The CW announced renewals for several of its shows last week, including its long-running series #Supernatural, which will be heading into an astonishing thirteenth year. The show, which follows the brothers Sam and Dean Winchester doing battle with a myriad of supernatural forces, already holds the record as the longest running fantasy/sci fi series on US television, and the renewal will extend its mark even further. By the end of its thirteenth year, Supernatural will have amassed 285 episodes (that’s assuming it gets the typical 22-episode order for next season).
While 13 might seem like an appropriate number of seasons to end a show that focuses on the supernatural, The CW’s president has already said that he is happy to keep Supernatural going as long as the principle actors want to continue in their roles. Supernatural is regularly one of the network’s better-rated shows, no matter what night it airs. So, it is not impossible that this show could continue into a fourteenth year (and beyond).
With Supernatural currently holding the record among genre entries in the US, what other long-lived shows have come close to its mark or could challenge it at some point in the future?
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- Network: WB/ The CW
- Aired: 2001–11, 10 Seasons, totaling 218 episodes
Interestingly, second place on this list goes to a show that got started on the same network just a few years before Supernatural and aired concurrently for seven years. Smallville focused on the pre-Superman years of Clark Kent when he was in high school, went to college, and beyond. It started on The WB before the network merged with UPN to become The CW, just as Supernatural did.
#Smallville remained popular throughout its run, but the series producers decided that the tenth season was the appropriate place to wrap it up (just before Arrow kicked off and brought a whole new stable of DC Comics characters to the network's lineup). Until Supernatural made it into an eleventh season, Smallville held the record as the longest-running US genre series.
- Network: Showtime/The Sci Fi Channel
- Aired: 1997–2007, 10 Seasons, totaling 214 episodes
This show, which continued the story from the 1994 feature film Stargate, aired for the same number of seasons as Smallville, but fell four episodes short of the superhero series tally. Still, Stargate: SG-1 counts as the longest-running science fiction series on US television. It got its start on Showtime in the late '90s, then moved to the Sci Fi Channel (now Syfy) for its sixth year and became a major franchise for that network.
It produced two sequel series, with Stargate: Atlantis (five seasons) and Stargate: Universe (two seasons), and there are rumors that another entry could make its way to the small screen in the next few years (though not necessarily on Syfy).
- Network: Fox
- Aired: 1993–2002, 2016–, 10 Seasons, totaling 208 episodes (and counting)
This infamous sci-fi/paranormal/conspiracy series got its start in the early '90s when Fox was still trying to establish itself next to the older broadcast networks ABC, CBS and NBC. It started out as a low-rated cult show, then worked its way into the Top 20 after several years and became somewhat of a cultural phenomenon. The producers decided to wrap up the show with its ninth season (series creator Chris Carter originally wanted it to end by its fifth or sixth year), but fans always felt that it never received a proper resolution.
It returned with a revival series in January 2016, and a follow-up to that is currently in the planning stages for the 2017–18 season. With #XFiles currently at a 208-episode tally, it has a ways to go to match the 285-ish mark Supernatural will hit by the end of next year.
- Network: BBC
- Aired: 1963–Present, 36 Seasons, totaling a bunch of episodes (and counting)
If you jump the Atlantic, you find the show that holds the world record among sci-fi and fantasy entries. #DoctorWho, which follows that wayward Time Lord known as the Doctor throughout space and time, got started in 1963 and has amassed 36(!) seasons (including its upcoming tenth) across its classic and revival run, with 12 actors now having portrayed the main character throughout its tenure.
In the original run, a story was serialized across (typically) four to six 30-minute episodes, then later it shifted to mostly standalone, one-hour installments. So the count varies depending on how you tally the episodes, but Wikipedia currently has it at 827 episodes comprising 264 stories (not including the tenth season, which airs later this year). That’s a record of seasons and episodes combined that almost certainly will not be challenged anytime soon on either side of the Atlantic.
Episode-wise, the 1960s daytime supernatural soap Dark Shadows holds the record with 1,225 installments across its original, six-year run. Since Supernatural counts in the fantasy genre, you have to also recognize the '60s fantasy/supernatural comedy Bewitched that lasted for eight seasons and 254 episodes. The WB had another supernatural-tinged series with a pretty long life, as Charmed aired for eight seasons from 1998 to 2006 and amassed 178 episodes (a revival of that is currently in the works). We can’t forget the three, long-lived Star Trek spin-off shows The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager that trekked through seven seasons each with episode counts of 178, 176, and 172 respectively.
As for currently airing shows, The Walking Dead is the only one that looks like it could catch up to Supernatural at some point, but that assumes the latter series ends in the next few years. TWD is currently in its seventh year and remains the top-rated scripted show on all of television. Creator Robert Kirkman has said that he can see it going at least five more years, and it would have to add a few onto that to match or exceed Supernatural’s current mark. Episode-wise, though, TWD will almost certainly fall short, as the show typically has 16 installments per season compared Supernatural’s 22 (or more).
Check out the promo for Supernatural's most recent (twelfth) season below:
Have you been watching Supernatural from the beginning, or did you stick with any of these other shows through their full runs? Give us your thoughts in the comments below on how they progressed over the years.