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It has been rumored that every episode of Season 8 of Game Of Thrones could be ninety minutes long - making each episode comparable with the running time of full-length feature films. It seems very rare for television episodes to run longer than an hour, prompting the question - what is the longest episode of any television series that has been aired?

A list of clarification caveats:

  • It doesn't matter which country created or aired the episode.
  • Either fiction or nonfiction is fine.
  • No made-for-tv movies (or syndication of a film after its theatrical run)
  • Episodes of a miniseries (such as may be found on British TV) do count, even if they only run for a season - but it still has to be one episode.
  • No episodes that were longer but were cut shorter to fit into a smaller timeslot (although that might be a bonus answer, too) - this question is looking for the longest episode according to the amount of time it was actually on the air.

EDIT

  • The "running time" of the episode doesn't include commercial breaks or any other sort of intermission.
  • 41
    Sherlock episodes are all at least 90 minutes. I'm currently watching the HBO 2008 series John Adams and the second episode is 91 minutes. The classic miniseries Roots had episodes around 110-120 minutes each. – sanpaco Jul 4 '17 at 5:46
  • 2
    You might need to clarify how a mini-series counts. Per episode would be a more balanced approach, otherwise 6 episodes would always beat 3. I avoided them for my answer. – disassociated Jul 4 '17 at 7:31
  • 1
    According to Wikipedia no Roots episode ran longer than 90 mins. – disassociated Jul 4 '17 at 9:12
  • 6
    Two more clarification caveats: does the time include commercial breaks and you mention that the time has to be actually on air, that would mean for example that Netflix only series won't count (they never air on tv)? – Communisty Jul 4 '17 at 12:20
  • 2
    New here, so not 100% sure what's meant by "network television" (the tag has no info), but if ITV4 (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ITV4) counts, the currently coverage of the Tour de France has "episodes" running up to 6 hours (incl. adverts). itv.com/tourdefrance/tv-schedule/… – freedomn-m Jul 4 '17 at 21:12

10 Answers 10

54

The final of Muhteşem Yüzyıl (The Magnificent Century) is 157 minutes without commercials. The final episode is on Youtube and it is a historical fiction series according to Wikipedia.

It is very common for Turkish TV series for 2 hours or more each episode. The final episode of each season even lasts longer.

TV channels generally air a shortened version / recap of the previous episode first. This generally takes 1 hour. After that airs 2 to 3 hours of the show. Including the commercials a single episode takes around 4 hours each night.

Also there are nearly 40 episodes each season. Note these numbers are not exceptions, it is the current pattern for popular channels now in Turkey.

Others: Episodes are free on broadcaster's page (but in Turkish)

  • As I can't read the links, could you clarify for us - are these proper full-budget drama series, or are they really 'soaps'? For comparison, the UK Eastenders Omnibus show ran at 2 hours [no advert breaks] every Sunday, for many years in the 2000s, but I'm not sure it would count. – disassociated Jul 4 '17 at 18:07
  • 5
    I added Muhteşem yüzyıl final YouTube link. It was one of the highest rating show of that year in Turkey. It is a historical fiction series according to en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muhteşem_Yüzyıl – Gorkem Jul 4 '17 at 19:15
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    Wow, 1 hour-long previouslies?! And I thought they were crazy long on some of our (North American) shows! – Steve-O Jul 6 '17 at 13:18
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    @Pureferret - it just seems to be 'cheating' - like the Eastenders Omnibus; it was just all the episodes for that week edited into one long show. Being BBC, it had no ads, so was 120 mins every week. – disassociated Jul 7 '17 at 13:49
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    @Knetic - I think we're now talking at cross-purposes ;) – disassociated Jul 8 '17 at 6:13
47

The last episode of M*A*S*H, "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" has a runtime of 121 minutes. See the Amazon product page for the DVD release of this single episode

Related Wikipedia article.

  • 10
    I'm liking this so far for the 'English Language winner' & also very probably wins the "how much can we milk this?" award ;-) – disassociated Jul 4 '17 at 18:00
  • MASH final was my first thought as well. – JohnP Jul 5 '17 at 5:24
  • @Tetsujin - Its almost certainly going to be the US broadcast TV winner. Streaming services like Netflix or non-hourly scheduled services like HBO don't have the same constraints, I could see them going longer (if not now, perhaps in the future) – T.E.D. Jul 6 '17 at 14:15
38

In the UK it is very common for 'serious crime drama' to run at 90 mins - there are far too many shows to list.

These, however all break the 90 minute barrier & are are all single story per episode crime dramas, not mini-series...

BBC shows have the advantage over all others in that there are no adverts.

Inspector Morse ran 33 episodes at between 98 – 105 mins [2hr inc ads]

Poirot similarly [lengths varied across 13 seasons from 50 - 102 mins]

The pilot episode of Blue Murder ran at 138 mins - but was actually broadcast in two parts.

Silent Witness runs at 120 mins - but most episodes are shown split over two consecutive days at 60m each.
Seasons 3, 4 & 5 apparently ran as full 2 hour episodes [no ads, BBC] - so this might be the winner.
I just discovered Wikipedia disputes the IMDB data, so I've demoted it.

Possibly the first to use the long format was Columbo which ran at various lengths from 73 - 98 minutes.

  • 5
    I think breaking in tow parts makes it two episode and shouldn't be counted – Ankit Sharma Jul 4 '17 at 7:33
  • ...which is why I put Blue Murder at the bottom of the list & Silent Witness at the top. – disassociated Jul 4 '17 at 7:34
  • hmmm....fair enough but two part story in TV shows is too common I suppose – Ankit Sharma Jul 4 '17 at 7:34
  • Crime shows here tend to run as either a full season per plot arc, with sub arcs, or as single episode self-contained stories. I can only think of a few exceptions. Cracker & Waking the Dead [which I excluded for always being in 2 parts] whereas SW has used both 1 & 2-part formats. Morse would have been right at the top of the list, notably as the first UK crime drama to go the full 2 hours every week - but it had adverts, which lost it time. – disassociated Jul 4 '17 at 7:37
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    Not sure, but you'd think Midsomer would be a deserted village by now ;) – disassociated Jul 5 '17 at 3:58
38

To my surprise, I found answer in the Guinness book of world Records. There was a record for record-breaking single shot episode by Indian television series C.I.D.

The story is interesting as the director put condition to channel that if he could break record for single shot episode, it should be telecast same way without any cuts and it was aired on Sunday, 7 November 2004 at 8:00 pm IST. This episode was 111 minutes. You can read full blog here.

  • 8
    Considering some of the insanely large quantities in the Guinness book, 111 mins isn't actually that impressive, it's just shy of two hours. 🤔 – Sidney Jul 4 '17 at 11:28
  • 11
    @Sidney - yeah, and this coming from India I expected something crazy like 5 hours at least. – Davor Jul 4 '17 at 11:29
  • 55
    The "longest single shot episode" is not necessarily the "longest episode", it's just the longest episode that only had a single shot. (I'm not saying this isn't a good suggestion, just saying that the Guinness Record isn't evidence that you've found the answer. – AndyT Jul 4 '17 at 11:34
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    I think it's fairly clear from the Wikipedia link that it was indeed done in a single one-camera take, from beginning to end. I hope, for the cameraman's sake, that he had a dolly not a steadicam :P [I noticed it also doesn't mention how many takes it took. It wasn't live, it was just broadcast "as live" so it might have taken 15 takes to get right ;) – disassociated Jul 4 '17 at 17:55
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    @TheDarkSide In filmography, a "single shot" scene is a continuous film sequence without a cut. It doesn't mean the camera isn't moved during the shot. I actually could imagine a two hour long crime investigation story in a single shot. Imagine a dead body, a couple suspects and a detective locked in a room for two hours and they discuss the crime until the perpetrator finally cracks. – Philipp Jul 5 '17 at 14:47
34

The Slow Television phenomenon in Norway almost certainly takes the record here. They broadcast long uninterrupted shows, like a 7-hour train journey, or a yule log burning. The longest I can find on a quick perusal of the Wikipedia page was a 60-hour broadcast:

On 28–30 November 2014, NRK aired the 60-hour Hymnal - cover to cover. The show depicted about 200 choirs, including around 3,000-4,000 singers and soloists, performing the entire contents of the Church of Norway's national hymnal, published in 2013. Most of the performances took place live at Vår Frue Church in Trondheim, though some recorded performances came from 11 other sites such as Karasjok in northern Norway and Decorah, Iowa. The church was open throughout the show, and more than 16,000 visitors dropped in. A total of 2.2 million viewers tuned in at some point during the program, with an average of 87,000 at any one time.

  • 1
    I was thinking about this, but aren't they one-off broadcasts rather than episodes in a series? Worth a mention either way. – user568458 Jul 4 '17 at 15:53
  • @user568458. You may well have a point there, actually. Though I think that some of these shows might be follow-ups to previous shows. – TRiG Jul 4 '17 at 16:54
  • We'll be adding that Andy Warhol film of a building's lights going on & off for 24 hours to this list eventually ;-) – disassociated Jul 4 '17 at 17:47
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    Link - Empire & sorry to disappoint, but it's only 8 hours... much more pacy than I originally thought ;) – disassociated Jul 4 '17 at 17:49
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    NRK aired an earlier, longer slow television program, Hurtigruten minute by minute (2011), which went uninterrupted for 134 hours, and currently holds the Guinness record of being the longest live television documentary broadcast. – Frxstrem Jul 9 '17 at 12:05
7

Many of the early episodes of Taggart, a Scottish police drama series, were 2 hours long including adverts. The longest was 145 minutes.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Taggart_episodes#Series_9_.281993.29

  • 1
    Nice, but when it says "Original airdate: 20 April –4 May 1993", does that mean it was split across three days, so three sub-episodes rather than broadcast as one 145 minute mega-episode? – user568458 Jul 5 '17 at 8:11
  • Yes, it would have been broadcast as three separate sub-episodes. (I don't recall whether I saw that particular storyline but I certainly watched Taggart around 1993 and that was how it worked.) – Especially Lime Jul 5 '17 at 14:18
  • I think that the first few series had 90 minute episodes, these are shown with a single date in the episode list. – CSM Jul 5 '17 at 19:28
5

Herman Wouk's "The Winds of War" (1983) is 14 hours 43 minutes (883 minutes) in seven episodes. Individual episodes range from 1.5-ish to 2.5-ish hours long. Episode 1, The Winds Rise, has a run time of 2:28:48 (148+ minutes). Episode 7 is about a minute shorter.

"War and Rememberance" is similar: 1620 minutes in 12 episodes. The first episode is 149 minutes.

Of fiction, these seem to be winners (so far).

3

I guess the "BBC Four Goes Slow" series technically counts as a TV series and each "episode" (although they are relatively unrelated to each other) are 1 to 3 hours in length (tour of the London National Gallery is the longest at 3 hours/180mins of a single episode - with no advert breaks as it's the BBC - and the shortest being an hour of birdsong)

-2

The last episode of Season 9 of The X-Files lasted for 1 hour and 26 minutes (86 minutes). That is 91% more than the average episode (45 minutes).

  • That's not even close to some of the other candidates mentioned, so I'm quite sure this doesn't answer the question. – Mast Jul 15 '17 at 12:59
-3

During the 1960's in the USA there was a western TV show called the Virginian. It stared James Drury, Lee J Cobb, and Doug McClure. It was 90 minute per episode show.

  • That's not even close to some of the other candidates mentioned, so I'm quite sure this doesn't answer the question. – Mast Jul 15 '17 at 12:59

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