The Most Popular TV Shows of All Time

The Most Popular TV Shows of All Time

Since the invention of the television, there have been fantastic shows that have captured our imaginations while making us laugh and cry. There have been thousands of shows over the years, and while they’re not all gold, there are many that people really love. These are the shows that people watch when they’re new. Then they watch them again as reruns. Then, they have their kids watch the shows, and it goes on and on. Many of those beloved programs made this list of the most popular all-time TV shows as ranked by audiences.

There are many different shows on this list in a variety of categories, and when you see them, you’ll likely think back fondly on when you used to watch them. This list includes several different cartoons, including “The Flintstones,” “The Jetsons,” and “The Muppet Show.” There are also a few educational shows here, such as “Sesame Street,” “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” and to some extent, “Jeopardy!” Of course, the list also includes various sitcoms, from “The Golden Girls” to “Cheers,” and of course, “Friends.” No, you likely won’t agree with every choice on this list, but we bet you’ll like most of them.

Keep in mind that this list is not based on our opinion. Instead, to create this list of the most popular all-time TV shows, 24/7 Tempo used a list created by the website YouGov.com. That site polled many people in America, and the shows here are the ones in which the people had a positive option. The popularity metric is how many of the surveyed people enjoyed these shows. We believe a lot of these will surprise you. (If you like lists about the golden ages of television, then also check out this list of the most beloved sitcom characters.) 

1. “Tom and Jerry”

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“Tom and Jerry” has been a beloved cartoon since 1940.
  • Popularity: 75%
  • Original Aired: 1940 to 1958

The fact that “Tom and Jerry” tops the list of the most popular all-time TV shows is likely a surprise to many. However, this beloved animated comedy team took the nation by storm during its original run and has sparked many movies and reboots. There’s just something so simplistic about a show with a similar plot every week. Plus, the game of cat and mouse is as old as time. That’s why most people of a certain age group look back at this show fondly, and many young kids like it too.

2. “The Flintstones”

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“The Flintstones” follows a family living in 10,000 B.C.
  • Popularity: 74%
  • Original Aired: 1960 and 1966

This was another beloved cartoon that captured the imaginations of viewers back in the 1960s, so much so that almost three-quarters of Americans think there are very few shows better than “The Flintstones.” The show was very imaginative with the dinosaurs and old-school ways of doing things, but it was also a show about the issues that many families of the time dealt with, just thousands of years in the past. There have also been a few movies based on the show, and people seem to like them as well.

3. “The Bugs Bunny Show”

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Who doesn’t love Bugs Bunny?
  • Popularity: 73%
  • Original Aired: 1960-2000

Another animated show that was a lot of fun to watch was “The Bugs Bunny Show.” There are many colorful characters on this show, from Bugs Bunny to Elmer Fudd and Tweety Bird, and everyone has their own personal favorite. Bugs Bunny has been an incredibly likable character for the last 60+ years. This show and “Looney Tunes” captured the imaginations of many generations, and people always want to see more. From the cartoon shorts to the movie “Space Jam,” there’s a lot to enjoy, and the “The Bugs Bunny Show” started it all.

4. “Sesame Street”

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The colorful characters of “Sesame Street” have been delighting viewers since 1969.
  • Popularity: 72%
  • Original Aired: 1969-Present

It’s easy to see why “Sesame Street” is one of the most popular all-time TV shows that ever aired. This is a show that many people sat down to watch as children. Then, when those children grow into adults, they sit their kids in front of “Sesame Street.” The show is fun, educational, and full of entertaining characters that have lasted the test of time. Who can forget Elmo, Big Bird, and Bert and Ernie? As long as this show continues to air on television, it will likely find itself on top of lists like this. 

5. “The Jetsons”

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Unlike the Flintstones, the Jetsons live in the future.
  • Popularity: 72%
  • Original Aired: 1962-1963

Shockingly the 5th most popular show amongst Americans was only on for one season with 24 episodes during its original run. Of course, “The Jetsons” is a show about a family living many years in the future when there are flying cars, robot maids, and dome-like homes elevated high up in the sky. This show is essentially the reverse of “The Flintstones.” This time, instead of a family like ours living in the past, it’s family in the future. People continue to look back fondly at “The Jetsons,” and it’s why people like to rewatch the old episodes. 

6. “The Golden Girls”

Source: Courtesy of National Broadcasting Company (NBC)
“The Golden Girls” was a groundbreaking TV show.
  • Popularity: 70%
  • Original Aired: 1985-1992

A noticeable trend on this list is that some of the more wholesome shows of the last century are amongst the most popular all-time TV shows, and “The Golden Girls” is no exception. These older women were so funny, and they had one-liners that kept people laughing well after the show was over. Each of the four golden girls had their own personality and they worked together so well. That chemistry is part of what made the show a hit. The show is also very fresh. You could watch it today and still enjoy each episode.

7. “The Twilight Zone”

Source: Courtesy of CBS
“The Twilight Zone” was an anthology series that featured sad, scary, and thrilling episodes.
  • Popularity: 70%
  • Original Aired: 1959-1964

People really like the show “The Twilight Zone” and that’s mostly because it makes us think about things that most of us could not imagine ourselves. The writer of many of these episodes, Rod Sterling, was a genius storyteller, and each episode brought something completely different. Many of the episodes were sad, others were scary, and all of them left us wondering what the surprise ending would be. Even when you know the ending, you’re tempted to watch it again. There’s a reason why many TV stations play marathons of this show on New Year’s Eve. It’s just that special. 

8. “I Love Lucy”

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Lucille Ball made Lucy Ricardo an iconic character.
  • Popularity: 69%
  • Original Aired: 1951-1957

When many people think about the quintessential sitcoms from the good old days, “I Love Lucy” will often come to mind, and that’s why it’s on this list of the most popular all-time TV shows. Lucille Ball commanded the screen, and her antics solidified her as one of the greatest comedic minds of that generation or any other generation. Her supporting cast was often as good, and they made her even funnier. These shows are so humorous and universal that you can watch them today and get just as many laughs as you did back then, and that’s unbelievable. 

9. “Jeopardy!”

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“Jeopardy!” is one of the most popular game shows of all time.
  • Popularity: 69%
  • Original Aired: 1964-Present

If “I Love Lucy” is the first show that pops up in your mind when you think of the best sitcom, “Jeopardy!” is probably what you think of when someone asks you about a famous game show. This is the ultimate trivia game and people love to watch it to see how many answers they can get right. Plus, it’s fun to see the contestants. When someone wins for several days in a row, we can’t help but root them on. Many people also enjoyed the show because of the beloved host Alex Trebek, but he has sadly passed away.

10. “Cheers”

Source: Courtesy of National Broadcasting Company (NBC)
“Cheers” follows the owners and patrons of a cozy bar in Boston.
  • Popularity: 68%
  • Original Aired: 1982-1993

For many years, “Cheers” was considered to be the best show on television, period. This was the show that most of the nation tuned into every week it was on. The show is filled with colorful characters and many funny situations. It’s made even more unbelievable when you consider that most of the show was set in a single bar, with most of the characters spending a good amount of time sitting down. This is a show that they could never duplicate and make again, even if they tried, and that’s part of what makes it so great.

11. “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”

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Fred McFeely Rogers taught many valuable lessons on his TV show.
  • Popularity: 68%
  • Original Aired: 1968-2001

“Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” simply has to make the list of the most beloved and most popular all-time TV shows. For many years, this nice man allowed us into his home. While we were there, we learned many valuable lessons about sharing, good manners, counting, spelling, and more. Plus, Mister Rogers had many colorful characters on the show, from the nice mailman to the real-life guests who would grace the show and teach us even more lessons about life. This is a program in which most people only have positive memories and it will typically be on any list with “Sesame Street.”

12. “The Muppet Show”

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“The Muppet Show” characters remain iconic to this day.
  • Popularity: 67%
  • Original Aired: 1976-1981

Many shows are on this list because they have an incredible cast of characters, and none are bigger than those on “The Muppet Show.” This was one of the zaniest shows on TV for countless years. The humor was great, and there was no limit to the type of antics viewers would see on a weekly basis. There are many characters on this show that have lasted the test of time, from Kermit the Frog to Gonzo to Fozzie Bear and his corny jokes. It’s no wonder why the show spawned so many movies and reboots.

13. “Law and Order”

Source: Courtesy of National Broadcasting Company (NBC)
The original “Law & Order” ran for 20 years.
  • Popularity: 66%
  • Original Aired: 1990 to 2010

People who love police and procedural shows likely watched “Law and Order,” and that’s why it’s one of the most popular all-time TV shows. This show was on for many years, and it was the perfect combination of action-packed police work and a view of the legal system. There were many colorful characters on the show and a lot of great one-liners. People like that many of the stories were ripped from real-life headlines. That’s likely why the show has so many spin-offs that still air on TV to this day.

14. “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution
Will Smith starred in the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
  • Popularity: 66%
  • Original Aired: 1990-1996

Anyone who loves 90s comedies loved “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” The show starred Will Smith in his comedic prime as he lived with his rich family in California and found himself in crazy situations. It was a show with humor that people of all ages and backgrounds could enjoy, and it had a great cast of characters. Everyone could relate to someone on the show, and it was great fun. This show is one of the reasons why Will Smith’s movie career was so huge and why there was a recent reboot of the show.

15. “The Price is Right”

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Bob Barker hosted “The Price is Right” for 35 years.
  • Popularity: 66%
  • Original Aired: 1956-Present

Another beloved game show that’s still on today is “The Price is Right.” The show is as popular as it ever was. Part of its charm is the fact that anyone can go on and win and have a great time in the process. Plus, it’s fun to root for the people that do get picked. Whether you watch it with former host Bob Barker or current host Drew Carrey, there’s a lot to love on this show, and they always find new ways to make it exciting. Plus, while the games are zany, the contestants are even crazier, and it’s a ball to watch.

16. “The Muppets”

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Jim Henson created the Muppets characters.
  • Popularity: 65%
  • Original Aired: 1976-1981

Just like the “The Muppet Show,” “The Muppets” is another great program that starred most of the same loveable animals and creatures. Creator Jim Henson did a great job with these characters, and they’re still as lovable today as they were back then. It’s no surprise to see them on this list. It wouldn’t be shocking to see a new show air in the future.

17. “I Dream of Jeannie”

Source: Courtesy of National Broadcasting Company (NBC)
This ’60s sitcom follows an astronaut who releases a genie from a bottle.
  • Popularity: 65%
  • Original Aired: 1965-1970

“I Dream of Jeannie” is another unique sitcom from the 60s. It was about an astronaut who finds a bottle and releases the genie inside. Over time, she falls in love with him, and they have a romantic relationship. Plus, she can perform magic all of the time, so there are all kinds of crazy hijinks. People liked a simpler time of television when it was about comedy and the characters and not so much about sending a message, and this show is the perfect example of what people loved at the time.

18. “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson”

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Today, Jimmy Fallon hosts “The Tonight Show.”
  • Popularity: 65%
  • Original Aired: 1962-1992

While “The Tonight Show” is still on the air and going strong today with host Jimmy Fallon, there was nothing quite like the old show with Johnny Carson. He had some of the biggest celebrities of the time on his stage, and they had a blast, and most of the country was watching. There were also some great bits and stand-up performances from some of the biggest stars of the time who were just starting out. This show also harkens back to a more innocent time, and people loved it.

19. “M*A*S*H”

Source: Courtesy of CBS
“M*A*S*H” was both a TV series and a movie.
  • Popularity: 65%
  • Original Aired: 1972-1983

It’s likely no surprise that “M*A*S*H” finds its way onto this list. This show was loved from the beginning until the very popular series finale. The show combined great comedy with the horrors of war, and it meant a lot to the people of that time because it made them feel better about what was happening in their lives. Plus, it was one of the more realistic medical shows of that time. This is a show that will likely always be on the “best of” lists with many people believing it’s the best show of all time.

20. “Friends”

Source: Courtesy of HBO Max
“Friends” remains one of the most popular TV shows of all time.
  • Popularity: 64%
  • Original Aired: 1994-2004

It’s not a surprise that this beloved sitcom would be amongst the most popular all-time TV shows. People loved the quirky humor on this show, and they fell in love with the characters as well. Everyone wanted to know if Rachel and Ross would get together or what Chandler would say next. The show was a cultural phenomenon, and people even wanted to mimic the hairstyles. The show was amazing from the beginning until the very end. In fact, the “Friends” series finale has landed on our list of the most-watched TV series finales of all time.

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