General Question

raven860's avatar

Why are the first epidoes in the first seasons of shows called "pilot"?

Asked by raven860 (2174points) March 7th, 2011


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11 Answers

Austinlad's avatar

Pilot means—or at least originally meant—the first episode was a test to see if the ratings were high enough to warrant further production and sponsor support. A more detailed definition is: a prototypical filmed or taped feature, produced with hopes of network adoption as a television series and aired to test potential viewer interest and attract sponsors.

bob_'s avatar

It’s not limited to TV shows, there are also pilot experiments.

If you’re asking why is the word “pilot” used, the dictionary lists one meaning as “a piece that guides a tool or machine part”, so maybe the idea is that the pilot will serve as a guide for the potential of the show? To see if it “flies”?

Note that one definition is “a television show produced and filmed or taped as a sample of a proposed series”, so it’s safe to say that it’s standard.

raven860's avatar


Interesting, did not know that!

I can see now the word “pilot” being used as an industry term to describe the premiere episodes.

However, I still find it silly that some of the premiere episodes are literally named pilot instead of some name that has more meaning.

But then again its not a big deal…great shows are great show.

john65pennington's avatar

Rayen860, maybe they ran out of names for a pilot series. Sounds possible to me, since the songwriters have run out of lyrics for good songs. Whatcha think?

bob_'s avatar

@raven860 It’s probably to make it clear that it is indeed a pilot.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@raven860 They might rename it if they change it – if it gets picked up, but they retape a couple scenes, drop a character, whatever, to polish it for the airing. But naming it “pilot” can be a way to say to everyone ‘Hey, this episode is kinda rough and may not be consistent with the rest of the series. Minor characters last names may change, stories of how everyone met may change, main characters might be vegetarian in this episode only, etc’.

Afos22's avatar

Perhaps because a pilot is the first person on the plane

MissAnthrope's avatar

I always figured it was because the pilot determines whether the show/plane gets off the ground or whether it crashes and burns.

Afos22's avatar

It could be because in the pilot they are gearing up for the rest of the show.

raven860's avatar

@MyNewtBoobs That reasoning makes sense. Now I can see or I am sold to the idea of naming the premiere show “pilot” haha.

raven860's avatar

I apologize for not noticing your posts earlier.

@john65pennington could be haha
@bob_ Thats a pretty valid point also; now it all makes perfect sense to me.

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