The 10 longest-running soap operas in TV history

Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue in Neighbour wedding scene
Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue in Neighbours, one of the longest-running soap operas on TV

It’s pretty easy to get addicted to watching TV series — but some of the longest-running soap operas have been around for years.

So to be a die-hard fan of these shows you’d have to watch them every week for decades!

To endure on the small screen a program has to excel in so many areas, including a rock-solid script, continuously compelling storylines and a perpetually engaging cast.

YouTube video player

All the soaps on this list have those qualities in spades because, frankly, otherwise they would have died a death years ago.

But which are the longest-running soap-operas of all? Scroll down to find out.

10 The Bold and the Beautiful, USA, 1987

If you’ve never seen an episode of The Bold and the Beautiful then you’ve obviously been living in a cave.

The show celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2017, but though that might sound like a long time wait till you see some of the ones further down the list.

B&B just nudges out Sri Lankan comedy-drama Kopi Kade (Coffee Shop) into tenth place in the list of the world’s longest-running soap operas.

While Kopi Kade aired for the first time on April 1, 1987, The Bold and the Beautiful hit screens nine days earlier on March 23.

Some of the original B&B cast members are still in the CBS show today, three decades on — including Katherine Kelly Lang as Brooke Logan, pictured above in the fourth ever episode above.

9 EastEnders, UK, 1985

EastEnders has been a staple of British life for more than 30 years now, broadcast on one of the four main terrestrial television channels, BBC One.

It centers around Albert Square in London’s East End and the people who live there, and has consistently been the most popular soap opera in the UK since not long after it first launched back on February 19, 1985.

Back in the day it used to be shown twice a week as two half-hour shows, but from 2001 onwards the number of episodes was increased to four a week, at prime time on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

8 Neighbours, Australia, 1985

Everybody loves good neighbours, as the intro song to the show that has become one of Australia’s most famous exports goes.

Neighbours was also the launchpad for the person who probably is the country’s most famous export — Kylie Minogue, as well as her on-screen lover Jason Donovan.

The show first aired on Australia’s Seven Network back in March 18, 1985 before transferring to Network Ten a year later, and more recently to Eleven in 2011.

The show, which centers around the residents of Ramsay street, went through its heyday in the 80s and 90s but is still popular today.

7 Lindenstraße (Lime Street), Germany, 1985

One of only two non-English language entries on this list, Lindenstraße has aired weekly since December 8 1985 (obviously a popular year for soaps!).

It has been shown on the Das Erste network ever since its inception, and follows the goings on of the fictional Lindenstraße (Linden Street) in the German capital Munich.

An actual street of that name does exist in Munich, but it’s not the one in the show — which is filmed on a mocked-up version in the city of Cologne.

The idea for Lindenstraße was based on Britain’s Coronation Street, below.

6 Pobol y Cwm (People of the Valley), UK (Wales), 1974

The UK is a hotbed of soap operas — but it’s not just national ones that have been around a long time.

Pobol y Cwm is a Welsh-language soap which has aired in Wales since October 16 1994.

It was initially broadcast on BBC Wales, but in 1982 transferred to the S4C network. The show is the longest-running soap opera produced by the BBC, who still make it and give it to S4C for free as part of its public-service remit.

There are five episodes shown each week and there also used to be an omnibus broadcast on Sunday but that stopped in 2014 when the show’s budget was cut by £1million (US$1.3million).

Pobol y Cwm is set in the fictional village of Cwmderi, in the Welsh valleys.

5 The Young and the Restless, USA, 1973

The Young and the Restless is America’s third longest-running soap, airing for the first time on March 23 1973.

It takes place in the fictional Wisconsin town of Genoa City, and was originally shown as half-hour episodes although this was upped to one-hour ones in 1980.

Despite being around for more than 40 years, the CBS show is still currently the most popular daytime show on American television. It has been in the number one slot for that segment since 1987.

Around even long than that is the show’s longest-serving cast member Doug Davidson, above, who plays Paul Williams. He has been in the CBS soap since May 1978.

4 Emmerdale, UK, 1972

Britain’s second longest-running soap has followed the goings on of the fictional village after which the show is named since October 16 1972.

The first episode of the show, which was initially called Emmerdale Farm, started with a funeral. But the series’ prospects have been a lot more bright, and it still gets an average of between five and seven million people watching each episode today.

It airs on the terrestrial network ITV, the same channel as Coronation Street, below, and was originally shown during the day before being moved to primetime in 1978.

It airs six times a week — every weeknight at 7pm, plus a second episode on Thursdays at 8pm.

3 Days of Our Lives, USA, 1965

NBC’s Days of Our Lives celebrated an incredible 50 years on our screens back in 2015, after first airing on November 8, 1965.

Since then the daytime show has been shown almost every weekday, and celebrated its 12,000th episode back in 2013.

The soap has had serveral long-standing cast members. Frances Reid, as Alice Horton center bottom above, was in the show from the day it started until her death in February 2010 — a total of 37 years.

Meanwhile, Suzanne Rogers — who plays Maggie Horton — has been in the cast for more than 40 years after her first episode in 1973.

2 General Hospital, USA, 1963

And here we are: the longest-running soap opera in US history — which first broadcast on ABC on April 1, 1963, back when The Chiffon’s He’s So Fine was top of the charts and John F Kennedy was president.

General Hospital takes place in the fictional city of Port Charles, New York, and the incredibly complex made-up universe behind it.

The show holds more Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Drama Series than any other show, with a total of 13, and took over as America’s longest-running soap in September 2010 when CBS’s As the World Turns broadcast for the final time.

General Hospital’s episode from November 17, 1981, when Luke Spencer and Laura Webber got married, was watched by an amazing 30 million people — still the most-viewed hour of US soap television ever.

1 Coronation Street, UK, 1960

Coronation Street, affectionately nicknamed Corrie, is officially the longest-running soap opera in the world but, amazingly, it almost never got made.

Back when the idea for the show was first touted it was rejected by the founder of then Granada Television Sidney Bernstein.

Thankfully, producer Harry Elton managed to get him to change his mind and within six months of it being shown it had become Britain’s most popular television show.

Coronation centers around the fictional town of Weatherfield  and its iconic The Rovers Returns pub, and first aired on December 9, 1960.

Its longest running cast member, William Roache, who plays Ken Barlow, pictured above, has been with the show since the first episode and holds the Guinness World Record as the longest-running soap actor on the planet.

Do you watch any of these soaps? Let us know why you think they’re so popular below.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments