The Best TV Pilot of the Last 15 Years, Final 4: Vote Now on Lost, Breaking Bad, Pushing Daisies, and How I Met Your Mother

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UPDATE (9/17): Championship voting is now open!

Another week, another round of voting! We've reached the near-final round of our Best TV Pilot of the Last 15 Years competition. Although there were a couple of close races in the Elite 8, the our Final 4 comprises a quartet of pilots that most of you probably expected to see here, particularly after the first few days of voting. But while they're all really great, it's time for them to duke it out for a spot in the championship. It's up to you to decide who actually makes it through to the final round. Here's our updated bracket: 

Much like I did last week, I'll be offering my purposefully contradicting thoughts on why each pilot should beat its competition. There's very little to complain about with these four episodes, so I'll absolutely be splitting hairs, but for those of you who might need a little extra info while making your picks, I've got your back. And again: We're only talking about the quality of the pilot of each of these shows. If you think the final season of Lost sucked, that's totally fine and I know lots of people who agree with you. But those flashforwards and the tunnel of yellow light don't matter; you should base your vote entirely on the pilot.

You have a full week to vote. Choose wisely. 


SEMI-FINAL #1

How I Met Your Mother (Narrowly upset Arrested Development in Round 2) vs. Lost (Destroyed The Walking Dead in Round 2)

WHY HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER SHOULD WIN: The competition between How I Met Your Mother and Arrested Development was unbelievably close, but HIMYM was the victor, in what is technically an upset. It's the last remaining comedy in the bracket, and it got this far by toppling Modern Family and AD. Although those two comedies have garnered a lot of critical attention for their innovations within the single-camera comedy style, HIMYM deserves praise for finding new methods and fresh storytelling angles within the stingiest of all TV comedy formats, the multi-camera sitcom. People like to talk about multi-camera series being dead, or on the outs, but this pilot is a reminder that it just takes a really great idea and the confidence to execute it properly to make great television in longstanding frameworks. There's a reason that people still really care about this show, its characters, and the search for the Mother, and a lot of that goodwill can be traced back to this charming, heartfelt first episode. 

WHY LOST SHOULD WIN: This is the TV pilot that all other pilots are measured against. There are individual scenes within it that are better than, what, 90 percent of all of TV in history? It kicked off one of most fascinating, thrilling, and mind-consuming television experiences of all time (ending be damned) while managing to initially develop a number of characters pretty successfully. The Lost pilot ushered in something of a new era for broadcast drama and none of the shows that later tried to imitate it ever came close. The fact that Lost's particular brand of success can probably never, ever be replicated starts with this episode. In the first two rounds of this competition, it buzzed through two fantastic competitors (24 and The Walking Dead), and there's no reason why it shouldn't cut down another.


SEMI-FINAL #2

Breaking Bad (Upset The Shield in Round 2) vs. Pushing Daisies (Snuck by Freaks and Geeks in Round 2)

WHY BREAKING BAD SHOULD WIN: Technically, Breaking Bad is our cinderella entry in the Final 4, overcoming its low seed and stiff competition against The Sopranos and The Shield to make it here. But in every bracket, someone is underseeded and undervalued. That BrBa would defeating two of the six best drama pilots ever was unexpected; yet, this pilot belongs here just the same. From that staggering opening sequence to Walt's animalistic sexual aggression in the bedroom in the final moments, Breaking Bad's first episode masterfully tells the opening chapter in the birth of a monster. Walt obviously goes on to do tons of way more awful things, but it's still fascinating to see him decide to cook meth, to take to the whole criminal enterprise so quickly. Pushing Daisies was a flash-in-the-pan type show, with a pilot that relies too heavily on cutesy, kitschy gimmicks; Breaking Bad was pure amazing, pure adrenaline, from the jump.

WHY PUSHING DAISIES SHOULD WIN: Although Pushing Daisies is actually a higher seed, there's no doubt that it's the underdog against Breaking Bad. You voters have proven that you're breaking bad until the end, and while I understand that, it's not the right move. If there's any match-up that emphasizes the framework of this specific competition, it's this one. Is Breaking Bad a better series than Pushing Daisies? Of course, and it's not even that close (though that's no shot at Pushing Daisies' full, albeit short, run). But when you're considering only the pilot, the race should be much closer—and frankly, Pushing Daisies should win. As a singular piece of televisual art, BrBa can't compare. Pushing Daisies' pilot is more inventive, more visually impressive, and more moving, despite the necessary exposition required to establish the premise. While BrBa's pilot takes the everyday white-guy anti-hero stuff a step further, Pushing Daisies creates a whole new kind of story, reflecting the kind of wild, compelling stuff that contemporary TV can do. A vote for Pushing Daisies is a vote for understanding what this competition is really about.


And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Hopefully my thoughts mean a little something to you, but if you think I'm just flat-out wrong, the best way to correct me is to vote, vote, vote. You get to decide who makes the championship. Don't take that honor lightly. 

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