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

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. 

Comments (84)
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Of course it's going to come down to Lost and Breaking Bad. One show, regardless of how you felt about it as a whole, was a major TV event. The other is currently the best show on television. I will choose Lost though, for sure, I have never felt the way I have about any other TV show than when I watched that.
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cable anti-hero hands down is breaking bad, though Claudine nailed it, the pilot wasn't very good, so i will have to choose the shield. comedy, that's easy..the inbetweeners. genre bending, fringe. and action adventure, i am going to have to go with prison break. lost, that pilot was so bad i never watched another episode. is everyone on here 15!?
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between breaking bad and pushing daisies, breaking bad is the better show, but pushing daisies' pilot was way more creative and fresh. it was something people had never seen before. this isn't a poll on series finales, or a show's run from beginning to end. this is about the very first episode. i can understand how as a tv viewer, you can't help but consider all the episodes, but that's not the point of running these polls.
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Non of them were in my votes, but I prefer Lost.
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LOST... for ever! Always!

Best TV show ever!
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People, stop voting for breaking bad! The pilot was really not that good ... Pushing Daisies should be winning this by a mile.
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LOST LOST LOST LOST LOST LOST LOST LOST...if you're hesitating, just rewatch the pilots. It's not even a competition. One is a timeliss piece of art and the other one is the promise of a good show but honestly, it didn't reinvent the wheel
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LOST is the best. Unmatched in glory.
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It'll be fun to see the Breaking Bad vs Lost battle!
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I'm surprised the vote is so close between "Lost" and HIMYM. I love(d) both shows, but HIMYM's pilot doesn't hold a candle against "Lost's" pilot.
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That depends on the viewer. I did not like Lost's pilot, and consequently did not follow the series. Maybe there are others just like me? And as for me I'm all for HIMYM and Pushing Daisies, those are more my type of shows
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I was thinking the same thing. Seeing the previous votes I expected lost to destroy HIMYM within the first two hours.. It is possible though that a number people are voting *against lost no matter the opponent.
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Love the idea to vote on these 16 pilots. I can honestly say I've seen 13/16 (Friday Night Lights, Awake, & Pushing Daisies I've got to check out), but I feel there are some really great ones missing. In terms of this being strictly about Pilots, Breaking Bad's (Note: I think Breaking Bad is a top 5 drama EVER) was not extraordinary. I often find myself having conversations with people who have yet to watch Breaking Bad or even more so, have seen 3-5 episodes of the 1st season and say they couldn't get into it. I explain that the writer's strike cut that season short and to watch the 1st & 2nd season as 1 entire season to really get a grasp on the show's level of excellence. Again, if this is a measure of how good the Pilot was, it probably should've been left off the list, which is why I assume a show like The Wire, which is definitely a top 16 program of the last 15 years isn't on the list. The Wire's Pilot was good, but not amazing like certain episodes of the rest of the series. Homeland, while not as good a show after its 1st season, had 1 of the best pilot's I can remember in recent history, if not ever, so I feel like it certainly should have been on this list. I felt a few other shows had very strong Pilot's, again regardless of the strength of the overall show, here are some worthy of at least mentioning: Californication, Damages, Fringe, Firefly, True Blood, Boardwalk Empire, Sherlock (BBC), & Shameless.

Looking at this "tournament" there are a lot of great competitors, as an avid TV fan I really enjoyed all these shows. However, in terms of a Pilot, its really tragic that Mad Men & The Shield were matched up against each other in the 1st round, because in my humble opinion they're far and away the 2 best dramas on this list (Arrested Development's Pilot was the best comedic pilot I've ever seen). What's great about Mad Men & The Shield's pilots are that they are in themselves complete stories. Both programs could've ended after the creation of the Pilot and been enjoyed & discussed for just that single episode. Often a Pilot aims to draw you in, win your curiosity, and have you tuning in next week for answers and/or more story. I compare the normal Pilot to reading a chapter in a book, versus an amazing Pilot as to reading a short story.

Thanks for sparking an interesting debate Cory! Looking forward to the next bracket-style vote!
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Ok, well, even tho I love HIMYM, LOST should win..just re-watch the first 5 minutes of LOST..thats why!
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A vote for Pushing Daisies is a vote for understanding what this competition is really about.

I just voted for Breaking Bad.
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Having said that I did vote for The Shield's pilot over Breaking Bad in the last round.
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Every time any one writes about LOST, all I hear is complaining about the series finale. I friggin loved it and thought it was a very emotional and appropriate ending. Maybe some people just didn't understand it. Read up on it!
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It does annoy me when people say those that disliked Lost's finale 'didn't understand it'. If you liked it fair enough but there are many reasons not to as well.
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the majority of the people I've talked to (both in person and online) hated it because they were confused and completely misread its purpose. That was my experience, anyway. Yes, I realize I am replying to this over a year later, but I only checked this account now lol.
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That's a long time to take to reply!

Whether or not people enjoyed the finale for me largely depended on why you watched the show in the first place. If it was for the characters journeys I'd say it was quite a satisfying ending but if you watched the show for the mysteries of the island I felt it left too much unanswered.

I can see why people would like the finale and why others wouldn't but, if all the people that didn't like it apparently misread its purpose, then maybe it was written clearly enough.
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Look I hated the end of Lost, and Breaking Bad had a terric pilot. I'm doing a rewatch of the series, so it is fresh in my mind...However, were judging pilots, so Lost should win this handily....
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My experience with LOST was somewhat disappointing.
Not with the show itself, but the way I came to it. Back before my days frequenting TV.com, I didn't know a thing about this show. The first episode I watched was the one where Boone died. Which was a fucking crazy episode, but I had no frame of reference for anything. Later that summer, my new roommate was a huge fan so I ended up watching the last 2-3 episodes of the season with him and was just blown away. So i would have loved to have seen the pilot with a blank slate when it first aired. It was still amazing, but it wasn't my introduction to the show. In the director commentary on the DVD, they say that pilot (Greg Grunberg was in LOST?!?) who dies in the tree, was initially supposed to be Jack.
Could you imagine that? Spend one hour setting up the hero in the pilot and then just kill him halfway through?!? God I loved that show.
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Lost vs How I Met Your Mother ?
Lost; no contest. Sure, HIMYM was a solid pilot but you're comparing a half-hour sitcom to a full-hour epic drama. Plane crash + survivors + mystery vs a blue french horn.
Sorry, but in my opinion it's a no-brainer. You might have problems with how Lost literally lost it's way after Season 1, but the pilot was stellar.

Breaking Bad vs Pushing Daisies
Tough call, but I'm going to have to give it to Pushing Daisies
Looking at the PILOT, and ONLY the PILOT... it's a tough call. Breaking Bad's intro-scene as well as the eventual catch-up to how the scene played out was epic and as a pilot it was very good. And as a whole, Breaking Bad is one of the best shows on TV in general.
BUT... Pushing Daisies pilot was incredible. It was unlike anything else that had been on TV before. It almost seemed like a GOOD made-for-TV movie and between the narration + effects + story + humor + Chi McBride... it was one of the better pilots I've seen this decade.

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Six Feet Under, anyone?
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Both BB and LOST had great pilots but in comparison the amount of excitement I had from the LOST premiere is really another level.
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I LOVE Breaking Bad, but the pilot put me off and I know many, MANY people, who couldn't get past it. whereas Pushing Daisies was a fabulous introduction to a beautiful, amazing world where you wanted to stay forever.
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I would admit breaking bad is the better show, but if we are talking just pilot episodes, how can BB's pilot be better than the shields? Are people forgetting its just the pilot, .. not the entire series?
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Yep.
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Will we have a third place (or bronze medal) dispute as well (probably Pushing Daisies against HIMYM)?
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SURE. Why not?
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Breaking Bad's Pilot doesn't hold a flame to the LOST premiere, and that's coming from someone that likes BrBa more than LOST.
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The problem is I have a feeling that people are voting more for the SHOW instead of the PILOT. I was talking to a friend about TV.com's poll the other day and that's how he was explaining his choices... heck he was also factoring in the series finale of Lost into the mix.

As you say, this is about the pilots. Unfortunately some/many people are just going to vote for their favorite show.

And yes, while I love Breaking Bad more than Lost... the pilot for Lost was incredibly epic and deserves to win hands down. I also thing the Pushing Daisies pilot was an incredible work of art but it doesn't beat Lost's pilot.
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Breaking Bad has the advantage over Pushing Daisies because BB is recent enough to be remembered. But for this to have really been fair it would need to have listed all pilots for the last decade and a half. But that would have required some real work.
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This is a fixed poll
There are so many better shows that were not in the poll
like Smallville Alias Heroes Prison Break
Lost is fixed to win
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Um, Alias was in an earlier round and lost....
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Slated, yes. Odds on favorite, yep. Fixed, no. I do not think that word means what you think it means. :)
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BB vs. LOST
LOST owns. it'll be a long time beofre anyone tops that show....IMO anyway
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What is the point of this final 4?

Everyone including the editors know which the final 2 will be.

Why don't we just skip this part and get to voting for BrBa vs. LOST

Is this part really necessary?? No, it is not. Waste of time. Get to the real voting, please.
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Though I thought the first episode of HIMYM was awesome, lets be real. Lost's pilot is the best of all. Always.

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End result prediction:
1. Lost
2. Breaking Bad (although it should be Pushing Daisies)
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I've never seen the Lost pilot in its entirety, but having seen the HIMYM pilot and seeing the reaction people have to it vs their reaction to the Lost pilot, I'm voting for the Lost pilot. HIMYM was a cute pilot but not so great as to blow anything out of the water, it was hinged on a conceit and that's fine, but the series didn't coast off the success of this pilot, it built from it.
I just accidentally voted for both Breaking Bad and Pushing Daisies, so I guess I better move to Florida circa 2000.
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You've never seen the LOST pilot in its entirety??
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Yeah, wasn't my cup of tea, I didn't watch Lost.
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yeah that is insane. everyone should wacth LOST
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When I looked at your replied comment, I got excited because my comment was 23 minutes ago and yours was 16!!!
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Got me some time to get this ... lol
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I remember watching lost' pilot and thinking '' what am I watching ? is this TV or a billion dollar movie?'',...
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I'm surprised Pushing Daisies is in here since it was squashed by the network SO FAST. I totally loved that show!
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While Pushing Daisies was cut down before its time, it did have two seasons. I wouldn't call that so fast.
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On pilot alone, PD beats BrBa because we knew what the story was going to be right off the bat from Pushing Daisies. There is no argument Breaking Bad is the better show (by MILES, and I loved Pushing Daisies) but it took an audience willing to have patience to see the story progress.

Lost is still the champ here, though. PD and HIMYM all offered a really good opening episode (while it upset AD, I have to admit it has the same problem of BrBa in that it's more setup than payoff, even if that pilot has some good laughs) where you can watch JUST THAT ONE and it can stand on it's own, mostly, but Lost knew how to hook you. Taken by itself, it's an amazing story of a plane crash aftermath.

If BrBa wins, maybe, in the future, polls like this shouldn't be done when one entry will be riding SUPER high on current buzz. As much as some pilots were left off here, BrBa has gotten this far more on buzz than by actual merit of it's pilot.
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That and people can't differentiate a pilot from the show as a whole.
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If Lost doesn't win, then this whole thing is invalid...
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I'm happy to see that people are actually considering the pilots rather than the show itself so far, but I've got this sinking feeling that BrBa is going to advance yet another round on current hype alone. The pilot was terrible (especially in the acting) and does not deserve to be here. Hopefully PD will be the one to knock it out so Lost doesn't have to next round.
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I wouldn't say the Breaking Bad pilot was terrible, not even close, but it definitely didn't instantly grab me the way some other pilots did. At best, it was intriguing and I thought it would grow into a great show (although I don't claim to have predicted just how great), but it wasn't quite there yet at that point.
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I voted for Lost and Pushing Daisies
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Lost of course. As for BrBa against Pushing Daisies I'll have to go with Pushing Daisies because this contest is about only the pilot and not the whole show and while I'd take Breaking Bad as a show over Pushing Daisies any day, Pushing Daisies' pilot was superior to Breaking Bad's.
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Huh...this is a weird final four...I think it should come down to Pushing Daisies versus Lost (I love Breaking Bad, but the pilot was sort of eh...Lost, I must have selective memory, when I think of the finale, I really only focus on the last scene which was beautiful and even gets me thinking now of Vincent coming up to Jack....). Ultimately, Lost probably should win because there is something to be said for how much the show was able to cash in on its pilot whereas I bet there was a lot of drop off in audience for episode two of Pushing Daisies.
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Wow, I guess I totally missed last round, but super happy to see Pushing Daisies in the Final Four! LOST all the way, duh, but Daisies over Bad. As I have just recently watched both pilots, Pushing Daisies introduces you to characters you can't help but fall in love with and root for, as well as a totally different concept on television that was easy to follow thanks to Jim Dale as the Narrator. Breaking Bad just gets better with each ridg episode from the pilot, which should say something.
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Sorry Breaking Bad, I am afraid you'll have to lose this contest to Lost.
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I loved HIMYM's pilot but I have to go with Lost here. It was just so much bigger and so vastly different from what was on TV at the time that you can't help but be amazed by it.

Pushing Daisies still. This is one of my all time favorite pilots. I still love watching this bright scenery with the kind of depressing nature of the show. It was the perfect balance and just kept catching you off guard.
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