The world of entertainment can be a fickle place, with networks and streamers canceling shows before giving them a chance to find their groove and going from one micro-trend to the next at lightning speed. That’s why long-lasting shows are such an anomaly, especially in an era where episode counts are small and seasons are few and far between.
One hundred episodes used to be a coveted benchmark for a show back when broadcast syndication mattered, but these seven shows saw that achievement and then some, easily clearing ten seasons of television and proving that quality and quantity don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
From iconic animated shows like The Simpsons to hard-hitting cable dramas like Shameless, there are seven great TV series that will happily take you a while to get through.
Many of TV’s longest-standing shows are of the daytime soap or crime procedural sort, but animated series are the top of the pack, with shows like Family Guy and American Dad airing for longer than 20 seasons. But The Simpsons clears them all as the longest-running scripted primetime series of all time, with more than 750 episodes stretched across 35 seasons — that’s a lot of laughs. (It’s already been picked up for a 36th edition, FYI.)
The satirical. Middle America adventures of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, Maggie and the rest of the residents of Springfield have helped to define pop culture for more than three decades and garnered plenty of acclaim along the way, including 35 Emmy Awards, two Peabody Awards and even a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for the fictional Simpsons family.
Watch on Disney Plus
The longest-running original scripted series ever on Showtime, this gritty family dramedy ran on the cable network for 11 seasons from January 2011 to April 2021, just as long as the British series from which it was adapted.
Starring an ensemble cast led by William H. Macy, Emmy Rossum and a pre-The Bear Jeremy Allen White (though we’d pay to see an interaction between the actor’s two famous Chicagoan characters, Carmy and Lip), the show follows the poverty-stricken but street-smart Gallagher clan as they navigate schemes and scams, addictions and affairs, and other self-destructive behaviors on the South Side of Chicago. Given how much mess this family gets into each and every episode, it’ll surely be a wild watch.
Watch on Netflix
Saturday Night Live
This show has everything: sketch comedy, political satire, iconic musical guests, cast members turned megastars (Eddie Murphy, Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Kristen Wiig), faux commercials, innumerable catchphrases (“More cowbell!”, “We’re not worthy!” et al), and nearly 950 episodes stretched across 49 seasons, making it one of the longest running and most heralded network shows in TV history. (As of 2022, the show had received over 305 Primetime Emmy Award nominations, the most of any television program.)
Binging Saturday Night Live’s nearly five-decade-long output is a deep dive into change: changing faces, changing trends, changing cultures, a changing world. But there’s a comfort that, no matter which era or ensemble you tune into, you’ll still hear that rallying cry echoing from the halls of Studio 8H: “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!”
Watch on Peacock
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
This FX sitcom has been on so long, you probably don’t even remember a time when Danny DeVito wasn’t on it. (For the record, the comedy icon joined the series in season two.) With 16 seasons and 170 episodes (and counting—it’s already been greenlit for a 17th and 18th season), It’s Always Sunny is the longest-airing live-action sitcom in America, a surprising endurance given how simple the premise is on paper: five deeply narcissistic and hilariously awful friends run a dive bar in South Philly.
But main players Charlie Day, Glenn Howerton, Rob McElhenney, Kaitlin Olson and DeVito twist that seemingly straightforward concept into one of television’s most delightfully unhinged watches, with elaborate cons and absurdist humor at every turn.
Watch on Hulu
There’s plenty to parcel through in The X-Files Universe: the original series, which combined elements of modern crime drama with supernatural suspense across 202 episodes and nine seasons from September 1993 to 2002 on Fox), a reboot that ran for two seasons from 2016 to 2018, and two feature films (1998’s The X-Files and 2008’s The X-Files: I Want to Believe).
Through it all, an odd couple of special agents—supernaturalist Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and skeptic Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson)—act as your guides through monster-of-the-week madness, government agendas, alien conspiracies and their own simmering sexual chemistry.
Watch on Hulu
Widely considered the best American sitcom of all time, Cheers ran on NBC from September 1982 to May 1993, with a total of 275 half-hour episodes across 11 seasons. So you might be surprised that the Boston-set, bar-based comedy—which followed the staff and patrons of the titular watering hole, portrayed by an iconic cast that included Ted Danson, Shelley Long, Rhea Perlman, Nicholas Colasanto and George Wendt—was almost canceled after the very first season, ranking almost last in ratings after its premiere.
Clearly, people quickly caught onto its greatness and by the end of its lengthy run, its series finale was the most watched episode of television in all of the ’90s.
Watch on Paramount Plus
We’ll be real with you: all seasons of Grey’s Anatomy are not created equal, with the earlier editions starring the O.G. Seattle Grace interns and doctors (including Ellen Pompey’s Meredith Grey, Katherine Heigl’s Izzie Stevens, Sandra Oh’s Cristina Yang and Patrick Dempsey’s Derek Shepherd) being the most reliably great of the bunch.
But despite regular dips into incredulity over the years, the medical drama has garnered a devoted viewership across a whopping 19 seasons thanks to its signature mix of surgical conundrums, steamy workplace flings, quippy banter and reach-for-the-Kleenex emotional beats.
Watch on Netflix