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"Well, the way they pick TV shows is, they make one show. That show's called a pilot. Then they show that one show to the people who pick shows, and on the strength of that one show they decide if they want to make more shows. Some get chosen and become television programs. Some don't, become nothing."
Jules, Pulp Fiction

A pilot is a "test run" of a series concept, filmed and assembled to give the network an idea of what it will look like, how it will play and, via viewer testing, what kind of demographic it will appeal to. On American TV, only about a quarter of pilots are turned into a series. Some insiders have snidely claimed that Hollywood is more about making pilots than actually making shows. Sometimes a network will throw it back to the producers and say, "try again".

(The term "pilot" is used in this sense outside the entertainment industry; a "pilot plant", for example, may be a smaller-scale power plant that's used to test some new generation technology.)

Even when a show is picked up and given a timeslot, there is no guarantee that a pilot will ever reach the air. Granted, they usually do air, and as the premiere episode (for obvious reasons). But sometimes, usually with those shows whose producers were told "try again", the original pilot is so different from what reached the air that they don't try to use it (as is the case with Gilligan's Island), or they recycle the plot in an innovative manner later in the series. (Good examples of the latter would be "The Cage", the first pilot episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, which was recycled into the two-part episode "The Menagerie"; plus the Peppa Pig pilot which was recycled into multiple episodes.) Live-action pilots often have somewhat larger budgets than a typical episode of the series, but fewer purpose-built sets. A hospital or school or graveyard in a pilot is likely to be the real thing - no sense building an elaborate set for a pilot that probably won't be picked up. As such, if the series is picked up and purpose-built sets are built to replace these locations, then eagle-eyed viewers might be able to spot differences between the characters' base of operations from the first week to the second.

The writing in a pilot can be significantly worse than in regular episodes. Introducing all the characters and setting up the situation in a limited time can be difficult to do in a natural way, and even the best pilots can be prone to clunky exposition. In addition, pilots often are slightly differently-shaped than the series that coalesce if the show gets picked up; for example: in the pilot of Gilmore Girls Sookie is a Cute Clumsy Girl (this trait fades away by the fourth or so episode), Lorelai drives a different car, and many of the sets are not the ones used later in the show, as a real street in Toronto was used rather than the "Main Street" set at Warner Bros. Studios which was used as Stars Hollow for the rest of the series. Pilots may also be filmed on a different stock than the rest of the series; the pilot may look more 'cinematic' in film story and cinematography than other episodes in the series. If it's the length of a film and presented as such, then it's a Pilot Movie. The same rules roughly apply to animation, except that a pilot in that industry usually never exceeds eleven minutes unless it is the aforementioned pilot movie.

Should a pilot be integrated into another series, it's a Poorly Disguised Pilot.

Most pilots fall into the category of the Welcome Episode or Everyone Meets Everyone. It'd make more sense to list the exceptions than the examples. They may also contain a First-Episode Twist. See Failed Pilot Episode for an index of pilots that have pages but not full shows.

Many, many pilot episodes are simply named "Pilot", making "Pilot" the most common episode title among all series.

Notable Pilots:

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  • Bleach had one similar in tone to the earlier chapters of the series, with a few key differences: Rukia giving her Shinigami powers to Ichigo caused her to shrink to a miniature size (she's slightly taller than a pack of cigarettes, bathes in a coffee mug full of hot milk, and uses a toothbrush to scrub herself), Orihime's father is the vengeful lonely hollow envious for her attention, instead of her older brother, and Orihime dies and is taken to Soul Society at the end of the pilot.
  • Death Note had the 2003 pilot, which used a Kid Hero and played the Death Note's urban horror aspects up rather than the user's morality.
  • In 2013, three years before Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba officially debuted, Gotouge sent an one shot story to Shueisha for their usual contests, that short was called Kagarigari, and it is the true foundation of what went on to become Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba years later, the story presents concepts of Vampires (not Demons/Oni yet) being hunted by outcast slayers in the dark of night, the one seen is a severely scarred boy who looks like a mixture of Giyu and Tanjiro; the plot is driven by three characters which are dead ringers to Muzan, Tamayo and Yushiro, with their designs being almost the exact the same as their final selves in Demon Slayer. After Demon Slayer exploded in popularity, Shueisha decided to publish a collected volume of four one shots Gotouge had made before, Kagarigari being one of them, called Gotouge Koyoharu Tanpenshuu in 2019.
  • Dragon Ball had two in the forms of Dragon Boy and The Adventure of Tongpoo, both published in 1983. In the former, the main character who would be the inspiration for Goku was named "Tanton" and had bat-wings instead of a monkey tail. The character Bulma was an expy for was a princess. The Dragon Balls had a small dragon instead of stars on them. The latter pilot was more sci-fi themed, focusing on space exploration, and introduce the Hoipoi Capsules that was a recurring element in Dragon Ball.
  • Fist of the North Star started as a couple of one-shots on Fresh Jump before being picked up for weekly serialization in Weekly Jump proper. In this prototype version of the manga, which took place in present-day (1980's) Japan rather than in the post-apocalyptic wasteland of 199X, had Kenshiro as a teenage fugitive on the run from a corrupt police force after being framed for the murder of his girlfriend by the rival martial arts clan of the Mount Tai Temple school.
  • Hitomi-chan Is Shy with Strangers, before turning into a serial manga, the one-shot chapters were a little different in tone, it was just about how Hitomi interacted with different characters, and how they initially mistook Hitomi as a scary delinquent; there was no building romance as Yuu did not exist in that prototype run.
  • Kirby: Right Back at Ya! had a four-minute clip made to celebrate the release of Kirby Air Ride in Japan.
  • Lupin III
    • Lupin III <Pilot Film> was the first anime adaptation, and has the distinction of being two slightly different pilots. Both are about twelve minutes, and contain the same art. The first was cut at feature film aspect ratio. The second was cut at television aspect ratio, and included an entirely different cast of voice actors. Video was later modified into the opening for Lupin III: Part 1.
  • The pilot for Naruto wasn't a ninja series, but instead involved magic. Instead of wanting to be Hokage, Naruto was sent on a quest to find friends under the orders of whom would later become Hiruzen Sarutobi after one prank too-many. Instead of a demon being sealed inside Naruto, the Demon Fox was his father, as Naruto himself was a fox demon that defaulted to human form.
  • Sōichirō Yamamoto's manga series, When Will Ayumu Make His Move?, was based on a sixteen-chapter webcomic he wrote in 2018 titled Shōgi no Yatsu. The two series' were very similar in tone, with character designs later becoming the basis for Ayumu, Urushi, Takeru, and Sakurako. Additionally, many plot points from the manga's first thirty chapters came from the webcomic.

    Audio Plays 
  • The Big Finish Blake's 7 audio "Warship" was intended at first to be another Liberator Chronicle, a two-person story lasting half an hour, but it grew into a 60-minute full-cast special which would test the waters for a full-cast run.

    Game Shows 
Needless to say, there's a lot. The Game Show Pilot Light has reviews on a very large number of pilots, both sold and unsold.

  • Card Sharks filmed two pilots in March 1978 with a slightly different set, which resembled the show's final product. The only difference between the two was that #1 depicted a Money Cards loss and #2 depicted the highest possible win in the Money Cards (which also happened once in the series). A May 1985 pilot led to the late 1980s series, with concurrent runs on CBS and in syndication.
    • There was also an unsold 1996 pilot which greatly altered the format, and another in 2000 that eventually became upgraded to the 2001 revival.
    • While it never made it to series, the Bonus Round of the February 1975 pilot King of the Hill (not that one), called The Money Hill, became the Money Cards on Card Sharks.
  • In July 1993, Mark Goodson Productions taped a pilot called Cash Tornado hosted by Jim Perry, which took the Price Is Right idea of "games based around a central theme" and adapted it to luck. The show was intended for licensing to various state lotteries and, while not selling in this specific form, surfaced in July 1994 as Illinois Instant Riches, spawning a plethora of lottery game shows based on the Cash Tornado format and changing the face of that subgenre. Even longtime California Lottery stalwart The Big Spin began using a variant of the format in 1996 and began to be produced by Jonathan Goodson (Mark's son) in 1999.
    • To put this into perspective: before Cash Tornado, lottery game shows were either "spin a wheel for money" or (more often) "pick boxes for money", although a few shows had a twist on the latter note . After Cash Tornado, lottery game shows became Minigame Games and considerably more varied as a result; even shows as recent as Monopoly Millionaires' Club (2015-16) owe their basic formats to this little pilot.
    • Cash Tornado itself remained pretty much under the radar until 2014, when Wink Martindale's group put up the show's sales presentation. Notably, it was taped at Television City, used many set pieces from the 1993 pilots of what eventually became the Doug Davidson Price in '94, used a vamp of said version's theme as its own theme, and had longtime Price producer Roger Dobkowitz as a contestant (playing Force Field, which is shown in its entirety on the sales presentation).
  • Jeopardy! had quite a few:
    • A "test" episode recorded March 5, 1964.
    • Following its 1975 demise, two pilots were made for a revival under original host Art Fleming. The first, in March 1977, used a much different format which started off with each player playing as many questions as possible in 30 seconds apiece (with no penalty for wrong answers) before finishing off the rest of the board normally. After that, the lowest-scorer was eliminated, the two remaining contestants played an unaltered Double Jeopardy! Whoever had the higher score after this moved on to a Bonus Round with a 5x5 board, and had to get five right answers in a row within 90 seconds for a bonus.
      • The 1978 pilot omitted the timed portion of Round 1 and eliminated the time limit from the bonus round, but also ended the bonus round if three wrong responses were given. Under these radically changed rules, Jeopardy! aired just five months.
    • The current Alex Trebek version, which began in 1984, also had two pilots. Both returned to the original format of straight-up answer-question gameplay that's still in use today. The first (1983) had Jay Stewart announcing with the same set layout and music cues as the 1978 version, including pull-card clues in the maingame and (like the original Fleming era) whiteboards in Final Jeopardy! The second (1984) had an early version of the Season 1 set. Both pilots also had much lower clue values — the first used the 1978-79 values of $25-$125 and $50-$150, while the second had $50-$250 and $100-$500.
  • The Joker's Wild had two pilots in 1968-69 hosted by Allen Ludden, the first having a panel of celebrities asking the questions. A third pilot comprised the last two-thirds of the awkward 90-minute The Honeymoon Game (1970), hosted by Jim MacKrell note . After airing for three months on KTLA in 1971, Joker's wheels spun from 1972-75 on CBS and 1977-86 in syndication, an amazing run for a game show.
  • Match Game had one for the more staid 1960s format and at least two for the more familiar 1970s format (all hosted by Gene Rayburn), a week for a 1990s revival that lasted one year (Bert Convy hosted the pilots, but Ross Shafer hosted the series after Convy was diagnosed with a brain tumor), and an unsold 1996 pilot with Charlene Tilton and a radically-altered bonus round. The last one evolved into a short-lived 1998-99 revival hosted by Michael Burger.
    • At least three pilots (one for What the Blank! in 2004 and two for Match Game in 2008) have been made since then, but it went nowhere until 2016, when the franchise finally saw the light of day again in the States.
  • The Price Is Right has had several.
    • The 1956 pilot for the original series (initially developed as Auction-Aire) proved a disaster: the bid displays malfunctioned and Bill Cullen almost strangled himself on his microphone cord as the turntable he stood on revolved. NBC wanted to buy out the show's contract and cancel it outright, but Bob Stewart asked for a leap of faith — 13 weeks, and if the show didn't click, NBC could cancel it. NBC agreed... and slotted Price at 10:30 AM Eastern, opposite CBS megastar Arthur Godfrey; barely a month later, on New Year's Eve 1956, Price was moved to 11AM against the second half of Godfrey's hour-long show (ABC had no programming in either slot). Despite negative initial reviews, Price managed to develop a following and was beating Godfrey pretty bad in the ratings by the end of February 1957.
    • Another test episode was filmed a week before the premiere on November 19, 1956 which features a lot of differences from the actual series. The set is completely different, with the contestants seated across from Bill, who is seated at a desk. One of the prizes has its actual retail price shown to the audience before the bidding, an experiment which was soon dropped. There is no "final bid" buzzer, the rounds go on until all contestants freeze. The envelopes with the actual retail prices are given to Bill by one of the models; those envelopes also indicate to Bill if the prize has a bonus attached to it instead of the "bonus bell" used later on. Contestants who overbid on an item are eliminated from the game; if all four contestants overbid, nobody is eliminated but the prize is carried on as a bonus to the next item (this happens twice in a row on the last two items of the episode, a cruise and a car, which means on the hypothetical "next episode" the first item would include both of them as bonuses).
    • While Mark Goodson was developing the New version in 1972, he and host Dennis James taped a pitchfilm on February 16 that consisted of the two discussing the revival, playing two mock pricing games (which eventually became Take Two and Ten Chances), and showing a clip of Dennis filling in for Monty Hall on Let's Make a Deal. Very few of the eventual show's elements were in place at this point, and neither CBS nor Bob Barker were involved yet.
    • Per the show's official records, the revival taped a pilot on August 15, 1972, one day after the set was put up for the first time. Neither Bob nor Dennis served as host (and it's not known who did), and the footage has seemingly been lost to time. It's pretty much become a Holy Grail as a result.
    • The short-lived 1994-95 version hosted by Doug Davidson taped two pilots in July 1993: one hosted by Davidson, the other hosted by local Los Angeles weatherman Mark Kriski.
  • The $10,000 Pyramid evolved from an unsold pilot called Cash on the Line, whose bonus round became the main game of Pyramid. Supposedly, the bonus round of Cash was the only part of the format that execs liked.
    • The franchise would later have no fewer than ten pilots recorded between 1996 and 2010 that went unsold. Several of these pilots strayed very far from the format, including two in 1996-97 with one celebrity for each category, one in 1999 with a rock & roll format (perhaps inspired by Rock & Roll Jeopardy!), and two in 2010 hosted by Andy Richter. And this isn't counting the three revivals that did make it to air - Pyramid in 2002-04 (hosted by Donny Osmond), The Pyramid in 2012 (hosted by Mike Richards) and a $100,000 revival in 2016 (hosted by Michael Strahan).
  • Second Chance taped three pilots in November 1976, which led to a short-lived run in 1977. The most notable difference is that there were no ways to get extra spins.
    • The show's revival, Press Your Luck, taped a pilot in May 1983. It had only a single Whammy animation (redrawn for the series), a Big Board color scheme mostly consisting of blue and green slides, a different logo, and a similar-sounding theme ("Flash", by Keith Mansfield).
    • Whammy taped two pilots in February 2002: one with Peter Tomarken hosting, the other with Todd Newton at the helm. While Todd was chosen for the series, the editing job on the Tomarken pilot has led some to theorize that he was never actually being considered for the revival.
  • The original pilot of To Tell the Truth in 1956 was called Nothing But The Truth, with Mike Wallace as host and a different mascot.
    • The 1990-91 revival had two pilots, and NBC accidentally aired the second one on the east coast instead of the series premiere. This was notable as Richard Kline hosted the pilots, but Gordon Elliott was the actual host of the series (for a few months, at least) and the set was entirely different.
  • Wheel of Fortune had three pilots.
    • The first was Shopper's Bazaar (1973), hosted by Chuck Woolery. It featured a vertical Wheel, a much larger emphasis on prize-buying over gameplay (even in comparison to the shopping rounds used until 1989), a phone that delivered clues to the contestants, no Bankrupts, a confusing scoring system, and a rather easy first attempt at a Bonus Round. More info on this pilot can be found here.
    • The second and third (1974) were much closer to what made it to air, but were hosted by a drunk Edd "Kookie" Byrnes. When the show finally made it to air in 1975, it used a slightly altered Byrnes format with Chuck as host.
  • Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego had two pilots taped in 1991: "The Purloined Pooch" and "The Disoriented Express"). What made these relatively unique was that they were aired during Season 1 (as episodes 58 and 62, respectively) with a disclaimer at the start noting that there were some differences. Among the differences...
    • Rockapella wore street clothes. They continued to do so in the first few tapings of the actual series.
    • Host Greg Lee was introduced as "The man who will lead the investigation", instead of as "Special agent in charge of training new recruits".
    • Lee also didn't have his hat off for the main game, and was standing to the right of the main monitor as opposed to the left.
    • The gumshoes started off with 125 points, and a correct guess would cost them 10 while an incorrect one would cost them an additional 5. The wagering for the final clue was 0-5-10-15-20-25 instead of 0-10-20-30-40-50.
    • Pilot #1 featured a ransom note from Patty Larceny (one of the crooks on the show, and the one responsible for stealing the Lhasa Apso from the East African Kennel Club Dog Show). It was never used again, being replaced by a phone tap conversation between Carmen and the crook.
    • In the final round, there would be audience members supporting the gumshoes. This trend continued in the first few tapings of the actual series.
    • In both pilots, it didn't matter which order the gumshoe had to find the loot, warrant, and crook in for the final round. As long as he or she found them in one turn, that was all that mattered. By the time production began on the actual series, it was changed so that the gumshoe had to find them in the right order, as police officers do the same thing in real life when looking for a stolen person, place, or thing.
    • In both pilots, the gumshoe sending the crook to jail wasn't used at all. Instead, it just cut to Greg and the winning contestant at the final round.
    • The United States was the only map used for the endgame in the pilots, and state flags were used as markers. The likes of the maps of Africa, Europe, Asia, and North America would eventually be added to the show. One episode of the actual series was shot so early that they didn't have the Africa map ready it, and the endgame had to be filmed a few weeks later into production of Season 1.
    • In the pilots, the endgame featured sound effects from the Nickelodeon game show Double Dare.
    • Instead of "Do it, Rockapella!", the pilots used "Hit it, Fellas!"
  • Who's Whose?, one of the very first one episode wonders on television (the June 25, 1951 telecast was its first and last, being replaced the next week by It's News to Me), had a pilot produced in a very unusual manner: to save costs, instead of producing a kinescope recording of a "live" broadcast (as was common practice at the time), a "two-bit kinescope" was made by recording the sound on tape as if it were a radio broadcast while taking pictures with a still camera. When presented to potential networks, the pictures would be flipped through while the tape played back. A second pilot was produced (this time as a regular kinescope) once the show was sold to CBS — yes, that means the show had more pilots than actual episodes!

    Live-Action TV 
  • 30 Rock: Rather mediocre pilot and quite possibly the worst episode of the whole series. Tina Fey herself has said "if I never see that pilot again, it will be too soon". Also notable in that the scenes with Jenna were refilmed before it aired, replacing Rachel Dratch with Jane Krakowski.
  • The pilot episode of The 100, viewed in light of the rest of the series, seems like a Lighter and Softer version of the show, with very clearly defined good guys and bad guys, and a lot more focus on the teen characters having the fun and getting the hots for each other. Standard advice from fans of the show is not to judge it based on the pilot, but watch until episodes three, four, or five to see what the show's really like.
  • The pilot episode of Alias was 69 minutes long, and originally aired commercial-free.
  • Are You Being Served?: Its "Pilot" was originally an episode in the BBC Anthology series Comedy Playhouse in 1972.
  • The pilot of Arrested Development was shot in an actual model home which featured an elegant sweeping curved staircase leading to a barren unfinished attic.
  • Babylon 5: Name a problem a Pilot Movie could have, and it's there. The creator re-edited it several years later to make it stink less. (The radical changes in characterization and the transformation of Delenn from an androgenous Uncanny Valley dweller to an exotically attractive female are the major differences.)
  • Bar Rescue taped one in 2010. It aired in 2014 as "The Lost Episode"; of note is the fact that star Jon Taffer didn't wear his usual sportcoat.
  • Being Human: Notable in that two of the three main characters, as well as the big bad of the first season, were recast between the pilot and the start of the series.
    • Also notable for having been broadcast as a pilot: it was among three pilots shown on BBC3 before any of them had been commissioned as series. The public response to Being Human's pilot ensured it was picked up.
  • The Big Bang Theory had two pilots, the second one being the first episode of the series, and the only characters to transfer over are Leonard and Sheldon. The "genius characters" premise was still intact, but the story had them meet a girl named Katie on the street having a hard time and invite her to have dinner with them, eventually taking her in as a roommate. They have another female friend and co-worker Gilda, who is just as intelligent as them, and has an admitted crush on Leonard. Katie has a tough exterior, and rooming with Leonard and Sheldon would help her to soften up. Test audiences hated Katie, but Leonard and Sheldon were extremely well received. Many lines of dialogue were reused in the first few episodes, and much of the series proper took the failure of the first pilot into consideration:
    • They made Penny a new neighbor (making the dinner invite more natural) who is warm, friendly and bubbly to avoid the Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist that was Katie.
    • Leonard and Sheldon were a hit, so they made two more with Howard and Raj. Gilda was dropped, presumably to offset the gender balance more, but some of her traits were given to recurring character Leslie Winkle.
    • Sheldon was very similar in personality to Leonard, just more neurotic and once had sex with Gilda. The series made him asexual, The Comically Serious and with a "blinders on" approach to social conventions.
    • The set design was overhauled, creating the spiral stairway with the broken elevator and making the guys' apartment very clean and tidy. The original set was a standard sitcom set with an "L" shaped hallway and was more run down.
  • The pilot for The Bob Newhart Show gave Bob Hartley the extra job of heading his apartment building's Action Board when the writers feared his psychologist practice wouldn't supply enough storyline possibilities. Also, Bill Daily was not in the pilot, but interestingly the actor who filled his position of Wacky Neighbor would later return to play his brother Warden Gordon Borden in an episode of the series.
  • Bones: Notable in a bad way, with dialogue that clunks like a jackhammer and lead characters that come off as completely psychotic. These problems rapidly improve in the regular episodes.
  • The pilot episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was made with virtually no budget and was never intended for the airwaves; it was just to give the WB network an idea what the show might be like. The pilot's been widely circulated online, but series creator Joss Whedon has kept it from being officially released. He really thinks it's a piece of crap.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The first version of the first episode of "An Unearthly Child" is commonly referred to as "the Pilot Episode," though because it was produced after the series was accepted (and simply got shelved because of both various issues with the results), it's not considered a pilot by the textbook definition of the term. This version featured different costumes, a more abrasive Doctor, a scene with Susan drawing a bizarre inkblot, and a statement that the Doctor and Susan come from the 49th Century. Despite being shelved before it could be aired, it survived The BBC's routine wiping policy, and a routine telerecording was found in a mislabeled film canister shortly after the policy ended in 1978, allowing it to become a staple of home media releases from The '90s onward.
    • "Invasion of the Bane", the first episode of another Whoniverse series, The Sarah Jane Adventures, aired as a stand-alone story like a pilot, but, again, the BBC had already agreed to make the first season.
  • The unaired Dollhouse pilot "Echo" was deemed too confusing, as it threw viewers right into the deep end with the show's high-concept premise and began showing the Dollhouse's organisation falling apart right from the get-go. Instead, the network ordered that the show's first five episodes would be mostly-standalone stories showing the Dollhouse functioning more-or-less as it's supposed to before the cracks start to show in episode six. Scenes from the pilot were incorporated into episodes throughout the first season – notably, the last shot of the pilot became the last shot of the aired season finale "Omega".
  • ER: Written in 1974 and filmed in 1994 with only minimal changes to the script, this is an extreme example of the gap between pilots and regular episodes. A male doctor was even changed into a woman - without altering his dialogue.
    • Notable also in that it ends with the suicide of a character—Nurse Carol Hathaway—who would turn up alive and well in the fall and stay with the show for six seasons.
  • The pilot for Evening Shade is notable for being double the length of an average episode, something normally reserved for dramas rather than sitcoms. (Although few series nowadays of any type go for the extended pilots, with Lost the most high-profile exception.)
  • "Serenity", the two-part pilot episode of Firefly, is notable in that it was not the episode the network first aired. The consequence of this action was that viewers didn't get introduced to the characters, the universe, and the plotlines the proper way, and Firefly was canned halfway through its run.
  • The first pilot of Full House was largely identical to the first official episode ("Our Very First Episode") with nearly the entire cast in place, with the very obvious exception of John Posey (essentially a stand-in for an unavailable Bob Saget) as Danny Tanner.
  • Game of Thrones had an original pilot, the script for which made it online. In it, we get a few scenes viewers wished had been retained, such as a heart-to-heart between Arya and Jon Snow, a confrontation between Robb and Joffrey that was heavy with foreshadowing, a less "rapey" wedding night for Daenerys and Drogo, and a scene in which Jon Arryn actually utters his infamous final words. However, Sansa had no lines whatsoever, Hodor is not included and the scene where John asks Benjen to take him with him to the wall dissatisfied many fans. Also, Jennifer Ehle played Catelyn, Tamzin Merchant played Daenerys and Roy Dotrice played Pycelle. Guest stars included such names as Ian McNiece and Jamie Campbell Bower.
  • The original pilot episode of Gilligan's Island was drastically different, most notably that the Professor was played by actor John Gabriel and was portrayed as more of a sex symbol, and that the characters of Ginger (as we know her) and Mary Ann did not exist at all. Instead, there were two young female secretaries named “Ginger” (played by Kit Smythe) and “Bunny” (played by Nancy McCarthy) stranded on the island. The three aforementioned characters did not score well with test audiences, so they were rewritten and replaced by Russell Johnson, Tina Louise and Dawn Wells. Portions of the pilot episode were edited into the first season episode “Birds Gotta Fly, Fish Gotta Talk.” However, the entire episode itself remained unseen until it received a special airing on TBS on October 16, 1992. It was later released on VHS and DVD.
  • The pilots for both Get Smart and Hogan's Heroes were filmed in black-and-white; all of the other episodes were in color.
  • The pilot episode of Ghost Whisperer, also titled "Pilot", focused on the ghost of a Vietnam War pilot.
  • The Heroes' pilot was an hour and a half long, and many of the "lost" scenes and characters that didn't make it into the premiere were recycled in modified ways (the Terrorist character of The Engineer was changed to the neurotic Ted Sprague, for instance).
  • Hobocop had a Pilot called "Nose Corruption" which was mistakenly aired in the TPH children's cartoon block.
  • It's Awfully Bad for Your Eyes, Darling... had one aired a few months before the series. Notably, Elizabeth Knight's Clover was missing, while Virginia was played by Anna Palk instead of Jennifer Croxton.
  • Kids Incorporated shot a pilot featuring most of the actors who became the first season cast but very different sets and a radically different format, using only the flimsiest of plots to link together not entire songs, but a series of medleys, mostly not by the main cast. The pilot was never aired, but it was intercut with some new footage in the form of bridging sequence with Rassan Patterson (who had not been cast for the pilot) and released as a direct-to-video feature with a framing story of how his character came to join the band - in the final sequence, quite obviously filmed much later than the rest of the episode, we're offhandedly told that three members of the pilot cast had suddenly moved out of town, leading to the Kid's invitation to join the band (no similar explanation is given for Stacy and Renee, who in the pilot had clearly been meant as supporting characters rather than band members).
  • The pilot episode for Kyle XY was reshot at a later date because it was considered to be too downbeat and dragging. This led to a difficult scenario where all the cast were a year older. Josh, for instance, had to have all his lines redone because his voice was an octave lower.
  • The pilot episode for Law & Order, "Everybody's Favorite Bagman", was filmed a couple of years before the series, and later incorporated into the series... eight episodes in. This led to the rather amusing continuity error in which Detectives Logan and Greevey met A.D.A Robinette for the first time when they've already worked with him for seven episodes.
    • Worse yet, this pilot featured a different District Attorney (Wentworth) from the rest of the season. Thus, if you watch the episodes in order, you see D.A. Schiff for several episodes, then Wentworth for this episode, then back to Schiff for the next 10 years.
  • The pilot episode of Lewis, "[[/Lewis S 1 E 1 Reputation]]", aired a full year before the proper premiere of the series. Notably, the pilot shows Lewis and his detective partner Hathaway meeting for the first time and getting acquainted; when the next episode ran they were comfortable partners.
  • Lost: One of the most expensive pilots ever made, but worth every penny for both the critical reaction and the ratings success.
    • Also notable for being one of the few times "Pilot" has independently made sense as an episode title.
    • Ranked by TV Guide as the fifth best television episode of all time, the only pilot in the top ten.
    • Funnily enough, the guy who approved it (and its budget) was fired before the show was aired for investing such a large amount of money into a risky project.
  • The original pilot for Married... with Children has never been aired on TV, and featured different actors playing Bud/Kelly.
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers has two pilots. One was aired as a TV special on Fox Kids in 1999, though in an edited form and another pilot remains unaired but some scenes were used in "Big Sisters". They had differences from the final version "Day of the Dumpster:"
    • The American footage was a bare bones Framing Device to show the transition to Sentai footage, with very little characterization or original plot, though it was also not a full-length episode.
    • Trini was played by Audri DuBois rather than Thuy Trang. She can be seen in the official pilot from behind when the rangers are attacked outside the Command Center, it was reused due to the location filming and pyrotechnics involved.
    • The Local Hangout was a bowling alley, which was later changed to a juice bar/athletic center.
    • The Rangers used physical violence towards the bullies in a manner that resembles a street fight.
    • Skull was played by Bobby Val than Jason Narvy, although not named his appearance and crush on Kimberly is similar. Bulk, or a Bulk analog, is not seen though there is a small gang flanking Skull for the fight.
    • Kimberly was far more self-absorbed and had little to no martial arts or gymnastic talent that was shown.
    • Alpha's appearance was boxier and had added fins on his head.
    • King Sphinx was the primary monster the Rangers confronted.
    • Billy's glasses were thick framed rather than wire framed.
    • The morphing sequence resembled its Sentai counterpart, a quick flash of the insignia before the transition to the suits, rather than the more drawn out Transformation Sequence with Ranger Call-Outs.
    • Zordon was originally named Zoltar, the Power Morphers were referred as the Transmorphers and Zords were originally called Droids.
  • The pilot episode of The Monkees ("Here Come The Monkees") was filmed in 1965. It is very different from the later episodes. In it, the band has a manager played by Bing Russell (Kurt Russell's father), Davy Jones plays a guitar (which is bigger than he is!), the band wears yellow shirts and brown vests as stage costumes, Micky Dolenz is credited as Micky Braddock (his childhood stage name), etc. When the series got picked up, it was edited and aired as the tenth episode! As an added bonus, Davy and Mike Nesmith's audition tapes were tacked on to the end of the episode.
  • The original unaired pilot for Moonlight featured different actors for three of the four main characters. Aside from Mick St. John (Alex O'Loughlin), the roles of Beth Turner (Shannon Lucio), Josef Kostan (Rade Šerbedžija), and Coraline Duvall (Amber Valletta) were recast for the re-shot pilot to Sophia Myles, Jason Dohring, and Shannyn Sossamon, respectively. The change doesn't affect much for the characters of Beth and Coraline, but Josef's character underwent a radical change from an elderly Eastern European man full of Old World wisdom to a brash youthful power businessman, whose occasional bits of wisdom come as a surprise.
  • My Name Is Earl: Somehow manages to painlessly explain a convoluted backstory in only 22 minutes and still be funny.
  • NUMB3RS: Had two pilots, the original unaired pilot had Gabriel Macht as Don, Len Cariou as Alan and Jennifer Bransford as Terry while the second aired pilot had Rob Morrow, Judd Hirsch, and Sabrina Lloyd replacing them. Only David Krumholtz, Peter MacNicol, Navi Rawat, and Alimi Ballard appear in both pilots.
  • The first episode of No Appointment Necessary (1977) was aired alongside the other six but was produced first as a pilot. As a result, it doesn't have a proper title.
  • Odd Squad had an unaired pilot that was produced back in 2012, two years before the show would actually air. While it would eventually become the episode "Zero Effect" (which kept some dialogue and events from the pilot, such as Olive calming Otto down from a Heroic BSoD), it has some drastic differences with the show as people know it today, including having different actors for all of the characters, Odd Squad as an organization being more federal in nature (Olive and Otto hold out their badges to the ice cream man when confronting him, which they don't do in the show), and generally being Darker and Edgier compared to the show, among other things. The personalities of the agents are also quite different — Olive is more of The Stoic compared to being a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, Otto doesn't have any Big Eater tendencies, Ms. O is far less of a Bad Boss, and Oscar has more of an assistant role to Ms. O than being a Scientist. In addition, the pilot takes place in "small-town anywhere America" rather than in Toronto.
  • The People's Court had its first pilot episode taped in October of 1980 (a bit under a year before the first episode aired), as well as a second pilot episode which was taped in January of 1981.
  • Police, Camera, Action! had an interesting case with its pilot episode(s). The first-ever episode was called "Police Stop" but it had the same name as the Police Stop! VHS series (which caused confusion), so it quickly switched to the better-known title of Police, Camera, Action! from November 1994. The pilot episode had a sort of visual pun; Alastair Stewart in the police helicopter with his name captioned in Helvetica Bold. Also, the end credits were on a blue background with white Futura Condensed font on. Two edited versions were then re-shown in 2006-2007 as "Danger! Drivers Ahead" and the opening titles re-edited to POLICE CAMERA ACTION!.
  • Probe's "Computer Logic": Also used as the Premiere, this episode is a two-parter to show Michelle Castle's first day on the job, and the unusual situations that Austin James finds himself in.
  • Room at the Bottom (1967) had one on Comedy Playhouse in 1966. Notably, Horace wasn't in the pilot and Mr. Dillington (played by Francis Matthews) was in his place, while Happy was played by Richard Pearson.
  • The pilot episode of Seinfeld is not only considered the worst in the series, but the producers can't even agree on the title. The current decision is "The Seinfeld Chronicles", which was the original title for the show. TV Guide gives it as "Pilot", but that was changed to avoid confusion with the Season 4 finale "The Pilot". The most unusual name for it is "Good News, Bad News". Don't ask me how they got there.
    • Also, this pilot aired over a year before the first season began, which kind of showed how much hope NBC had for what would later become one of their biggest cash cows.
    • And Elaine isn't in it. Instead there's a Deadpan Snarker waitress at the restaurant who was going to be the show's moral center. But she proved to be wildly unpopular with test markets. So when the show was picked up a whole year later, Elaine was created to add a female character to the show.
    • And Kramer's name is "Kessler", which was used as an In-Joke later in the series.
  • Sesame Street had five pilots produced and shown to children in early 1969. The biggest difference between these and what would eventually air is that the Muppets are kept separate from the humans, but since kids paid more attention to the Muppet and animated segments, they were integrated into the street once the show got off the ground, arguably for the better.
    • One segment that never made it into the actual show but was heavily advertised even before the street segment was set in stone was "The Man from Alphabet", a spoof of detective shows. It failed in testing due to the lesson never getting across to the kids.
  • Sherlock has a 60-minute pilot version of "A Study In Pink", with the idea of this being the first episode of a series of 60 minute episodes. Instead, the BBC, despite loving the pilot, asked for three higher-budget, 90-minute episodes. This led to the pilot needing to be scrapped and a new version of the same story being written. The 90-minute version is considered much stronger than the pilot, as it spends more time establishing the characters, fixes some elements of the sets and plot that didn't work the first time, and also added the "arch nemesis" subplot. Though the pilot version of "A Study in Pink" never aired, it is included in its entirety on the home release of the series.
  • Star Trek
    • Star Trek: The Original Series had two pilots, which was unusual back then. The first one "The Cage" didn't sell because Gene Roddenberry produced a dramatic show instead of the action show he had promised. It was later worked into the two part "The Menagerie", filming a Framing Device to show the bulk of the original story. The second pilot "Where No Man Has Gone Before" lacked Dr. McCoy and was aired (in a slightly re-edited version) as the third episode, after some cast changes had been made.
      • Before the series aired, a producer took the two pilot episodes and showed them to an audience at a sci-fi convention (the most discerning audience possible), after which there was absolute silence... because they were in awe over what they saw.
      • One of the things that changed between the pilot and the regular series was the design of the Enterprise — due to the high cost of special effects and the low resolution of 1960s televisions, many of the special effects shots from the pilot were reused in the series, even though the ship looked subtly different.
      • Characters from "The Cage" went on to feature in Star Trek: Discovery and eventually have their own show in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds — in effect, a gestation of some 56 years between pilot and series.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation was greenlit for an entire first season off the bat, so their first episode was not a pilot. Reportedly, Roddenberry claimed the network wanted a telemovie to start the series and expanded "Encounter at Farpoint" into two episodes, but in reality wanted extra royalties for writing the first episode. Nobody really understood the episode because of that, the entire Q subplot came from Roddenberry and is very disconnected from the main story. Several sequences were also written with the foresight of a full series; the saucer separation sequence and the main engineering set ensured the creation of assets they could reuse in the main series, but would have been rejected as too expensive if they waited until after the pilot to write them in.
    • By the time of the Next Generation spinoffs, the franchise was so large that new series were greenlit without a pilot. In fact, Deep Space Nine was picked up for multiple seasons right off the bat. This is presumably why they felt safe with having the main character, Commander Sisko, openly express contempt for the beloved Captain Picard - they knew they had time to win audience sympathy for Sisko.
    • The first episode of Star Trek: Voyager, "Caretaker", is notable for its Troubled Production and its cost to produce. There were numerous issues during production, including rewrites of the script, arguments over whether the captain should be male or female, and roles being recast, which resulted in many reshoots and delays. The following four episodes were completed before the episode was finished, resulting in jokes about whether or not the episode would be shot by the time the series was over. As a result of all these complications, the final budget of the episode ended up being $23 million, making it the most expensive episode of Star Trek ever produced. For some perspective, when adjusted for inflation, this is more than it cost to make Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and twice as expensive as the next most costly episode, "Broken Bow" from Star Trek: Enterprise.
  • After the pilot of 3rd Rock from the Sun, significant alterations were made to the sets. For example, the entrance to the apartment became the door to Dick's bedroom and a staircase was added. There was also an earlier, unaired version of the pilot in which Dick's love interest was a secretary. It was felt that the character wasn't working and needed to be more of a Comically Serious type. She was subsequently split into two separate characters, Mary and Nina. Thus, Jane Curtin and Simbi Khali joined the cast for the second pilot.
  • The six-minute test pilot of Walking with Dinosaurs has never been made public in its entirety, as it was merely meant for the execs at BBC to watch and decide if they should fund the project. It featured (to modern eyes) rather crude animations of the dinosaurs Eustreptospondylus and Cetiosaurus, a flock of flying Rhamphorhynchus and a swimming Liopleurodon that later gets beached. Although most of the animal designs and the special effects quality differed greatly from those in the finished product, apart from the Cetiosaurus, just about every element of the pilot was carried over into the series' third episode. A few of these clips can be watched on the Walking with Monsters DVD.
  • The pilot of The X-Files had No Theme Tune. Scully also had longer and darker hair, and laughed out loud with Mulder in one scene, which ends up being an out of character moment for her until at least the 6th-7th season.
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend had two pilots. One was created in a half-hour format intended for the premium station Showtime, but ended up being rejected. The CW picked up the show, but the pilot had to be remade due to being ordered in an hour-long format and The CW being a broadcast station and thus having much stricter standards.

  • The long-running weekend series Monitor (1955-75) did a test hour on NBC Radio's closed-circuit feed on May 2, 1955, just over a month before the show's debut on June 12 and a month after then-network president Sylvester L. "Pat" Weaver outlined his ideas for the show.

    Web Animation 
  • There is a pilot episode for Animated Inanimate Battle, where everyone spoke and subtitles and, with the exception of Oodle, lacked limbs or faces. Interestingly enough though, it originally wasn't going to be the pilot, as the credits say that it was part one of the first episode, but thanks to YouTube taking the video down alongside Robert's original account, it ended up becoming the pilot after it finally reuploaded on his new account in April of 2020.
  • The web series of The Bedfellows began with a four-minute pilot titled "Just Give Him Ten Minutes", where Sheen and Fatigue visit a sperm bank to provide samples. The video has the pair voiced by different, uncredited actors due to being produced before Sean Chiplock was cast as them and is not available on the Bedfellows YouTube channel, but can be viewed through a reupload.
  • "That's Entertainment" is the pilot episode for Hazbin Hotel and can be viewed on YouTube. It introduces the premise of Charlie, the princess of Hell, running a hotel of rehabilitation in order to fix Hell's overpopulation crisis. The rest of the main and supporting characters are also introduced. Show creator Vivienne Medrano confirmed in a Twitter / X reply that the pilot is indeed canon, but that it is not required viewing. She's also stated that series will contain the proper lore and that a newcomer can still understand the gist of the story even without knowledge of the pilot.
  • The Debbie and Carrie Show has a "pilot" that was made before its creator, Dale Husband, even concieved of the idea for a series. It was originally intended to parody an episode of the Caleb and Sophia series made to promote the cult of the Jehovah's Witnesses. The pilot:

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius originally had the pilot short "Runaway Rocketboy", but Nickelodeon was so impressed by it that they funded a whole feature length film based on it. But unlike the film or the series, the short had stiffer CGI, the characters had four fingers instead of five, and Jimmy wore a red and white stripped shirt instead of his red atom symbol shirt.
  • Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog started as a seven-minute pilot produced entirely in America. The pilot doesn't have an overarching story and is more like a series of Looney Tunes-esque vignettes of Sonic foiling Robotnik, but the animation style and slapstick comedy is fairly close to the finished series. It even includes a "Sonic Sez" segment and Jaleel White provides Sonic's voice, but there are some sequences clearly inspired by the games and Jim Cummings provides Robotnik's voice instead of Long John Baldry. Some segments of footage from the pilot were integrated into the series itself, most notably the show's credits sequence.
  • Adventure Time's pilot was made for and aired on Nickelodeon's Random Cartoons, making it the rare show which had its pilot episode publicly air on a different network than the final series. Finn was named Pen in the pilot, presumably after creator Pendleton Ward. The main character's voice was also different, though said voice actor is actually the older brother of the series one.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball had a pilot (known as "Early Reel"), in which Gumball and Darwin had markedly different designs. The pilot was on YouTube for quite a while before the show was made, but Cartoon Network pulled it in 2010. Several years later, the show's creator reposted it.
  • The Pilot Episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force was 16 minutes instead of the usual 11. Frylock was more robotic & subservient to Shake.
    • Following ATHF's success, the shelved Space Ghost Coast to Coast script "Baffler Meal", featuring the original conception of the Aqua Teens was dusted off and made into What Could Have Been a Poorly Disguised Pilot had the script been used when it was originally written. Shake is even bossier (but humorless), Frylock is a completely different design and personality with a chipper high pitched voice, and Meatwad, looking closest to the actual character is less naive and much more an exaggerated The Eeyore.
  • Audrey and Friends had a Christmas Episode that was served as a pilot for the series.
  • Batman: The Animated Series: The famous opening sequence where Batman foils some bank robbers is similar in the general style of their animated pitch. Unfortunately, the audio for this pilot is lost.
  • The original unaired pilot for Ben 10 had Gwen as Ben's best friend instead of his cousin he constantly argues with, and also depicts her sporting a ponytail and a pink shirt. One scene from the pilot would be recreated in "Washington B.C.". The duo's status of being best friends (though still cousins, mind you) would be restored in the 2016 reboot.
  • A number of Cartoon Network's original series debuted as pilots on the anthology series What A Cartoon! Show, which was created specifically as a pilot showcase. These included Dexter's Laboratory, Johnny Bravo, Cow and Chicken, The Powerpuff Girls (1998), Mike, Lu & Og, and Courage the Cowardly Dog. In 2000 came "The Big Pick", which was where The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Whatever Happened to... Robot Jones? and Codename: Kids Next Door got their start. For more Big Pick shows that never came to be, see "Never got beyond pilot stage" below.
    • A similar project called The Cartoonstitute was planned, but it never got off the ground and only a few shorts were completed. However, Regular Show was spawned from the failed project. The Regular Show pilot was Re Tooled into the Season 2 episode "First Day". This was followed by Secret Mountain Fort Awesome and Uncle Grandpa, both of which were birthed from the latter's pilot.
  • ChalkZone was one of several Nickelodeon series to begin as a pilot on Oh Yeah! Cartoons. Like The Fairly OddParents! (see below), it actually had several of these on Oh Yeah! Cartoons. Most of them were adapted as episodes for Season 1.
  • Count Duckula: "Unreal Estate" was very obviously the pilot, but didn't air until the third season. Among other things, it had Dr. von Goosewing discover that there was a new Duckula around, and heavily implied that his assistant Heinrich was real but quit. The episodes that did air first had the protagonists already familiar with von Goosewing, and didn't exactly do a good job at explaining that the castle automatically teleports back to Transylvania by dawn.
  • Danger Mouse had two pilots, but only one exists. "The Mystery Of The Lost Chord" featured different voices for the characters and would be retooled in 1980 as series 1 episode "Who Lost The Bagpipes?"
  • The pilot for Doug was "Doug Can't Dance", which is noticeably different from the series proper, specifically, the Squiggle Vision animation style. Nickelodeon aired it as the second episodes of the series, with a new scene added in to extend its length from 7 to 11 minutes.
  • The Pilot Episode of The Drinky Crow Show is the only episode not in HD.
  • The original short to pilot DuckTales (1987) was "Sport Goofy in Soccermania".
  • The Fairly OddParents! had a few of these on Oh Yeah! Cartoons. These are colloquially referred to as season 0 by fans, as unlike most other pilots these are still considered canon to the show proper. The most notable difference is with Timmy's voice, as unlike in the show proper where he is voiced by Tara Strong, in these pilots Timmy is voiced by Mary Kay Bergman. Tara would later redub Timmy's voice for the pilots so that his voice would remain consistent, and these are the versions you'll find on Paramount+ (though oddly inserted at the end of season 7).
  • Family Guy's pilot (originally 15 minutes but was redacted to the first 7 minutes) was adapted into the first episode "Death has a Shadow". It is largely identical except that Lois has blonde hair, and she, along with Stewie and Meg, wears different colored clothing.
  • Futurama's pilot had a notable title, "Space Pilot 3000". (The second episode was named "The Series Has Landed".)
  • Here Comes Garfield effectively is one. It was the first outing of Garfield as an animated enterprise (being released in 1982) with an eye toward doing more if the public was receptive, and as a result, there's a lot of the Early-Installment Weirdness that one would expect out of a pilot compared to the other specials they did.
  • The pilot episode of Hazbin Hotel was released on YouTube to overwhelmingly positive reception, and the show was later picked up for a full series on Prime Video. The series itself follows up on the events of the pilot, but watching the pilot is not required to understand what's going on.
  • Hey Arnold! had a pilot episode which originally shown in theaters with Nickelodeon's first movie, Harriet the Spy. This episode would later be remade into "24 Hours To Live".
  • Home Movies was originally pitched to UPN, with the pilot being shown on the network. After UPN passed up picking up the series due to lack of interest, it was then picked up by [adult swim] as one of the first shows shown on the network.
  • The finale for Hong Kong Phooey was a full half-hour episode ("Comedy Cowboys"), a Poorly Disguised Pilot which featured characters that Hanna-Barbera hoped to groom for a separate series. One set of characters, Posse Impossible, would become a segment of CB Bears three years later.
  • Infinity Train had its pilot debut online before having a television airing on Cartoon Network. The story would be recycled for the show's third episode, "The Corgi Car"; the plot elements largely remained the same beyond some minor tweaks to make the events fit better within the series chronology, with the biggest changes being stylistic. Of additional note is that Infinity Train was reworked into a genre anthology after being greenlit, with the pilot's main character Tulip only having the role during the first season.
  • Inspector Gadget's pilot had the inspector himself with a mustache and a British accent (provided by Gary Owens). When the show was picked up as a series, they had to throw in a Hand Wave in the aired version explaining the mustache. US tropers, however, can see the aired version here.
  • Invader Zim's 1999 pilot episode never aired on Nickelodeon, but was aired on Nicktoons on December 24, 2011 as part of Nicktoons' Winter Funderland. Interestingly enough, this wasn't even the original version, but rather a redubbed version using Zim's series actor Richard Horvitz, rather than Zim's pilot voice of Billy West. The original version of the pilot with all of Billy West's lines intact was previously made available as a bonus feature on the show's Volume 1 DVD release.
  • KaBlam! had "Your Real Best Friend!" for Sniz and Fondue, Prometheus and Bob, and Henry and June, "KaBlam! Gets Results!" had the Life with Loopy pilot, and the Action League NOW! pilot aired as part of All That.
    • Sniz and Fondue's REAL pilot is a rarely-seen short called "Psyched For Snuppa", directed by Jon R. Dilworth. Aside from starring Snuppa and Bianca and featuring Sniz and Fondue (called "Squeaky") as supporting characters, it pretty much is identical to the eventual show. The pilot can be viewed here.
  • Kaeloo: The show started out as a three-minute short for Annecy 2007, which turned out to be so popular it was turned into a show.
  • Kappa Mikey has two different pilots, the first one being made when the show was pitched to MTV, and the second one made when it was decided that the show would play on Nickelodeon instead. The first pilot, being made for MTV, is noticeably different than what the final show would become, having a more adult focus like MTV's other animated outings. These pilots had been lost for years until a year-long search resulted in people involved with their creation releasing them on YouTube for the public to view.
  • The first episode of King of the Hill is simply titled "Pilot", although it's more of a typical first episode than anything else.
  • Kitty Is Not a Cat appears to have had a pilot episode explaining how Kitty met her cat caretakers. It remains unreleased and only certain clips remaining in a teaser that was released in 2016. From what is seen, it has a slightly Darker and Edgier vibe, and a few changes were made in the final version, including the scrapping of Blossom and Rose from the main crew (though the latter was repurposed as Thorn's sister, and given a major personality change).
  • The pilot for My Life as a Teenage Robot was shown on Oh Yeah! Cartoons. It was known as My Neighbor Was a Teenage Robot and had a different art direction. It was eventually remade as the first episode of the series, "It Came from Next Door".
  • The Real Ghostbusters's pitch pilot could be more accurately described as a proof-of-concept; it's only about four minutes long, has no voice acting and basically no plot, but it does establish the series' look, tone and style. Notably though, Peter Venkman's design is quite different from the finished series and Slimer is treated as a villain. Though unreleased for a while, parts of the pilot were used in some of the show's merchandise and advertising.
  • ReBoot: Did not have a pilot because of the expense of CGI hardware back then. It was an entire season or nothing.
  • The Recess pilot, "The Break In" was made in 1996 and was aired as the first episode in least the altered version. The "pilot" version had very different character designs, such as no one wearing their main outfit (except Mikey and the non-main six cast), T.J. being tall and skinny, Vince looking like a teenager, Spinelli looking like a kindergartener, and Gretchen with black hair (Gus wasn't in the pilot). When it aired as the first episode, it was re-drawn to look more like the series proper. Clips of the pilot version were seen in an ABC Saturday Mornings promo on the 1997 VHS to 101 Dalmatians (1996), as well as certain station identifications for One Saturday Morning (depending on the ABC station). The pilot gave a good example of the show's setup and character personalities while not giving clunky exposition dialogue.
  • The pilot for The Ren & Stimpy Show is "Big House Blues". Unlike most pilot episodes, pretty much everything, from Ren and Stimpy's designs, voices, and personalities to the animation is fine-tuned from the get-go. Nickelodeon aired it several times, albeit with some sexually-suggestive footage removed.
  • Executive Meddling forced the Pilot Episode of Robot Chicken to be broadcast as the 11th Episode.
  • The pilot for Rocko's Modern Life ("Trash-O-Madness") aired as the sixth episode. According to the creator he wanted the pilot to be just another episode that can be placed in any order without continuity issues. That said, the animation style is very different due to it being animated in-house rather than being outsourced to Korea.
    • Joe Murray intended for Rocko to be a light yellow, and animated him as such in the pilot. However, Merchandise-Driven-based Executive Meddling forced him to change him to his final beige color, which required the pilot to be recolored digitally.
  • Rugrats originally had "Tommy Pickles and the Great White Thing".
  • Depending on who you ask, The Simpsons either had several pilots or no pilot. First, there was the unofficial "Season 0," which aired as random shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show (the very first of those was "Good Night," for the record). Then, when it became a series, the proper pilot, "Some Enchanted Evening," was so poorly animated that it had to be completely scrapped and redone, while the Christmas Special "Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire" was picked at random to fill the air date, simply because it was finished sooner, making for some odd continuity when Santa's Little Helper was absent for most of the rest of the season. The episode after, "Bart The Genius," was the first episode of the show proper to air, while the pilot was bumped to the end of the season.
  • South Park has three pilots. In the first one (Jesus vs. Frosty, 1992), Cartman is called Kenny, no name is given to the other three, and both "Kenny" (Cartman) & Nameless Kenny die. In the second pilot (Jesus vs. Santa, 1995), the town of South Park is firmly established and the characters have personalities, to the point where Kyle is Jewish. All of the characters have the names they currently have (all except Wendy, who didn't have a name yet), and Kenny's the only one who dies. This could be considered Canon, but in Season 4, the kids made it themselves, to provide example of something kids would make. Comedy Central saw the second pilot, and they asked Trey Parker & Matt Stone to make a 22-minute pilot. They made it with cutout animation just like the previous two, and it was accepted (although alterations were made before it actually aired, such as dropping Kenny's Back from the Dead stunt from the ending). Later episodes used Maya instead for CG.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants' pilot episode was "Help Wanted", originally produced in 1997, and aired as the series premiere in 1999. The 1997 version has a different opening sequence placed a few minutes into the episode as a cold opening. The version broadcast on TV and released on home video instead uses the now iconic theme song.
  • The pilot for Star vs. the Forces of Evil never officially aired, and was only unofficially leaked a few years after the series ended. It uses the show's original title, Star and the Forces of Evil, and calls Marco by his initial production name, "Sol"; he's also a lot more abrasive and antagonistic towards Star than he is in the final show. The pilot was largely recycled into the season 1 episode "Match Maker", though a few jokes were reused for the show's official first episode, "Star Comes to Earth".
  • Steven Universe has a seven-minute pilot nicknamed "The Time Thing". The series's setting, premise and characters are in place, but the designs are very different (most notable with Pearl's design), as well as some characterization. The pilot isn't canon, but elements are re-used for the series; the episode "Steven and the Stevens" re-uses the pilot's time-travel plot, and audio from the pilot is used for the series's Theme Tune Extended.
  • The pilot episode of The Venture Brothers, "The Terrible Secret of Turtle Bay", is markedly different from those that follow. The larger budget allotted to pilots typically allows for better visual effects compared to those found in "normal" episodes; that is inverted here, as "Turtle Bay" is the only episode of the series to be animated using Adobe Flash. As a result, animation appears choppy and uneven when compared to later episodes, which are hand-drawn. Some characters are drawn in a different style or act with different personalities than in the main series; Dr. Venture, for example, is depicted as a successful, competent scientist rather than a neurotic failure. Several supporting characters from the series also appear, although they are unnamed at this point. The Venture Brothers themselves also have a pet dog named Scamp (based upon Jonny Quest's dog Bandit), which is never seen outside the pilot; a later episode mentions in passing that Scamp has since died.

    Never got beyond pilot stage 
  • The pilot for The Amazing Screw-On Head animated series. Though the series was not picked up, the (awesome) pilot is avaliable online and on DVD.
  • Babylon 5: Legend of the Rangers, which was intended to be the lead-in to a new spinoff series (similar to the earlier TV film A Call To Arms, which led into Crusade).
  • Bamimation, a cartoon starring and created by Bam Margera, was pitched to MTV in 2006.
  • Battletoads, an animated pilot based on the video game which aired in 1993.
  • The unsold shows of Cartoon Network's Big Pick:
    • The first one, in 2000, had Trevor!, Nikki, Foe Paws, Uncle Gus, Lucky Lydia, Longhair and Doubledome, Lost Cat, and Prickles. At least Longhair and Doubledome can can currently be found on YouTube. Its two competitors were both picked up for series: The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy and Whatever Happened to... Robot Jones?
      • Longhair and Doubledome has two pilots, "Good Wheel Hunting" and "Where There's Smoke, There's Bob," released a couple years apartnote  and was one of two pitches from Gavrilo Gnatovich, the other being "Maktar." Gnatovich apparently really liked these characters, as he's been trying to get a graphic novel funded on Kickstarter.
    • The second Big Pick produced these unsold shows: Captain Sturdy, Yee-Haw and Doo-Dah, Imp, Inc., My Freaky Family, Major Flake, Utica Cartoon, Swaroop, Ferret And Parrot, and A Kitty Bobo Show.
    • What A Cartoon! Show, aside from the successful pilots that ended up becoming CN's signature shows, ended up with a series of unsold pilots as well, including Gramps, Yoink of the Yukon, The Fat Cats, The Adventures of Captain Buzz Cheeply, and Tales of Worm Paranoia.
  • Bubsy.
  • Carmen Got Expelled! was pitched to Disney but it was declined. It has a similar aesthetic to El Tigre. It is about a girl who is given one last chance at going to school after being suspended several times.
  • Both Welcome to My Life and Trick Moon were produced by Cartoon Network with the hopes of being picked up for full series. Despite both being well-reiceved after being posted to CN's YouTube channel, the network ultimately passed on them.
  • Micah Wright, a writer for The Angry Beavers, created a pilot called Constant Payne that never sold.
  • Planet Dolan creator Danger Dolan created an animated pilot called Destruna, which he sought to sell to streaming services. Despite his efforts, the series didn't sell.
  • In 2006, SpongeBob SquarePants writer Derek Drymon completed a 12 minute pilot for Nickelodeon called Diggs Tailwagger in which he voiced the title character. It never got picked up for series, and Drymon now works at Cartoon Network.
  • The Global Frequency pilot episode was leaked online after the series was shelved, where it garnered widespread rave reviews. Unfortunately, the leaking pissed off the executives so much that any chance of greenlighting the series, or releasing the pilot properly, went up in smoke. You'd think that, the illegality of the leaking aside, the fact the show had such good and widespread word-of-mouth would give it a better chance of success as a series than most other untested pilots, but given the execs' response to the leaking it seems they never wanted to make the series in the first place.
  • Googlebrains' The Nonsense Show. He probably just didn't feel like expanding it.
  • The Groovenians.
  • Guardians of the Cosmos, which was intended to be an American remake of the Saint Seiya anime, but which only had one episode made for it. Trademark filings suggest the premise was reworked into another Saint Seiya remake project, StarStorm (this one being in live action as opposed to animation); however, the StarStorm pilot remains undiscovered aside from a few seconds of footage.
  • Heat Vision and Jack
  • A Kitty Bobo Show was made for a Cartoon Network contest in 2001 but lost to Codename: Kids Next Door.
  • Little Mermaid's Island was a canned series based off of Disney's The Little Mermaid (1989) featuring a live-action Ariel alongside puppets by Jim Henson. Only two pilot episodes were ever produced.
  • Lookwell, a sitcom pilot written by Conan O'Brien in 1991 starring Adam West.
  • Lupin VIII was a potential France-Japan studio teamup featuring the great-great-great-grandson of Lupin III. Negotiations with Maurice Leblanc's estate failed, and DiC ended up making Inspector Gadget instead.
  • Alex Trebek was the host of an unsold Game Show pilot called Malcolm that was meant to be sold to NBC. The real star was the titular animated character who would sometimes help the contestants answer questions whose answers always had two parts to them. Malcolm would often make wisecracks at the questions a la The Hollywood Squares before giving the right answer (though he always gives the right one in the end). A review can be seen here.
  • Mercy Reef was a pilot for a Smallville-inspired Aquaman series starring Justin Hartley as a young Arthur Curry. It was originally intended to air on the WB, but was instead releeased as a free digital download on iTunes.
  • The Modifyers.
  • Nobodys Watching was a Bill Lawrence pilot built on unbridled Show Within a Show. Ready? It was a sitcom within a reality show within a sitcom within a reality show within a sitcom. Despite being brilliantly written and unquestionably hilarious, its somewhat confusing "which show is it now?" plotline made it difficult to follow.
    • It lampshaded its own existence as a pilot both with a title card...
    Slick, very funny,
    explanatory title
    sequence to come, if
    show is picked up.
    • ...and then again with a theme song by its stars.
    Derrick: I don't think there's a theme song yet...
    Will: (singing) Derrick and Will go to Hollywood! They're gonna make a show that is really nah.
  • Pass the Line is an abysmal 1954 "game show" created and hosted by Cliff Saber in which a professional artist drew something which was copied line by line by several panelists. Possibly the only redeeming quality is the presence of a very young Jonathan Winters.
  • David Letterman hosted two pilots of a game show called The Riddlers in November 1977. The first pilot was shown on GSN, and Dave talks about it here.
  • Virtuality is an unfinished Mind Screw of a pilot which one can only describe as 2001: A Space Odyssey meets Serial Experiments Lain meets Big Brother IN SPACE (with some Ghost in the Shell and eXistenZ for flavor) from the producers of Battlestar Galactica. It's bad enough the crew has to pilot an experimental ship and be Reality TV stars in space for 10 years, but then mysterious "malfunctions" kick in, and the VR goggles start to blur the lines between fantasy and reality: the captain gets killed, yet his consciousness seems to have survived; a crew member gets raped in her own simulation by a man who may or may not be a computer virus. Notable in that it was aired despite the show itself being cancelled.
  • There was a 21-minute long pilot for a The Wheel of Time television series called "Winter Dragon" that aired in February 2015, but the ensuing legal issues with the author's estate make it exceedingly unlikely as of this writing that it's going to continue.
  • Before he ended up making an actual show with Billy Dilley's Super Duper Subterranean Summer, veteran cartoonist and storyboard artist Aaron Springer had attempted to create some shows before, with the silent-slaptick comedy Periwinkle Around the World and much more famously with Korgoth of Barbaria, a hyper-violent, well-animated parody of Conan the Barbarian.
  • Gerry Anderson's The Investigator, a never-aired pilot intended to pitch a new Supermarionation series that was a massive Troubled Production.
  • The unaired 2011 Wonder Woman.
  • Before Sailor Moon was given an English dub, Toon Makers and Renaissance Atlantic developed a failed pitch for a live action/animated hybrid remake of the series. Before the full pilot was found in 2022, a two minute trailer shown at Anime Expo '95 was how people knew about it, and fans gave it the nickname "Saban Moon" (although Saban Entertainment had no involvement with it).

Alternative Title(s): Pilot Episode, The Pilot