A series is only as good as its first episode. This may seem counter-intuitive as the best episode in most television programs is rarely its first, but the truth is if a first episode isn't good a show will rarely if ever make it. Without friends or family to recommend it, a majority of people will not bother to watch a second episode of a new show if the first wasn't good, and quite rightly so.
In 2020 there is so much high quality content, both new and old, that there is no more room for bad programming. Because of this there is endless pressure to make a shows "pilot" episode in such a way as to maximise viewer draw.
Some shows choose to use battles, explosions and action to do so, and this has limited success. The best shows are those that take complex and nuanced subject material and break it down into a single episode; You are likely to return as a view if they find that fine line of balance between short and long term interest. There was enough that you enjoyed the episode, but it set up enough plot to bring you back for a second viewing.
The following list contains examples of shows that absolutely nailed this balance. In each case the first episode is not the series' finest, but they were excellent enough to draw enough viewers to allow the series time to find its footing. In each case you finished the first episode of this program not just satisfied with the time you sunk into it, but are actually excited to devote more of your precious time to it.
10. House Of Cards - Chapter 1
The House of Cards season premiere needed to find a way to display how ruthless and power-hungry Representative Frank Underwood is, without pushing him into laughable cartoon villain levels of drama. How better to do this than to have Frank literally strangle a dog while addressing the audience directly with un-breaking eye contact. Ten minutes in and you already know that Frank is cold hearted, calculating and vicious.
It is shocking and disturbing, but it is also brutally effective. Every scene with Underwood can now now be seen for what it truly is, a strategic game of power and politics. His every smile, laugh and word is all a disguise. Other than perhaps his wife people mean nothing to him and when he addresses the camera to say he hates the president and will work against him you know exactly the lengths he will go to.
This one scene sets the tone for an entire series so brilliantly that you can never look back. You can never see Frank's actions as kind or misunderstood, he is the villain of the series and you love him for it.