With a whole new set of pilots set to hit American airwaves over the next month, we over here at FemaleFirst have wracked our little heads and have come up with our list of the best ever opening episodes to come on TV.

7-How I Met Your Mother

Comedy pilots may just be the hardest to get right. You’re not able to tease a mystery or take things slowly, you have only 22 minutes to hook the viewer in for weeks to come. All of that makes the debut episode of How I Met Your Mother all the more incredible.

In that incredibly brief amount of time, not only are we introduced to the comedy whirlwind that is Barney Stinson, but the brilliant everyman that is Ted as well as some fantastic jokes throughout.

But it’s the twist at the episode’s climax though that gives it a brilliant punch line and makes it an instant classic, and a joke that the show’s currently been able to make stretch into an eighth season of the sitcom.

6-Breaking Bad

While Breaking Bad was set to become one of the best TV dramas ever to hit our screen, its fantastic opening episode laid down a fantastic first impression with one of the best opening sequences in TV. Bryan Cranston manically driving an RV, filled with toxic gas before crashing it, making a confessional video and standing in the middle of the road in his underpants.

In this first engagement with Walter White, we get a wonderful snapshot of his life and his decision to cross that thin blue line that separates him from lawful underachiever to drugs genius.

With more plot and character development than mist shows crank out in a year, Breaking Bad opened incredibly strongly and then just kept getting better.


I’ll be honest with you here. I hated the idea of Glee.

A sugar-sweet high school based musical TV show where they do covers of pop songs seemed like my idea of hell. And then I watched the first episode and all of those pre-conceptions were blown clean out of the water.

With writing so sharp that you could get a nasty cut from it, the show was able to wave doubts away with incredible ease, giving us Sue Sylvester at her most scything and a gang of incredibly likeable misfits.

The series is finally back on its way to recovery, but this first episode is still the single strongest episode of the show to have hit the airwaves yet.

4-Life On Mars

This time hopping cop drama kicked off incredibly strongly when it hit the airwaves six years ago.

This was a show with an absolutely phenomenal premise and set-up, seeing detective Sam Tyler transported back to 1973 after being hit by a car.

John Simm is incredible as the utterly bewildered Tyler, a man suddenly thrown back more than three decades without a clue of why or even if he is in the late seventies.

The show also had one of the best character introductions we can remember in the form of Gene Hunt’s entrance


This show became a massive phenomenon and it was all built on the back of this brilliant opening episode.

Not only did the episode have to introduce Jack Bauer and the labyrinthine stories going on throughout the year, but also the entire ‘real-time’ concept of the show. It was something that had never been done before, and it was revolutionary.

It not only introduced the concept of real-time drama, but perfected it right off the bat, with even the pilot of 24 being slicker than a greased eel and brilliantly paced.

It was a pilot episode that hooked us all in straight away and laid the ground work that would see the show become the biggest drama on the planet for years. That’s one heck of an achievement.

2-The Walking Dead

Horror has always had a tough time when it comes to TV. Never quite getting the tone right, TV always failed to avoid the realms of camp that immediately take away any of the scares or tension that makes the genre so good.

The Walking Dead though went the opposite direction, making this a character lead drama with occasional bouts of zombie based terror from the off. It resulted in an opening episode of startling beauty and brutality.

The episode showed all the best qualities of The Walking Dead. The bleak atmosphere, the incredible tension and the heart breaking moments of pain are all present in this curtain raiser. From the perfectly judged scenes of isolation to the frantic closing moments in Atlanta, this is The Walking Dead at its absolute finest and one of the most emotional pilots to hit screens.


The pilot that all others will always be judged by, Lost’s opening episode was astonishing.

Opening on our hero Jack mysteriously waking up in a jungle, only to stumble on to the sight of a devastating plane crash. No other show will ever top that opening couple of minutes for sheer impact.

From there we have one of the most intriguing and entrancing forty minutes of television of the decade, with more questions being thrown up than an entire year’s worth of University Challenge. The episode may have cost more than most films, but it shows on screen.

Its plane crash may not be the only example of air travel going wrong in this list, but Lost’s accident will go down in TV history as one of the most thrilling and hair raising bits of TV we can remember.

Also, no other pilot episode we can think off has used a polar bear in quite as brilliant a way. A crucial factor in any dramas development of course.

While Lost would become a show so caught up in its own mystery and, for lack of a better word, lost in its complexity, this was, and still is, one of the best episodes of TV ever to hit American network TV.


Got a personal favourite pilot episode? Let us know in the comments below.

FemaleFirst Cameron Smith

by for v5.femalefirst.co.uk
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