I think the pilot epsiode of Mad Men might be the best pilot in the history of television

Oct 25, 2017
11,067
So I have been thinking about rewatching Mad Men aka one of the greatest TV shows of all time.

The pilot episode titled Smoke Gets in your Eyes is actually incredible. It sets up all the major characters (Don, Roger, Pete, Peggy, Joan) and introduces the audience to the advertising agency Sterling Cooper. The only major character I'd argue does not get a whole lot of presence in the pilot is Betty but the episode's twist ending does introduce her. We learn how they operate, what challenges they have, and the dynamic the characters operate in. They set up a conflict (the reported health risks of cigarettes impacting sales of cigarettes) and find a way to deal with it (Its toasted).

The twist at the end of the episode that Don is actually married with children is so shocking and unexpected. We see Don spending time with his bohemian girlfriend and assume that this is the extent of his life outside work. By the end of the episode they establish one of the key parts of Don Draper, his duality. He is both a family man and he is in a relation ship with another woman. He is Don Draper but also Dick Whitman.

I am sooooooooooo fucking stoked to get back into this show. Are there any other shows that open as strongly as Mad Men?

Edit: I can't believe I might need to link this but...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Television_pilot

A television pilot (also known as a pilot or a pilot episode and sometimes marketed as a tele-movie) is a standalone episode of a television series that is used to sell the show to a television network. At the time of its creation, the pilot is meant to be the testing ground to gauge whether a series will be successful; it is therefore a test episode for the intended television series, an early step in the series development, much like pilot studies serve as precursors to the start of larger activity. In the case of a successful television series, the pilot is commonly the very first episode that is aired of the particular series under its own name; the episode that gets the series "off the ground".
 
OP
OP
jack_package_200
Oct 25, 2017
11,067
I don't remember any episode that centered around pilots.
Hoping this is a joke...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Television_pilot

A television pilot (also known as a pilot or a pilot episode and sometimes marketed as a tele-movie) is a standalone episode of a television series that is used to sell the show to a television network. At the time of its creation, the pilot is meant to be the testing ground to gauge whether a series will be successful; it is therefore a test episode for the intended television series, an early step in the series development, much like pilot studies serve as precursors to the start of larger activity. In the case of a successful television series, the pilot is commonly the very first episode that is aired of the particular series under its own name; the episode that gets the series "off the ground".
 

Cipherr

Member
Oct 26, 2017
4,034
BSG Miniseries IS a really good pilot, can't lie.

But yeah Mad Men is up there. Such a fantastic show. Out of that entire miniera of TV, I miss Mad Men the most.

Breaking Bad pilot is nice, but not top tier like these two IMO.
 

Bus-TEE

Member
Nov 20, 2017
1,943
Agreed.

I've watched the pilot for Mad Men more than any other. And that's coming from someone who has only watched the series through once.

It isn't even close.
 
Oct 25, 2017
3,197
I didnt like most of Lost, to the point where I completely lost interest and havent even seen how it ends.

But yeah, that Pilot was something else.
 

Soda

Member
Oct 26, 2017
3,449
Dunedin, New Zealand
I don't know if I'd say best ever, but I'd rank the Scrubs' pilot highly. It didn't delve deep into the emotional aspects of Scrubs, but hinted at it through J.D.'s inner monologue and insecurities, set-up many of the relationships between the various main characters, and most importantly, has a great moment between Dr. Kelso, Dr. Cox, and J.D.'s realization of the "good guy."
 

Praetorpwj

Member
Nov 21, 2017
966
My vote is pilot of Frasier. It’s incredibly hard to get new ensemble comedies to gel (look at how long it took Seinfeld) but Frasier first episode feels like they’ve been doing it for years. The cast feel absolutely natural from the first moment.

It’s also incredibly well written; clever and funny with themes that pretty much encapsulate the direction of the show over the following years.
 
OP
OP
jack_package_200
Oct 25, 2017
11,067
My vote is pilot of Frasier. It’s incredibly hard to get new ensemble comedies to gel (look at how long it took Seinfeld) but Frasier first episode feels like they’ve been doing it for years. The cast feel absolutely natural from the first moment.

It’s also incredibly well written; clever and funny with themes that pretty much encapsulate the direction of the show over the following years.
I think the pilot for How I Met Your Mother to a lesser extent starts out stronger than I think most sitcoms do. Setting up the central plot of the show and its characters.

And then Ted becomes the worst human being in the world.
 

Clessidor

Member
Oct 30, 2017
106
The quality of pilot episodes is actually a rarely talked topic. Setting a good show up actually quite hard. Mad Men's pilot is a really good setup for the show. But the one I enjoyed the most is Damages pilot, which truelly helped me as a viewer to set everything up, had a good pacing and what's most importantly hooked me up to watch the next episode.
 

Teh_Lurv

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,085
The pilot of Millennium is one of my favorites. The pilot stands on it's own; it opens plot threads that carry forward to the end of the 1st season, but nothing that was leave you unsatisfied if all you want to do is watch the pilot. The pilot pushed the envelope of adult themes and violence on network television. Chris Carter had to personally lobby to the TV censors after they initially refused to clear the pilot for airing. The pilot is still pretty shocking for network TV even to this day.

The pilot is a police procedural with a very heavy Se7en vibe. The show wraps itself in the pre-Y2K anxiety and doomsday occult, so the biggest knock against the show is it show it's age. It's a unique product of the late 90s. Lance Hendrikson perfectly slides into the lead role of Frank Black. The show is pretty grim-dark so it's not for everyone, even the intro theme is depressing as Hell:


But you if don't mind the grim-dark and like police procedurals with a dose of X-Files supernatural, I recommend checking out this show.
 

Kolx

Member
Oct 25, 2017
3,570
I started watching the show a couple of years back, and I can't remember the pilot. And after finishing it I wouldn't put it top 5 even. Still a pretty good show tho.
 

ascagnel

Member
Mar 29, 2018
200
It's good for sure, but the pilot episode of Twin Peaks cannot be topped.

As good as the pilot of Twin Peaks was, it's best viewed as a TV movie that leads into a larger series (and when it aired in Europe, it included a conclusive answer to the murder mystery).

I think the pilot for How I Met Your Mother to a lesser extent starts out stronger than I think most sitcoms do. Setting up the central plot of the show and its characters.

And then Ted becomes the worst human being in the world.
The first season of HIMYM is my favorite, and some episodes are spot-on and still hold up well ~15 years later ("Okay, Awesome" is my favorite), even if some really don't hold up ("The Naked Man").

The real HIMYM question is who's worse, Ted or Lily?
 
Dec 22, 2017
2,539
My vote is pilot of Frasier. It’s incredibly hard to get new ensemble comedies to gel (look at how long it took Seinfeld) but Frasier first episode feels like they’ve been doing it for years. The cast feel absolutely natural from the first moment.

It’s also incredibly well written; clever and funny with themes that pretty much encapsulate the direction of the show over the following years.
Agreed. One of the few sitcoms where the first season’s quality is consistent with the rest of the show. They really hit the ground running.
 

Moppeh

Member
Oct 28, 2017
1,348
Mad Men is my favorite show and the pilot does an amazing job at setting things up. I do, however, find it a little hard to return to after watching the rest of the show so many times. The dialogue in the pilot feels more obtuse than the rest of the show and I find it a tad distracting. It's still impressive considering Wiener wrote the pilot before he worked on the Sopranos but there is a clear difference between young Wiener and experienced Wiener with a writers room.

Mad Men fucking rules though. If anyone reading this hasn't seen it yet, drop whatever you are doing and get on it!

David Ehrlich from Indiewire keeps talking about wanting to do a Mad Men rewatch podcast. He better fucking do it as I'd love a reason to do another rewatch.
 
Jan 29, 2018
1,670
Damn I miss Mad Men. That was a really great pilot.

Calling the 3 hour, two-part BSG miniseries a 'pilot' seems like a stretch, but I guess it functioned like one. I still think Mad Men did it better.
 

Joe

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,087
Lost's pilot is the only one that actually had a pilot in it. It confused younger me about what the word "pilot" meant in a television context. Therefore it wins.
 

Fisty

Member
Oct 25, 2017
4,611
I think Matt Judge is responsible for imo one of the best and one of the worst pilots ever: King of the Hill vs Silicon Valley

Twin Peaks is the answer though, especially for the time. Its barely TV
 

Rosenkrantz

Member
Jan 17, 2018
1,581
I dislike Lost just as much as any other sane person would, but the pilot episode (the entire first season really) is undeniably great and holds up even today.
 

Nora

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,955
Yeah I distinctly remember watching the Mad Men pilot and thinking "this is fucking amazing". And it's basically an average episode of the show, quality-wise. Best show of all time imo.

LOST is definitely up there with best pilots too.
 

AM_LIGHT

Member
Oct 30, 2017
1,431
Mad men is one of my favourite shows ever . It's probably the best period drama ever made. The show felt so authentic to the period they lived in.
 

ClivePwned

Member
Oct 27, 2017
1,333
Cambridge, UK
Mad Men's pilot is one of those where it just hits the ground running

That said, a lot of shows have unbroadcast pilots and the first shows redone so we don't always know if episode 1 is the actual pilot

Star Trek, Doctor Who, Lost in Space, The Office (UK), Black Adder, Game of Thrones...
 

William

Avenger
Oct 26, 2017
185
I could never get into Mad Men, I think mainly because I hated Don Draper so much for cheating on his wife, and I couldn't get past it.

I thought The Walking Dead had a good pilot. Felt like I was watching a movie. Then the rest of the show becomes a fart.
I think this is very true, I prefer the Walking Dead Pilot to the Lost one I think. Both series ended up losing me but both had amazing Pilots.