Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Critic Names Favorite TV Pilots from 1999-Now, What Are Some of Your Favs?

Given that it's almost time for the new fall TV shows to commence -- the notion of "fall TV" almost seems retro, given the new, re-jiggered TV landscape where new shows now premiere throughout the year -- the Boston Globe's TV critic Matthew Gilbert was thinking about pilot episodes recently and comprised his own list of favorites that aired in the past 10 years.

The best one, in Gilbert's judgment: Freaks and Geeks, which premiered on NBC a decade ago. Gilbert said: "It so perfectly captured the relative innocence of the pre-MTV world, before kids were media-bound and ironic. Each of the indelible characters -- the cool kids and the geeks, all of them on the high school fringes -- was in place from the beginning."

Rounding out his top 10 were:

2. Lost (2004)
3. How I Met Your Mother (2005)
4. 24 (2001)
5. Mad Men (2007)
6. The West Wing (1999)
7. Arrested Development (2003)
8. The Sopranos (1999)
9. Action (1999)
10. Friday Night Lights (2006)

I would've make a different list, although I wouldn't quibble with the inclusion of Lost, 24, Mad Men, The West Wing and FNL.

One of the best pilots I'd ever seen was for Alias (2001) -- which received an honorable mention from Gilbert -- which set the stage for a powerhouse of a first season, and was gripping, dramatic and soulful at the same time, launching the careers of Jennifer Garner, Michael Vartan and Bradley Cooper, who played a reporter who was in love with Garner's character. Garner's character's finance was murdered early in the first episode and she later learned that not only was her standoffish dad a CIA agent, but that the off-book, clandestine CIA group she thought she worked for was not connected to the U.S. government. She worked for the "bad guys."

I'd also include one of my perennial favorites, Once and Again (1999) whose pilot episode about the impact of two divorces on suburban Chicago families was raw and honest. This show's cast included Sela Ward, Shane West, Evan Rachel Wood and Patrick Dempsey.

Two more favorite pilots: Six Feet Under (2001), which introduced us to the freaky Fisher family on the day the family patriarch died, and the poignant season one opener for Rescue Me (2004). To round it out to an even top 10 pilots from the past 10 years, I'd throw in Big Love (2006).

If you were making a list of the best pilots that aired between 1999 and now, which ones would you say kicked some serious behind?

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