Pilots should give audiences a sense of what the rest of the show will be like. They set the tone, establish the characters, and hint at the direction the plot of will go.
Some of the best pilots, like How I Met Your Mother or Modern Family, instantly hook you with their humour and charm. Others, such as Game of Thrones, break all the rules of the genre, making it impossible to stop watching after just one episode (at least on the second go, in that show's respect). Some others, such as Arrested Development, establish their own voice in their first episode.
However, sometimes, the writers and creative team are just finding their footing with a pilot, leading to some less than stellar results. This doesn't necessarily mean that their respective show is bad, though. Sometimes, with a few more episodes, a show can improve its overall quality and become something great, despite what its pilot might suggest.
It can be hard to believe how bad some pilots are, especially when you look back at the way some of the all time great series actually began.
8. The Righteous Gemstones
The Righteous Gemstones follows a famous televangelist family as they lie, cheat, and backstab each other in a very un-Christian way. The HBO show, created by and starring Danny McBride of Eastbound & Down fame, has some great laughs and touching moments, just not in its first episode.
The self-titled pilot runs for one hour and two minutes, roughly double the length of every other episode, and it shows. The first half drags, and we don't see any major plot developments until the last few minutes.
Even then, the hour long episode still doesn't introduce everything and everyone we need it to, with some eventual major characters still not appearing until as late as the third episode. It might take less time to read the Bible cover to cover than to watch this episode.