25 Longest-Running TV Shows Ever, Ranked By Duration
Some shows have been running so long that even your grandparents remember watching them. From children’s shows to daytime television, there are plenty of examples of series that have kept trucking along down through the decades, becoming icons in their own right as some of the longest-running TV shows in the world.
Updated on January 26th, 2023 by Jordan Iacobucci: Some television series simply refuse to be taken off the air, with certain programs managing to rack up some truly impressive tenures in their historic runs. As 2023 starts, there are many series that will continue to add to their ever-growing number of years on the air, including some that are approaching a whopping seven decades since their inception.
Captain Kangaroo – 29 Years
1955 – 1984
Captain Kangaroo is a children’s television program that began airing in 1955. The series was conceived as an educational and entertaining variety show starring its creator, Bob Keeshan, who played the eponymous character of Captain Kangaroo, as well as several other characters in the show.
Captain Kangaroo aired for nearly thirty years, coming to an end in 1984 after over 6,000 episodes. At the time that it came to an end, it was the longest-running children’s program in the history of television, though other series have since surpassed this record. Even after its ending, the series has enjoyed many reruns over the decades, some of which have even included new content.
The Simpsons – 34 Years
1989 – Present
This animated family has slogged through the decades unabated, and given multiple generations a reason to laugh. The Simpsons originally began on The Tracey Ullman Show as a series of short sketches in 1987, before entering syndication as a full-fledged series in ’89 and becoming one of the longest-running TV shows in the world for the realm of animation.
First, the talk of high school kids enveloped in Bartmania, the show soon branched out to adults who appreciated its sarcastic humor and mature storylines. The show would inspire future animated franchises like Family Guy and South Park, both of which have enjoyed very long runs. And, with over thirty seasons in the can, The Simpsons shows no signs of stopping.
Columbo – 35 Years
1968 – 2003
Columbo is an American detective drama starring Peter Falk as the titular crime-solver. The series first aired a pair of pilot episodes in 1968 and 1971, respectively, before finally receiving a full-series order. The show was hailed as a first of its kind for ditching the mystery portion of similar series, showing the audience each killer at the beginning of the episode and instead focusing on how the perpetrator is then caught.
After enjoying several decades on the air, Columbo stopped premiering new episodes on a regular basis in 1990. Over the next thirteen years, the series would instead air longer television specials in place of typical episodes. Because of its unusual and at times sporadic airing habits, Columbo has only 69 episodes despite being one of the longest-running detective dramas in history.
Search For Tomorrow – 35 Years
1951 – 1986
Search for Tomorrow is an American soap opera that began its run in 1951. The series followed the life of Joanne Gardner, who was portrayed by Mary Stuart throughout all thirty-five seasons of the long-running drama.
This soap opera came to an end in 1986 after over 9,000 episodes, and several Daytime Emmy wins. The show also featured several appearances from actors who have since become well-known for other works, including Kevin Bacon, Jane Krakowski, Kevin Conroy, and more.
The Bold And The Beautiful – 36 Years
1987 – Present
Beginning its long television tenure in 1987, The Bold and the Beautiful is a series set in the same world as another of the longest-running soap operas, The Young and the Restless. This companion series follows the Forrester family and their many dramatic endeavors over the course of several decades.
Like its sister series The Bold and the Beautiful continues to produce new episodes to this day, having already aired over 8,000 episodes. In that time, the series has won numerous awards, including several Daytime Emmys, and has had appearances from Denise Richards, Betty White, Wayne Brady, Morgan Fairchild, and many other notable stars.
Another World – 35 Years
1964 – 1999
Another World was one of the early casualties of the downfall of daytime soap operas in the United States. The soap aired on NBC starting in 1964 and remained on the air for 8,891 episodes before it ended in 1999. What made this soap different was that it didn’t focus on domestic life but on differences between families in different social classes.
The soap was important as it was one of the first ones to talk about abortion when the subject matter was considered taboo. It also was the first soap to have a crossover event with another soap – Guiding Light. Notable actors on the show include Scott Bakula, Christine Baranski, Marcia Cross, and Morgan Freeman.
Casualty – 37 Years
1986 – Present
When people in the United States look at Grey’s Anatomy, it is often hard to believe it has been on the air for 19 years. However, while that is record-breaking for medical dramas in the U.S., it is nothing compared to the U.K. When it comes to primetime medical dramas, the longest-running TV show in the world is Casualty.
Starting this run in 1986, Casualty takes place at the fictional Holby City Hospital, following the staff and patients at the hospital. The show is so popular that it also spawned four spin-off series over the years and has won several awards.
EastEnders – 38 Years
1985 – Present
EastEnders is a British soap opera that has aired in the U.K. since 1985. Airing on BBC One, the show is set in a fictional borough in the East End of London and follows the local residents and their families. It aired two 30-minute episodes each week, which was moved to three, and then hit five days a week starting in 2001.
This means there have been almost 6,500 episodes over 37 years of production. Not only is it long-lasting, one of the longest-running TV shows in the world, but it is an important part of British television, tackling difficult and taboo subject matters.
Late Night – 41 Years
1982 – Present
Late Night is a talk show that began airing episodes in 1982 with David Letterman as its host. The show offers comedic takes on major news stories, interviews with celebrities, as well as occasional sketches and other creative segments. In its over forty-year history, Late Night has been hosted by David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Fallon, and Seth Meyers, with each host’s tenure often being thought of as a distinct series altogether.
Seth Meyers continues to host Late Night, a position he inherited after departing his role on the even longer-running comedy series, Saturday Night Live. The series itself has aired over 6,000 episodes over the last forty-one years, and will continue for the foreseeable future.
All My Children – 43 Years
1970 – 2013
This popular soap opera debuted in 1970 and ended in 2013, after finding a temporary new home on The Online Network. The show focused on characters living in a fictional Philadelphia suburb and was one of the first daytime soaps to attract a rather large percentage of male viewers, at 30%.
After being canceled by ABC in 2011, the show was picked back up for a short time, dishing out another 40 episodes for a grand total of 10,755, adding to its total in the realm of the longest-running TV shows in the world.
Doctor Who – 44 Years
1963 – 1989, 1996, 2005-Present
Doctor Who‘s adventures have been a staple of British culture ever since the showed debuted in 1963. Renowned for its clever storylines, crazy tech-babble, and a Time Lord who can regenerate his dying body to pave the way for different actors to take the role, Doctor Who would circle the globe as a staple of the fantasy/sci-fi genre.
Classic “Who” ran from 1963 to 1989 before the BBC unceremoniously cut it off at the knees. After a failed revival film in 1996, the franchise remained dormant for another decade until writer Russell T. Davies brought the series back in 2005, continuing the original show’s timeline, rather than opting for a reboot. This helped bring Doctor Who to a whole new generation of families, with “New Who” continuing to air new episodes to this day. And, with Davies back in the showrunner’s chair as the show inches toward its seventieth anniversary, it doesn’t appear that Doctor Who is going anywhere soon.
Top Gear – 46 Years
1977 – Present
Top Gear is a television series that started in 1977 with Jeremy Clarkson and Andy Wilman on BBC. While most Americans are more familiar with the U.S. version, which premiered in 2002, the show in the U.K. has aired since 1977 with over 500 episodes depicting its hosts covering cars of all sorts.
The series didn’t stop in 2002 when BBC canceled the show. The production team instead moved to Channel 5 under the name Fifth Gear and BBC decided to relaunch Top Gear, where it continues to live on to this day as one of the longest-running TV shows in the world when it comes to docuseries.
One Life To Live – 44 Years
1968 – 2012
With more than 11,000 episodes in its 45-year runtime, One Life to Live was one of the most compact daytime shows in TV history. It was also one of the first soap operas to feature such a heavy degree of diversity, breaking the mold of the sole focus on WASP wealthy families.
One Life To Live takes place in the imaginary city of Lianview, a district of Philadelphia. The series frequently centered on the wealthy Lord family, along with the blue-collar Polish American Woleks, the middle-class Irish Catholic Rileys, and the African-American Grays. It came to a conclusion in 2013 after over four decades on television.
Saturday Night Live – 48 Years
1975 – Present
Lorne Michaels brought Saturday Night Live to late-night television back in 1975, and it has soldiered on to this day. The show broke hilarious comedic ground while tackling societal issues including race, class, and politics in a manner that both sides could enjoy.
The show hit its peak in the 1990s thanks to the talents of comedians like Adam Sandler, Norm MacDonald, and Chris Farley. It’s responsible for launching the Hollywood careers of countless comedy personalities from Eddie Murphy, to Chevy Chase. It is still ongoing as one of the longest-running TV shows in the world of sketch comedy.
The Young And The Restless – 50 Years
1973 – Present
After five decades and over 12,000 episodes, this show is still going strong. The sister show of The Bold And The Beautiful initially centered on two principal families: the rich Brooks family and the working-class Fosters.
Subsequent to a succession of changes and departures in the early ‘80s, all the initial characters, excluding Jill Foster, were written off and substituted with the original main families, the Abbotts, and the Williamses. Notwithstanding these alterations, one narrative that has lasted through nearly the series’ full run is the vendetta between Jill Abbott and Katherine Chancellor, the most extensive enmity in American soap operas.
Emmerdale – 51 Years
1972 – Present
One of several British shows to stand among the longest-running series of all time, Emmerdale is a soap opera that dates back to 1972 and still goes on (having reached over 9,000 episodes), considering that it is one of the most beloved daytime dramas in the UK, as well as one of the most popular shows on ITV.
Upon its conception, the show was called Emmerdale Farm (until ’89) and it focused on the Sugden family of farmers who lived in the imaginary village of Emmerdale, Yorkshire. As the years went by, some main characters were killed off and new ones were introduced with more dramatic storylines.
Sesame Street – 54 Years
1969 – Present
After more than 4,500 episodes, Sesame Street is easily one of the – if not the – most beloved children’s show of all time. The show is famous for its descriptions communicated via the routines of Jim Henson’s Muppets, and contains brief films, with comedy, and cultural contextualization.
The show’s purpose is to educate children about the world and relevant social issues in a way that is accessible and holds their attention, but is not demeaning or infantilizing. Some popular segments include “Bert & Ernie”, as well as “Elmo’s World”. Many famous guests have appeared on the show, including Michelle Obama and Lupita Nyong’o.
Sazae-San / サザエさん – 54 Years
1969 – Present
After more than five decades and over 7,500 episodes, this Japanese anime for children holds the Guinness World Record for the longest-running anime TV show in the world. It is based on the manga series of the same name that was written and illustrated by Machiko Hasegawa, one of the first female manga creators.
The show focuses on Sazae Fuguta who lives with her husband Masuo and her family, as they navigate life in post-WWI Japan with humor and love. Sazae was quite a liberated woman who did not care about what society thought because Machiko wanted her to reflect the then-contemporary Japanese young woman.
As The World Turns – 54 Years
1956 – 2010
Following nearly 14,000 episodes, this show was taken off the air in 2010 due to its ongoing drop in ratings. Irna Phillips came up with As the World Turns as a spin-off show to her previous soap opera Guiding Light. The initial core family was the Hugheses, all medical and legal professionals or clergy (this became quite typical in soap operas later on).
The show moved on a very slow pace and was reluctant to introduce many new characters, as well as dabble with sensitive issues, something which earned it the reputation of being considerably conservative, despite it being one of the longest-running TV shows in the world. Helen Wagner was on the show for over 50 years, one of the longest-running characters in TV history.
Days Of Our Lives – 58 Years
1965 – Present
The popularity of Days of Our Lives was not only the result of good old-fashioned soap opera recipes that attract audiences but also of the hilarious – but still positive in the outcome – marketing that it received from the most celebrated sitcom ever, Friends.
In its 14,000-episode run, many different cast members and characters have come and gone through its years as one of the longest-running TV shows in the world. However, in the beginning, the series focused on the misfortunes and victories of the affluent Horton family. Initially led by paterfamilias Dr. Tom Horton and his wife, housewife Alice, the Hortons persist as a major feature in the current narrative.