"Absolute Banger Of A First Episode": 21 TV Pilots That Are Simply Excellent

A TV pilot is a tricky thing to pull off. If it's a sitcom, you have to introduce an ensemble, map out their relationships to one another, and, oh yeah, add jokes. If it's a fantasy, you have to establish a whole new world and its rules. If it's The Last of Us, you have to explain how fungus is actually the scariest goddamn thing on the planet.

Despite these challenges, some shows pull off a near-perfect first episode. So, there were oodles of responses when redditor u/snuskbusken asked the folks of AskReddit, "Which TV show has the strongest first episode?" Here are 21 of their submissions to the TV Pilot Championship.

Responses may have been edited for length and/or clarity. 

1."The Last of Us. Super early to say so, I know, but goddamn does it establish things well."


2."Derry Girls. Most sitcom first episodes (seasons, too) have to do so much table-setting that they're not funny. This first episode established the settings, characters, and was funny, too."

Channel Four / Courtesy Everett Collection

3."The first episode of Firefly was truly epic! The long take near the beginning that goes through the whole ship is super powerful and sets the tone for the whole series."


4."Invincible had a great first episode. Introduces you to a world of superheroes and villains but shows you who the real villain is before the credits roll. And let me tell ya, my jaw was on the floor when those credits rolled."

Amazon / Courtesy Everett Collection

5."The Marvelous Mrs Maisel. Establishes so much in just an hour and it's fucking hysterical."

Amazon / Courtesy Everett Collection

6."I feel like Moon Knight really just hit the ground running. Immediately hooked."

Marvel / courtesy Everett Collection

7."I feel like Arrested Development doesn't fall into the typical thing of a sitcom where it needs a season to find itself and is only enjoyable halfway through. Instead, it knows what kind of show it wants to be right from the beginning and totally nails that. All of the characters are immediately on point and the show is funny as heck on a first watch."

20th Century Fox Film Corp. / Courtesy Everett Collection

8."The Umbrella Academy hit me on all levels."

Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

9."The Boys. You can tell it’s going to be a wild ride after the first 15 minutes."

Amazon / courtesy Everett Collection

10."The Good Place. The concept is so intriguing and the vibe so upbeat that you just have to watch the second episode right after."

NBC / Courtesy Everett Collection

11."Dexter. The first 5-10 minutes of the first episode hooked me. I didn’t miss a weekly episode for the duration of the show. Granted…the quality dropped significantly after the first few seasons."

Showtime Networks Inc. / Courtesy Everett Collection

12."Recently, Interview with the Vampire really impressed me. Was expecting just another lazy remake but damn...the dialogue, the sets and especially the acting blew me away."

AMC+ / Courtesy Everett Collection

13."Mad Men. A fascinating set-up, beautifully told, with the best celluloid photography we'd seen in years."


14."Better Call Saul. The intro scene introduces the character so brilliantly and reflects his work life so clearly."

AMC / courtesy Everett Collection

15."How to Get Away with Murder. The first episode reeled me in and I couldn't stop watching. Think I binged the whole first season in a day."

ABC / Courtesy Everett Collection

16."The Rehearsal was elegant. It successfully introduced one of the toughest concepts I've ever seen in reality television, in part by creating set loops to demonstrate and develop the ideas throughout. It brought in characters for just this one episode, and gave us the stakes and payoffs for a complete and satisfying experience. And in hindsight, it was basically the entire season in microcosm."


17."Young Justice was one of the strongest starts to just about any show."

Warner Bros.

18."Gravity Falls. Absolutely incredible job of introducing the characters while still being rewatchable and interesting."

Disney Channel / courtesy Everett Collection

19."Dead Like Me. Any show that has its main character killed by a flaming toilet seat falling from space within the first ten minutes is okay in my book."

Showtime Networks Inc. / Courtesy Everett Collection

20."Stranger Things. Absolute banger of a first episode that sucks you right in."

Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

21.And finally: "The Newsroom. The rest of the series doesn’t really hold that standard, but that first episode is great."


Which TV series got you on board from the very first episode? Tell us about them in the comments!