…at least according to Gary Sussman at Time magazine:
As with many such lists, it is one person’s opinion and I’m certain there will be those who debate the merits (or lack thereof) of the choices. After seeing this list I thought hard about which TV show pilots really gripped me from the very beginning and had me totally sold on the show itself and had me watching until the end.
Lost certainly did this -at least for me- perhaps better than any pilot ever and therefore its inclusion on the list is quite appropriate. Mind you, I’m not saying the rest of the series delivered on that white knuckle thriller of a pilot. If memory serves, the second season in particular -the one that focused entirely too many episodes on the survivors of the rear of the aircraft- was for me a classic case of the sophomore blues and almost had me leaving the show. The final season I didn’t view quite as dimly as others, though I did feel there were more than a few episodes in it that appeared to be there for little more than to string out time.
Still, I was amazed by the pilot of Lost and was stunned that two hours had passed so quickly (the pilot was presented in two parts and aired consecutively on one night).
Three other pilots that had me right off the bat:
The X-Files. The pilot episode of the well regarded series worked so very well because right from the start the rapport/chemistry between David Duchovny’s Mulder and Gillian Anderson’s Scully was there in full force. Granted, the storylines were eerie and quirky and helped sell this particular ride, but it was the interaction between Mulder and Scully, their clear liking for each other even though their views were sometimes very far off, that worked so well.
Miami Vice. Granted we are talking about an older series set in a certain MTV inspired time frame yet it was one that blazed a trail many other shows would follow and improve upon. Regardless, if you were around in 1984 when the pilot episode of Miami Vice aired you saw something radically different from your standard TV fare. Again, the chemistry between Don Johnson’s Crockett and Phillip Michael Thomas’ Tubbs (not to slight the other cast, including Edward James Olmos as Castillo, who would arrive afterwards) proved a draw along with the flashy visuals and action. But what really made this series a head turner at the time was its use of music to accentuate moods, something that so many other shows have mined afterwards but was really used to great effect the first time there…
Finally, the pilot for the 2004 Battlestar Galactica was, to me, a great success. Given the fact that they were up against re-imagining a somewhat nostalgically beloved series and were already aware of (gasp!) switching character sexes and races, there was a very real possibility going into seeing the pilot that things could fall apart quickly. Some say it did in toward the show’s end and I can’t convincingly argue against them…the final minutes of the final episode on primitive Earth and then seeing the “spirits” of two of the characters in modern times was odd and didn’t work as well as I suspect the writers hoped it would. Regardless of how it ended, the show began with a mighty interesting (pilot) bang.