What is the longest running TV show?
There are a number of ways to approach this question. The first is the most obvious: duration or number of years. Meet the Press is the clear winner here. It premiered in 1947 and is still airing today, which means it’s been around for a staggering 68 years and counting.
Even if you define “longest running” in terms of actual minutes on the air, Meet the Press still probably comes out on top. From 1947 to 1992, the shows were half an hour long, give or take a few minutes because of ads. After 1992, the show’s length was expanded to an hour. Given that there have been 5100 episodes and counting of Meet the Press, people have spent a lot of minutes and hours watching it.
Another possible criterion is number of episodes. On network TV, the winner is Guiding Light, which had an astounding 14, 409 episodes devoted to it - and that’s if you only count the television episodes. Guiding Light debuted in 1937 as a radio program broadcast by NBC Radio. Over the next 10 years, NBC broadcast 2500 episodes. Then CBS bought the show, and continued to broadcast it as a 15-minute long radio show. In 1952, CBS began airing a televised version of Guiding Light along with the radio program. Guiding Light was both a T.V. show and a radio program for four years, until CBS pulled the plug on the radio program.
So, while 14, 409 television episodes is impressive, if one adds the radio episodes, Guiding Light has broadcast 18,262 episodes. It is also the longest-running soap opera in the U.S. since it aired on television from 1952 to 2009.
A few other shows, however, have aired more episodes. The German news program Tagesschau has aired over 20,000 episodes since its debut in 1952. SportsCenter is a cable sports news program that has aired 90,000 programs since 1979.
Most episodes - Prime Time
Some television genres have also produced shows that either produced an impressive number of episodes or lasted a very long time. Gunsmoke (1955 - 1975) has the distinction of having the most episodes of any scripted prime-time drama with 635 episodes to its name. It is also one of the longest-running prime-time dramas in US television history, and it is also the longest-running Western.
Law & Order (1990 - 2010) tied Gunsmoke in the longevity department, since it also lasted 20 years. The original show had 456 episodes to its name, but Law & Order spawned a television movie, Exiled: A Law & Order Movie and four spin-off series. The oldest of these, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, premiered in 1999 and is still playing. It has produced over 350 episodes so far. Law & Order is also the longest-running legal drama and police procedural in the United States.
The Simpsons premiered in 1989 and is still running. It is therefore both the longest-running animated series and longest-running sitcom. It began life as a collection of shorts in The Tracy Ullman Show in 1987 and became a show in its own right two years later. The longest running live action sitcom is The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952 - 1966).
Longest running shows - all genres
Meet the Press (1947 - now) is the longest-running news and interview program. One of its creators, Martha Rountree, is still the only woman to have been a moderator on the show. CBS Evening News, which premiered a year later, is considered the most durable network newscast. It has also produced over 16,400 episodes.
Today, which is also called The Today Show, is the longest-running morning news and talk show. Since it debuted in 1952, it is also the oldest. In addition, The Today Show is the first show of its genre to appear on TV, both in the US and elsewhere. The Tonight Show, which debuted in 1954, is the longest-running evening talk show, and it has over 11,460 episodes to its name.
NOVA, which premiered in 1974, is the longest-running science program. It is also probably one of the most-watched programs of any type since it is broadcast in over 100 countries. Sesame Street (1969 - now) is the longest-running children’s show. Like NOVA, it is a PBS program and has been since 1970.
Saturday Night Live (1975 - now) is the longest-running variety show. It is also the longest-running sketch comedy show in US history. The Price Is Right (1972 - now) is the longest-running game show - and that’s even if you count only the current version of the show. The original version ran from 1956 to 1965 which means people have been watching some model of The Price Is Right for over 50 years.
The Real World (1992 - now) is the longest running reality show, and it is also the longest running show on MTV. Many people credit or blame it for the modern reality show.
Murder, She Wrote (1984 - 1996) is the longest-lived mystery program. Angela Lansbury, who played the lead, was nominated for 12 Emmy Awards and 10 Golden Globes for her performance on the show. Supernatural (2005 - now) is the longest-running television fantasy and horror series. It has produced a spin-off, Supernatural: Bloodlines and inspired an anime, Supernatural: The Anime Series which plays in Japan. Smallville (2001 - 2011) and Stargate SG-1 (1997 - 2007) both lasted 10 years. Smallville, however, is considered the longest-running science fiction program since it produced 218 episodes to Stargate’s 214. Smallville was about Clark Kent’s adventures before he took on the role of Superman. It was a coming-of-age story that initially depicted Kent as a high school student and later portrayed him as a young adult.