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Gunsmoke Was The Primetime Series With The Most Episodes Until This Show Came Along

Records, as they say, are made to be broken. But that doesn't mean every record is particularly easy to break. That's certainly true in the field of TV, where producers and networks are primarily concerned with things like audience numbers and advertising revenue, with breaking records for things like most episodes not really a big priority. Of course, if a TV series goes on long enough to break that record, that's surely more money in their pockets.

This focus on revenue over staying on the air for a long time could be one reason that the old TV Western "Gunsmoke," which aired between 1955 and 1975, held the record for most episodes for so long. Lasting 20 years is pretty incredible for any TV show, particularly a scripted drama, and "Gunsmoke" racked up an impressive 635 total episodes over the course of that run (via IMDb). This was the record for most episodes of any primetime series up until 2018, when another show — this time a comedy — surpassed this record by broadcasting its 636th episode, a milestone that did not go unacknowledged by the series itself.

The Simpsons now holds the record for most primetime episodes

As some might've been able to guess, we're talking about "The Simpsons," the primetime animated mainstay that's churned out more than 730 episodes and counting over the course of its 33 seasons (via IMDb). It broke the "Gunsmoke" record in April of 2018, during the show's 29th season — an event that was reported by IndieWire at the time.

This record-breaking achievement was also acknowledged by "The Simpsons," and the show successfully pokes a little fun at the pop-culture landmark. While the episode itself, "Forgive and Regret," is a flashback episode centered on Homer and Grampa Simpson, the show's cold open features a tense pistol duel between an animated version of "Gunsmoke" protagonist Marshal Matt Dillon and none other than Maggie Simpson.

Will any primetime scripted series beat "The Simpsons"? That will become a little easier if and when "The Simpsons" finally airs its last episode, an event that has been the subject of rumor for some time. But as of this writing, no currently airing show has come within 200 episodes of the record now held by "The Simpsons," so it could very well hold the title for some time.