The Simpsons enters its 23rd series over on Sky1 this weekend. Since they first graced our screens all the way back in 1989, America’s first animated family have racked up an impressive 487 episodes, which makes their titular adventures the longest running animated series and sitcom on primetime TV.
But it’s not the only episodic to stand the test of time. In fact, glance over the annals of small screen history and you’re greeted with an array of long-standing shows. But which have had the longest innings? Here’s our guide to some of the most enduring programmes on the box.
Medical drama: Casualty 1986 – present (790 episodes)
The fictional A&E department at Holby General has been the hub of the Saturday night schedules for more than 25 years now. It’s the longest running emergency medical drama in the world. But Casualty’s also a truly British piece of broadcasting that each week plays out like a politically correct disaster movie where even the most mundane of situations turn into roaring fireballs. Of course, along the way there’ll be a relationship drama, social issue or political message that needs to be addressed, but part of Casualty’s appeal is following this now familiar formula, a format that the producers have finely tuned over the course of a staggering 790 episodes.
Sci-fi: Doctor Who 1963–1989; 1996; 2005–present (783 episodes)
And now for a completely different type of Doctor, the kind who swaps his stethoscope for a sonic screwdriver and the Hippocratic oath for a never-ending battle against the Daleks. Yes, it’s Doctor Who, the titular Time Lord who’s been a mainstay of the Beeb’s family entertainment offering for almost 50 years. Down the decades the show has been described as too violent by detractors such as morality campaigner Mary Whitehouse, and out of date by critics, who helped to hasten the series’ departure from the schedules in the late 80s. But like the 11 incumbents who’ve piloted the iconic police box down the years, Doctor Who’s strength lies in the fact that it continually reinvents itself, which is why it still remains appointment viewing for kids and adults alike.
Crime drama’s a competitive category when it comes to Tellyland’s geriatric inhabitants. Alongside the gritty Glaswegian tales of ‘muddah’, both The Bill (1984 – 2010) and America’s Law & Order (1990 – 2010) can stake a claim to being the top dog in the police pound of long-running programmes.
Western: Gunsmoke 1955 – 1975 (635 episodes)
A relative pup at just 20 years old, Gunsmoke is the most iconic of American shows, a western that blazed a trail for broadcast entertainment in the earliest days of cathode ray entertainment. Like most early output, Gunsmoke originally made its name on the radio before making the leap to the small screen and was ushered onto the schedules by none other than iconic cowboy John Wayne.
Children’s programme: Blue Peter 1958 – present (4,578 episodes)
The world’s longest running children’s show has notched up a staggering 4,578 episodes down the years. Along the way there’s been a gaggle of friendly-faced presenters, a pet cemetery filled with cutesy critters and enough sticky back plastic to reach the moon and back. It’s a part of our cultural history and I’m certain I’d be a worse person without it. Or at the very least I’d be a person who didn’t know how to build a rocket out of discarded washing-up liquid bottles and bed a tortoise down for winter hibernation.
Factual: Panorama 1953 – present (699 episodes)
Ah, what would we do without Panorama, eh? It’s been injecting intelligence into all of our lives since 1953 by tackling everything from cutting-edge current affairs to er, spaghetti trees.
Game show: Countdown 1982 – present (5,588 episodes)
Loved by students and seniors alike, Countdown is a daytime TV juggernaut that’s held its place in the schedules and viewers’ hearts for almost 30 years and a storming 5,000-odd episodes.
Soap: Coronation Street 1960 – present (7,728 episodes)
Dwarfing arch rival EastEnders, which has only been on air since 1985, Coronation Street is undoubtedly the longest toothed serial in television’s land of lather. The cobbles have played host to the everyday dramas of human life for more than half a century now, which isn’t bad for a show that one critic said would only last three weeks when it originally aired in 1960.
Do you have a favourite long-running series? Or have we missed one of the small screen’s senior citizens off our list? Let us know in the comments below.