Television began coming into its own in 1946 – 1947 along with the many changes that took place after the end of WW II. In those early days there were only three major networks, no color, no remotes, no all news or all sports stations and most people only had TV’s with small 7, 10 or 12 inch screens. So now we’ll really make everyone feel old as we run down twelve of the longest running shows in the history of television that have been on the air 40 years or longer. At the end of this feature we will post the link where you can see the entire list and it is a longer list than you may think.
46 Years – Saturday Night Live – It premiered in 1975 and while it has had some not so good years, it is still classic comic sketch TV that would open the door for future shows like Laugh-In for one. It created memorable characters like the Coneheads, skewered the news and politicians and never backed away from controversy. The number of big stars it created like John Belushi, Dan Ackroyd, Bill Murray, Adam Sandler, Jane Curtin, Eddie Murphy, Bill Hader and so many more reads like a “who’s who” of comedy, not to mention the music stars who made their musical debuts on the show.
46 Years – Austin City Limits – When it first began in 1976 it’s main focus was on country music, Texas style music and building up the city of Austin. The show would go on to win a number of awards including the coveted Peabody award. Since its beginnings the music format has included just about every kind of music and style and has turned Austin into one of the “go to” cities in the U.S.. There is even a wing for the show with digital replays of more than 40 years of shows at the Rock and Roll Hall of fame in Cleveland
49 Years – The Young and the Restless – When this soap debuted in 1973 it was centered on the Brooks and Foster families, but when Jill Foster married into the wealthy Abbot family things changed. Then along came “the moustache” Eric Braeden as Victor Newman and all hell would break loose and has been that way ever since. The show has been ranked #1 for over 25 years, won dozens of Emmys and continues to create some great story lines. Side note: Eric Braeden’s Victor Newman character came along in 1975 and was only supposed to be a six week appearance, but he clicked with the fans and the cast and has become the mainstay ever since.
49 years – The Price is Right – It made its debut on September 4, 1972 on CBS with Bob Barker as the host. Some of the games from the early days like “Blinko” are still used on the show and of course, the price values have also changed over the years. Barker would continue with the show until 2007 when he retired and Drew Carey took over. Carey was a surprise to everyone, but he has done a terrific job as the host. This coming September will mark year 50, so “come on down!”.
51 Years – Monday Night Football – It all began in 1970 with Keith Jackson, Howard Cosell and Don Meridith. Critics felt this “experiment” would not work because no one would be interested in a Monday night game after Sunday. How wrong they were. Over the years there have been no less than two dozen different announcers in the booth. Besides the many TV awards a number of records have been set as well. The Steelers have the most wins on Monday night with 50, and the team that has appeared most on Monday nights is the Miami Dolphins.
52 Years – Sesame Street – Everybody, young or old, knows this program and many of its characters thanks to Jim Henson’s Muppets. It is a live action, animated, scripted show that was geared for children. But it quickly picked up a huge adult audience over the years and became much more than a children’s show. It ran on PBS until 2016 when it moved over to HBO and then in 2020 to HBO Max. It has won countless awards and has gone on to become a worldwide communications piece for both children and adults. The one thing that has made it continue to work is that it was eagerly willing to change with the times.
53 Years – 60 Minutes – The news magazine format was created for this show when it debuted in 1968. Hosted by Mike Wallace and Harry Reasoner, it was bi weekly at first. But the show’s popularity and the investigative approach turned into a weekly show every Sunday starting at 7 pm EST. of course over the years that start would be sometimes delayed because of NFL football. The show did many exposes, candid, right in the gut interviews and exposed a number wrongs going on in business, government, etc as well as many heartwarming stories. Today using the same opening and format the show is still one of the most popular on TV.
57 Years – Jeopardy! – The show made its debut in March 1964 with Art Fleming as host and was a daytime show. On the original Jeopardy! series, clue values in the first round ranged from $10 to $50 in the Jeopardy! round and $20 to $100 in Double Jeopardy! Over the years the amounts were changed and the current amounts took effect in 2001. Alex Trebeck took over in 1984 with Johnny Gilbert his announcer. Trebeck lost his battle with cancer and a series of guest hosts have manned the podium since. One side note: Johnny Gilbert is still the announcer and this July will celebrate his 98the birthday.
65 Years – To Tell the Truth – The show went on the air in 1956 with Bud Collyer as the host and was in black and white. It remained on CBS through 1969 and then went into syndication for a number of years. Several live versions of the show returned to TV and also in syndication with various hosts, including for one season, Alex Trebeck. In 2016 through 2021 a new version of the show using pretty much the same format of the original series from the 50’s, has aired on ABC being hosted by Anthony Anderson.
67 years – The Tonight Show – Prior to the change NBC had broadcast a local show Broadway Open House with Jerry Lester in that time slot from 1950-1953. The new “Tonight” format made its network debut in 1954 with Steve Allen the original host and began a new habit of watching late night TV for comedy and variety and created many new stars like Steve Lawrence and Edyie Gorme, Tom Poston, Don Knotts and others.. It would be the forerunner for all late night shows that would follow. After Allen there was Jack Paar, but in 1963 Johnny Carson took over and created a monster late night hit for the next 30 years. After Carson there was Conan O’Brien and then Jay Leno. Today it still draws a good audience with Jimmy Fallon hosting. But of all the hosts in those years, Johnny Carson will always be considered the “king of late night”.
70 Years – The Today Show – It made its debut on January 14, 1952 and critics said the show wouldn’t last a full year because people didn’t have time for a TV show that early (7 a.m.) in the morning. Dave Garroway was the original host until 1961 when he was replaced by John Chancellor. Needless to say those critics had no idea how this would change morning TV for all three networks and viewers everywhere. While the show has undergone many changes over the years with hosts, format changes, content, etc. one thing has not changed. That is view from the streets where passerby can actually look through the windows to see the show being done live, not to mention the number of times the show goes right outside the studio for different segments.
75 Years – Meet the Press – It actually began on radio in 1945 on the Mutual Network, but when NBC created their coast to coast network, General Foods bought the show and brought it to NBC. It would become the very first press type show interviewing politicians, writers and eventually even sitting presidents. The format was simple, straightforward and only aired for fifteen minutes in that first year. The popularity of it grew as did households that now owned TV sets. In 1947 there were just two networks coast to coast NBC and CBS. The CBS Network, a couple years later would come up with their own idea of the NBC show. There have been changes over the years with many different hosts, studio designs and locales, but the interview and Q and A format has basically remained the same.
There they twelve we selected and they are quite variety of shows that have endured time and change. Now if you want to see some of the others and the surprise that are in store go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_longest-running_American_television_series it is an amazing list with a lot of history. I hope you have enjoyed this edition of “SWSK”, please feel free to share it.