“Gunsmoke” entertained audiences for close to two decades on the air. But it also left behind a record that’s hard to beat as well. For the longest time, the show held the record for the scripted TV series with the most episodes.
So how many episodes did “Gunsmoke” produce? Well, over 20 years the show had 635 episodes making it the second longest-running primetime show in American history. Eventually, the animated comedy “The Simpsons” would surpass the show in both the number of seasons (2009) and the number of episodes (2018). That series which follows a dysfunctional family in Springfield has 32 seasons and 698 episodes.
But “Gunsmoke” does still hold the record for live-action shows in regards to the number of episodes. “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” eventually surpassed the western in the number of seasons. The crime drama has 22 seasons and counting. But it still has a ways to go to beat the western’s massive number of episodes. So far, the show has only produced around 486 episodes.
It would take a number of years for “Gunsmoke” to drop from its top position. Most TV series also opt for shorter seasons and fewer episodes these days, making it more likely that the western remains top of the list.
‘Gunsmoke’ Almost Ended Sooner
Of course, “Gunsmoke” almost ended a lot sooner than it had. CBS actually canceled the show after its 12th Season, sending its fanbase into an uproar. Even, Congress got involved after the show’s cancellation. The Kansas Legislature partnered with the Dodge City Commission to petition the network to reconsider.
Finally, CBS brought the show back after CBS Chairman William S. Paley’s wife urged him to reconsider the cancellation. CBS brought Matt Dillon and his friends back for another eight seasons, rounding out the number of years on the air to 20. Eventually, the network canceled the show once again in the 1970s, thanks to the rural purge.
It’s hard to say how iconic the show would have been if it ended early. “Gunsmoke” would still be remembered for its cast of colorful characters and interesting stories. But part of what makes it so special is its longevity and how the show consistently entertained TV viewers year after year.