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This Is the Best TV Pilot of All Time

TV and cable networks often don’t want to air a new show with the burden of the costs of an entire season of production. It could mean as many as 20 episodes with the costs of writers, stars, and production facilities. What better way to test a show than with the airing of one or two episodes? The cost is much more modest, and can separate potential failures from successes. It has become a tried and true method, and strong pilot results have launched some of best known TV series of all time.

To determine the best TV pilot in history, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on audience reviews for pilots from IMDb, an online movie and TV database owned by Amazon, ranking them on IMDb user ratings as of March 2022. Only pilots with at least 1,500 user reviews were considered. Cast information also came from IMDb.

Several of the pilots with a rating of 9/10 or above – “Sherlock,” “Breaking Bad,” and “Game of Thrones” – scored even higher over the life of the series, obviously delivering on the expectations the pilot raised.

Several pilots with good ratings were for shows that lasted for only one season, intentionally or unintentionally, and they received Emmy Awards. The eight-episode crime drama “The Night Of” won five Emmys, while “Chernobyl,” depicting the nuclear power-plant disaster in the Soviet Union, ran for five episodes and won 10 Emmys.

Some of the series with with strong pilots are among the most honored series of all time, such as “Game of Thrones,” with 59 Emmys. The longest-running show on the list is the zombiefest “The Walking Dead,” 2010 to 2022, whose pilot was created by Oscar-nominated director Frank Darabont.

The best pilot of all time was Chernobyl: “0.058159722222” (2019). Here are the details:

> Episode IMDb rating: 9.4/10 (51,308 votes)
> Full series rating: 9.4/10 (658,535 votes)
> Cast: Jared Harris, Michael Shaeffer, Jessie Buckley, Adam Nagaitis

Chernobyl, a five-episode series on HBO about the explosion at a nuclear power plant in the Soviet Union in 1986, tops the list of best TV pilots in history. The series won 10 Emmy Awards and was nominated for nine others.

Click here to read about the best TV pilots of all time

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