Think Netflix is too trigger-happy with show cancellations? Back in the day, it was hard enough for a show to survive its initial pilot episode, let alone to last several seasons. There were only a limited number of stations on the air and so many hours in a day to maximize the number of eyeballs on a network and its ads. TV executives were ruthless with show cancellations.
That’s what makes the shows on this list even more extraordinary. Some shows survived that initial fraught period only to lodge themselves so firmly into the cultural psyche that they just kept going and going and going…
Let’s take a look at the longest-running shows of all time.
10 – The Price Is Right
One of the longest-running shows, and the longest-running game show of all time, The Price Is Right has been on the air since 1972. The gameshow sees contestants guess the price of items with the winner scoring themselves cash and prizes to take home for themselves. Still airing today, this show could potentially move its way up on this list as there isn’t any indication of it coming to an end soon.
9 – Emmerdale
There have been plenty of soap operas on the air over the years and the British soapy Emmerdale is one of the longest-running. First airing in 1972, Emmerdale took viewers into the lives of the individuals living within a fictional Yorkshire Dales village called Emmerdale and has since aired thousands of episodes and is still being produced today.
8 – Sesame Street
One of the most prominent shoes on children’s television, many of us would have grown up watching Sesame Street as the series has been on the air for more than 50 years. First airing in 1969, Sesame Street has provided some of the most iconic characters like Big Bird, Elmo, and the Cookie Monster among others. While some aspects of the show have greatly changed over the years, its goals and iconic cast have remained consistent.
7 – Sazae-San
In Japan, one show has remained on-air longer than them all and that is the children’s animated series Sazae-San. The oldest anime series of all time, this show had plenty of lessons to teach children over the past half-century and it remains to be a hit today.
6 – As The World Turns
As the World Turns is a 1956 soap opera that rivaled the other series within the genre present on this list. Airing thousands of episodes, As the World Turns ran for 54 years eventually being taken off air in September of 2010.
5 – Days Of Our Lives
Relatively cheap and easy to shoot and cast for while bringing in big ratings in a traditionally slow daytime slot, soap operas easily dominate a list like this. Days of our Lives series began in 1965 and is still in production today over 56 years later. In its early stages, the show focused around the Horton Family, but over the years the story and characters have evolved greatly.
4 – General Hospital
Beating out Days of our Lives by two years of production, General Hospital initially followed workers on the seventh floor of the titular General Hospital. But as with any good soap, the story has grown into a much broader environment over its current 58 years of runtime.
3 – Coronation Street
Three years before General Hospital made its debut, Coronation Street was the soap opera to watch in Britain. The show is a mix of humor and social commentary displayed through the residents of Coronation Street, a made-up neighborhood somewhere in Manchester.
2 – The Tonight Show
The longest-running show on TV that isn’t a soap opera, The Tonight Show has had a rotating roster of charismatic hosts over the years. Those have included Jack Parr, Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, and currently Jimmy Fallon. Still in production today, there doesn’t look to be an end in sight for this staple of late-night American broadcast television.
1 – Guiding Light
While no longer in production, Guiding Light still holds its number one spot as the longest-running TV series in history— with one technicality. While the show that wrapped up in 2009 only began in 1952, for 15 years prior the series was aired on radio. This gives the series a record total runtime of 72 years. It will hold this record for at least another 5 years, assuming that The Tonight Show keeps airing over that time.