Top 10 Best Longest-Running TV Shows

Written by Lyne Dubeault They’re some of the finest television has to offer. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the top 10 best longest-running TV shows. For this list, we’re looking at shows that aired for a significant chunk of time – like, at least ten years – and which we also consider well-made, well-acted, good quality shows. However, we’ve excluded game shows, reality shows, news shows and talk shows. So, grab a bowl of popcorn and your remote as we start things off. Special thanks to our users bigpapazagon, Julia Light, Spideyfan-0913, GrantKidd, Callum Prentice, Michael J. Gillespie, jama white, AmaanS and Isaac Bauman for submitting the idea using our Suggest Tool at WatchMojo.comSuggest
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Written by Lyne Dubeault

Top 10 Best Longest-Running TV Shows


They’re some of the finest television has to offer. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 best longest-running TV shows.

For this list, we’re looking at shows that aired for a significant chunk of time – like, at least ten years – and which we also consider well-made, well-acted, good quality shows. However, we’ve excluded game shows, reality shows, news shows and talk shows. So, grab a bowl of popcorn and your remote as we start things off.

#10: “Cheers” (1982-93)

Though it was nearly axed by NBC in its first season due to low ratings, “Cheers” is now considered one of the greatest sitcoms ever. Taking place in the eponymous Boston pub where everybody knows your name, “Cheers” chronicles the lives of staff and patrons alike, with many colorful characters pulling up a stool at the bar. After 11-seasons on the air, 28 Emmy wins and an equally successful spinoff in “Frasier,” Sam Malone and friends closed up shop with one of the most-watched TV finales in U.S. history.

#9: “Law & Order” (1990-2010)

With its stories “ripped from the headlines” and telling the thinly veiled tales of real-life crimes, this police procedural-slash-legal drama spawned a hugely successful franchise. Featuring a cast of rotating characters, this show saw its episodes split in two, with the first half focusing on the police investigation into a crime, and the second concentrating on the legal case. Compelling because of the writing, acting and true-crime aspects of the show, “Law & Order” lasted a record-setting 20-seasons before finally putting their final case to bed in 2010.

#8: “M*A*S*H” (1972-83)

Adapted from the 1970 movie of the same name, “M*A*S*H” was an offbeat comedy/satire about the highs and lows of war. Though the show was set in Korea, it began during and paralleled the Vietnam War –carefully walking the line between observing war and protesting it. “M*A*S*H” followed a mobile medical unit and all the flamboyant characters who worked in it. And on February 28th, 1983, after 11 award-winning seasons, many of those characters packed their bags in what remains the most-watched U.S. TV finale of all time.

#7: “Coronation Street” (1960-)

Although “Days of Our Lives” and other soap operas were considered, we decided to give our #7 slot to this mainstay of British television. Corrie revolves around the blue-collar residents of – you guessed it – Coronation Street, in the fictional English town of Weatherfield. And like most soaps, storylines include marriages, births, deaths, re-marriages, disasters and the occasional murder mystery. But Corrie also happens to feature three-dimensional and relatable characters, as well as playful humor that have kept it thriving for over half a century.

#6: “South Park” (1997-)

The brainchild of Matt Stone and Trey Parker, this Comedy Central cartoon may be animated but it’s definitely for adult eyes only. A show about four young friends who live in a quiet little mountain town, “South Park” doesn’t sound ripe for biting political satire – but it is. Never afraid to cross the line, talk taboos, skewer celebs or make a point, the creators of this award-winning black comedy satire love holding a mirror up to their viewers to say “society, you’re being an idiot.”

#5: “Saturday Night Live” (1975-)

Premiering in the golden age of TV variety shows, Lorne Michaels’ “SNL” is the last remaining holdover of the era. Filmed live from New York with a different host and musical guest each new episode, the show has changed and evolved with the times, bringing in new cast talent every few years to keep the show fresh, interesting and relevant. Known for their political satire, celebrity impersonations and original characters, and for launching the careers of multiple comedy greats, the award-winning “SNL” still hasn’t gone out of style.

#4: “Sesame Street” (1969-)

Created specifically to be addictive but also educational, this PBS program has been entertaining and teaching children for generations. Nicknamed the “longest street in the world” because of its global audience, many tykes knew their ABCs and 123s way before kindergarten thanks to Big Bird, Bert & Ernie, and the rest of Jim Henson’s Muppets. With songs, humor, lessons and pop culture jokes thrown in, “Sesame Street” set the standard for educational children’s programming – and has won over 150 Emmys in the process.

#3: “Gunsmoke” (1955-75)

Derived from a radio Western of the same name, this TV mainstay follows Matt Dillon, U.S. Marshal to Dodge City, Kansas as he tries to keep his town clean of crime. With the simple mission to try to use his head before reaching for his gun, Marshal Dillon grew from a strong young hero to a seasoned veteran over the show’s 20-years. Running for 635-episodes, “Gunsmoke” was America’s longest running, dramatic, live-action, primetime series. And of course, its personal stamp of approval from Western hero John Wayne didn’t hurt.

#2: “The Simpsons” (1989-)

With over 25 seasons and 550 episodes in the can, as well as a big screen blockbuster and more merchandise than you can shake a stick at, Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie have ceased to be just a TV show; they’re an empire. The longest running scripted show on U.S. television, Matt Groening’s “The Simpsons” parodies middle class American life in a way only cartoons can, and has pervaded pop culture like few shows before or since. Don’t believe us? Just look up “d’oh” in the dictionary.

Before we change the channel to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “WWE Raw” (1993-)
- “Bonanza” (1959-73)
- “Dallas” (1978-91)
- “Murder, She Wrote” (1984-96)
- “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” (2000-)

#1: “Doctor Who” (1963-89; 2005-)

Who knew the secret to TV longevity was a time-traveling alien in a British police box? Following the various incarnations of a humanoid extra-terrestrial that fights all manner of foreign foes, this sci-fi classic has transcended its BBC origins to find fans the world over. A cult favorite and a Guinness World Record holder for world’s longest running sci-fi series, “Doctor Who” changes with the times by bringing in a new lead actor every few series. But the themes of adventure, helping others and righting wrongs remain constant.

Do you agree with our list? Which long running TV show is your favorite? For more entertaining top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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