Shows that were great from the first episode... and those that weren't

So I’ve been looking for something new to watch recently. Starting a few different series to see if I like them. And, of course, you can’t always judge by the first episode. Sometimes, it takes the whole first season to hit a groove. And, if you’ve heard over and over how great the show is, you’re left wondering how much you should slog through before it either gets to the good part or you decide the show just isn’t your jam.

But then, there are some where once you watch the first episode, you want to watch the second. The story is riveting from the start.

My contribution, to get the thread started, is Orphan Black. In the first few moments of the show, we see the main character, Sarah, get off a train and come face-to-face with a well-dressed woman who looks exactly identical to her. The woman says nothing and turns and throws herself onto the tracks in front of another train. Right away, we’ve got the central mystery of the show and it makes you want to keep watching.

For less good, I used to love NYPD Blue, but only saw it years after it originally aired when it would sort of erratically show at 4 AM, which made it hard to keep up with the story. So I found it streaming and started it again and… it definitely takes a while to get going. I’m slowly making my way through the first season now and trying to decide if I think it really gets a lot more compelling in the second season and beyond or if I actually just don’t like it as much as I once did.

Firefly was great from the first episode. Star Trek TNG was not.

I’ll give you an opposite one:
I thought Modern Family hit it outta the park on it’s first ep and stayed great for the first few seasons. But by the end was completely unwatchable for me.

it gets better when jimmy smits replaces david caruso after the first season

its funny tho this happens in cartoons a lot like when the infamous ed edd and eddy debut it had almost no plot because the storyline would change 3 times a story but by the time it ended there was a lot of interesting world building that went on

I watched the first episode of Mad Men when my wife wasn’t home. She walked in during the end credits and I immediately started it over to watch it again with her.

The first season of the Simpsons was interesting, but kind of meh (in hindsight of what was to follow anyway). I don’t have the exact time line down anymore, but I seem to remember that the second season got better, but that the series only really took off in the third season.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is still one of my favorite shows, but it takes a season and a half to get really good.

I always thought “Battlestar Galactica” started out really strong, and only lost focus after a good while. Same for “The Walking Dead”.

“Babylon 5” did NOT start out strong; the entire first season was uneven and kind of weird, and the show didn’t find its footing until the second season.

“The Expanse” came out of the gate strong as well.

if I’m remembering correctly Babylon 5’s first season was weird because they wrote around the fact that the lead actor either had or was dying of a brain disorder and he was given the part to pay for the treatment … And it made the actor look like an asshole at times or out of it at others
He passed not long after S1 ended

Arrested Development was firing on all cylinders from the very first episode.

Actually, he had mental problems which weren’t publicly known at the time.

Friday Night Lights has the best pilot/first episode I have ever seen on a TV show. I was hooked and watched the whole series.

The first season of Parks and Recreation is a little rough (still good though and only 6 episodes). But once they retool a little (Leslie in particular) beginning in season 2 it’s all waffles and bacon the rest of the way.

Heroes is one of those potato chips shows where you can’t stop at just one episode, you have to keep going. Unfortunately, that only applies to the first season. Once you get into season 2 you’re like what is this I don’t even.

Mad Men and Breaking Bad had me from the first episode.

As noted above, Parks and Rec wasn’t great for the first season but eventually hit its stride.

St Elsewhere, Crime Story, The Sopranos, CSI, and Mad Men all had me hooked from the first episode.

I wasn’t immediately taken by Cheers!, oddly enough. It wasn’t until I saw the episode with Coach’s daughter that I started watching it religiously. The same was true for Hill Street Blues, which I started watching out of curiosity because I’d heard it was so good.

The Exorcist. Lasted only two seasons but man, watched the first episode out of boredom and was hooked.

It took about a season for the original Magnum to find its feet.

I was hooked on Rectify within the first ten minutes. The premise was interesting but not utterly riveting, but the main character’s first speech was so magical I had to keep watching. The language is just poetic, strange but deeply familiar. I just wanted to hear everyone talk. The characters turned out to be just as enthralling.

that’s how I got hooked on er I didn’t watch the first season and when the 2nd season started it looked to me like just another hospital show from the old days it was 2nd season episode where the mark had to deliver a premature baby via c-section after a car wreck…it was so real and riveting … I ended up watching it until mark died … after that it was the carter show ,

ER and Lost are two of the best Pilot episodes ever to air on TV but neither show maintained that level of quality for their entire run (although I like the Lost finale more than most).

Even at that, the first season was kind of scattershot in terms of writing, etc… There were a lot of one-off / throwaway episodes in the first season.

Starting in the second season the episodes were pretty much ALL story-arc episodes from then on out. Sure, the secondary stories weren’t story-arc, but the vast, vast majority of episodes were story-arc and focused after the first season.

To me, that points at less Michael O’Hare being mentally ill, and more at something else- issues in writing, production, etc…