What is the longest-running soap opera? 20 of the longest in the history of television

What is the longest-running soap opera? 20 of the longest in the history of television

All good things must end, and this has often played out on television when fan-favourite shows are ending. Of course, some shows are so good that people want them to continue for an eternity, but even the longest-running soap opera has a beginning and an end. The most important thing is to enjoy it as long as it airs, and then there is always the option of re-watching when it ends.

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longest-running soap opera
A group of people watching a movie in the theatre. Photo: @kristsll
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There are soap operas where you see young actors growing into adults while they are still airing. Such soaps allow viewers to develop a deep connection with the actors as if they know them in real life. The danger with such a connection is that it leaves fans heartbroken when a show comes to its end.

Longest-running soap operas

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You might be used to soap operas that last a few months or years, but some run for a lifetime. The longest-running soap operas in the history of television include:

1. Coronation Street (1960 – present)

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  • IMDb score: 5.6
  • First premiered: December 1960
  • Country of origin: Britain
  • Home network or station: Granada Television
  • No. of seasons (as of April 2022): 62
  • No. of episodes (as of April 2022): 10,621

The British drama TV show was created by Tony Warren and is the longest-running soap opera in the UK, having aired for 62 years on British TV. It attained the title of the world’s longest-running television soap opera in 2010. The show depicts a working-class community going about its daily activities.

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Coronation Street, which premiered its 10,000th episode in 2020, averages around six million viewers per episode.

2. General Hospital (1963 – present)

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  • IMDb score: 6.5
  • First premiered: April 1, 1963
  • Country of origin: USA
  • Home network or station: ABC
  • No. of seasons (as of April 2022): 58
  • No. of episodes (as of April 2022): 14,961

It is America's longest-running soap opera in production, having aired for 59 years and one of the longest-running daytime soap operas. Its setting is a hospital in Port Charles centred on the Spencer and Quartermaine families.

During the episode where Luke and Laura got married, it brought in 30 million viewers, making it the highest-rated hour in the history of American soap operas.

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General Hospital, created by husband-and-wife soap writers Frank and Doris Hursley, was initially set in a hospital. It holds the record for most Daytime Emmy Awards for Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series.

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3. Guiding Light (1952 – 2009)

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  • IMDb score: 6.5
  • First premiered: June 30, 1952
  • Country of origin: USA
  • Home network or station: CBS
  • No. of seasons (as of April 2022): 72
  • No. of episodes (as of April 2022): 18,262

It is a radio and television soap opera listed in the Guinness World Records as the second-longest-running drama in American television. It has 72 years of radio and television runs, making it the longest-running soap opera.

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Guiding Light is the 5th longest-running program in all of broadcast history.

4. Days of Our Lives (1965 – present)

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  • IMDb score: 5.1
  • First premiered: November 8, 1965
  • Country of origin: USA
  • Home network or station: NBC
  • No. of seasons (as of April 2022): 56
  • No. of episodes (as of April 2022): 14,000

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The daytime soap opera was created by husband-and-wife team Ted Corday and Betty Corday. In its early years, its story editor was Ima Phillips, but she left to focus on some of her other old soap operas like Another World and As the World Turns. Days of Our Lives cast is led by Julie Olson Williams and Marlena Evans, the second and third longest-tenured actors on the show.

Did you know?

After the 2007 cancellation of Passions, Days of Our Lives remains the only soap opera airing on NBC.

5. As The World Turns (1956 – 2010)

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  • IMDb score: 6.0
  • First premiered: April 2, 1956
  • Country of origin: USA
  • Home network or station: CBS
  • No. of seasons (as of April 2022): 54
  • No. of episodes (as of April 2022): 13,858

The CBS soap opera aired for 54 years before its termination in 2010. It was produced in Manhattan for the first 43 years before being moved to Brooklyn for the last decade. It took two years before reaching the top spot in the daytime Nielsen ratings.

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As the World Turns’ 13,763 hours of the cumulative narrative makes it the longest-running time of any television show.

6. Emmerdale (1972 – present)

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  • IMDb score: 4.8
  • First premiered: October 16, 1972
  • Country of origin: Britain
  • Home network or station: ITV
  • No. of seasons (as of April 2022): 53
  • No. of episodes (as of April 2022): 9,339

Since its premiere, the British soap opera's interior scenes have been filmed at the Leeds Studios and is the second-longest-running soap opera in the UK. It got its name from Amerdale, an ancient name of Littondale. Initially, it was meant to be a three-month series, but production continued to date and has become among the most famous soap operas.

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The fictional village of Emmerdale, where the soap opera Emmerdale is set, was known as Beckindale until 1994.

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7. The Young and The Restless (1973 – present)

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  • IMDb score: 5.1
  • First premiered: March 26, 1973
  • Country of origin: USA
  • Home network or station: CBS
  • No. of seasons (as of April 2022): 48
  • No. of episodes (as of April 2022): 12,000

The Young and The Restless is one of the longest-running TV shows globally, and it is set in a fictionalized version of Genoa City, Wisconsin. Its early seasons focused on two core families of the Brooks and the Fosters. After several recasts and departures, the original core families were written off and replaced by the Abbotts and the Williamses.

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Initially, The Young and The Restless used to air as half-hour episodes, but from February 1980, it expanded to one-hour episodes.

8. Pobol y Cwm (1974 – present)

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  • IMDb score: 7.9
  • First premiered: October 1974
  • Country of origin: Wales
  • Home network or station: BBC
  • No. of seasons (as of April 2022): 44
  • No. of episodes (as of April 2022): 8,000

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The series used to be transmitted on BBC One Wales before being transferred to the Welsh-language station S4C. Its setting is in a fictional agricultural Welsh community. In 1994 it was briefly shown in the entire UK with English subtitles.

Did you know?

The Welsh language soap opera Pobol y Cwm is the longest-running television soap opera produced by the BBC.

9. One Life To Live (1968 – 2012)

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  • IMDb score: 6.8
  • First premiered: July 15, 1968
  • Country of origin: USA
  • Home network or station: ABC
  • No. of seasons (as of April 2022): 45
  • No. of episodes (as of April 2022): 11,136

The series was broadcast on ABC for more than 43 years from 1968. In 2013 it was briefly aired on the internet as a web series on Hulu and iTunes. It was created by Agnes Nixon and focused on the members of the Lord family and their relationships.

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Did you know?

One Life To Live was the first daytime drama to feature socioeconomically diverse characters.

10. All My Children (1970 – 2011)

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  • IMDb score: 6.6
  • First premiered: January 5, 1970
  • Country of origin: USA
  • Home network or station: ABC
  • No. of seasons (as of April 2022): 43
  • No. of episodes (as of April 2022): 10,755

The soap opera aired on ABC from January 5, 1970, to September 23, 2011, and on the internet until September 2, 2013. It is set in Pine Valley and was created by Agnes Nixon. Erica Kane, one of daytime TV's most popular characters, was initially portrayed by Susan Lucci.

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The title of the series All My Children refers to the bonds of humanity.

11. Another World (1964 – 1999)

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  • IMDb score: 7.0
  • First premiered: May 4, 1964
  • Country of origin: USA
  • Home network or station: NBC
  • No. of seasons (as of April 2022): 35
  • No. of episodes (as of April 2022): 8,891

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The NBC series was produced by Procter & Gamble Productions. It is set in the fictional town of Bay City. It was the first soap opera to do a crossover, with Mike Bauer’s character from Guiding Light coming from Springfield to Bay City.

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In 1964 Another World became the first soap opera to talk about abortion.

12. EastEnders (1985 – present)

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  • IMDb score: 4.7
  • First premiered: 1985
  • Country of origin: United Kingdom
  • Home network or station: BBC One
  • No. of seasons (as of April 2022): 64
  • No. of episodes (as of April 2022): 6,477

The soap opera was created by Tony Holland and Julia Smith and started airing on BBC One in 1985. It is set in Albert Square in the East End of London in the fictional borough of Walford. It is about the daily struggles of residents.

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Production of Eastenders was suspended for three months in 2020 due to the Covid19 pandemic.

13. Neighbours (1985 – present)

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  • IMDb score: 5.4
  • First premiered: March 18, 1985
  • Country of origin: Australia
  • Home network or station: Seven Network
  • No. of seasons (as of April 2022): 38
  • No. of episodes (as of April 2022): 8,819

Created by Reg Watson, Neighbours is an Australian TV soap opera broadcast on the Seven Network. Its poor performance in the Sydney market prompted Seven to cancel it four months after it began airing, but it was immediately re-commissioned by rival network Ten.

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The Seven Network commissioned Neighbours following the success of Reg Watson's earlier soap Sons and Daughters.

14. Search for Tomorrow (1951 – 1986)

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  • IMDb score: 7.3
  • First premiered: September 3, 1951
  • Country of origin: USA
  • Home network or station: NBC
  • No. of seasons (as of April 2022): 35
  • No. of episodes (as of April 2022): 9,130

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The American TV soap opera aired on CBS and NBC before concluding on December 26, 1986. It is set in the fictional town of Henderson and focuses on Joanne's character, which actress Mary Stuart played.

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Search for Tomorrow initially aired as a 15-minute serial for 17 years, after which live broadcasts were discontinued and replaced by recorded telecasts in March 1967.

15. The Bold and the Beautiful (1987 – present)

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  • IMDb score: 3.3
  • First premiered: March 23, 1987
  • Country of origin: USA
  • Home network or station: CBS
  • No. of seasons (as of April 2022): 34
  • No. of episodes (as of April 2022): 8000

The series is set in Los Angeles, California, centred on the Forrester family and their haute couture business. John McCook featured as Eric Forrester, is probably the longest-running soap opera actor. Since its premiere, it has been the most-watched soap globally, with over 26.2 million viewers.

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The Bold and the Beautiful was created by William J. Bell and Lee Phillip Bell as a sister show to their other soap opera, The Young and the Restless.

16. Home and Away (1988 – present)

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  • IMDb score: 5.1
  • First premiered: January 17, 1988
  • Country of origin: Australia
  • Home network or station: Seven Network
  • No. of seasons (as of April 2022): 35
  • No. of episodes (as of April 2022): 7,782

Alan Bateman created the soap opera and intended to call it Refuge, but the name was considered "unfriendly"; hence Home and Away came into being. It premiered with a 90-minute pilot episode, and subsequent episodes have always been 22 minutes long.

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Alan Bateman came up with the concept of Home and Away while on a trip to Kangaroo Point, New South Wales, where locals did not want a foster home to be constructed.

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17. Fair City (1989 – present)

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  • IMDb score: 2.7
  • First premiered: September 18, 1989
  • Country of origin: Ireland
  • Home network or station: TRE One
  • No. of seasons (as of April 2022): 30
  • No. of episodes (as of April 2022): 4,000

Fair City is the most popular and longest-running Irish drama serial and has been airing since 1989. It has had several plots, including the domestic and professional lives of the residents of Carrigstown. In 2020, Fair City was taken off air for the first time because of the Covid19 effects, but it resumed after five months.

Did you know?

Fair City is the most-watched drama in Ireland, with an average of 550,000 viewers.

18. Love of Life (1951 – 1980)

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  • IMDb score: 7.5
  • First premiered: September 24, 1951
  • Country of origin: USA
  • Home network or station: CBS
  • No. of seasons (as of April 2022): 29
  • No. of episodes (as of April 2022): 7,315

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The original production of Love of Life took place at the CBS Broadcast Center on West 57th Street and CBS' Studio 52 behind the Ed Sullivan Theater, but it had to be moved in 1975 to pave the way for a nightclub. Its final episode aired in 1980.

Did you know?

The series originally came from Liederkranz Hall on East 58th Street in Manhattan, where The Guiding Light and Search for Tomorrow came from.

19. The Edge of Night (1956 – 1984)

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  • IMDb score: 7.8
  • First premiered: April 2, 1956
  • Country of origin: USA
  • Home network or station: CBS
  • No. of seasons (as of April 2022): 28
  • No. of episodes (as of April 2022): 7,420

Irving Vendig created the soap opera, and it debuted on CBS on April 2, 1956. Before November 1975, it used to air as a live broadcast on CBS before being moved to ABC, where it aired until 1984.

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First lady Eleanor Roosevelt, impressionist Rich Little, songwriter Cole Porter and actress Tallulah Bankhead were all devoted fans of The Edge of Night.

20. The Secret Storm (1954 – 1974)

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  • IMDb score: 5.2
  • First premiered: February 1, 1954
  • Country of origin: USA
  • Home network or station: CBS
  • No. of seasons (as of April 2022): 20
  • No. of episodes (as of April 2022): 5,195

It was created by Roy Winsor, the creator of other long-running shows such as Love of Life and Search for Tomorrow. Like most soap operas, The Secret Storm was broadcast live in the early years and taped for the rest of the show. It is about the Ames family from a prominent clan of Woodbridge.

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The character Amy in The Secret Storm was allowed to age in real-time instead of the sudden ageing portrayed by other younger soap opera characters.

Frequently asked questions

  1. Which is the longest-running soap opera in the world? Coronation Street is the longest-running soap opera, beginning in 1937 and ending in 2009.
  2. How many episodes does the longest-running soap opera have? Coronation Street has 10,621 episodes and is the longest-running soap opera.
  3. What is the number of seasons in Coronation Street? It has a total of 62 seasons.
  4. Who is the creator of Coronation Street? Tony Warren is the one who created the show.
  5. Which year did General Hospital premiere? The show premiered in 1963 and has been airing ever since.
  6. Which year did Guiding Light stop airing? The series stopped airing in 2009.
  7. What is the name of the most-watched soap opera in Ireland? Fair City is the most-watched drama in Ireland, with an average of 550,000 viewers.

The longest-running soap opera in television history has seen many actors come and go over time. Some actors die before the show can end, while others leave for portraying the same character for too long. But, to fans, the end of a soap opera is never good news, no matter how long it has aired.

Yen.com.gh shared an interesting article about the longest movie ever made. On average, a movie is expected to last between one to two hours. A film with a run time that is above two hours is perceived to be so long for an average person.

If you're wondering about the longest cinematic films ever made, the list is for you. The IMDb ratings and release dates have also been included in detail.

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Source: YEN.com.gh

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