The classic American pass-time – watching television. It used to be a family affair that has now turned to both social and independent viewing experiences (binge watching anyone?). Thanks to the people’s love of all things fictional, dramatic and funny, there are shows that survived decades on the small screen. Some of the longest running shows are still producing new episodes today! Here’s a list of the longest running television shows to date, and some may surprise you.
Law and Order: SVU – 1999 to present
Law and Order has had many branches of it’s super successful television crime drama. But none of them have stood the test of time like Law and Order: Special Victim’s Unit. To date they have had 395 episodes and a total of 18 seasons. There is something about the combination of New York City, Detectives Stabler and Bensen, and horrific crimes that need solving that just gets all hooked into the plot.
Days of Our Lives – 1965 to present
The second longest running television soap, Days of our Lives, is set in the town of Salem, MA. Most of the sets are filmed in either University Hospital or Brady Pub. The many colorful families and their significant members are among the same as the very beginning. For example, Alice Horton’s character has been played by actress Frances Reid for over 40 years. The show has enjoyed more than 12,500 episodes. We all remember the opening lines to the show, “like sands through the hourglass . . .”
The Simpsons – 1989 to present
The Simpsons is the longest running animated series on television. Since it hit the small screen in 1989, the lives of this middle-class family, consisting of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and baby Maggie, living in Springfield, has been the show to watch for generations. The yellow toned town has deep satirical roots, keeping up to date on current events and later shifting them into funnier than needed (but still somehow appropriate) sketches.
Lassie 1954 to 1971
An impressive 591 episodes and 19 seasons were how long Lassie spent on television screens. What was not to love about a family and their beloved dog, Lassie. The combination of wholesome family and a pet as loyal and loved as Lassie, was sure to be a hit in the then-wholesome United States. Lassie was a Rough Collie breed of dog, a beautiful long-haired four legged friend who truly got into the heart of the people.
ER 1994 to 2009
ER ran for 15 seasons and 331 episodes. The medical drama was a huge hit both in ratings and as a result, in the collective American populace. The show was the stepping stone for major A-list actors like, George Clooney, Julianna Margulies, Noah Wyle, and Anthony Edwards. Throughout the years of the show, various storylines developed, but on top of the existing long-term one. The doctors and nurses in the emergency room of a hospital and all that that kind of drama brought with it.
General Hospital – 1963 to present
Arguably the most successful of all of the soap operas, General Hospital currently sets around the Spencers, the Cassidines, mobster Sonny Corinthos, and the wealthy Quartermaine family. The show is set in Port Charles, New York (a fictional location). The show was a stepping stone for many well known actors today, such as Demi Moore, Rick Springfield, John Stamos, and Ricky Martin. The show has filmed over 13,000 episodes. Not too long ago the cast and crew celebrated the shows 50th (!!) anniversary on air. Now that is television history in the making!
Grey’s Anatomy – 2005 to present
13 seasons and 278 episodes later, Grey’s Anatomy is still going strong. The medical drama’s storyline, with constant drama between the doctors and within the hospital, to beloved character’s deaths, there is little to no chance of a viewer turning their glance away for fear of missing the tiniest detail. It’s hard to believe that it’s been over 10 years since the show started, and with that the career of Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey.
Dallas 1978 to 1991
Dallas was a soap about a rich and fighting Texan family, the Ewings, who owned the independent oil company Ewing Oil and the land of Southfork for breeding. The series initially focused on the relationship between Bobby Ewing and Pamela Barnes, whose families hated each other. As the series went on, oil tycoon J. R. Ewing slowly became the show’s lead character, whose conniving ways and grey business deals became the show’s sign. When the show ended in 1991, J.R. was the only person to have appeared in every single episode of the soap, all 357 episodes of them!
NCIS – 2003 to present
Just like Law and Order, NCIS has sprouted many a branches to the hit series. The original series, has been on the air since 2003, going through 14 seasons and 315 episodes. There is something about crime shows that really gets people hooked. NCIS stands for Naval Criminal Investigation Services, is an elite task force that helps fight crime, with the help of their trusty forensic protégé, Abby. The show has added several characters over the years to accommodate new storylines to keep it interesting; so far it seems to be working.
As the World Turns – 1956 to 2009
As the World Turns was the first soap to use a two group setup. There were two families that were rivals to one another, one wealthy and the other middle-class. As with many longstanding shows, the storylines evolved and people changed. The middle class family remained the Hughes, but the wealthy family went from the Lowells to the Munsons. The show has had over 13,000 episodes and an amazing 54 seasons.
The Big Bang Theory – 2007 to present
The Big Bang Theory has been around since 2007, however, winning Emmy Awards right left and center. The show has had 10 seasons so far, and is only getting better. The plot line is funny and fresh, following the lives of four brilliant yet nerdy men and the people in their lives. You have the hilarious and at times annoying Sheldon, and his side kicks, Leonard, Raj, and Howard. Oh and we can’t forget the gorgeous next door neighbor, Penny; there always has to be a bombshell neighbor in this case.
Criminal Minds – 2005 to present
Let’s count it, 12 seasons and 263 episodes and counting. Criminal Minds appeases the psychology buff in you, and it seems like a lot of people are interested. After 12 seasons, the show is showing no sign of slowing down, despite some on-set drama. The show follows the Behavioral Analysis Unit of the FBI, their internal drama as a unit and as individuals, as well as the mystifying cases they undertake. We’re hooked.
Gunsmoke – 1955 to 1975
For 20 years, Gunsmoke graced the television sets of most Americans. The show had an incredible 20 seasons and 635 episodes! Which other than the Simpsons, is the show with the most amount of seasons and episodes in American television history. The show started as a radio series that eventually moved to television. The show’s storyline take place in Dodge City, Kansas, at the time of the settlement of the American West. The main character is Marshal Matt Dillon, played by James Arness.
Family guy – 1999 to present
Family Guy has been the constantly inappropriate television show since 1999. Creator Seth MacFarlane is a genius when it comes to creating lovable characters with a questionable storyline. The show has had 15 seasons and 278 episodes so far. The show follows The Griffin family- Peter, Lois, Meg, Chris, Stewie, and family dog, Brian. Out of all of the characters, the most devious and we would say ridiculously funny, is the family baby, Stewie; he hates his mom and always tries to find a plan for some crazy experiment, but somehow he is still lovable to fans.
American Dad! – 2005 to present
Another Seth MacFarlane masterpiece, the man really does have a way with animated (and not) comedies. American Dad! has been on for 14 seasons and 217 episodes. The show is a satirical view of conservative America, with Republican alpha-male dad, Stan, who also happens to be a CIA agent, housewife, Francine, daughter Hayley and son Steve. There’s also an overly talkative pet fish, an alien and Stan’s boss, voiced by the acclaimed Patrick Stewart.
One Life To Live – 1968 to 2012
One Life to Live had been on the air for over 40 years. The show was set in a town not too far from the All My Children town it was supposed to be set it; which is the reason there was at times a crossover between the two shows. They have enjoyed more than 11,000 episodes over the span of 45 seasons! The controversial characters were once again families that were one against the other, in true soap opera fashion.
The Guiding Light – 1952 to 2009
Officially the longest running television show/soap opera in American history. Guiding Light started as a radio show in 1937 and eventually made its way to television in 1952. The show has enjoyed 57 television seasons, and over 15,000 episodes! With a show lasting as long as this one, the storyline has changed from time to time to accommodate a new storyline that would keep viewers interested. In these plot changes, actors and writers would also be replaced, to give the show a new sound.
Supernatural – 2005 to present
The only show on here that has some supernatural, pardon the pun, activities going on. The show is now on it’s 12th season and 249th episode. It follows the lives of the Winchester brothers who are basically hunting demons and the like to keep humanity safe from all things evil. It doesn’t hurt that the two brothers are very good looking men that somehow always manage to get themselves out of trouble and save the world! For that episode at least.
All My Children – 1970 to 2012
All My Children is set in Pine Valley, Pennsylvania (a fictional location that is very ‘close’ to the One Life to Live neighbors). The great thing about this soap is that it deals with real world issues in its own artistic form. The subjects of drugs, homosexuality, abortion, rape and war have all been discussed or become a part of the this soap’s storyline. Susan Lucci shot to fame thanks to the shows popularity, as the role of Erica Kane. Lucci was nominated for a Daytime Emmy for 18 years in a row, finally winning in 1999.
Bones – 2005 to present
Premiering in 2005, and rolling until today, Bones is a show about yet another forensic team! But unlike the other shows that solve crimes by psychologically profiling or following clues that are pretty easily seen to the eye, these two detectives are part forensic anthropologist and part forensic archeologist. They know clues before they’re even thought to be clues! Enjoying 11 seasons and 235 episodes, the hit show stars David Boreanaz (formerly known as Angel on Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Emily Deschanel (also known as the sister of Zooey).
The Young and the Restless – 1973 to present
Ah, another story of two families vying for top rankings between one another! The Newmans and the Abbotts are two wealthy families with more drama than good sense. They are doing something right though, since over 40 years later and people are still happily watching the soap. The show has aired 11,000 episodes and has captivated the American public from it’s very first day on screen. The Young and the Restless have been on top of the ratings game since 1988, and showing no sign of slowing down.