Pilots, by their very nature, are a huge gamble – often with a large amount of money riding on them – designed to draw in network executives and audiences, leaving them wanting more. They’re essentially hopeful, sweaty-palmed souls dressed up for a first date, praying they wore the right tie or the correct blouse so that a second date will ensue. Luckily for all of these shows, the first date was a blast. Jayne Nelson explores the best pilots out there – and it’s kind of amusing how many episodes are just called ‘Pilot’, isn’t it?
Oh, and some honourable mentions that we couldn’t fit into this list: Being Human (so good it launched a fan campaign for a series that actually worked!), The Walking Dead, Babylon 5, Battlestar Galactica (which cheated by making a miniseries first, but it was a pilot of sorts).
10. The X-Files
“Sorry, nobody down here but the FBI’s most unwanted,” quips Agent Fox Mulder as his new partner, Agent Dana Scully, walks into his broom-closet office in the basement of the FBI’s Washington HQ. As far as meetings go, it could have been a bit more exciting, but it also perfectly sums up what made The X-Files so great: an oafish charm, a sense of humour and just the merest hint of weird.
The first episode of The X-Files brought us everything we came to expect from the show, from alien abductions to the story of Mulder’s missing sister to Scully denying Mulder’s off-the-wall theories. There’s even a smidge of sexual tension – involving bug bites on Scully’s back, hilariously enough – and the final shot of a cigarette-smoking man hiding evidence in a vast government warehouse is enough to whet the appetite of even the most critical viewer.
If you’d like to know more, Chris Carter discusses the pilot here: