The pilot is a staple of television programming, functioning as a conceptual pitch to the network they’re airing on and as an introduction to the show’s world and characters for viewers. Pilots are not often regarded as being a highpoint of a show’s run, as they are often too focused on building viewer interest and do not have the benefit of months or years of plot and character progression to hit the necessary beats that comprise a great episode of television. That being said, there have been many pilot episodes over the years that have been able to stand on their own and are cited as some of the best episodes of their given series. The following 10 TV pilots are some of the best ever made.
Justified is arguably one of the most underrated programs on right now, despite it being consistently excellent. Justified’s first few episodes actually got off to a slow start but this is partly because the pilot episode was so hard to follow. Focusing on Deputy US Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) and his return to his hometown of Harlan, Kentucky. The pilot episode tells its own self-contained story focusing on the bad blood between Raylan and childhood pal Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), who as an adult just so happens to be a neo-nazi drug runner. The pilot was an adaptation of a short story written by Elmore Leonard, and Walton Goggins was so well-received in the role that his character was brought back and made a series regular.