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Largest TV Fiction Universes


Introduction

“Gunsmoke” lasted 633 episodes, the record for a weekly fictional prime time American series. But what universe, meaning an original show, its spinoffs, spinoffs of spinoffs and other connected shows that are supposed to inhabit the same fictional universe, has the most hours or episodes?

I have looked more carefully at Cross Overs and Spinoffs Master Page and found that he has found even more shows in many of these universes.

It is my best guess that the largest universe in both hours and episodes is a huge comedy universe that includes "I Love Lucy," "Make Room for Daddy," "The Andy Griffith Show," "The Dick Van Dyke Show," "Mad About You," "Seinfield," "Friends," "Cheers," "Frasier," and many other shows, some of them with many episodes.

Drama

The biggest drama universe maybe the "Law and Order" Universe. Formerly I wrote the "Law and Order" universe was third with 656 shows as of the summer of 2006, but it seems there was a cross over with the X-Files and I believe several other cross overs, so that would make this the largest drama universe. The addition of 205 "X-Files" episodes brings the total to 861. But there are no doubt more to come.

The character who was in the crossovers was John Munch from SVU. He was in an episode of "X-Files." He was also in another series which Dobbie calls "Homocide." I will have to check to make sure which "Homicide" series this is.

Even without the cross overs "Law and Order" would soon pass "Star Trek" and "Dallas" which I formerly thought were the champs. There are currently three "Law and Order" series on the air, which should allow them to add episodes fairly quickly. They should pass "Trek" and "Dallas" before the end of the 2006-2007 season.

A researcher with the screen name Dobie did the research on "Law and Order" and the "X Files". He has also done some research on a far larger comedy universe that I have just begun to write about below. Thanks for the help Dobie.

"Star Trek" and "Dallas"-"Knots Landing" universes seem to be tied for second place at 703 episodes each. I formerly wrote that "Star Trek" had two more episodes. My Bad. Apparently I did not add correctly. I had the "Star Trek" figure right, I managed to make a mistake adding the two numbers for "Dallas" and "Knots Landing" together.

“Gunsmoke” is probably fourth. The show had 633 episodes. "Gunsmoke" also had one spinoff "Dirty Sally" with at least 12 episodes. The total is 645. The "Dirty Sally" episodes and I believe some of the early "Gunsmoke" were half an hour long.

Comedy

Dobie has found that many comedies from "I Love Lucy" which premered in 1951 to "Friends" which ended in 2004 are all connected through crossovers and spinoffs into a huge universe. Dobie tells me the total is already over 3,000 episodes, and I believe research is continuing.

The hub of the early half hour comedies in the universe centers on "Make Room for Daddy." There were many crossovers involving "Make Room for Daddy."

I believe the universe may begin, however, with "I Love Lucy", which ran 180 episodes.

Lucy from "I Love Lucy" appeared on episode 36 of "The Ann Sothern Show," which ran 93 episodes.

"I Love Lucy" was continued in a series of one hour specials "The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour" which ran 13 episodes.

In the first episode of "The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour" Susie MacNamara from "Private Secretary" makes an appearance. "Private Secretary" ran 104 episodes.

In episode 7 of "The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour" the Williams family from "Make Room for Daddy" appeared. This connects the "I Love Lucy" universe to the "Make Room for Daddy" universe.

"Make Room for Daddy" had 351 episodes.

There were several spinoffs from "Make Room for Daddy" One was the classic "The Andy Griffith Show" which ran 249 episodes.

"The Andy Griffith Show" has a couple of spinoffs. Gomer the mechanic got his own show "Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C." which ran 150 episodes.

"The Andy Griffith Show" continued after Andy Griffith left with the spinoff "Mayberry R.F.D." which ran 78 episodes.

"The Joey Bishop Show," which ran 123 episodes, was also a "Make Room for Daddy" spinoff. This is the sitcom, not the talk show.

Finally the show continued with spinoff "Make Room for Granddaddy," which ran 19 episodes.

Lucy Carter from "Here's Lucy" made a guest appearance in episode 17 of "Make Room for Granddaddy." "Here's Lucy" ran for 144 episodes.

In addition to the spinoffs from the "Make Room for Daddy. Show there were also crossovers.

Buddy Sorrel from "The Dick Van Dyke Show" made a guest appearance in episode 327 of "Make Room for Daddy." "The Dick Van Dyke Show" ran for 158 episodes.

This cross over with "The Dick Van Dyke Show" was important to building the universe, because Rob Petrie's boss "Alan Brady" appears in an episode of "Mad About You," which ran from 1992 to 1999 and had 164 episodes.

"Mad About You" was in turn connected into many recent TV series which adds a huge number of other shows to the universe.

In a "Mad About You" episode we are told that Paul, the husband in "Mad About You" sublet his bachelor pad to Jerry Seinfeld. There is also a Kramer cameo. This ties in Seinfeld with 180 episodes.

"Mad About You" also has frequent guest appearances by Urusula, who is the twin sister of Phoebe from "Friends." "Friends" had 238 episodes. This and the previous paragraph are based mostly on information from Really4Rob.

"Friends" in turn is connected by one or cross overs to "Caroline in the City". Chandler from "Friends" made a brief appearance in episode six of "Caroline in the City" and Caroline may have made an apperance in spisode 30 of "Friends." We know the actor Lea Thompson was on "Friends," there is some question of whether she was playing the character "Caroline." "Caroline in the City" had 97 episodes.

"Caroline in the City" also had a cross over with "Frasier," which ran for 265 episodes.

"Frasier" was a spinoff of "Cheers" which ran for 269 episodes.

"The Tortellis" only 13 episodes was a little know spinoff of "Cheers."

"Wings" with 172 episodes was also connected in to the "Cheers" or "Frasier" series in some way that I do not know about.

All together it is estimated that this mega universe has more than 3,000 episodes, and it is likely to grow.

"All in the Family"

For right now the "All in the Family" universe maybe the second among the comedies.

"All in the Family" had four spinoffs: "Maude," "The Jeffersons," "Archie's Place," and an obscure one "E/R." This is not the famous ER, instead it was a comedy in the 80's on the same topic. I was not able to confirm its spinoff status, I will just trust my source Really4Rob. I do not know what the connection was between "All in the Family" and "E/R"

"Maude" had a spin off "Good Times." "The Jeffersons" had a short 4 episode spin off "Checking In." Like "Good Times" this was about the maid. "Archie's Place," had a spin off "Gloria." about his daughter. As the character was originally on "All In The Family" perhaps it was really a spinoff of the original show.

All together that is eight shows, with 780 episodes and 390 hours.

But the Jeffersons made a guest appearance on the "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." If we add the 148 episodes of "Fresh Prince" to the total we have 928 episodes and 464 hours. There is some question here. The actors from "The Jeffersons" appeared several times in roles that were similar to the Jeffersons. It is said that the last time the appeared they were the Jeffersons, but who knows maybe that is not official.

Other Comedy Universes

The third universe maybe "Perfect Strangers," "Family Matters," and "Full House." All together they had 558 episodes, 279 hours. As all three of the shows were successful I wonder if they had any unsuccessful spin offs. "Full House" was only connected to the others by a Urkel guest appearance. Once more, I got this information from Really4Rob.

The Happy Days universe is the fifth largest by my calculations. “Happy Days,” “Laverne and Shirley,” “Mork and Mindy,” and “Joanie Loves Chachi” collectively had 545 episodes, and 272 and a half hours.

This universe was only loosely tied together. “Mork and Mindy” was set in a much later time period. Furthermore, Mork, and Laverne and Shirley were only on two episodes of “Happy Days.” each. I had previously got this wrong, but Really4Rob corrected me.

“The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and its spinoffs had a total of 440 episodes. “Mary” had 168, “Rhoda” 110, “Phyllis” 48, and “Lou Grant” had 114 hour long episodes. This means “Lou Grant” had more hours, 114, than “Mary,” 84. Of course “Lou Grant” was unusual because a drama series was spun off of a comedy. The Mary universe had 277 hours which means in terms of hours it would be behind the "Perfect Strangers," "Pamily Matters," and "Full House" universe.

“The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” had 435 episodes, the record for half hour comedies. So the seven Comedy universes mentioned above were in some sense larger. That is assuming that “Ozzie and Harriet” did not have spinoffs.

"MASH," "AfterMASH," and "Trapper John M.D." had 402 episodes between the three shows. They had 276.5 hours because "Tapper John M.D." was a one hour drama and ran 151 episodes. The "MASH" universe is one half hour short of the "Mary Tyler Moore" universe. In hours the "MASH" universe is longer than "Ozzie and Harriet." Thanks again Really4Rob.

"Different Strokes" lasted 189 episodes, and its spinoff, "Facts of Life" lasted 209 episodes. The total is 398 episodes, 199 hours. More Really4Rob

The Simpsons are currently at 378 episodes in the summer of 2006, but the are still adding more. I wonder if "The Simpsons" are connected to other shows, particularly Futurerama. I found out that there is a comic book that connects the two, but I do not think that should count here. Simpsons is still adding episodes. So it can climb through the rankings. In another three years it should take "Ozzie and Harriet." Ironic.

“My Three Sons” is third for a single show with 367 episodes.

It is all a dream.

One theory is that the whole of television fiction is actually tied together in one big universe. Furthermore, in the last episode of "Saint Elsewhere" we learn that the entire series was actually the dream of an autistic child. As "Saint Elsewhere" is connected to other television fiction series it has been suggested that the whole of television fiction is simply the show "Saint Elsewhere" ends with a show that the whole "Saint Elsewhere" series is the the dream of an autistic child on "Saint Elsewhere."

Will the Drama Universes Become Networks?

The comedy universes may not have much significance, but as more and more channels are created the drama universes could become the basis for networks. I can imagine the Star Trek network or the Law and Order network.

One could imagine a future joke, the Star Trek network, “Star Trek” all the time, you will never have to get a life.

Actually one might want to use “Star Trek” as the base of the network and add other space shows to the mix: “Star Trek” and what I like to call near trek. Similarly the Law and Order network could be “Law and Order” and other realistic well acted cop shows.

Part of the strategy might be that this would allow you to make use of less successful series that ran less than four years, for example, "Space Above and Beyond," and "Earth 2" could be part of a Star Trek network. Normally it might be too difficult for the audience to find these series in a short run. But if you had a Star Trek network you would be making your program announcements to prime prospects. On the other hand you can do the same on the Science Fiction network, or if you wanted a more narrowly defined network, a space network.

Speculation is Occasionally Right

All of this strategy is purely speculation but frequently my ideas are realized. I published a letter to the editor in the New York Times suggesting that on line book stores should put an excerpt, the table of contents, and the index on line. A few month later Amazon did all three with its "Look Inside" feature. Several other on line stores, like Barnes and Noble, put up exerpts and the table of contents, without an index. Who knows whether I predicted it or influenced the decision. Naturally Amazon refuses to communicate with me, and refused to admit I exist. This is not a criticism, even charitable organizations treat me in exactly the same way.

Several decades ago I used to have a hobby of predicting what shows the networks would put on the air. I did not communicate these predictions to anyone, but I was fairly accurate. Some of the better know and successful shows that I predicted were "Saturday Night Live" and "Little House on the Prairie." I also predicted turkeys like "Space 1999".

In some cases I got many elements right, for example, my plan was to produce a Space show in the "Star Trek" genre in England and syndicate it to the United States, which is what "Space 1999" did. I did not anticipate the incredibly stupid idea of the moon being blasted out of earth orbit.

In the case of "Saturday Night Live" I was less accurate. I had the idea of doing a late night program with Monty Python style humor, many of their early skits were obvious steals, but I got the Network wrong, and I was thinking five nights a week with a lot of traditional talk show stuff mixed in.

But I digress. The point is that I have made a lot of correct predictions, but I have my doubts about this one. For right now I would be more inclined to simply name new networks after genres. We have the science fiction and fantasy network and it has been quite successful, but shouldn't we split it all down into the horror network, the superhero network, the space network, the time travel network, ... well maybe I am going a little far on that one.

No Wagering!

The above "research" is not exhaustive. If you find errors, perhaps I missed a spin off, or a big universe, you can leave a message in my guest book. And as there maybe mistakes remember what David Letterman says, “no wagering!”

By the way many errors have already been found. The "Happy Days" universe fell from second to fifth on the comedy list. Really4Rob of course corrected me.

My sources

First my web sources.

There are a couple of important pages for this study. One extremely extensive web site is Cross Overs and Spinoffs Master Page It is simply huge, and likely to change much of what is written here.

The other is Longest Running TV Shows: Television Shows With More Than 160 Episodes. This was the source of much of my original information, and the inspiration for this page. You could say that this page is a spinoff of that page.

What I could not get there I got from TV.com.

But also key were the human sources. Dobie and Really4Rob provided a huge amount of research. Also thanks to MicahBrwn and CRAMBAM.

My Other Entertainment Pages

  • Longest running half hour comedies
  • Tips and Links for better AM radio reception This has been number one on Google under AM radio reception for many years, the most popular page in the radio section of the Geocities directory. I have found more than 900 links, by searching Google with richleebruce/amradio.
  • Religious movies that have been nominated for major Oscars.
  • Catholic Comics, and information on Bible comics, and religious graphic novels from a Catholic perspective.

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    Episode statistics last updated September 15, 2006