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The Top Ten TV pilots of the last 40 years

This week, TV Guide plays homage to their Top Ten TV Pilots. See if you agree.

I remember when it all began…(cue the wavy flashback effect)…she was a fresh new face, he was a hot, unknown hunk…together they lit up the screen with the chemistry of Bogie and Bacall.

Okay, so Desperate Housewives isn’t exactly Casablanca but we sure got excited when we saw the pilot. To say Eva Longoria lit up the screen is an understatement.

Lost crashed onto viewers in 2004

1. Lost (2004)

Forget that we still have no idea why Flight 815 went down. From the moment Kate started sewing up Jack’s injuries, we were sucked in like that dude who got too close to the engine. Plus, anything that can introduce one of TV’s loopiest mythologies and Josh Holloway is totally worth a $12 million budget.

2. 24 (2001)

Real time was a real turn-on when Jack Bauer got to work cracking bratty Kim’s disappearance, the threat of Senator Palmer’s like, and a shocking final-moments airline explosion that only hinted at how bananas Bauer’s day was about to get. Probably would have called in sick had he known.

3. The Shield (2002)

Who knew the Commish was such a badass?! Michael Chiklis practically scorched our corneas with his blazingly intense Det. Vic Mackey, the dirtiest Harry ever, in this profane, violent opener that took NYPD Blue’s idea of flawed cops to a corrupt new high. Or is that low? Either way, it was truly arresting.

4. The Sopranos (1999)

Ducks. One word and we’re having a panic attack right along with Tony again. Filmed two years before HBO ever aired it, this Godfather-gone-neurotic series showed that mobsters are people, too, and gave us two wildly divergent ideas of family that were both utterly unforgettable.

5. 30 Rock (2006)

After a few tweaks and the swap out of Rachel Dratch for Jane Krakowski, Tina Fey’s second pass at her hit’s opener deftly nailed the bizarre world that is sketch TV, while flipping a major bird at corporate-network synergy. Comedy is rarely this smart, accessible or, well, Rock solid.

Liz Lemon, we love ya!

6. Football Wives (2007)

James Van Der Beek, Eddie Cibrian, Lucy Lawless and Gabrielle Union in an American version of the Brit soap about jocks and the women who, um, support them. Hot, right? Too bad ABC dropped the ball by not picking these Wives up, ’cause they would have scored big time.

7. Desperate Housewives (2004)

With a mix of soapy goodness and comedy darker than the garb at Mary Alice’s funeral, our Wisterian wonders somehow made bad parenting and suburban dysfunction as delicious as Bree’s muffins. Maybe it was the fierce cast. Or the fact that none of them actually looked like our real neighbors.

8. Saturday Night Live (1975)

Live from New York, it’s the one that started it all! Hosted by George Carlin, the late-nighter – then called NBC’s Saturday Night – felt cheap and unpolished, but with Andy Kaufman’s Mighty Mouse bit and the nascent Not Ready for Prime Time Players, it was clear that we were seeing subversive greatness take shape before our not-so-sleepy eyes.

That red wig would become iconic

9. ER (1994)

Marcus Welby officially left the building after these frenetic medics crashed through the doors of County General with about 1,000 ccs of realism and George Clooney on the verge of breakout stardom. When those EMTs rolled in suicidal nurse Carol Hathaway, we almost flatlined.

10. Alias (2001)

While there is little in this world cooler than Jennifer Garner in that red wig, what really blew us away was the adrenalized action, the coed-turned-spy’s emotional complexity and the arsenal of twists creator J.J. Abrams packed into over an hour of commercial-free mayhem. Like Sydney, this one kicks butt.
Personally, I’d add Buffy the Vampire Slayer to the list. You went in thinking it was going to be a cheesy, teen horror flick and it turned out to be a smart, witty commentary on the human condition.

My husband says Lost in Space, but then that’s his stock answer to every TV-related question.

What would you put on the list?

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