Best Pilot Episodes of All Time

Opinion posted January 30, 2023 in CommRadio, Arts & Entertainment by CommRadio Arts & Entertainment department

Who doesn’t love a great pilot?

Pilots are essential to forming a viewer’s opinion on whether or not to continue their viewing experience. The CommRadio Arts & Entertainment department wrote about some of the best pilots of all time.


The pilot episode of “Glee” is a shining example of why 2009 was such an excellent year for television.

The early-2010s musical comedy-drama “Glee” is, depending on who you ask, either one of the best or worst shows of recent memory (in the case of best, this refers only to the first three seasons).

It is one of showrunner Ryan Murphy’s most popular creations, along with “Scream Queens” and “American Horror Story.”

The first episode of this show, much like its entire first season, perfectly blends satire with the feel of watching a TV show meant for high schoolers. The episode follows a high school Spanish teacher, Will Schuester, trying to recruit students to return his old glee club to its former glory after the current director is fired.

After the first season or two, “Glee” kind of loses many of its elements of satire. This is probably because the show was intended for adults and then ended up having a much younger audience.

The pilot episode of “Glee” is definitely one of the best pilot episodes of television of its age, but is also a contender for the best of all time as well. – Izzy Charboneau

“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”

Fans of “The Office” and “Parks and Rec” likely get recommended to watch “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” considering the shows share producers and creators.

While they won’t be surprised by loving another of Michael Schur’s projects, they may be surprised by the fact that the first season, even the first episode, is exceptional.

It isn’t typical for sitcoms to hit the ground running as well as “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” The first episode, “Pilot,” expertly shows and tells the audience who the detectives are and their dynamics as a precinct.

“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and its success has a lot to do with how well this ensemble plays off one another and that chemistry was there from the start. Especially lead Andy Samberg’s goofy-bad-boy detective Jake Peralta and Andre Braugher’s strait-laced stoic caption Raymond Holt and their odd-couple banter.

Sure, characters change from their initial introduction, particularly Amy Santiago and Charles Boyle, but their dynamics with other characters were still firmly established from the jump.

The banter, adventures, charisma and laughs audiences have come to associate with the police precinct sitcom have rather uncommonly been there from “Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s” first episode. - Sophia D’Ovidio


Arguably the best TV show pilot of all time, “Lost”, reels viewers in right from the beginning.

It kicks off with a shot of the main character’s (Jack’s) eye-opening and then switches to his point of view of the swaying trees above him. An unknowing viewer might think he’s laying there peacefully, but it quickly turns the camera back around and as the camera slowly zooms out it is revealed that Jack is wearing a suit and not in a vacation outfit.

Through Jack’s perspective, the mystery of his whereabouts slowly starts to unravel. He comes upon a serene beach- that is until he hears the screams of a woman, leading him to a huge plane crash.

The episode also sets a premise for the rest of the series as it switches back and forth from the past to the present, revealing moments that got the characters to where they are now.

Ambiguity and intrigue are what makes “Lost” such a great show and having it be a mystery from the beginning make every watcher invested from the start.

As the show goes on, “Lost” leads the viewer on different pathways making it seem like something is going to happen and then the exact opposite occurs.

The pilot itself is actually in two parts and the budget was $12 million, making it more expensive than most shows at the time of its release in 2004.

If there was ever a sign to start or rewatch “Lost”, it’s right here. - Sophia Clements

“Mad Men”

“Mad Men” is one of the greatest television series ever. The pilot dives right into the smoky world of 1960s advertising, immediately setting the scene with the show’s protagonist Don Draper sitting at a bar, finding inspiration for his work with Lucky Strike Cigarettes.

Quickly, we’re introduced to Peggy Olson who starts off as Don’s newest secretary, subject to many unwanted advances from the other men around the office.

Pete Campbell is the eager, young account man who immediately rubs executive Don the wrong way. And of course, we meet mainstays, Joan Holloway and Roger Sterling.

The crux of the episode is Don’s new business relationship with Rachel Menken, a Jewish woman who runs a department store with her father.

First, Don and the rest of the men are surprised at a woman conducting business in 1960. After discussing why they should work for her, she insults Don and he walks out.

They meet again toward the end of the episode. Don apologizes and they share drinks.

He keeps a suave demeanor: a cross between extreme charisma, confidence, and cockiness. She matches his intelligence and assertiveness, however, and he agrees to do business with her.

In the episode, Don drinks heavily, smokes, has relations with his mistress Midge and finally goes home to his wife Betty and their two kids.

His lying, unfaithfulness, and mysteriousness keep you on edge, as they are a constant theme throughout the show. Although he’s not a good person, you still root for him.

He’s an anti-hero, to be held amongst the Tony Sopranos of television history. - Nick LaRosa

Izzy Charboneau is a second-year majoring in digital and print journalism. To contact her, email

Sophia D’Ovidio is a second-year majoring in digital and print journalism. To contact her, email

Sophia Clements is a second-year majoring in public relations. To contact her, email

Nick LaRosa is a third-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email