Pilots are interesting beasts in the television world. They’re used to convince a studio to shell out more money for more episodes. In order to do that, a pilot needs to succeed on several more fronts of storytelling than any other single episode. A pilot needs to introduce the major characters of a series in an engaging, often standalone, story that will leave the audience clamoring for more.
Furthermore, a good pilot needs to rely on a strong cast to build a rapport in a short period of time. Writers working on pilots also have to gauge possible long-term onscreen relationships completely blind of actors’ chemistry. Because of these factors, I live by one steadfast television-viewing rule:
Never judge a show by its pilot.
But some series have such strong pilot episodes that you can and should judge them on the pilots. And so, here I have compiled a list of some of my favorite pilot episodes. They aren’t necessarily my favorite shows ever, and they aren’t exactly the best episodes of said shows. These episodes are just the most engaging series-starters that I’ve seen. They also introduce the characters and story arcs in a highly satisfying way.
You can click the episode titles in the list to buy them digitally on Amazon.