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Why do TV networks air pilot episodes of a series that has already aired a first episode? Why do they call it a pilot episode?

Irrespective of the result (good or bad ratings) of the pilot episode, would the network continue to air the series anyway? By the time they actually start airing the series, wouldn't they have the complete season 1 in hand?

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There are many different types of TV pilots. You can find your answer in this wikipedia entry

Also, many networks never air certain series in their entirety. This can be for a variety of reasons, such as a controversial topic or extremely low ratings.

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I didn't know pilot episode is a standalone episode, I was under the impression that episode 1 of season 1 of any tv series is a pilot episode, the wiki link has all the info. Thanks –  Mani Sep 25 '12 at 19:06
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A lot of the large networks will order the pilot, appoint a director, arrange a crew and then air the pilot plus several episodes. They do this as part of their plans for developing new content, but there are a whole bunch of people who fund their own pilots, send them into networks and get rejected. They represent 99% of the pilots that are made, but you only notice the ones you see on TV. –  Mathew Foscarini Sep 26 '12 at 20:13
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Why do TV networks air pilot episodes of a series that has already aired a first episode?

A TV pilot is a scripted and filmed “first episode” of an intended series. It is usually used to test the waters of whether or not an idea for a TV show is viable and marketable.

Why do they call it a pilot episode?

The first episode of many TV series is called "Pilot" because the episode functions as a pilot for the series, just as a "pilot" is a person who operates a "plane", in comparison, a pilot episode therefore is the "take off" episode of a TV series.

Irrespective of the result (good or bad ratings) of the pilot episode, would the network continue to air the series anyway?

Often a TV pilot will never air because no network shows interest in the project. Sometimes one network will produce a TV pilot, and another network will “pick up” the show and air it, because the original producing network is not interested after viewing the TV pilot.

If a network expresses interest in the TV pilot, they may use test audiences to see how likely the pilot is to be appreciated, before committing to producing a series. If a test audience responds favorably to the TV pilot, then the network may choose to make a series, which expands on the premise of the pilot.

By the time they actually start airing the series, wouldn't they have the complete season 1 in hand?

This depends, on the network. But once a pilot has been approved then a certain number of episodes will be "green-lighted" or ordered by a network. Some TV series has complete season episodes written (but not filmed) by the time the pilot episode is aired.

References:

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