Considering that more than three-quarters of new TV shows are cancelled after only one season, series that have beaten the odds and gone on for decades are a rarity. But a handful of prime-time shows have done just that.
Using IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon, and other sources, 24/7 Tempo has compiled a list of the 50 longest-running television series in history. We considered only shows that aired in prime time (generally considered to be 8 to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 7 to 11 p.m. on Sunday) at one point during their original broadcast run, and omitted anthology series, music television, and sports programs.
Many of these programs survived despite casting changes, the death of a host, drastic cultural shifts, and scandals. (In computing the length of a series run, we considered only the time it was actually on the air, not any time spent in cancellation or between networks, so the length of a series run might be different than the range of years given.)
The list includes multiple news programs, crime dramas, comedies, variety shows, documentary series, and reality shows, and covers programs from every decade since the ‘40s, when the TV first began to appear in American homes. (Here are the best classic TV shows available to stream.)
From popular early broadcasts like “The Ed Sullivan Show,” which first aired in 1948 under the title “Toast of the Town,” to modern paragons of televised humor like “The Simpsons,” these shows have affected and reflected the cultural landscape of America. The reason for their longevity is their broad appeal and cultural applicability. Factors like award nominations and critical acclaim can keep a series running year after year — though ultimately what gives some shows their durability is a dedicated viewership. Here are the highest rated shows you can watch today.
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