really good pilot episode. Made me addicted to the show and I finished the first season within two days.
62. Crazy Ex Girlfriend had a perfect pilot. “West Covina” was great, and “Sexy Getting Ready Song” was fantastic. Also, Paula being the rom-com trope of “bitter female coworker” for the majority of the episode only to subvert that trope with the ending reprise.
63. The West Wing! The introduction to President Bartlet might be my favorite moment in TV history.
64. Misfits. Characters guaranteed to get your attention, especially Nathan. You’ll be laughing all the time.
65. Chernobyl, you can immediately see that they really thought about what to put in the first episode.
66. Outlander. The way the time travel transition from 1945 to 1745 was just amazing. I also loved how Claire took care of Jamie’s arm that was so cute!
67. The original MacGyver series. Look, it’s rare to consider the pilot episode of any series the best episode, but I think that may be the case for MacGyver.
68. The Handmaid’s Tale pilot drew me into the show immediately.
69. Loved the My Name is Earl pilot. That show doesn’t get enough credit.
70. Black Mirror. They really did rip that band aid off about what this show was gonna be like with that first episode, eh?
I’ve never watched an episode of TV that made me squirm in my chair more than that one.