Need Something to Watch? Try One of the 16 Longest-Running TV Shows of All Time

Within the past two decades, an influx of streaming services like Netflix has completely
changed how we consume entertainment, especially TV shows. Instead of waiting until the following week to discover the fate of your favourite character, full seasons of shows are released all on one day, giving viewers immediate access to binge-watch the show from beginning to end in a matter of hours.

This unlimited access to content has made a significant impact on cable television, with 82% of American households subscribing to a paid video streaming service, according to data from Deloitte. With this increase in competition, primetime TV has struggled to keep up. Despite this, plenty of TV shows have stood the test of time and remained on the air after numerous seasons. If you're overwhelmed by the plethora of original series on Hulu and Prime Video, consider revisiting one of these longest-running scripted TV shows of all time.

Note: This list is limited to US TV shows and does not include soap operas, reality, or true crime shows.

01
The Simpsons (1989-Present)
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The Simpsons (1989-Present)

  • Seasons: 33
  • Episodes: 710+ (Ongoing)

With well over 700 episodes, The Simpsons is the longest-running scripted primetime TV series. It centres around the hilariously dysfunctional Simpson family — consisting of father Homer, mother Marge, and kids Bart, Lisa, and Maggie — as they navigate the monotony of everyday life.

02
Law & Order: SVU (1999-Present)
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Law & Order: SVU (1999-Present)

  • Seasons: 23
  • Episodes: 500+ (Ongoing)

A spinoff of the original series, Law and Order: SVU (an acronym for Special Victims Unit) began following Detectives Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) and Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay), along with other law enforcement officers, as they investigate crimes of sexual nature (the unit additionally investigates crimes that involve the elderly, disabled, and young children). Over the course of over 500 episodes, the cast has changed drastically, with Meloni exiting the series after season 12 (albeit not the Law & Order franchise altogether). But two cast members who have stuck around for the long haul are Hargitay and Ice-T as Detective Odafin "Fin" Tutuola.

03
Gunsmoke (1955-1975)
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Gunsmoke (1955-1975)

  • Seasons: 20
  • Episodes: 635

Historic TV series often appeal to several generations, made evident by the longevity of Gunsmoke. Set in the 1870s, the show highlights the daily experiences of Marshall Matt Dillon, who is trying to establish order in the crime-ridden Dodge City.

04
Law & Order (1990-2010)
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Law & Order (1990-2010)

  • Seasons: 20
  • Episodes: 456

The original series that inspired several spinoffs dives into the lives of NYPD detectives and the crimes they investigate, along with the legal proceedings that follow. Even if you're not a huge fan of the show, the impact of its legacy is undeniable, down to its iconic opening theme, "These are their stories . . . "

05
Family Guy (1999-Present)
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Family Guy (1999-Present)

  • Seasons: 20
  • Episodes: 380+ (Ongoing)

Alongside The Simpsons, Family Guy is perhaps the most popular adult animated series of all time, with nearly 400 episodes in the can. The Griffin family — led by father Peter, mother Lois, and their children Meg, Chris, and Stewie (plus their dog Brian) — try to live normal lives but always seem to be in the middle of some kind of chaos.

06
Lassie (1954-1971)
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Lassie (1954-1971)

  • Seasons: 19
  • Episodes: 591

For a good portion of the late 20th century, Lassie was America's Dog. The lovable series recounts the everyday adventures of Lassie (a Collie) and boys Jeff and Timmy Martin. Even if you've never seen Lassie, you most likely know of the show's influence through pop culture references or the famous quote, "Lassie, come home!"

07
NCIS (2003-Present)
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NCIS (2003-Present)

  • Seasons: 19
  • Episodes: 420+ (Ongoing)

Similar to Law & Order, NCIS combines the perfect amount of drama with crime to make for an entertaining series. Across over 400 episodes, the show centres around special agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service as they deal with day-to-day crime cases. Due to its popularity, NCIS now has several spinoff series, including NCIS: Los Angeles, NCIS: New Orleans, and NCIS: Hawaii.

08
Grey's Anatomy (2005-Present)
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Grey's Anatomy (2005-Present)

  • Seasons: 18
  • Episodes: 380+ (Ongoing)

In terms of popular TV show genres, nothing can compete with medical dramas. Grey's Anatomy follows a group of interns and residents at Seattle Grace Hospital as they study to become doctors, all while balancing steamy flings, workplace relationships, and personal issues. Grey's has aired 388 episodes as of the date of publication and was renewed for a 19th season in January 2022.

09
American Dad! (2005-Present)
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American Dad! (2005-Present)

  • Seasons: 18
  • Episodes: 300+ (Ongoing)

Touching on the absurdity of US cultural norms and standards, American Dad! uses humour and complex characters to relate to viewers and entertain them at the same time. Lovers of animated adult humour shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy typically like American Dad!, which centres around the life of father Stan Smith, mother Francine, children Hayley and Steve, and their pet fish Klaus.

10
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2000-2015)
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CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2000-2015)

  • Seasons: 15
  • Episodes: 337

Detectives in the Las Vegas Police Department Crime Scene Bureau utilise forensic science to track down criminals and solve crime.

11
ER (1994-2009)
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ER (1994-2009)

  • Seasons: 15
  • Episodes: 331

Setting the precedent for complicated medical dramas like Grey's Anatomy, ER centres around the lives of doctors and nurses at County General Hospital in Chicago as they handle the stressful and intense events that happen in the emergency room. The groundbreaking drama served as a launchpad for major stars like George Clooney and Julianna Margulies.

12
Supernatural (2005-2020)
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Supernatural (2005-2020)

  • Seasons: 15
  • Episodes: 327

Extending past the common crime and medical dramas, Supernatural is fantasy based. In the show, brothers Sam and Dean Winchester hunt and battle supernatural creatures of all kinds, including demons and monsters.

13
Criminal Minds (2005-2020)
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Criminal Minds (2005-2020)

  • Seasons: 15
  • Episodes: 324

While crime dramas like Law & Order and NCIS take a more technical approach to handling crime, the characters of Criminal Minds use psychology to solve the most perplexing of criminal cases. The series revolves around investigators in the FBI Behavioural Science Unit. Their goal? To analyse serial killers and establish behavioural patterns and motives to prevent future murders from happening.

14
The Jack Benny Program (1950-1965)
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The Jack Benny Program (1950-1965)

  • Seasons: 15
  • Episodes: 260

A series on both radio and TV, The Jack Benny Program poked fun at comedic entertainer Jack Benny, who played an exaggerated version of himself throughout the show.

15
The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952-1966)
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The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952-1966)

  • Seasons: 14
  • Episodes: 435

Despite featuring real-life family members Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, along with their two sons David and Ricky, the show is a scripted sitcom. It highlights family dynamics while also tackling common life topics like dating and working. The show was the longest-running live-action sitcom before technically getting outrun by It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia in Dec. 2021, per NPR. However, thanks to its astronomical episode count, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet edged out Always Sunny on this list.

16
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (2005-Present)
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It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (2005-Present)

  • Seasons: 15
  • Episodes: 160+ (Ongoing)

Hollywood heavyweight Danny Devito stars in this immensely bingeable sitcom about a group of narcissistic friends who run a bar called Paddy's Pub in — you guessed it — South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.