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Primetime TV shows that stood the test of time

  • Embassy Television
    1/ Embassy Television

    Primetime TV shows that stood the test of time

    Why does it seem like some shows are always on television? You know, the ones that never stop airing reruns—“Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” or "Friends," just to name a couple. If one channel-surfs long enough, they’re sure to find those shows on some network. The phenomenon is even more common with programs that aired for several seasons—after all, “M*A*S*H” has a lot more episodes than a show that’s currently on-air.

    To find out which programs kept viewers hooked season after season, Stacker consulted Wikipedia’s list of the longest-running scripted primetime TV shows. The following 45 shows with 10 seasons or more were ranked from most to least seasons. In the event of a tie, Stacker used the number of episodes as a tiebreaker. Read on to discover which beloved '90s sitcom, adult animated program, crime procedural, and golden oldie made the list. You might even find something new to add to your Netflix queue.

    RELATED: Click here to see the best crime TV shows of all time.

  • Robbins Productions
    2/ Robbins Productions

    #45. Smallville

    Number of seasons: 10

    Number of episodes: 218

    Network: WB (2001–2006), CW (2006–2011)

    First air date: Oct. 16, 2001

    Last air date: May 13, 2011

    This show hones in on Clark Kent’s origin story in the tiny town of Smallville, Kan. Over 10 seasons, viewers follow local wonderboy Kent (Tom Welling) as he learns to harness his penchant for heroic acts and superhuman strength.

  • Paramount Network Television Productions
    3/ Paramount Network Television Productions

    #44. JAG

    Number of seasons: 10

    Number of episodes: 226

    Network: NBC (1995–1996), CBS (1997–2005)

    First air date: Sept. 1, 1995

    Last air date: April 29, 2005

    The crime procedural gets a military spin in “JAG,” which follows Commander Harmon Rabb, Jr. (David James Elliott) and Lieutenant Colonel Sarah MacKenzie (Catherine Bell). Together, they investigate crimes committed by Navy and Marine personnel for the U.S. Navy's Judge Advocate General's office.  

     

  • CBS Paramount Network Television
    4/ CBS Paramount Network Television

    #43. CSI: Miami

    Number of seasons: 10

    Number of episodes: 232

    Network: CBS

    First air date: Sept. 23, 2002

    Last air date: April 8, 2012

    Although this spinoff of “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” didn’t last as long as its predecessor, it still had a massive 10-season, 232-episode run. David Caruso plays enigmatic Lieutenant Horatio Caine in this sun-drenched crime show.

     

  • Warner Bros. Television
    5/ Warner Bros. Television

    #42. Friends

    Number of seasons: 10

    Number of episodes: 236

    Network: NBC

    First air date: Sept. 22, 1994

    Last air date: May 6, 2004

    This beloved sitcom set in New York City chronicles the lives of six 20-something friends: Monica (Courteney Cox), Rachel (Jennifer Aniston), Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow), Chandler (Matthew Perry), Joey (Matt LeBlanc), and Ross (David Schwimmer). Romance, surprises, heartbreak, struggle, and all kinds of hilarious misadventures occur over the 10-season series.  

     

  • Warner Bros. Television
    6/ Warner Bros. Television

    #41. Murphy Brown

    Number of seasons: 10

    Number of episodes: 247

    Network: CBS

    First air date: Nov. 14, 1988

    Last air date: May 18, 1998

    In this CBS sitcom, Candice Bergen plays a recovering alcoholic who returns to her career as a broadcast journalist after leaving the Betty Ford Clinic. A 13-episode revival of the series is set to air during the 2018–2019 season.

     

  • Theatre Guild
    7/ Theatre Guild

    #40. The United States Steel Hour

    Number of seasons: 10

    Number of episodes: 253

    Network: ABC (1953–1955), CBS (1955–1963)

    First air date: Oct. 27, 1953

    Last air date: June 12, 1963

    The United States Steel Corporation sponsored this anthology series that presented more than 200 live plays during its 10-season run. The series also won three Emmy Awards during its time on the air.

     

  • Fair Dinkum Productions
    8/ Fair Dinkum Productions

    #39. Beverly Hills, 90210

    Number of seasons: 10

    Number of episodes: 293

    Network: Fox

    First air date: Oct. 4, 1990

    Last air date: May 17, 2000

    “Beverly Hills, 90210” follows the lives of high school students growing up in the ritzy Los Angeles neighborhood. In addition to the usual teenage themes of first love and growing up, the show also covered issues of the day like the South African apartheid, the AIDS epidemic, and teen pregnancy.

     

  • MCA Television
    9/ MCA Television

    #38. General Electric Theater

    Number of seasons: 10

    Number of episodes: 302

    Network: NBC

    First air date: Feb. 1, 1953

    Last air date: June 3, 1962

    Like “The United States Steel Hour,” this anthology series also got its name from a corporate sponsor. Ronald Reagan hosted each episode, though the actors and subject matter changed every week.

     

  • 20th Century Fox Television
    10/ 20th Century Fox Television

    #37. The X-Files

    Number of seasons: 11

    Number of episodes: 210

    Network: Fox

    First air date: Sept. 10, 1993

    Last air date: March 21, 2018

    This science fiction drama about agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully was so popular, it was revived in 2016 and 2018 after a 15-year hiatus. Though some fans are hoping for future seasons, Gillian Anderson has said that the 2018 finale will be her last work on “The X-Files.”

     

  • Spelling Television
    11/ Spelling Television

    #36. 7th Heaven

    Number of seasons: 11

    Number of episodes: 243

    Network: WB (1996–2006), CW (2006–2007)

    First air date: Aug. 26, 1996

    Last air date: May 13, 2007

    The whole family could tune into this drama about a reverend and his wife Annie (Catherine Hicks), their seven children, and their dog, Happy. Often, the show offered teachable moments about real-life issues, from drug use to dating to gangs.

     

  • Embassy Television
    12/ Embassy Television

    #35. The Jeffersons

    Number of seasons: 11

    Number of episodes: 253

    Network: CBS

    First air date: Jan. 18, 1975

    Last air date: June 25, 1985

    This spinoff of “All in the Family” focuses on George (Sherman Hemsley) and Louise Jefferson (Isabel Sanford), an African-American couple who move from Queens to Manhattan after their dry cleaning business becomes especially successful. The Jeffersons’ relationships with their new neighbors become a central part of the plot.  

     

  • Henderson Productions
    13/ Henderson Productions

    #34. Happy Days

    Number of seasons: 11

    Number of episodes: 255

    Network: ABC

    First air date: Jan. 15, 1974

    Last air date: Sept. 24, 1984

    Set in Milwaukee, “Happy Days” follows teenager Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard), mother Marion (Marion Ross), father Howard (Tom Bosley), sister Joanie (Erin Moran), and brother Chuck (Gavan O'Herlihy). The Cunninghams’ upstairs neighbor Fonzie (Henry Winkler), a suave ladies’ man, quickly became one of fans’ favorite characters.

     

  • Warner Bros. Television
    14/ Warner Bros. Television

    #33. The Big Bang Theory

    Number of seasons: 11

    Number of episodes: 255

    Network: CBS

    First air date: Sept. 24, 2007

    Last air date: Present

    One of the most successful sitcoms in recent history, “The Big Bang Theory” regularly draws in an average of 19 million viewers per episode—and that number climbs to 26 million for the most popular episodes. Over 11 seasons, fans have watched lovable nerds Leonard (Johnny Galecki), Sheldon (Jim Parsons), Howard (Simon Helberg) and Raj (Kunal Nayyar) navigate tricky social situations with the help of friends and lovers Penny (Kaley Cuoco), Bernadette (Melissa Rauch), and Amy (Mayim Bialik).

     

  • 20th Century Fox Television
    15/ 20th Century Fox Television

    #32. M*A*S*H

    Number of seasons: 11

    Number of episodes: 256

    Network: CBS

    First air date: Sept. 17, 1972

    Last air date: Feb. 28, 1983

    Hawkeye (Alan Alda) and the other officers, doctors, and nurses of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital add a little levity to the Korean War in this military comedy. As it turns out, laughter is actually pretty good medicine.

     

  • Embassy Television
    16/ Embassy Television

    #31. Married... with Children

    Number of seasons: 11

    Number of episodes: 258

    Network: Fox

    First air date: April 5, 1987

    Last air date: June 9, 1997

    As much as viewers love seeing idyllic TV families, watching less-than-perfect characters bumble through everyday situations can be even more satisfying. That’s definitely the case with “Married… with Children,” which focuses on struggling shoe salesman Al Bundy (Ed O’Neill), his wife Peggy (Katey Sagal), their daughter Kelly (Christina Applegate), and their son Bud (David Faustino).

     

  • Grub Street Productions
    17/ Grub Street Productions

    #30. Frasier

    Number of seasons: 11

    Number of episodes: 264

    Network: NBC

    First air date: Sept. 16, 1993

    Last air date: May 13, 2004

    In this “Cheers” spinoff, Kelsey Grammer plays Dr. Frasier Crane, a successful psychiatrist who moves home to Seattle for a fresh start. He lives with his salt-of-the-earth father Martin (John Mahoney) and reconnects with his younger brother Niles (David Hyde Pierce).

     

  • Paramount Television
    18/ Paramount Television

    #29. Cheers

    Number of seasons: 11

    Number of episodes: 275

    Network: NBC

    First air date: Sept. 30, 1982

    Last air date: May 20, 1993

    The relationships between the employees and regulars at a Boston watering hole form the basis for this long-running sitcom. The theme song, "Where Everybody Knows Your Name," was also universally beloved.

     

  • CBS Television // Wikicommons
    19/ CBS Television // Wikicommons

    #28. The Danny Thomas Show

    Number of seasons: 11

    Number of episodes: 344

    Network: ABC (1953–1957), CBS (1957–1964)

    First air date: Sept. 29, 1953

    Last air date: April 27, 1964

    Also known as “Make Room for Daddy,” this show follows nightclub singer Danny Williams (Danny Thomas) as he attempts to balance his career with his family. Many of the family-friendly episodes end with a song by Danny or one of the children.

     

  • J. Walter Thompson Agency
    20/ J. Walter Thompson Agency

    #27. Kraft Television Theatre

    Number of seasons: 11

    Number of episodes: 525

    Network: NBC

    First air date: May 7, 1947

    Last air date: Oct. 1, 1958

    This commercially sponsored anthology series also presented live television dramas and launched the careers of countless playwrights and actors. Kraft used the opportunity to promote its new product, McLaren's Imperial Cheese, and within the week, the cheese had sold out everywhere in New York City.

     

  • 20th Century Fox Television
    21/ 20th Century Fox Television

    #26. Bones

    Number of seasons: 12

    Number of episodes: 246

    Network: FOX

    First air date: Sept. 13, 2005

    Last air date: March 28, 2017

    Unlike many other crime procedurals, “Bones” has more of a scientific bent. The series centers on forensic anthropologist Dr. Temperance "Bones" Brennan (Emily Deschanel) and FBI special agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) as they solve murders together.

     

  • 20th Century Fox Television
    22/ 20th Century Fox Television

    #25. NYPD Blue

    Number of seasons: 12

    Number of episodes: 261

    Network: ABC

    First air date: Sept. 21, 1993

    Last air date: March 1, 2005

    Yet another police procedural drama makes the list at #25. As the name implies, “NYPD Blue” follows members of the 15th Precinct detective squad as they solve crimes and work through their personal struggles.

     

  • Warner Bros. Television
    23/ Warner Bros. Television

    #24. Two and a Half Men

    Number of seasons: 12

    Number of episodes: 262

    Network: CBS

    First air date: Sept. 22, 2003

    Last air date: Feb. 19, 2015

    After Alan Harper (Jon Cryer) gets divorced, he and his young son Jake (Angus T. Jones) move in with Alan’s hedonistic bachelor brother Charlie (Charlie Sheen). The comedy series follows Charlie’s string of one-night stands, Alan’s misadventures with dating as a divorcee, Jake’s growing up, and the relationship between all three Harper men and the mens' domineering mother (Holland Taylor).

     

  • Universal Television
    24/ Universal Television

    #23. Murder, She Wrote

    Number of seasons: 12

    Number of episodes: 264

    Network: CBS

    First air date: Sept. 1, 1984

    Last air date: May 19, 1996

    Angela Lansbury plays mystery writer and former high school teacher Jessica Fletcher in this charming series. Fletcher seems to encounter crime and murder everywhere she turns in the small town of Cabot Cove, Maine, and uses her natural aptitude for solving puzzles to sleuth out clues.  

     

  • CBS Television Network
    25/ CBS Television Network

    #22. Hawaii Five-O

    Number of seasons: 12

    Number of episodes: 279

    Network: CBS

    First air date: Sept. 26, 1968

    Last air date: April 26, 1980

    Crime happens everywhere—even on the sunny shores of Honolulu, where “Hawaii Five-O” is set. Island detectives Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord), Chin Ho Kelly (Kam Fong), Kono Kalakaua (Zulu), and Danny Williams (James MacArthur) of “Book ‘Em, Danno” fame combat organized crime, uncover secret agents, and arrest countless other criminals over the 12-season series.

     

  • CBS Television Network
    26/ CBS Television Network

    #21. My Three Sons

    Number of seasons: 12

    Number of episodes: 380

    Network: ABC (1960–1965), CBS (1965–1972)

    First air date: Sept. 29, 1960

    Last air date: April 13, 1972

    This family sitcom from the 1960s follows widower Steve Douglas (Fred MacMurray) as he attempts to raise three boys: Mike (Tim Considine), Robbie (Don Grady), and Chip (Stanley Livingston). Housekeeper “Uncle Charley” (William Demarest) lends a hand, as does Steve’s father-in-law, Bub (William Frawley).

     

  • 3 Arts Entertainment
    27/ 3 Arts Entertainment

    #20. King of the Hill

    Number of seasons: 13

    Number of episodes: 259

    Network: Fox

    First air date: Jan. 12, 1997

    Last air date: Sept. 13, 2009

    One of a handful of animated series on this list, “King of the Hill” was thought up by “Beavis and Butt-Head” creator Mike Judge, who also voices main character Hank Hill. Hank’s home life with wife Peggy (Kathy Najimy), son Bobby (Pamela Adlon), and live-in niece Luann (Brittany Murphy) is the focus of the show.  

     

  • Warner Bros. Television
    28/ Warner Bros. Television

    #19. Supernatural

    Number of seasons: 13

    Number of episodes: 287

    Network: WB (2005–2006), CW (2006–)

    First air date: Sept. 13, 2005

    Last air date: Present

    Brothers Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) were motivated to hunt all things supernatural after their mother was killed by an evil spirit during their childhood. After their father dies on a crusade to find their mother’s murderer, the boys become even more determined to continue their quest.

     

  • Touchstone Television
    29/ Touchstone Television

    #18. Criminal Minds

    Number of seasons: 13

    Number of episodes: 299

    Network: CBS

    First air date: Sept. 22, 2005

    Last air date: Present

    The creepiest of all crime procedurals, “Criminal Minds” follows the members of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit as they investigate and catch some of the most devious rapists, murderers, and other criminals. Though characters have come and gone over 13 seasons, the BAU’s mission remains the same.

     

  • Shondaland
    30/ Shondaland

    #17. Grey's Anatomy

    Number of seasons: 14

    Number of episodes: 317

    Network: ABC

    First air date: March 27, 2005

    Last air date: Present

    The first season of this successful Shonda Rhimes drama hones in on surgical interns and medical staff, including main character Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo). Grisly accidents, medical miracles, sordid love triangles, and plenty of twists and turns have made the series irresistible to viewers for 14 seasons and counting.

     

  • CBS
    31/ CBS

    #16. Knots Landing

    Number of seasons: 14

    Number of episodes: 344

    Network: CBS

    First air date: Dec. 27, 1979

    Last air date: May 13, 1993

    This evening soap opera focuses on five families living in the fictional coastal California town of Knots Landing. A spinoff of “Dallas,” “Knots Landing” became just as successful as the original show.

     

  • Lorimar Productions
    32/ Lorimar Productions

    #15. Dallas

    Number of seasons: 14

    Number of episodes: 357

    Network: CBS

    First air date: April 2, 1978

    Last air date: May 3, 1991

    Texas oil baron J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) will do whatever he needs to get what he wants—both in business and pleasure. This soap opera chronicled the lives of Ewing and other wealthy Texas families, from shady business deals to personal drama.  

     

  • Talent Associates
    33/ Talent Associates

    #14. Armstrong Circle Theatre

    Number of seasons: 14

    Number of episodes: 370

    Network: NBC (1950–1957), CBS (1957–1963)

    First air date: June 6, 1950

    Last air date: June 5, 1963

    This anthology series alternated weekly with “The United States Steel Hour,” focusing on documentary dramas based on true stories rather than works of fiction. Manufacturing company Armstrong World Industries sponsored the series.

     

  • NBC
    34/ NBC

    #13. Bonanza

    Number of seasons: 14

    Number of episodes: 431

    Network: NBC

    First air date: Sept. 12, 1959

    Last air date: Jan. 16, 1973

    “Bonanza” gives viewers a taste of the Wild West through the adventures of the Cartwright family on their thousand-square mile ranch in Virginia City, Nev. Three-time widow Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene) is the patriarch, and his relationships with his three sons Adam (Pernell Roberts), Eric (Dan Blocker), and Little Joe (Michael Landon) form the backbone of the series.

     

  • Stage Five Productions
    35/ Stage Five Productions

    #12. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet

    Number of seasons: 14

    Number of episodes: 435

    Network: ABC

    First air date: Oct. 3, 1952

    Last air date: April 23, 1966

    This long-running sitcom stood out from the back by casting the real-life Nelson family to play themselves. Viewers watched as parents Ozzie and Harriet, and their two sons David and Eric dealt with issues pulled from their real lives, including the dates and eventual marriages of the boys.  

     

  • 20th Century Fox Television
    36/ 20th Century Fox Television

    #11. American Dad!

    Number of seasons: 15

    Number of episodes: 247

    Network: Fox (2005–2014), TBS (2014–)

    First air date: Feb. 6, 2005

    Last air date: Present

    The star of this animated series is Stan Smith (Seth MacFarlane), a CIA agent who is constantly on the lookout for terrorists who might want to harm his beloved country. The Smith household includes Stan’s wife Francine (Wendy Schaal), daughter Hayley (Rachael MacFarlane), son Steve (Scott Grimes), talking goldfish Klaus (Dee Bradley Baker), and sarcastic space alien Roger (Seth MacFarlane).

  • CBS
    37/ CBS

    #10. The Jack Benny Program

    Number of seasons: 15

    Number of episodes: 260

    Network: CBS (1950–1964), NBC (1964–1965)

    First air date: Oct. 28, 1950

    Last air date: April 16, 1965

    After a successful career in radio, comedian Jack Benny made the leap to TV with his eponymous program in 1950. The show employed the same situational comedy that worked so well on the radio and used a varied cast of characters. Interestingly, Benny himself always remained 39 years old on the show—even though it aired for 15 seasons.

     

  • NBC
    38/ NBC

    #9. ER

    Number of seasons: 15

    Number of episodes: 331

    Network: NBC

    First air date: Sept. 19, 1994

    Last air date: April 2, 2009

    Creator Michael Crichton turned Chicago’s County General Hospital into the setting of countless dramas on this long-running TV show. Big-name actors like George Clooney and Julianna Margulies starred in “ER.”  

     

  • CBS Productions
    39/ CBS Productions

    #8. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation

    Number of seasons: 15

    Number of episodes: 335

    Network: CBS

    First air date: Oct. 6, 2000

    Last air date: Feb. 15, 2015

    The original “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” set in Las Vegas, aired for 15 years and went through a few main characters. Originally, the series hinged on forensic entomologist Gil Grissom (William Petersen), but Grissom eventually retires and D.B. Russell (Ted Danson) becomes the main character.  

     

  • Belisarius Productions
    40/ Belisarius Productions

    #7. NCIS

    Number of seasons: 15

    Number of episodes: 354

    Network: CBS

    First air date: Sept. 23, 2003

    Last air date: Present

    Though similar to other police procedural shows, “NCIS” is about investigators in the Naval Criminal Investigative Service who investigate crimes involving the Navy or Marine Corps. This 15-season-strong show stars Mark Harmon as Leroy Jethro Gibbs, David McCallum as Donald Mallard, Pauley Perrette as Abby Sciuto, Sean Murray as Timothy McGee, and Michael Weatherly as Anthony DiNozzo.

     

  • 20th Century Fox
    41/ 20th Century Fox

    #6. Family Guy

    Number of seasons: 16

    Number of episodes: 309

    Network: Fox

    First air date: Jan. 31, 1999

    Last air date: Present

    Animator and comedian Seth MacFarlane’s first long-running animated series is “Family Guy,” a series about a dysfunctional family in an off-the-wall Rhode Island town. MacFarlane voices both patriarch Peter Griffin and family dog Brian, while Alex Borstein plays wife Lois, Mila Kunis takes the role of daughter Meg, and Seth Green voices son Chris.

     

  • Lassie Television
    42/ Lassie Television

    #5. Lassie

    Number of seasons: 17

    Number of episodes: 591

    Network: CBS

    First air date: Sept. 12, 1954

    Last air date: March 21, 1971

    Viewers apparently find heroic dogs irresistible, since “Lassie” ran for a whopping 17 seasons. Though Lassie has several different owners over the course of the series, she always comes to the aid of those around her, doing everything from fighting forest fires to rescuing little boys.

     

     

  • Wolf Films
    43/ Wolf Films

    #4. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

    Number of seasons: 19

    Number of episodes: 434

    Network: NBC

    First air date: Sept. 20, 1999

    Last air date: Present

    With 20 seasons and counting, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” has some seriously enduring popular appeal. The series follows Detective Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and her team of NYPD detectives as they investigate some of the most heinous crimes in the city.

     

  • NBC Universal Television
    44/ NBC Universal Television

    #3. Law & Order

    Number of seasons: 20

    Number of episodes: 456

    Network: NBC

    First air date: Sept. 13, 1990

    Last air date: May 24, 2010

    The character of Olivia Benson originated on the original “Law & Order,” which follows both the investigation of a crime and its prosecution in court. The subject matter for episodes is routinely ripped from the headlines; crimes discussed on the show include ones similar to former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s entanglement in a prostitution ring, and the Casey Anthony murder trial.

     

  • CBS
    45/ CBS

    #2. Gunsmoke

    Number of seasons: 20

    Number of episodes: 635

    Network: CBS

    First air date: Sept. 10, 1955

    Last air date: March 31, 1975

    “Gunsmoke” combines the rough-and-tumble attitude of a Western with the drama of a crime procedural for a show that’s just as addictive in reruns as it was when it first aired. Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness) keeps the peace in Dodge City, where he frequently has to deal with bar brawls, cattle rustling, land fraud, and other illegal activity.  

     

  • 20th Century Fox Television
    46/ 20th Century Fox Television

    #1. The Simpsons

    Number of seasons: 29

    Number of episodes: 639

    Network: Fox

    First air date: Dec. 17, 1989

    Last air date: Present

    The longest-running primetime TV show is “The Simpsons,” which has aired a whopping 639 episodes to-date. The satirical animated series about the antics of the Simpson family—father Homer (Dan Castellaneta), mother Marge (Julie Kavner), son Bart (Nancy Cartwright), daughter Lisa (Yeardley Smith), and baby Maggie (Nancy Cartwright)—is still going strong.

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