10 Best Long-Running TV Shows That You Can Binge

Before the streaming boom, audiences had a difficult time jumping into a long-running series halfway through or even at the beginning of a season. Before Netflix’s disc mailing days, viewers relied on cable re-runs or Blockbuster DVD rentals in order to catch up as new episodes aired. It was work to invest in an already established series. Now, streaming makes it accessible to finally start those shows that everyone talks about.

Debates about being over-hyped, over-done, and on-air for too long aside, these TV series are the perfect examples of established stories that it’s not too late to get into. The millions of titles on streaming catalogs mean that new audiences are introduced to these iconic characters each day, and there are whole fan bases out there waiting to welcome new viewers to the club.

10 ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ (2005-)

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Image via FX Network

With hiccups and shenanigans that rival Arrested Development and Parks & Recreation, this long-running sitcom has been entertaining viewers for almost two decades. The series centers around a failing Irish pub run by five friends who set the bar for how low is too low to make a quick dollar. The chemistry of the cast is what has continued to make this series successful.

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An IMDb Top-Rated TV series, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is Emmy-nominated comedic chaos that has earned a very loyal fan base. It continues to air on FX, while its 165-episode catalog is available to stream on Hulu and Amazon for audiences willing to indulge in yet another legendary 2000s sitcom.

9 ‘Criminal Minds’ (2005-)

The cast of Criminal Minds
Image via CBS

Sixteen seasons and 334 episodes (and counting), Criminal Minds continues to be an audience favorite when it comes to long-running TV series. Formulaic, this crime series focuses on a team of FBI criminal profilers as they are called in to aid in brutal crime investigations around the country. For the fans of TV that focuses on the psychology of crime, this is the series for you.

Over the almost two decades of air time, the series cycled through cast members and their beloved characters, some returning after exits in earlier seasons. It originally aired on CBS through 2020 and was revived by Paramount+ where it streams new and old episodes now.

8 ‘Friends’ (1994-2004)

Friends’ (1994 - 2004) (1)

Forever engraved in pop and TV culture is this iconic multi-camera series. Friends is about exactly what the title says, a group of friends—each with their individual, lovable quirks—just trying to get by living in New York City. It’s a series that, if audiences haven’t seen it, they’ve heard of it.

Always rerunning on cable—and seemingly always on waiting room TVs—Friends is a feel-good series that is a low-pressure watch. It’s perfect for the busybody needing background noise and for the anxiety streamer that needs a predictable series to mellow out to. Audiences fell in love with the characters, making it one of those series that will always be popular no matter how many decades have passed since the final episode.

7 ‘Supernatural’ (2005-2020)

Supernatural sam and dean
Image via The CW

Seemingly always paired with “That show’s still on?”—Supernatural claimed 15 seasons of airtime on The CW, arguably one of the network’s best installments. The series stars Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles as brothers tracking down and fighting evil supernatural beings of all kinds roaming the earth.

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Earning three Primetime Emmy nominations, Supernatural was a larger-than-life series that garnered a massive following throughout its decade and a half of episodes. Come for the interest in a new fantasy series, but stay for the excellent banter between Padalecki and Ackles.

6 ‘Shameless’ (2011-2021)

Carl and Frank Gallagher Shameless
Image via Showtime

This Emmy-winning series is an IMDb Top-Rated TV series that’s perfect for the viewer that likes a little bit of familial chaos. Shameless is about the dysfunctional Gallagher Family as the single father, Frank (William H. Macy), spends most of his time drinking while the eldest daughter, Fiona (Emmy Rossum), manages to raise her siblings.

Airing on Showtime for 11 seasons, only hit one speed-bump season with its 10th installment but bounced back for its final call. The dark dramedy made excellent casting choices that allowed it to succeed as one of the best long-running series of the 2010s.

5 ‘Modern Family’ (2009-2020)

Image via ABC

One of ABC’s best comedies of all time, Modern Family successfully maximized its efforts with the 30-minute time slot. In this mockumentary-style series, viewers get an inside look at three separate but related families as they tackle raising their kids, maintaining a happy marriage, and breaking the boundaries of a “traditional” family.

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The characters are quotable, lovable, and the antics are well-timed. This series brought light-hearted fun to viewers bombarded with crime dramas, medical series, and reality TV. Instead of catching reruns, stream all 11 series from start to finish on your favorite platform.

4 ‘The Office’ (2005-2013)

Michael, Dwight, and Jim disguised
Image via NBC

This is a series that everyone has an opinion on, but it is worth the watch to form your own. The Office documents the daily lives of the employees of Dunder Mifflin, a mid-size paper company in Scranton, Pennsylvania. In addition to launching the careers of several stars, this comedy became a foundational series that inspired the mockumentary style of TV filmmaking.

As many loyal fans attest, getting through the first season is key to unlocking the true greatness of The Office. Another seemingly standard opinion includes the final seasons were misfires following Steve Carell’s exit, but are worth watching to see the wholesome conclusion. Originally airing on NBC, the complete series now finds a home on Peacock.

3 ‘Game of Thrones’ (2011-2019)

Game Of Thrones

A series that many TV lovers avoided because it was a highly-hyped watch, Game of Thrones is worth revisiting now that the pressure to keep up is over. Based on the books by George R.R. Martin, the fantasy series chronicles nine families as they fight for power and full control of the Westeros. It’s a complicated series, but worth it for those willing to commit.

Critically acclaimed and award-winning, Game of Thrones is an IMDb Top-Rated series that—like many long-running TV series—launched the careers of several rising stars as their roles in the series will forever be ingrained in their filmography. It’s a series that requires the viewer’s full attention while watching with all eight seasons available on Max.

2 ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ (2005-)

Christina and Meredith looking confused in Grey's Anatomy.

From the mind of its acclaimed creator, Shonda Rhimes, Grey’s Anatomy sealed its legacy as one of the best medical series in TV history. The series began about five surgical interns and their supervising physicians, evolving with those characters as they became doctors. Like many series that have been around for over a decade, the characters grow, and the actors behind them move on to new projects. Grey’s Anatomy is no exception but oftentimes sets audiences up for emotional reunions.

It’s an Emmy-winning series with epic romances and devastating losses that are well worth the binge. From the jaw-dropping cliffhangers to the special episodes, this medical drama will admit audiences new and old for repeat streams and first-time watchlists.

1 ‘Law & Order’ (1990-)

Jerry Orbach and Chris Noth on 'Law & Order.'
Image via NBC.

This franchise is the definition of a long-running TV series. From its iconic theme music to its closing credits, Law & Order is the gold standard of crime stories. The original series and its spinoffs all center around the structure of the police investigation into the prosecution of a crime. NBC has dominated the crime genre for decades and produced some 1,274 (and counting) episodes of Law & Order shows.

Throughout the seasons, there have been star-studded cameos paired alongside main characters whose actors and actresses have made a career out of the role. While it’s a series, audiences can drop in without a lot of previous episode context, it’s worth the time investment to start from the beginning and appreciate the evolution of the production.

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