Movies & Television

The 9 Best TV Pilots (and the 7 Worst)

By Bea

Have you ever recommended a show to a friend and said “It’s really good. You just have to get through the first few episodes.” If yes, there’s no shame in that. It’s normal for shows to have a slow start. However, it also means that shows that do make a big first impression from the get go are indeed very rare and special. In fact, TV pilots only have minutes to prove to viewers that it’s a show worth seeing. So check out the list below for some of the best (and worst) TV pilots.

Best: FRIENDS

From the first episode, FRIENDS already gave viewers a glimpse of everything it would eventually give us in all of its 10 seasons: wit, humor, great cast dynamics, and awesome writing. The opening scene alone already proves that the show has something special.

Worst: Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation has a Rotten Tomatoes approval rating of 93% which is really impressive. However, instead of being introduced to the charming and optimistic show that it eventually was, the pilot failed at getting me to like and relate to the characters. Honestly, Leslie Knope wasn’t even likeable in the pilot.

Best: Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones’ pilot, for the most part, stayed true to the books. It even successfully managed to introduce to its viewers this fascinating, new fantasy world that was, in fact, believable. Plus, who wouldn’t be captivated by the pilot’s ending? Was it crazy? Yes. Did it make me want to see more? Hell yes.

Worst: Schitt’s Creek

In spite of this being an Emmy Award winning show, Schitt’s Creek is one of those shows that gets better as it goes. Meaning, the pilot episode is probably the show’s worst. It lacks the heart that the show eventually develops, and the supposedly funny scenes aren’t.

Best: Lost

Unlike most shows that get better over time, Lost is probably the reverse. Early on, it introduced viewers to the many character arcs, and set up the mysterious secrets of the island. It’s pilot pulls you in from the get go, and it’s what makes it one of the best TV pilots ever.

Worst: Midnight Mass

Midnight Mass is one of this year’s most interesting Netflix releases. However, it starts off really slow as the first few episodes focus on the different character arcs and not much horror. By episode 5, however, things escalate pretty quickly and end spectacularly.

Best: The Walking Dead

TWD has one of the most thrilling and scariest pilots ever. If you convinced people to watch the pilot, you just know they’ll get hooked.

Worst: Seinfeld

Seinfeld is one of the most iconic sitcoms ever, which is why it’s so surprising that the pilot is one of the worst. Compared to other episodes, this one was definitely one of the weakest.

Best: House

House immediately peaks your interest because of the patients’ mysterious medical conditions and House’s accuracy at diagnosing them. Plus, the workplace dynamics in the hospital, and House’s unconventional table manners makes the pilot all the more unique.

Best: Sherlock

Sherlock’s pilot established the show’s tone, narrative, and visual style. It proves that the show got it right from the beginning by ambiguously introducing its central character.

Worst: The Office

Its pilot didn’t have much of a chance, given that it imitated the UK version too much. In fact, it recycled most of the jokes and characters and had a lot of cringe-y moments. But as we all know, it eventually found its way to the hearts of viewers.

Best: Stranger Things

Stranger Things was one of those shows that made a lot of buzz when it premiered. How can it not, when it was one of the first shows during its time to pay homage to how 80s classic sci fi shows used to do it!

Best: Doctor Who

The relaunch of Doctor Who had a lot to live up to, and it certainly did not disappoint. Somehow, it found a way to take an already established premise and transformed it into something that modern viewers will love. It’s probably why many are still excited about Season 13.

Worst: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

No matter how much we all love Buffy, it’s okay to admit that its first season wasn’t all that great. Its two-part pilot felt rushed which made for an awkward episode.

Best: Breaking Bad

This has to be one of the best pilots ever. With its superb acting, funny lines, unique premise, Breaking Bad was altogether great from start to finish.

Worst: Black Mirror

We all know that one of the things that made Black Mirror so interesting was its horrifying depiction of technologies gone wrong. However, its first episode doesn’t really have that futuristic feel. Rather, it focuses more on shock and disgust, making it not a good representation of its succeeding episodes.

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