Top 5 Longest-Running TV Shows

Whether you fancy 12-hour Netflix binges or you religiously watch your weekly programs, many of us are more loyal to fictional characters than we are to real people. Perhaps that’s why some TV shows have been running strong for so many years.

Grab your comfiest pair of sweatpants and don’t even bother to shower. Here’s a list of the top five longest-running primetime TV shows that you can still catch on TV:

1. ‘The Simpsons’

Americans have opened their hearts and homes to this satirical, Springfield–based family for 26 seasons. Premiering in 1989, The Simpsons has been running so long that it would take you well over a week to watch every 22-minute episode back to back. Not that you’d be able to stand hearing “d’oh!” every five minutes anyway.

2. ‘South Park’

Another animated comedy that tops the charts, South Park made its debut in 1997 and has been running for a solid 18 seasons. Wildly inappropriate yet extremely funny, this show isn’t leaving the air anytime soon. Fans can expect to see their favorite fourth-grade gang of Stan, Cartman, Kenny and Kyle until at least Season 20. The show’s creators signed a contract with Comedy Central that will take the series through 2016.

3. ‘Law and Order: Special Victims Unit’

As much as Americans are infatuated with television, we are equally, if not more, obsessed with gruesome crimes. Perhaps that’s why Law and Order: SVU has been airing for 16 years. The show has written out its fair share of characters from the script (we miss you, Stabler!), but it has hung on to some other notable, awesome people. For example, did you know Ice-T was originally contracted for only four episodes? According to the Internet Movie Database, the rapper-turned-actor enjoyed the job so much he asked to stay.

4. ‘Family Guy’

Family Guy started in 1999, took a short break in 2003 and began again in 2005. This TV favorite has been running for an impressive 13 seasons. Family Guy follows the dysfunctional Griffin family in a neighborly Rhode Island town, quite similar to The Simpsons. In fact, in 2014, the two iconic shows came together in a dynamic episode called “The Simpsons Guy.”

5. ‘NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigation Service’

Another crime show slides into the No. 5 spot on the list. NCIS has been running for 12 seasons. Despite its recent decline in ratings, NCIS still reigns as the most-watched TV show on network television.

Honorable mentions

There are a few programs that didn’t make the primetime list but have been around since the days we spent Saturday mornings watching cartoons. Check out these honorable mentions:


Remember Ash Ketchum and Pikachu from Pokemon? Well, you can relive fond memories of trading holographic cards of Charizard by turning on the TV. That’s right, after 17 years, these oddball characters are still on the air — and yes, Ash is still 10 years old.

‘Sesame Street’

Educational television just wouldn’t be the same without our favorite Muppet friends. That’s why Big Bird still runs the block on Sesame Street. The show, which was created in 1969, is still on the air after more than four decades.