11 TV Shows That Had Terrible Pilots But Ended Up Being Great, According To Reddit

The Office Michael Scott Optimistic


You know that thing where you start a show and find yourself having to soldier through the horrendous pilot, but, by some miracle, continue watching and it just gets fantastic out of nowhere? I’m talking rainbows sprouting from the screen and forest animals prancing around your house like you’re a straight-up Disney princess. Sure, you’re wondering where they came from and if you should call Animal Control, but you’re also glad that they’re there to enjoy this newly-awesome show with you. Has that highly specific situation ever happened to you?

According to this Reddit thread, it’s a thing that’s happened loads of times, which I totally agree with. And if the phrase, “Just watch, it gets so good after those very strange episodes” sounds familiar to you, then you probably agree, too. So, to celebrate our mutual agreement, here are 11 TV shows that had terrible pilot episodes but ended up being actually amazing overall. Have any to add?

1. Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones What Did You Say


Get this: the GoT pilot is so horrible that the general public has apparently never actually seen it. It’s buried in a sarcophagus somewhere, where no person shall ever find it and be bored to their literal death.

2. The Office

The Office Michael Scott I Understand Nothing


Raise your hand if the humor of this show went over your head when you first watched this show. Keep them up please, it’s going to take a while for me to count the hands of every single person in the TV-watching world.

3. Parks & Recreation

Parks and Recreation What Leslie Knope


It took me ages to become a fan of this show because any time I’d catch the very early episodes on TV, I couldn’t figure out its appeal. That is, until I put on my binge-watching hat and got to business.

4. Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Brooklyn Nine Nine Thumbs Up Down Explosion


I’m not authority on its current amazingness but, let me tell you, I had some sucky feelings about its pilot. However, I’ll accept that it has to be pretty good if it’s snagged some awards and the word-of-mouth is generally positive.

5. Spartacus: Blood and Sand

Spartacus Blood And Sand Whip


Let me tell you a little story about a friend of mine who would not shut up about how great this show is. The other part of that story is how she tried to force me to watch the series premiere and I wanted to cry of boredom. But I powered through all of the muck and it ended up being pretty damn good.

6. Community

Community NBC How Could You Think That Was A Good Idea


This is another show whose charm, I think, gets lost on first-time viewers. It also apparently gets lost on a majority of viewers to this day, since it’s always on the verge of being cancelled. But I’ll admit that it’s an entertaining watch.

7. Conan

Conan O'Brien Shocked


Heeey, I’ll bet you didn’t expect to see America’s Favorite Ginger on here. But his show wasn’t exempt from shaky beginnings, no matter how adorable his hyper comedy style is to us now.

8. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Is This Hell


It started out super over the top, but ended up finding a cozy middle-ground at which it secured its place as one of the most iconic shows to come out of the late-’90s, early-aughts.

9. Arrested Development

Arrested Development I Don't Know What I Expected


If I’m being honest, this show took a few episodes to find its groove for me. I distinctly recall my thoughts going along the following arc: I don’t get it. Am I supposed to get it? Am I too dumb? I think I’m too du– hey, now, that was sort of hilarious!

10. The Wire

The Wire I Don't Feel Nothing


It’s sort of a running joke that everyone becomes obsessed with The Wire once they start watching, so it’s interesting to see this one pop up. But I can see how it felt like it dragged in the beginning as we waited for all of the craziness to start going down.

11. SeinfeldSeinfeld Long Boring Story


Somehow, the show about nothing managed to make its pilot episode even less about stuff than the later episodes. Thankfully, we learned to appreciate its special brand of blandness, or we might have had to say goodbye to it before its time.

You can reach this post's author, Olivia Wilson, on twitter.
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    • Kay_Sue

      I really want to see the GoT pilot now. It can’t be that bad, right? Right?

      • itpainsme2say

        Spoiler………….. Brother Sister bumming and a kid gets paralyzed all in one scene

      • Jenni

        I watched it with my own brother. I think we’re both still recovering from every part of the experience.

      • Olivia Wilson


      • Kay_Sue

        That’s Episode 1, but this piece implies that there is a (hypothetical) pilot that has never been seen by the general public. >> “the GoT pilot is so horrible that the general public has apparently never actually seen it.”

        I’ve seen the whole series (and read the books), so I’ve had more incestuous love scenes and children injured than one lifetime can comfortably cover…

      • itpainsme2say

        oh I get it now so are we talking a Sherlock situation were there are two different ones or like the one show about that girl i forget what its called where they never aired the pilot at all

      • Sri


        They used some scenes from the original pilot in the actual first episode, so I feel like it can’t have been that horrible or that different. Some of the actors might have been bad, but I can’t picture it being an entirely different beast- season 1 was so incredibly close to the source material that I don’t see how it could have been.

        Is it bad that I just assume that Joanna Lannister shtupped Aerys and that the twins are really secret Targaryens and that makes their relationship (and the total case of the crazies that Joffrey has) totally normal for that family? Also, Tyrion is the only one who is actually Tywin’s son in this scenario, and he hates him so much, but he’s the only one to actually be his, and it’s sort of like cosmic retribution for being such a shit.

        Of course, I also think that Jon Snow is a secret Targaryen- the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar, maybe.

        Basically, I just want everyone to be Targaryens, ok? Everyone should be secret Targaryens, the end.

      • Kay_Sue

        I absolutely agree on the Jon Snow point. Confession: I have an intensely annotated version of Game of Thrones in which I have marked each and every point in favor of Lyanna being his mother. It even has the little Post-It flags to mark pages. *hangs head in shame*

        The Lannister/Targaryen idea makes me insanely happy. Unfortunately, GRRM hates our happiness, but in a perfect world, that would be the ultimate F— YOU to Tywin.

      • Sri

        I saw an interview with GRRM where he said that it’s not that he hates our happiness, but that he finds most stories and movies boring because you always know that the hero is going to pull through- at least until the very end. He wanted to create suspense by never letting readers feel safe. You never know when your favorite character is going to bite the big one, so you’re always on edge. He did an awesome job of that, that’s for sure.

        Besides, I feel like GRRM wouldn’t be able to resist making the Kingslayer kill his real father in the act that shaped him so much. Also, Barristan Selmy told a story about how much Aerys liked Joanna and lamented the end of the tradition of letting the king have the first go at a new bride. Not as strong as the Jon snow theory, but I’m sticking to it until evidence to the contrary.

        ETA: I can’t mark up my books, because my husband “wants to read them” (he hasn’t read a single one) and he doesn’t want my theories to give him spoilers. I totally would mark the shit out of them, though, to have evidence for all of my crackpot theories.

      • Kay_Sue

        I’m going to cross my fingers until shown otherwise.

        I admire that about GRRM. It might have been the same interview (or not–he gets that question so much) but he talked about his thought process behind Ned’s ending and the Red Wedding, and it was really neat to see how logical it was. He really considered the audience–it seems like there are plenty of authors out there that put the story first, but I don’t get that read from him, so it’s interesting to see. Maybe his screen writing background helped in that respect?

        I actually bought a copy of it to mark up, because my originals were on my Kindle. But for some reason, that wasn’t cutting it in my frenzy once it occurred to me that that could be a possibility (weirdly enough, I had not run across it on the internet before then, which is a miracle in and of itself).

      • Olivia Wilson

        According to the Reddit thread and other sites online, the actual pilot of the show hasn’t ever been aired. But your description does sound exactly like every other episode ever of the show!

      • itpainsme2say

        Ya those two are the reasons my mom stopped watching it

      • Olivia Wilson

        Curiosity killed the cat, Kay !!!

    • capoupascap

      I think Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia had a terrible pilot (the gang gets racist) but after a few episodes gets totally politically incorrect, inappropriately hilarious.

      • Olivia Wilson

        Oh wow, that sounds… grim. I never properly got into that show, but I’ve heard really good things about it all around.

    • Nbl

      I’m going to shock and be shunned by the television watching world right now, I never liked Seinfeld or The Wire. And I loved the Arrested Development pilot. There’s also two of those.

      • Olivia Wilson

        Into pop culture prison you go! (Just kidding… maybe. Maeby? Okay, I’m done.)

    • Lisa Menaster

      How about The Vampire Diaries?

      • Olivia Wilson

        Sure! Although, I’m not too big on that show in general. But I do remember watching that pilot and not being particularly dazzled by it.

    • http://danica-joshifer.tumblr.com/ Danica

      Brooklyn Nine-Nine is awesome and gets even more awesome each episode.. btw, I kinda like the pilot, it’s not the best ever, but it’s still enjoyable.

      • Olivia Wilson

        I want in on this Awesome Party!

    • simoneutecht

      I used to able to get same day tickets to Conan all the time in the beginning and saw a lot of great musical acts. People thought I had someone on the inside because I could always get them tickets so that was kind of cool.

      • Olivia Wilson

        And now he’s the talk of the town. For shame.

    • TJ

      Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a show that actually makes me laugh out loud a couple times each episode. Which to me puts it in a place that could capture my love like the Office or 30 Rock… It only has one season so I’ll keep watching and hopefully it just keeps getting better! SO push through the pilot!

      • Olivia Wilson

        Okay okay, I’ll try!

      • TJ

        I wanted to check it out because of all the Golden Globe buzz, and I feel like it is a show that has really great potential and a solid first season. While I don’t know if it necessarily deserved the two Golden Globes it got, I’m glad it got some recognition so that it was renewed for a 2nd season.

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