Longest-running TV shows still on the air in 2019

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December 16, 2019
Kevin Winter // Getty Images

Longest-running TV shows still on the air in 2019

The #1 longest-running TV show is still airing 72 years later. TV shows with longevity like that have titles that become household names and characters who feel like family—just look at the outpouring of support from "Jeopardy!" fans when Alex Trebek announced his cancer diagnosis in March 2019.

Relationships, jobs, and homes may all come and go, but a familiar face may exist in a show on the air for decades. In a competitive entertainment landscape, what helps a show last through major societal and cultural changes, economic booms, recessions, wars, and technological advancements?

To find out, Stacker curated a gallery of the longest-running American TV shows, ranked by years on the air as of December 2019. Only first-run series originating in North America and available throughout the United States via national broadcast networks, cable networks, or syndication were considered. Series continuations—with name changes and/or changes in network—are noted. Primetime nightly news, sports, and televangelist programs were not considered.

The 25 longest-running shows that you can still watch on TV today range from soap operas to late-night talk shows, news programs, and live performance series—many of them are trailblazers of their genre or production style. Others have launched the careers of award-winning actors and journalists, or have created pop culture icons that have transcended generations and borders. The shows in this gallery vary in genre and styles, but they all have one thing in common: For a show to be around for even four decades, it would have needed to start on a public network. The first pay-TV network, none other than Home Box Office (HBO), didn’t come around until 1972.

Find out which news show has 25 Peabody Awards and 150 Emmys, which drama anthology series was originally funded by Mobil, and which program has 30 adaptations around the world. Here are the 25 longest-running shows that you can still watch on TV in 2019.

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This Old House Productions

#25. This Old House

- Total run: 40 years
- Network: PBS
- First broadcast: Feb. 20, 1979

The idea for PBS’ home renovation show, “This Old House,” came from producer Russell Morash, the man who brought Julia Child to U.S. viewers with “The French Chef” in 1963. The program has been nominated for 85 Emmy Awards and won 18. It also has spurred two spin-off shows and a magazine. “This Old House” was an instant ratings hit and still is today, but upon its initial introduction, some tradesmen voiced concern that the DIY-theme of the program would hurt their business—Eric Thorkilsen, This Old House Ventures CEO, says the show did the opposite by giving viewers the confidence to know how to ask the right questions to their contractors.

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#24. Creative Living with Sheryl Borden

- Total run: 43 years
- Network: Syndicated
- First broadcast: 1976

Host Sheryl Borden welcomes expert guests to her set on the campus of Eastern New Mexico University—of which Borden is an alumna—to educate viewers on a wide variety of lifestyle topics, from crafts to trends in travel and fashion, and tips for nutrition. Produced by KENW-TV, the crew of “Creative Living with Sheryl Borden” comprises ENMU students. Borden’s “how-to” show is carried by 118 PBS stations in the U.S., Canada, Guam, and Puerto Rico.

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Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts

#23. Live From Lincoln Center

- Total run: 43 years
- Network: PBS
- First broadcast: Jan. 30, 1976

“Live From Lincoln Center” set out to “ democratize the world of the performing arts” through its public broadcasts of performances by world-class artists, including productions from the New York Philharmonic, the New York City Ballet, and Lincoln Center Theater. Tony Award-winner Audra McDonald currently hosts the series which has so far won one Peabody Award and 16 Emmys.

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American Broadcasting Company (ABC)

#22. Good Morning America

- Total run: 44 years
- Network: ABC
- First broadcast: Nov. 3, 1975

Americans had looked to NBC’s “Today” show for their morning TV entertainment for two decades before ABC launched “Good Morning America.” Up against a well-established morning program, “GMA” took a more "conversational" approach to inform audiences than “Today,” according to David Hartman, the show’s first host. Over the years the culture of these two shows, on set and off, has undoubtedly had an impact on their ratings. A poll conducted by Morning Consult and The Hollywood Reporter throughout the week of April 17–21, 2019, found “GMA” was the most popular morning show with the most popular hosts—including Robin Roberts, the most trusted of the morning show hosts on ABC, NBC, and CBS.

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NBC Studios

#21. Saturday Night Live

- Total run: 44 years
- Network: NBC
- First broadcast: Oct. 11, 1975

“Saturday Night Live” has become ingrained in American culture with classic characters, catchphrases, and impersonations of high-profile figures, from celebrities to world leaders. The comedy skit show has helped launch the careers of so many of today’s leading comedic actors, writers, and producers, including Eddie Murphy, Bill Murray, Will Ferrell, Jimmy Fallon, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, and Seth Meyers—and has immortalized others, such as Chris Farley, John Belushi, Phil Hartman, and Gilda Radner. While the show’s relevance and ratings have varied throughout the decades it has been on air, “SNL” has earned 67 Emmys, five Writers Guild of America Awards, and three Peabody Awards.

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#20. The Victory Garden

- Total run: 44 years
- Network: PBS
- First broadcast: April 16, 1975

“The Victory Garden” was originally named “Crockett’s Victory Garden,” after gardener and author James Underwood Crockett. One fan of Crockett’s said he “turned gardening into must-see TV, even for five-year-olds.” Following Crockett’s death in 1979, the show was given a new host and a new name. Today the program is presented by Australian horticulturist Jamie Durie.

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KLRU Austin

#19. Austin City Limits

- Total run: 44 years
- Network: PBS
- First broadcast: Jan. 2, 1975

“Austin City Limits” is a 2003 National Medal of Arts recipient, an honor awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts. The show, produced in Austin, showcases American music through both emerging artists and well-established legends across varied styles and genres. Former Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum CEO Terry Stewart called the music performance program “one of the most significant archives that documents the American culture.”

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#18. NOVA

- Total run: 45 years
- Network: PBS
- First broadcast: March 3, 1974

“NOVA” presents science- and technology-related programming in the form of one-hour documentaries and miniseries. The show has also been creating online content since 1996 and has continued to expand its digital presence over the decades. Educators can look to the “NOVA” collection on PBS LearningMedia for resources (primarily geared toward middle- and high-schoolers), and digital platform NOVA Labs allows what the brand calls “citizen scientists” participate in the scientific process.

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Sony Pictures Television

#17. The Young and the Restless

- Total run: 46 years
- Network: CBS
- First broadcast: March 26, 1973

“The Young and the Restless” has been the most-watched soap opera for more than 30 years—holding the record consecutively since the final week of 1988 when it first surpassed “General Hospital” as most-watched soap opera. CBS executive Angelica McDaniel attributes the show’s success to solid storytelling and characters that have been around since the beginning; Melody Thomas Scott celebrated her 40th year on the show in February 2019. There are no plans to end the show soon, with McDaniel telling The Hollywood Reporter in December 2018, "We expect it [to] be a part of our lineup in the future."

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#16. Great Performances

- Total run: 47 years
- Network: PBS
- First broadcast: Nov. 4, 1972

“Great Performances” delivers performing arts to American audiences, from Shakespeare productions like “Much Ado About Nothing” to performances by today’s popular musicians including Alicia Keys, Michael Buble, the Foo Fighters, and Andrea Bocelli. The program has been awarded 67 Emmys and six Peabody Awards.

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Kevin Winter // Getty Images

#15. The Price Is Right

- Total run: 47 years
- Network: CBS
- First broadcast: Sept. 4, 1972

The longest-running game show in America as of 2015, “The Price is Right” was originally launched in 1956 by NBC and relaunched in 1972 by CBS. Contestants, with the help of a particularly vocal and helpful audience, are asked to guess the price of everything from a can of chicken noodle soup to a pair of jet skis. Over 35 seasons, host Bob Barker transformed into an American pop culture icon transcending generations.

Upon Barker’s retirement from the show in 2007, the network found an unlikely replacement in Drew Carey—though he initially turned down the gig. Carey, who has now been the show’s leading man for 12 years, told the Washington Post in 2019: “Where else can you go in America, and be in a big crowd like this, and have a bunch of strangers rooting for another stranger to do well?”

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#14. Masterpiece Theatre

- Total run: 48 years
- Network: PBS
- First broadcast: Jan. 10, 1971

“Masterpiece Theatre” brought the U.K.’s “Downton Abbey” to American audiences. Now referred to as simply “Masterpiece,” the show presents classic, historical British drama and occasionally, more contemporary programming. “Masterpiece” was launched when Mobil—which helped to fund PBS early on—“recognized that a trove of British programming could become a new high-quality brand, and by association, could make Mobil look classy,” according to longtime Executive Producer Rebecca Eaton.

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Children's Television Workshop (CTW)

#13. Sesame Street

- Total run: 50 years
- Networks: NET, PBS, HBO
- First broadcast: Nov. 10, 1969

“Sesame Street” isn’t just an American institution. There are over 30 adaptations around the world co-produced by the Sesame Workshop—the educational nonprofit behind the show that is involved in over 150 countries. The longtime puppeteer behind Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, Caroll Spinney, died on Dec. 8, 2019. “Sesame Street” co-founder Joan Ganz Cooney expressed her gratitude for his countless contributions: “We at Sesame Workshop mourn his passing and feel an immense gratitude for all he has given to Sesame Street and to children around the world.”

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Hanna-Barbera Productions

#12. Scooby-Doo

- Total run: 49 years
- Networks: CBS, ABC, The WB, The CW, Cartoon Network, Boomerang
- First broadcast: Sept. 13, 1969

Slate’s Chris Suellentrop referred to “Scooby-Doo” as “the most enduringly popular cartoon in TV history.” But it’s more than a cartoon, it’s a massive franchise—from the original Hanna-Barbera series to the live-action 2002 film that raked in more than $275 million at the box-office worldwide to the upcoming animated film “Scoob!” expected May 15, 2020. While many critics have hypothesized the secret behind the longevity and cultural impact of Scooby-Doo and the gang, there doesn’t seem to be an agreed-upon answer: As Suellentrop wrote, “Acknowledging Scooby’s durability is easier than explaining it.”

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CBS News Productions

#11. 60 Minutes

- Total run: 51 years
- Network: CBS
- First broadcast: Sept. 24, 1968

After having been on the air for five decades in 2018, “60 Minutes” was given the Peabody Institutional Award; jurors said the show "has become nothing less than a touchstone in American life, regularly pursuing investigations that lead to legal action, catalyze social change and illuminate dark government secrets." The recipient of 25 Peabody Awards and 150 Emmys among other journalistic awards, “60 Minutes” has become a habit for millions of Americans, with an average of 12.5 million viewers tuning in during the week leading up to Dec. 4, 2019—ranked #5 for viewership among all programs, and the highest for any program that wasn’t NFL-related.

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#10. Washington Week

- Total run: 52 years
- Networks: NET, PBS
- First broadcast: Feb. 23, 1967

“Washington Week’s” half-hour program focuses on objective analysis and discussion regarding complicated and important political issues and events, reaching 97% of American households with televisions. Unlike many other news commentary programs, “Washington Week” does not tolerate snarkiness. The Washington Post’s national political reporter, Robert Costa, who was named moderator of “Washington Week” in April 2017, boasted about the show’s premise: “No snark, no apocalyptic ventilating about the news, no snide opinions, no praise. Analysis. It’s not complicated.”

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Corday Productions

#9. Days of Our Lives

- Total run: 54 years
- Network: NBC
- First broadcast: Nov. 8, 1965

“Days of Our Lives” set itself apart from its competitors early on by choosing themes and stories that others weren’t; the soap has even tried out supernatural storylines, such as the demonic possession of Marlena Evans. Recent rumors of a hiatus for the show after the show’s stars were released from their contracts caused a major uproar from fans—but it turns out they had nothing to worry about, as the network has renewed “Days of Our Lives” for its 56th season.

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American Broadcasting Company (ABC)

#8. General Hospital

- Total run: 56 years
- Network: ABC
- First broadcast: April 1, 1963

“General Hospital” was the leader of soap operas throughout much of the 1980s; in 1981, 30 million viewers tuned in to watch the wedding of Luke and Laura. The soap has given numerous actors their big break, with Mark Hamill (1972–73), Demi Moore (1982–83), John Stamos (1982-84), and Grammy Award-winner Ricky Martin (1994–96) all passing through the fictional city of Port Charles for a short while.

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EuclidC // Wikimedia Commons

#7. It's Academic

- Total run: 58 years
- Networks: WRC-TV, WJZ-TV, WVIR-TV
- First broadcast: Oct. 7, 1961

Named the longest-running TV quiz show by Guinness World Records back in 2003, “It's Academic” tests high school students on academic achievement, asking questions on topics including science, math, history, literature, and current events. Many famous alumni have graced the stage of “It’s Academic,” including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Chuck Schumer. Washington Post reporter Monica Hesse suggested that to understand the success of “It’s Academic,” you must comprehend the hierarchies of high school and how this show challenges them: “Long before geek chic became a thing and Bill Gates became a religion, “It’s Academic” made heroes out of the socially awkward, the pale boys with the shy smiles and the girls who looked smashing in glasses,” wrote Hesse.

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#6. The Open Mind

- Total run: 63 years
- Network: Syndicated
- First broadcast: May 1956

“The Open Mind” presents thoughtful civil discourse in a simple single-guest format, with topics centering on the nation’s biggest challenges in politics, technology, and the arts. In 2014 Alexander Heffner took over as the host of “The Open Mind” for his grandfather, Richard D. Heffner, the show’s creator and longtime host, after he died in 2013 at age 88. The late Heffner was a historian and professor at Rutgers University, where he taught communications and public policy until his death.

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CBS News Productions

#5. Face the Nation

- Total run: 65 years
- Network: CBS
- First broadcast: Nov. 7, 1954

The pilot episode set the tone for “Face of the Nation” when it welcomed then-Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy as its very first guest. So far 10 different moderators have led the discussion on the Sunday night public affairs program, including current moderator Margaret Brennan, CBS News senior foreign affairs correspondent. The late Sen. John McCain leads the record for the highest number of appearances on the show with 112.

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Mike Coppola // Getty Images

#4. The Tonight Show

- Total run: 65 years
- Network: NBC
- First broadcast: Sept. 27, 1954

“The Tonight Show” has had eight hosts over its 65 years on the air, with Johnny Carson helming the nighttime talk show for the longest time, 30 years. Through most of the ‘90s and ‘00s, Jay Leno put his own spin on the show before Conan O’Brien had a short go at it from 2009 to 10. Jimmy Fallon has joined a new generation of nighttime hosts trying to keep the genre relevant, with networks hoping to attract younger viewers. Fallon’s love of music is extremely evident in his “Tonight Show;” the house band is The Roots, a Grammy Award-winning hip-hop band.

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Drew Angerer // Getty Images

#3. Today

- Total run: 67 years
- Network: NBC
- First broadcast: Jan. 14, 1952

NBC’s “Today” is the pioneer of the early morning talk show, combining programming on entertainment, news, and weather, and making household names out of its hosts and journalists, including Ann Curry, Katie Couric, Tom Brokaw, and Barbara Walters—who eventually made the jump to ABC, becoming the first woman to co-anchor “ABC World News Tonight,” making a salary of $1 million a year in 1976. Many “Today” hosts have made negative headlines in recent years, including Megyn Kelly, who was let go in October 2018 after a string of controversial statements and Matt Lauer, who was fired after allegations of sexual misconduct in November 2017.

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NBC Television // Wikimedia Commons

#2. Hallmark Hall of Fame

- Total run: 68 years
- Networks: NBC, CBS, PBS, ABC, Hallmark Channel
- First broadcast: Dec. 24, 1951

“Hallmark Hall of Fame” has been producing original content, from plays in its early days to the made-for-TV movies the series is known for today and has been for nearly seven decades. In 2014, after 63 years on broadcast networks, “Hallmark Hall of Fame” moved to the Hallmark Channel—a cable network. A particular cult following has formed around Hallmark Christmas movies, which run constantly between the months of October and January, a time when the series hits it big with the ratings. Why are these objectively cheesy films so popular with audiences? “Hallmark is drawing on almost a century of brand loyalty for its greeting card company, and a broadcast history that goes all the way back to the earliest days of TV and radio,” wrote Gwen Ihnat for the AV Club.

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NBC News

#1. Meet the Press

- Total run: 72 years
- Network: NBC
- First broadcast: Nov. 6, 1947

Americans have tuned in on Sunday mornings for interviews with national and international leaders, followed by discussion and analysis of current political affairs from experts and journalists for more than seven decades. Every president since John F. Kennedy and each vice president since 1952 has given an interview on “Meet the Press,” according to NBC. A show Kennedy once referred to as the 51st state, “Meet the Press” takes the #1 spot on this list of the longest-running TV shows still on the air.

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