It’s not unusual for series to run for hundreds of episodes across multiple seasons–sometimes even a decade – but it’s considerably more challenging to do so at a consistent level of quality that never lets down its audience.
Sitcoms often struggle when it comes to balancing quality gags with smart storytelling and character development. It’s easy for sitcoms to regress, both with their comedy and characters, but some shows have higher standards and achieve a successful rhythm that never does them wrong. Not every series is destined to jump the shark just because they run long enough.
10 Curb Your Enthusiasm
11 Seasons, 110 Episodes (Ongoing)
Curb Your Enthusiasm has produced more than 100 episodes across 11 seasons–with a twelfth on the way–but it made its debut all the way back in 2000 and it’s been an HBO staple for close to 25 years. Larry David plays a heightened version of himself in a semi-improvised sitcom that embraces Larry’s neurotic impulses that fueled so many of Seinfeld’s storylines.
Curb continues to evolve in rewarding ways and HBO’s relationship with David where he’s able to make the sure whenever he’s inspired as opposed to adhering to a schedule has allowed it to stay fresh and outlast Seinfeld.
9 Peep Show
9 Seasons, 54 Episodes
54 episodes may not sound like an especially lengthy run for a sitcom, but it’s astronomical as far as British comedies are concerned, which tend to end after one or two seasons of six episodes. Peep Show is a rare exception that ran for nine seasons over the course of 12 years and it’s actually the longest-running Channel 4 comedy in the UK.
Peep Show is uniquely presented entirely through first-person, while the audience is also privy to the internal monologues of whichever character they’re around. Peep Show begins with Mark and Jez as irresponsible bachelors, but each season progressively ups the stakes until Mark is a miserable divorced single parent.
11 Seasons, 273 Episodes
A dark sitcom that’s almost set exclusively within a dank bar is one of the funniest, sweetest comedies ever made. Cheers has been over for more than 30 years yet audiences continue to return to “where everybody knows their name.”
Most sitcoms aren’t able to successfully recover from a major casting change and yet Cheers makes these curveballs work, whether it’s Woody’s replacement of Coach or Rebecca’s run on the show following Diane’s exit. Cheers knows how to make these eclectic characters work together in the most effective ways possible. There are just as many classic Cheers episodes in its last season as there are in its first.
7 The Jeffersons
11 Seasons, 253 Episodes
Lasting for more than 250 episodes from 1975 to ’85, The Jeffersons is a groundbreaking African-American sitcom that broke barriers through George and Louise’s class-busting lifestyle. The Jeffersons is routinely funny, but there’s smart, biting social commentary underneath most of its storylines.
The Jeffersons are subjected to changes across all 11 seasons, yet George and Louise always stay true to themselves and the show’s premise. Plenty of supporting players come and go, but The Jeffersons‘ ability to stay satisfying and sharp right up until its finish proves that there’s a strong foundation to the sitcom’s storytelling and comedy.
11 Seasons, 251 Episodes
It’s truly surprising that M*A*S*H, a comedy that’s set in a mobile army surgical hospital during the Korean War would succeed, let alone produce more than 250 episodes. Alan Alda leads an unforgettable cast of characters in a stark sitcom that understands when to be silly and serious, with one never coming at the other’s expense.
M*A*S*H is a difficult tonal balancing act, but one that makes the sitcom reach even more impressive heights. The two-hour series finale for M*A*S*H is still one of the highest-rated TV events of all-time. That being said, it’s best to just forget that AfterMASH ever happened.
5 King Of The Hill
13 Seasons, 259 Episodes
As far as the pantheon of long-running animated family sitcoms goes, it’s easy to single out The Simpsons, Family Guy, or Bob’s Burgers, but King of the Hill deserves attention for its consistent run across more than 250 episodes. King of the Hill’s grounded look into ordinary life in a Texas suburb focuses on character-driven humor that benefits from everyone’s well-defined nature.
King of the Hill often flew under the radar since its situational humor is so mundane that the show doesn’t even feel like it needs to be animated. A modern revival of King of the Hill is currently headed to Hulu, which will hopefully capture the original’s magic without compromise.
4 It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
16 Seasons, 170 Episodes (Ongoing)
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has evolved from a scrappy low-budget cable sitcom to FX’s flagship program and the longest-running live-action comedy ever. It’s Always Sunny looks at the problematic antics of a group of friends who run a Philadelphia bar.
Nothing is off table in It’s Always Sunny and the comedy’s ability to tackle taboo material early on its run has given the series a certain invincibility. Renewed up until season 18, FX clearly wants to continue to do business with the It’s Always Sunny team for as long as they’re interested. They already have a deal that allows them to create on their own terms and value quality over quantity.
11 Seasons, 264 Episodes
Fans were initially skeptical that a Cheers spin-off centered on the pompous Frasier Crane would find an audience, let alone last for a full season. Frasier would go on to become one of the strongest spin-offs of all-time and establish its own acclaimed reputation over the course of 11 seasons.
Frasier knows how to deliver heightened farces and brilliant wordplay, all while episodes get lost in rich character work between the show’s extreme cast. After playing Frasier Crane for more than two decades, Kelsey Grammer is set to return in the upcoming Frasier revival for Paramount+, which hopefully won’t tarnish the spin-off’s impressive legacy.
2 American Dad
20 Seasons, 351 Episodes (Ongoing)
Many unfairly write off American Dad as a politically-minded Family Guy imitator, but the absurdist animated family sitcom has been out of its predecessor’s shadow ever since its second season. American Dad has made adult animated history with more than 350 episodes that are at their best whenever the series take ambitious stylistic swings.
American Dad has found a certain freedom ever since its transition from FOX to TBS all the way back in 2014 and the show haven’t shown any signs of decline. The radical family comedy has never been more confident.
9 Seasons, 180 Episodes
Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David’s Seinfeld is a formative ‘90s sitcom that helped push the genre forward by deconstructing everyday life through stories “about nothing.” Seinfeld’s examination of the human condition, albeit with unabashed obliviousness, gives its characters and stories a timeless quality.
Some cite Seinfeld’s eighth and ninth seasons – the two seasons lacking Larry David’s involvement – as the point where the sitcom jumped the shark. Seinfeld undeniably gets wackier and broader in its final two seasons, but they also contain some of the series’ absolute best episodes and the show still ends during its creative height.
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