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50 longest-running TV series to take in while social distancing

  • 50 longest-running TV series

    Broadcast television has experienced exponential growth in its nearly century of existence. From the first flicker of black-and-white programming to a modern, on-demand smorgasbord of color cable channels, television has become an integral part of American life. What started as just a few networks broadcasting over the air has blossomed into a sophisticated menu of hundreds of channels broadcast via satellite and fixed cable connections.

    With this proliferation of content providers has come a huge offering of TV programs. No longer are consumers forced to choose between a few shows running concurrently at prime time. Instead, on-demand, streaming, DVRs, and mobile apps have made choosing and viewing a plethora of shows as easy as clicking a button. Some shows never make it to the network, airing only online. Other shows run on broadcast television and streaming platforms. And while some television programs may come and go in the blink of an eye, others have endured for decades. Amidst the anxieties of stay-at-home orders affecting 97% of Americans right now, many people are turning to their favorite TVshows for solace. To that end, Stacker compiled a list of the longest-running United States television series, ordered by the number of years each show has been on the air.

    The gallery includes only first-run series originating in North America and available throughout the United States via national broadcast networks, cable networks, or syndication. Series continuations—with name changes and/or changes in network—are noted, but series' revivals are treated as separate from the originals, such as "The People's Court" and "Jeopardy!" Series broadcast within the U.S. but produced in other countries, like "Doctor Who" and "Coronation Street," both of which premiered more than half a century ago, were not included.

    Read on for the 50 longest-running TV series.

    Editor's note: During the COVID-19 pandemic, we at Stacker understand the difficult adjustment to isolation as well as the severe impact on many readers' lives and families. We acknowledge this list is not a solution, but do hope it provides at minimum some reprieve.

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  • #50. The Bugs Bunny Show

    - Total length: 40 years
    - Networks: ABC, CBS
    - First broadcast: Oct. 11, 1960
    - Final broadcast: Sept. 2, 2000

    Bugs Bunny is not only the most well-known of the “Looney Tunes” characters—he's among the most celebrated cartoon characters of all time. His stardom was enough to carry an anthology variety show, running as a hallmark of Saturday morning cartoons, for nearly 40 years straight. “The Bugs Bunny Show” is the longest-running cartoon show on broadcast television.

  • #49. NASCAR on CBS

    - Total length: 40 years
    - Network: CBS
    - First broadcast: Feb. 12, 1960
    - Final broadcast: July 15, 2000

    NASCAR ruled the airwaves at CBS for nearly 40 years. The network debuted the first televised NASCAR event in 1960, and viewers tuned in for decades to watch coverage of the popular Winston Cup, Craftsman Truck, and Busch Series races. NASCAR cashed in on its massive popularity in the late '90s by negotiating lucrative broadcasting deals with a number of channels, and CBS' monopoly on the sport ended in 2000.

  • #48. All My Children

    - Total length: 41 years
    - Network: ABC
    - First broadcast: Jan. 5, 1970
    - Final broadcast: Sept. 23, 2011

    Writer Agnes Nixon developed “All My Children” in part as a platform to discuss social issues. The soap opera tackled taboos that other shows were averse to covering, including the Vietnam War in the 1970s and homosexuality in the 1980s. Production company Prospect Park attempted but failed to revive the show for online distribution after its 2011 cancellation.

  • #47. Romper Room/Romper Room & Friends

    - Total length: 41 years
    - Network: Syndicated
    - First broadcast: Feb. 9, 1953
    - Final broadcast: Sept. 1, 1994

    “Romper Room” was one of the earliest programs in the growing genre of children's television, featuring a hostess who led a group of children in several games and activities to teach them about morals, manners, and etiquette. While “Romper Room” was broadcast nationally, there were also several local and international versions of the show.

  • #46. Austin City Limits

    - Total length: 44 years
    - Network: PBS
    - First broadcast: 1976
    - Final broadcast: Ongoing

    “Austin City Limits” is a PBS stalwart featuring performances by Austin, Texas, acts. The show regularly presents music genres such as Texas blues, rock 'n' roll, and country, but has also broadened its scope to include other national and international types of music as well. The show made the claim of being the longest-running music television series in American history.

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  • #45. Creative Living With Sheryl Borden

    - Total length: 44 years
    - Network: Syndicated
    - First broadcast: 1976
    - Final broadcast: Ongoing

    Sheryl Borden hosts this local magazine-formatted crafts show, giving tips about cooking, sewing, and other crafts. Airing since 1976, “Creative Living” is carried by over 118 PBS stations throughout most of the United States and parts of Canada.

  • #44. Live From Lincoln Center

    - Total length: 44 years
    - Network: PBS
    - First broadcast: Jan. 30, 1976
    - Final broadcast: Ongoing

    Since 1976, PBS has aired performances from the world of opera, ballet, and classical music from New York City's renowned Lincoln Center. Currently hosted by the actress and singer Audra McDonald, “Live from Lincoln Center” has won 17 Emmy Awards and countless more nominations. The program, made possible by grants from several trusts and foundations, remains one of PBS' most beloved cornerstones.

  • #43. Good Morning America

    - Total length: 44 years
    - Network: ABC
    - First broadcast: Nov. 3, 1975
    - Final broadcast: Ongoing

    “Good Morning America” (known colloquially as “GMA”) is a breakfast television news show. Hosting the program has often been a stepping stone to more prestigious network news positions, and past anchors like Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer both eventually anchored “World News” on prime time. Today the show is led by Robin Roberts, George Stephanopoulos, and Michael Strahan.

  • #42. PBS NewsHour

    - Total length: 44 years
    - Network: PBS
    - First broadcast: Oct. 20, 1975
    - Final broadcast: Ongoing

    First broadcast in 1975 and currently hosted by Judy Woodruff, “PBS Newshour” is the network's flagship daily news program. Jim Lehrer, who sat in the chair from 1976 until 2011, has been the program's longest-serving anchor. The prestige of the program was recognized when Lehrer was chosen to moderate multiple presidential debates. Gwen Ifill is among the program's most celebrated hosts.

  • #41. Saturday Night Live

    - Total length: 44 years
    - Network: NBC
    - First broadcast: Oct. 11, 1975
    - Final broadcast: Ongoing

    Producer Lorne Michaels changed the sketch comedy and television landscape with “Saturday Night Live,” or “SNL.” Original cast members included Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd with episodes featuring celebrity hosts and musical performances, live and pre-taped sketches, the satirical “Weekend Update” news segment, and famous political impressions, such as Will Ferrell as George W. Bush and Tina Fey as Sarah Palin. Current cast members include Kate McKinnon and Kenan Thompson, and it holds the record as America's longest-running sketch comedy and variety show.

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