‘NCIS’ is Behind ‘Gunsmoke’ and One Other Legendary Show for Longest-Running CBS Program Ever

by Jon D. B.

18 seasons strong as of 2021, NCIS trails behind CBS classic Gunsmokes remarkable 20 seasons, with the network’s second-place holder sitting right in the middle at 19 seasons. This other series, however, is a bit more surprising.

Classic television fans will know it. Casual TV-goers, however, would never guess what CBS’s second-longest running scripted primetime series is.

When looking at shows that have aired on a major broadcast network, CBS holds 4 of the Top 10 slots of the longest-running scripted shows of all time. The longest-running in history belongs to FOX in the form of The Simpsons. The classic adult cartoon has been on air for a nigh-unbelievable 32 seasons now. CBS’s own longest-running comes in at #3 of all time: Gunsmoke.

Gunsmoke originally aired from 1955 all the way to 1975 for an impressive 20 seasons. Trailing behind it is CBS’s NCIS, which ranks at #7 on the Top 10. It is the network’s third-longest running scripted primetime series. Before becoming a cultural phenomenon that inspired several spinoffs, the original NCIS began in 2003 and is, of course, still on the air.

So what’s CBS’s second-place holder?

Lassie! The iconic CBS show ran for 19 seasons. From late 1954 all the way to March of 1971, Lassie was a part of the network and living rooms across the world. The world’s most famous dog continues to be in the form of reruns, of course, but the original show’s run was a remarkable one, indeed.

As for NCIS, the show looks to be ready to beat out Lassie‘s record. Season 19 is already on the way, which will have it tie not only Lassie, but FOX’s other animated adult programming, Family Guy.

NCIS May Never Topple ‘Simpsons’ or ‘SVU’

(Photo by Sonja Flemming/CBS via Getty Images)

If NCIS runs for another season beyond 19, then CBS’s huge franchise leader will then tie Gunsmoke and Law & Order for 20 seasons. When it comes to the two top place holders in this formidable Top 10, however, there may be no catching up.

While Gunsmoke, Lassie, and Law & Order have long been out of production, the #1 spot – The Simpsons – and #2 spot – Law & Order: Special Victims Unit are still going strong.

NBC’s legendary Law & Order spinoff, commonly referred to as SVU, is a juggernaut at 22 seasons already. Season 23 is on the way, too, and will premiere in September of 2021.

And then there’s The Simpsons. The venerable animated sitcom has 32 seasons under its belt, a hit film, countless specials, and shows no signs of slowing down – ever. With a 10-year lead on #2 alone, there’s little reason to think NCIS will ever take the #1 spot. Though, stranger things have happened…

If you’re curious as to CBS’s other placer in this prestigious Top 10, that would be CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. The classic caper ran from 2000 to 2015 for a total of 15 seasons. This sees it tied up with ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and a third adult-animated show from FOX (really!?), American Dad, to round out the Top 10 longest-running scripted primetime shows of all time.

What a list! Here’s to many more years of NCIS – and an eventual #1 spot!