Studios and production companies decided to go all-in on well-established properties at a certain point in recent television and cinematic history. As a result, it wouldn't surprise us to see these 15 television shows on the air forever.
1 – Cops (1989-Present)
Cops is a reality documentary series that provides an unfiltered and raw look into the daily lives of law enforcement officers. Through its real-time footage and intense action, the show offers a glimpse into the challenges faced by police officers as they maintain law and order.
Viewers were glued to their TV screens in the early days of this show's airing back in 1989, and it maintained a chokehold over the culture for decades until backlash following the shooting of an unarmed black man in 2020 sparked worldwide protests and backlash against media that portrayed law enforcement uncritically.
Though it was pulled from Paramount Network in 2020, the show returned to Fox two years later.
2 – The Simpsons (1989-Present)
The Simpsons continues to be a timeless animated sitcom following the misadventures of the iconic Simpson family in the fictional town of Springfield. With its sharp wit, clever social commentary, and lovable characters, the show remains a cultural phenomenon even after three decades because it's constantly making meta-references to pop culture and unwittingly making predictions that come true.
I wonder what predictions The Simpsons will accurately foretell a century from now.
3 – Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999-Present)
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit captures the world of criminal investigations, specifically focusing on crimes of a sexual nature. As a gripping police procedural drama, it tackles sensitive subjects with compassion, suspense, and thought-provoking storytelling. Its enduring popularity stems from its ability to highlight real-life issues while providing riveting entertainment and powerful acting performances.
Though there were doubts about how successful a spinoff TV show could be, it's not only endured to be the longest-running live-action scripted prime-time TV show, but it's by far the most popular of the many Law & Order spinoffs.
Since airing in 1999, it amazingly has maintained most of the same original cast. While they won't be around anymore in 2123, I don't doubt they would still have stories to tell with a new set of characters.
4 – Sesame Street (1969-Present)
Sesame Street is a beloved children's educational program that has enchanted generations. The show's colorful characters, catchy music, and engaging lessons have captivated young minds since 1969. Its commitment to promoting inclusivity, diversity, and early childhood development ensures its place as a timeless staple in children's and adults' hearts.
It's safe to say Sesame Street‘s future is secure, given that it airs on PBS, which is funded through taxpayer dollars to provide high-quality educational programming to children.
5 – Doctor Who (1963-1989/2005-Present)
Doctor Who is a British science fiction series that chronicles the adventures of the time-traveling alien known as the Doctor. Spanning multiple casts and decades, the show has become a cultural phenomenon and has been rebooted once.
Its ability to reinvent itself with each regeneration while maintaining its core themes of adventure, heroism, and the triumph of good over evil, makes it a timeless and cherished television experience since it first aired in 1963.
6 – One Piece (1999-Present)
One Piece is an epic anime series set in a world of pirates, treasure, and grand adventures. Following the journey of Monkey D. Luffy and his crew, the Straw Hat Pirates, as they search for the ultimate treasure, the series captures the imagination with its intricate world-building, memorable characters, and thrilling action. Its enduring popularity lies in its ability to weave together humor, friendship, and epic storytelling.
The series has aired since 1999, and numerous spinoffs and movies have been associated with the franchise.
7 – Survivor (2000-Present)
Survivor is a reality competition series that drops contestants in remote locations and challenges them to outwit, outplay, and outlast one another to become the sole survivor. With its strategic gameplay, dramatic tribal councils, and unexpected twists, the show continues to enthrall audiences due to its fascinating exploration of human nature and the lengths people will go to claim victory.
This is one of the few series you could imagine only becoming more interesting as time goes on. As society technologically advances, we become more intrigued by primitive survival skills.
8 – South Park (1997-Present)
South Park is an animated adult sitcom known for its irreverent humor, sharp social commentary, and satirical take on contemporary issues. With its iconic quartet of foul-mouthed fourth graders, the show's comedic charm comes from its willingness to push boundaries, challenge societal norms, and expose hypocrisy.
Its bold and unapologetic approach has allowed it to remain a cultural touchstone for multiple decades, even in the face of a changing media landscape that has become more culturally sensitive and politically correct.
9 – Pokémon (1997-Present)
Pokémon is a beloved animated series that follows the adventures of Pokémon trainers as they capture, train, and battle with various creatures known as Pokémon. With its imaginative world, endearing characters, and themes of friendship and perseverance, the show has captured the hearts of millions.
The original series premiered in 1997 and aired until this year's 25th season, but it doesn't stop there! A new series called Pokémon Horizons continues the Pokémon cinematic universe. This franchise has come out with countless TV shows, video games, movies, and countless other popular collectibles, memorabilia, and merchandise that never wanes in popularity.
It's safe to say Pokémon is here to stay.
10 – Saturday Night Live (1975-Present)
Saturday Night Live is a long-running sketch comedy and variety show that has launched the careers of countless comedic talents. With its live performances, celebrity hosts, and memorable characters, the show has become an institution in American television. Its ability to adapt to changing times, deliver biting political satire, and provide laughter for generations ensures its continued relevance and longevity.
Even after nearly five decades, it remains a cultural touchstone, constantly evolving to reflect the ever-changing landscape of comedy and pop culture. Even though detractors always say, “SNL isn't funny anymore,” this trend has continued since the very origins of the series, as viewers are partial to certain cast members and lament their departure from the show.
Nevertheless, SNL continues to attract an audience, exciting guests, and musical performances.
11 – Days of Our Lives (1965-Present)
Days of Our Lives is a beloved soap opera that has captured viewers' hearts for decades. Set in the fictional town of Salem, the show weaves together complex storylines filled with romance, drama, and intrigue. Its ability to create compelling characters, deliver emotional performances, and tackle relevant social issues has made it a staple in daytime television, ensuring its enduring presence among soap opera fanatics. If there's one thing that you can't take off the TV, it's soap operas.
12 – Spongebob Squarepants (1999-Present)
SpongeBob SquarePants is an animated series that follows the adventures of the optimistic and lovable sea sponge named SpongeBob and his underwater friends in the whimsical town of Bikini Bottom.
With its colorful animation, catchy songs, and offbeat humor, the show has captured children's and adults' imaginations. Spongebob Squarepants has a timeless charm thanks to the archetypal characters it's created, which guarantee its place in television history for years to come. Even if the show's best episodes are behind them, people remain dedicated viewers of old reruns.
13 – General Hospital (1963-Present)
General Hospital is a long-running soap opera that has become a television institution. Set in the fictional town of Port Charles, the show explores the lives, loves, and dramas of the staff and patients at General Hospital. With its captivating storylines, passionate romances, and intricate character development, the series has cultivated a dedicated fanbase since 1963, ensuring its continued presence on the airwaves for generations.
To put that into perspective, consider this person who shares, “My grandmother watched this show as a kid, who got my mother into it, who got my sister into it. When my sister has kids in a couple of years, her kids will probably watch it too.”
14 – Family Guy (1999-Present)
Family Guy is an irreverent animated sitcom that pushes the boundaries of humor with its satirical take on American family life. Through the misadventures of the Griffin family, the show tackles controversial topics, societal norms, and pop culture references with its signature blend of wit and sarcasm.
Family Guy originally aired in 1999, and though it was briefly canceled in 2002, it was picked back up in 2005 due to its strong DVD sales and high ratings on Adult Swim, which gained it a cult following. Since returning to the airwaves in 2005, it's remained there ever since.
15 – CSI (2000-2015)
CSI is a groundbreaking crime procedural drama that follows a team of forensic investigators who solve complex criminal cases using cutting-edge techniques. Although it concluded its original run in 2015, its impact on television and its influence on subsequent crime dramas ensure its continued popularity through countless spinoff series like CSI: Miami, CSI: NY, CSI: Cyber, CSI: Vegas, and a TV movie CSI: Immortality.
So while the original is over, there are still countless spinoffs that will (likely) air for the next 100 years.
Jaimee Marshall is a writer who hails from the suburbs of Philadelphia but has spent the past few years living abroad in Australia. She considers herself a bit of a movie buff with a knack for horror and clever sci-fi flicks. When she isn't watching or writing about movies, she's probably either posting political memes, cooking vegan food, or being active. She covers entertainment news, and reviews films and television for Wealth of Geeks. You can also catch her deep dives on sociopolitical issues at Evie Magazine, Katie Couric Media, and Her Campus or watch her appearance on Popcorned Planet, where she discusses heated issues like due process in our current social climate.