10 Best Sitcom Pilots, Ranked By IMDb

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There’s no set recipe for a successful sitcom, but a solid pilot episode isn’t always necessary. Many successful comedies like Office (United States) and Parks and recreation struggled to find their feet in their first few seasons, with characters, storylines, and even cast changing as the series developed its identity.

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Some shows manage to land gold sooner than others – and some even do it early on. A strong sitcom pilot can mean a lot of things, from introducing plot points to develop later in the series, likable or interesting characters, or just a lot of laughs that leave audiences wanting more. . From classics to contemporary fare to a hilarious Brit named Mr. Bean, which sitcom has the best pilot?


ten My name is Earl (2005-2009) – 8.4

My name is earl

When it comes to sitcoms, My name is earl has one of the most unique concepts. After winning the lottery and being hit by a car, little criminal Earl Hickey (Jason Lee) discovers the concept of karma and decides to reform his life. Making a list of all his bad deeds, he soon sets out to right all his wrongs – by whatever means necessary.

This all happens in the first episode and more. Audiences are also introduced to eccentric characters like her ex Joy (Jaime Pressly), her new man Darnell (Eddie Steeples), and the sweet but naive brother of Earl Randy (Ethan Suplee), while Earl randomly tries to resolve. the first big deal on his list. The pilot was a bizarre but eerily heartwarming mess, and perfectly set the tone for a show that was later called off at its peak.

Available to stream on Hulu and IMDb TV

9 Seinfeld (1989-1998) – 8.4

George with his arm around Jerry in the Seinfeld Pilot

Fans kiss with love Seinfeld like the “show for nothing”. The pilot episode – also known as “The Seinfeld Chronicles” – features a fictional version of comedian Jerry Seinfeld. Not much is happening; Jerry wonders if a woman he has met is interested in him, dissecting his signals with his friends George and Kramer (Jason Alexander and Michael Richards).

This concept shouldn’t work, but it does (although it sure isn’t as good as subsequent episodes). The pilot introduces a whole new kind of sitcom – one that doesn’t get carried away by sentimentality or character development. Interestingly, according to TV guide, the test audience reacted extremely badly to the pilot, but the show has become iconic with many Seinfeld quotes living rent free in the heads of fans.

Available to stream on Netflix

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8 The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977) – 8.5

Mary and two other women in pilot episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show

When The Mary Tyler Moore Show First aired in 1970, it was still rare to see a female protagonist who was not married or dependent on a man. The pilot sees Mary Tyler Moore’s character, Mary Richards, being both. After a failed engagement, she decides to move to Minneapolis, where she is unexpectedly hired as an associate producer with WJM-TV.

RELATED: 10 Best Episodes Of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Ranked (According To IMDb)

From the start, the series makes it clear that it doesn’t care about bland, disconnected comedic plots. These are real people with real problems who just happen to be so funny. That’s why the pilot still holds it today, especially the job interview scene – over 40 years later, women can still relate to the sexist question series from Mary’s new boss, Lou (Ed Asner).

Available to stream on Hulu

7 Scrubs (2001-2010) – 8.5

A lot of shows struggle to set the tone in the pilot episode, but Scrubs is a rare exception. “My First Day” aptly tells the story of JD (Zach Braff) ‘s first day as an intern at the Sacré-Cœur hospital. JD has the makings of a great doctor – but he’s also prone to bizarre musings, which play out frequently and hilariously onscreen.

While it is definitely a comedy, the show never shy away from the realities of working in a hospital. The first episode of Scrubs tackles JD’s fear of performing simple procedures on patients, as well as the death of his first patient. This could easily have made the first episode too morbid, but it is offset by JD’s now characteristic sense of fantasy.

Available to stream on Amazon Prime

6 How I met your mother (2005-2014) – 8.5

It’s a shame that he’s overshadowed by his largely panoramic finale because the pilot episode of how I Met Your Mother has all the makings of a sitcom classic. For the most part, it doesn’t stray too far from the usual hangout sitcom, except for the format. The events of the show are memories told by an older Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) to his children as he explains how he first met their mother.

The plot and the characters of HIMYM are used to being unpredictable, and the series sets that precedent from the start. When Ted meets Robin (Cobie Smulders), the usual sitcom convention would make her the mother. However, the final moments of the episode reveal that the children know her as Aunt Robin. It’s a twist that confirms viewers are set for a long, mad rush – which is exactly what makes the show’s escape finale so disappointing.

Available to stream on Amazon Prime

5 Frasier (1993-2004) – 8.6

Frasier on his radio show in the Pilot

Frasier is one of the most beloved sitcom spinoffs of all time. Located six months after the final of Cheers, he relocates psychiatrist Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) from Boston to his hometown of Seattle, where his brother Niles (David Hyde Pierce) convinces him to welcome their father, Martin (John Mahoney), a retired police officer unable to look after themselves after being injured in the performance of their duties.

The show was a success from the start. The pilot establishes Frasier as being quite different from Cheers fending for himself, with a much smarter sense of humor and less reliant on slapstick comedy. Lots of jokes still hold up today – and with a rebirth streak expected on Paramount + in 2022, time will tell if it can deliver the same magic twice.

Available to stream on Paramount +

4 Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000) – 8.7

The casting of Freaks and Geeks in Freaks and Geeks

If a comedy was canceled too soon, it’s Freaks and Geeks. Exploring two groups – the “freaks” and the “geeks” – at a Detroit high school in the 1980s, the pilot episode sees Lindsay Weir (Linda Cardellini) fall with the former, much to the horror of her friends and family. family.

The cancellation of the show is due to an irregular schedule, not the quality of the show itself. From the pilot, Freaks and Geeks is realistic about the lives of ordinary teenagers, but still incredibly funny. He boasted of a stellar cast – including Cardellini, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, and Busy Phillips – who all went on to pursue successful careers. The legacy of the series has never been forgotten.

Available to stream on Paramount +

3 Fawlty Towers (1975, 1979) – 8.7

Two figures during the Fawlty Towers pilot

Like most British sitcoms, the BBC Fawlty Towers had a shorter shelf life than their American counterparts. Airing just 12 episodes in four years, it centers around a fictional hotel run by the abrasive Basil Fawlty (John Cleese) and his wife Sybil (Prunella Scales) in the seaside town of Torquay.

RELATED: The 15 Best British Sitcoms Of All Time

Instead of being burdened with stories or character evolutions, the pilot plunges straight into the action: Basil tries to impress an aristocrat to raise the tone of the hotel but manages to overlook all of his other guests. While the script is quick and witty, what really makes the show’s debut shine is Cleese’s unflinching delivery.

Available to stream on Britbox or to purchase on Apple TV +

2 The wonderful years (1988-1993) – 8.9

Kevin and his family in The Wonder Years Pilot

The legacy of The good years is so beloved that it even spawned a reboot narrated by Don Cheadle earlier this year. The original series premiered in 1988, depicting a suburban middle-class family in the late 1960s from the perspective of the youngest child, Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage).

It’s the simplicity of the show that makes it so magical. The pilot is steeped in nostalgia, from the opening notes of Byrds’ “Turn, Turn, Turn” to images from the Arnold family’s personal film. Sweet, funny, and – in its final scenes – touching, it’s a fitting tribute to the trials and tribulations of adolescence.

Available to stream on Hulu

1 Mr. Bean (1990-1995) – 8.9

Created, written by and performed by Rowan Atkinson, Mister Bean is so simple but so funny. His character of the same name is basically a big kid who struggles with daily chores. The pilot episode sees him fail a math exam, embarrass himself at the beach, and end the day at a church service where he continues to fall asleep.

Inspired by the slapstick comedy of silent cinema, fewca’s shows are as accessible as Mister Bean. He rarely speaks – and, when he does, it’s almost unintelligible – but he’s hilarious for viewers of all ages. Even in the pilot, Atkinson’s mute acting is magnetic, making Mr. Bean a true comedy icon.

Available to stream on Amazon Prime

NEXT: 10 Best Sitcoms That Sadly Lasted Only One Season

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