A TV pilot has an incredibly difficult job - it has to introduce a whole new set of characters and a premise within a short amount of time, all while simultaneously trying not to seem like an advertisement to the viewer (even though it is). The pilot is the make or break episode and, I'll be honest, I have given up on so many TV shows after watching the pilot and being underwhelmed. The truth is that a lot of people just don't see the point in carrying on with a show that they didn't enjoy the first episode of. The thinking behind it's true, after all, if you don't like one episode, why would you enjoy the rest? Some shows have brilliant pilots but fail to reach their potential and quietly shuffle off into mediocrity, like Aaron Sorkin's Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip or Revolution, but a lot of shows have really bad pilot episodes and become something truly great or unmissable despite that. It is those shows that are the most intriguing, given their defiance of the usual rules of TV, and their enduring success despite inauspicious starts, which is why they come into focus here...
10. Scrubs (2001-2010)What Was So Bad?
The Pilot of Scrubs is tonally all over the place. We would come to love Scrubs as a quirky comedy that could also do serious drama and a serialised storyline if it needed to, but in the pilot, it feels more like an episode of ER with jokes in it. The problem is it tries to introduce too many style hallmarks at once - first person narrative, flashbacks, narration and fantasy sequences, and it's just exhausting to watch. Zach Braff also isn't yet comfortable in JD's shoes and it really shows, and the hospital is completely different and as a result so is the geography, which is confusing to the viewer if they've seen any other episodes. It might just be the script, but it really feels like the actors are being restrained, which can be best seen with Neil Flynn's portrayal of Janitor, which is almost completely different to what it would become. How Did They Fix It?
After the pilot there was a conscience effort to bring a more quirky style to the series, which really works, and by letting the actors portray the characters the way they think they should be, there is a more genuine and real style of comedy going on. Once the actors settle into the groove in Episode 2, it feels like we're watching old friends or colleagues who've worked together for years instead of just a few weeks, and it really makes the audience more comfortable. More comedy characters were brought into the fold, like Todd, Hooch and Ted (who really only had a bit part in the Pilot), thus allowing the introduction of 'B' plots, providing a comedy alternative if there's a dramatic main narrative.