Some television shows get cancelled after their first seasons. Sometimes low viewership will shut down a show, while other times good shows get the kick due to the Network executive decisions. And then there are the shows that have seemingly been on forever. The shows that consistently get renewed to the point of passing the ten season mark. Not many shows make it to that stage for a variety of reasons, but we will be looking at the ones did and discover what the secret to a long lifetime on air is.
The first episode of Grey’s Anatomy premiered in 2005. Now, the show is going on their fifteenth season and has well surpassed the tenth season mark. This medical drama series is particularly impressive because it has not only been on for over ten years, but it has maintained a loyal and powerful fanbase. Grey’s Anatomy is one of the headlining shows for ABC’s TGIT (Thank God it’s Thursday) a promotional day for the networks top dramas.
So why can’t people get enough of Meredith Grey and her hospital full of twists and turns? Grey’s Anatomy has a specific formula to the show. Each episode there is a patient with that the doctors struggle to cure or save. As they do this, we dive into the subplots and watch the drama between doctors unfold. This formula allows for the story to progress, while also keeping up the same medical mysteries each episode. It’s like watching the show for the first time, every time. So perhaps this is why Grey’s Anatomy, and shows like it, manage to stay on air for so long.
Sitcoms and comedies have the upper hand when it comes to making it past ten seasons. It starts with creating a general premise, such as a family living in the suburbs, and then filling that premise with jokes every episode. There’s no struggle of connecting overarching story-lines and the characters don’t really need to develop over time. The best example of this is Family Guy. Family Guy is on it’s sixteenth season and doesn’t seem to be coming to an end any time soon. And why would it? The characters never age because it is an animated series and there will always be something to make fun of.
The comedy ranges from making satirical commentary on society, to throwing cheap jokes that would make even a baby giggle. Family Guy takes a simple middle class family and turns them into hilarity for thirty minutes. The animation also gives them more freedom of ideas because the can tell any story their imaginations can come up with. Time traveling baby? You got it. A talking dog? Done. The possibilities with this show are endless, and maybe that’s why it’s managed to stay on air for so long.
The truth about long running shows isn’t in the formula, or even in the simplicity of animated comedy. It rests in the characters, because whether you’re looking at Meredith Grey from Grey’s Anatomy, or Peter Griffin from Family Guy, the fact is that both are extremely beloved by fans.
Just look at Supernatural, a show about two demon fighting brothers, that has been on for thirteen seasons. The show is able to range from comedic to dark for one reason and one reason only: the lovable characters. Fans of the show are willing to sit down and watch Sam and Dean fight a demon that transports them into a Scooby-Doo cartoon because they love Sam and Dean as people. The two brothers established a beautiful relationship early on in the show and maintained it. The same can be said for the characters on Grey’s Anatomy, all with relatability and likability that keeps viewers coming back for more. When people love characters enough, they’re willing to keep watching their stories unfold even if it takes over ten years.
Ciera Thompson is currently a rising junior at Appalachian State University. She is majoring in Broadcasting and Electronic Media with a focus in Production. Ciera grew up in Durham, NC. As the Video Associate for Creative Allies, Ciera brings her video expertise to the team and works to create content on a day to day basis.
Guest contributors are the opinion of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of Creative Allies Inc. or its affiliates.