The Longest Running Television Shows

There’s a new sheriff in town and he’s got spiky hair, a bad attitude and probably shouldn’t be trusted with a gun. For many years, the classic western drama “Gunsmoke” held the title for being the longest running scripted prime-time television show, but now Bart Simpson and the rest of his whacked-out family on “The Simpsons” have taken over that top spot.
“The Simpsons,” which first aired in 1990 is currently renewed through at least its 25th season. This show’s many fans, who adore the animated series’ irrelevant and sometimes crude humor and oddly drawn characters, keep the series afloat with still solid ratings. “The Simpsons” also holds the title of longest running prime-time animated television series.

“Gunsmoke,” which ran for 20 years from 1955 to 1975 on CBS now stands in second place on the list of longest running television shows that were scripted and that aired during prime-time. This western drama was based on a radio show that ran from 1952 to 1961, and featured a number of actors who would become house-hold names, including Burt Reynolds, Dennis Weaver and James Arness.

However, the beloved series, which centered on life in Dodge City, Kansas, no longer stands in second place by itself. NBC’s crime drama “Law & Order,” which first aired in 1990, is now tied with “Gunsmoke” on the list of longest running television shows.

For many years, viewers were hooked on “Law & Order’s” gritty realism and torn-from-the headlines scripts. The acting was typically first-rate on this Emmy-winning show, and it spawned several very popular spinoffs, including “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” and “Law & Order: L.A.”

The much loved series, “Lassie,” which enthralled viewers with its almost human collie star, is third on the list of longest running television shows that are scripted. “Lassie” ran for 18 seasons, beginning in 1973, and featured a number of different dogs playing the starring role. This very popular drama was based on a book, as well as a movie that starred Elizabeth Taylor.

Tied with “Lassie” for third place is “Death Valley Days,” which hit the airwaves in 1952 and ran for 18 seasons. Like “Gunsmoke,” this series was visual comfort food that fed America’s appetite for well-acted dramas about the Old West.

The night-time soap opera, “Knots Landing” is fifth on the list of longest running scripted television shows that aired during prime-time. This spin-off of another night-time soap, “Dallas” first aired in 1979 and ran for 14 seasons. Viewers enjoyed watching this show for its scandalous affairs, beautiful women and handsome men.

Although all of these shows enjoyed really long runs, none of them can compare with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” which has been on the air since 1947 and holds the number one spot for the longest running series, whether scripted or non-scripted. This show, which is currently hosted by David Gregory, is popular with news junkies who want to hear experts expound about current events, the economy and politics.

The daytime soap opera, “The Guiding Light” was the longest running scripted television series that didn’t air during prime-time. This CBS daytime soap first hit the small screens in 1952 and ran until 2009. Before appearing on television, “The Guiding Light” was first a radio show that ran for 15 years. When all of “The Guiding Light’s” television and radio shows are combined, the total number of episodes that have aired of this show number over 18,000.

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