ByStephen Patterson, writer at
Verified writer at Movie Pilot. Follow me on twitter: @mr_sjpatterson
Stephen Patterson

The world of television is an ever-changing beast with a wide variety of different programming genres, whether it be horror, drama, comedy or action. However, due to the large quantity of shows in today's world, some series fail to make it past their first or second season and end up on the scrapheap of TV history.

Occasionally, however, there are shows that manage to not only defy the odds, but keep alive and survive the axe again and again. Different genres have certain advantages — soap operas or entertainment shows are produced differently than seasonal shows, so they have an upper hand — but whatever the genre, these shows manage to continue running for years. Their success lies in adaptability and word of mouth.

So let's take a look at several long-running television shows and see why, after so many years, they remain successful.

1. Grey's Anatomy

First hitting screens back in 2005 as a midseason replacement on prime time ABC, Grey's is about to enter its 13th season.It's currently sitting pretty as the network's most popular drama, and has been for many years.

There are several reasons for the success of Grey's Anatomy. Firstly, the series made clear from the beginning that it was following one central character: Dr. Meredith Grey. Meredith is still very much the main character 12 seasons later, despite the fact that the cast has been repopulated so many times after garnering a higher death rate than Game of Thrones. Viewers have watched Meredith grow; which leads us to another point of success: character development.

Meredith is a totally different person than she was in the show's first season. She has been changed by the experiences that she has endured. Also, due to the amount of cast changes, the show adapted — and did so successfully. The dynamic never changed too dramatically; rather, it always felt like Grey's. Like many shows, the first few seasons are held in high esteem, but despite 12 years' worth of storylines, the series is as strong as ever and will probably be on the air for many years to come.

2. EastEnders

EastEnders, a long-running British soap opera, has been on television since 1985. Held up as a pinnacle of English TV, this BBC soap remains hugely popular today, 31 years later. Centered around the residents of Albert Square in East London, the show explores the day-to-day life of the residents, including market traders and the owners of local business establishments.

The most important action takes place in the center of Albert Square at the Queen Victoria pub. The Vic has seen multiple owners over the years, including the legendary Peggy Mitchell — the biggest soap opera character of all time — who recently made her final appearance in EastEnders.

The key to EastEnders' success is undoubtedly its adaptability — the current episodes reflect key themes and interests of 2016, whereas the earlier episodes reflected the interests of their respective time period. The cast is often repopulated as older characters depart, although some have remained with the show since its inception. The recent additions of actors Danny Dyer and Kellie Bright have reinvigorated the show and made it extremely popular once again. Some of EastEnders' actors have also transferred to the US big screen, with Ben Hardy starring as Angel in X-Men: Apocalypse, Robert Kazinsky as Orgrim in Warcraft, and Sam Strike starring in the upcoming Leatherface.

BBC is renowned worldwide for creating shows like Happy Valley, Peaky Blinders and Luther, but this might not have been possible if not for the success that EastEnders has brought the network over the years. There's plenty more adventures for the cast yet, and this multiple BAFTA Award-winning soap will remain at the height of British entertainment for many years to come.

3. Supernatural

This drama-horror series has also been running since 2005. Currently finished its 11th season, Supernatural shows no signs of slowing down. Although some would argue that the series should've ended after the fifth season (as it was intended to), others are delighted that the Winchester brothers are still on air. It appears that Supernatural, especially in the later years, relies heavily on reusing older characters and storylines, as well as occasionally altering the mythology. But say what you will about the plots, the characters of Sam and Dean are always excellently written and the finales usually leave viewers with tears in their eyes.

In terms of Supernatural's success, it's a tough one to call, but judging from social media, I'd say a lot of its more recent prosperity has a lot to do with its fanbase. As one of the most committed fandoms I've ever seen, the series often trends on Twitter and the viewing figures never seem to be a bone of contention. I wouldn't be surprised if Supernatural is still on the air for another 11 years.

4. WWE Monday Night Raw

Falling into the bracket of "sports entertainment," this long-running and scripted wrestling series has been on the air weekly since 1993. Similar to EastEnders, WWE (or WWF as it was known at the time) has adapted to each generation, with the storylines evolving to suit viewers. Several of the company's greatest wrestling matches have taken place on Monday Night Raw, and wrestlers like The Undertaker, Kane, Stone Cold and The Rock were largely considered the keys to its success.

During the late '90s, WWE engaged in a wrestling war with WCW, whose programming was on an alternative network. However, WCW became extinct and WWE's programming remains extremely popular. It goes to show that hard work and determination (and blood, sweat and tears — literally) do pay off!

5. The Simpsons

Who hasn't heard of The Simpsons? I think that's the key reason behind its success, regardless of what types of genre you prefer. The Simpsons literally appeals to everyone. It might be prime-time viewing in the US, but around the world it's syndicated at a time when people would be enjoying their dinner. It also doesn't take itself too seriously and is a nice throwback to the days when TV was less concerned with storytelling and more with a plot-of-the-week format, meaning you can tune in and drop out. The Simpsons is the best of both worlds. Moreover, the comedy isn't too crude and can be viewed by audiences of all ages. It's the longest-running seasonal show in history, and it probably won't be topped.

We all wish our favorite canceled series could have the opportunity to thrive like the above shows. This list highlights that shows remaining on air for lengthy periods can be compelling throughout their run. The series listed above are already legends in their own right. It'll be interesting to see if any other shows, current or future, will amount to this kind of success.

How long has your favorite show been on the air? Can you think of any other long-running series? Tell me in the comments below!


Latest from our Creators