watchworthy presents

The All-Time Best Primetime Soap Operas 

Ranker TV
Updated January 27, 2020 9k votes 1.1k voters 40.3k views 94 items

List Rules Vote up the best primetime soap operas to have ever aired on television

Soap operas have been a staple of the television world since they first gained traction in the 1950s. However, it wasn’t until the 80s that the primetime soap was born. While a daytime soap airs every weekday and are usually targeted to an audience of bored housewives and college students, primetime soaps only air once a week, during primetime hours. Primetime soaps also target a wider audience, so they tend to be more realistic. However, they still retain the drama and shocking plot twists that make soap operas so appealing. This list of the best primetime soap operas to ever air on television has been voted on and ranked by the community.

In the 80s, primetime soaps were all the rage, with "Dallas," "Dynasty, and "Knots Landing" as topics of conversation and can't miss viewing for every TV lover. When something exciting happened on one of these shows, such as the shooting of JR, everybody knew about it.

Although the primetime soap  died out for a few years, it reemerged once again when "Desperate Housewives" became a huge hit. Since then primetime soaps have continued to entertain television fans.

What are the best primetime soap operas in the history of television? Vote up the all time best primetime soaps below and see where the soap operas you love to watch rank.

 

Data-driven recommendations based on voting from over 40 million monthly visits to Ranker. Try the free app
list ordered by
1
Dynasty is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The All-Time Best Primetime Soap Operas
John Forsythe, Linda Evans, Joan Collins

Premiered: 1981

Number of Seasons: 9

Network: American Broadcasting Company

Dynasty is an American prime time television soap opera that aired on ABC from January 12, 1981 to May 11, 1989. The series, created by Richard and Esther Shapiro and produced by Aaron Spelling, ...more

More Dynasty 

#92 of 263 The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time #46 of 89 The Best 1980s Primetime TV Showslisted on Longest Running US Soap Operas

2
Dallas is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The All-Time Best Primetime Soap Operas
Larry Hagman, Ken Kercheval, Patrick Duffy

Premiered: 1978

Number of Seasons: 14

Number of Episodes: 357

Network: CBS

Dallas is a long-running American prime time television soap opera that aired from April 2, 1978, to May 3, 1991, on CBS. The series revolves around a wealthy and feuding Texan family, the ...more

More Dallas 

#71 of 263 The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time #74 of 590 The Best TV Theme Songs of All Timelisted on Longest Running US Soap Operas

3
Knots Landing is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The All-Time Best Primetime Soap Operas
Michele Lee, Ted Shackelford, Joan Van Ark

Premiered: 1979

Number of Seasons: 14

Number of Episodes: 344

Network: CBS

Knots Landing is an American primetime television soap opera that aired from December 27, 1979 to May 13, 1993 on CBS. A spin-off of Dallas, it was set in a fictitious coastal suburb of Los ...more

More Knots Landing 

#44 of 104 The Best TV Spinoffslisted on Longest Running US Soap Operas

4
Desperate Housewives is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The All-Time Best Primetime Soap Operas
Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman, Marcia Cross

Premiered: 2004

Number of Seasons: 8

Number of Episodes: 180

Network: American Broadcasting Company, Lifetime Television

Desperate Housewives is an American television comedy-drama-mystery series created by Marc Cherry and produced by ABC Studios and Cherry Productions. It aired Sundays at 9 P.M. Eastern/8 P.M. ...more

More Desperate Housewives 

#146 of 802 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch #189 of 571 TV Shows Canceled Before Their Time The Best Seasons of Desperate Housewives

5
Melrose Place is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The All-Time Best Primetime Soap Operas
Heather Locklear, Andrew Shue, Courtney Thorne-Smith

Premiered: 1992

Number of Seasons: 7

Number of Episodes: 226

Network: Fox Broadcasting Company

Melrose Place is an American primetime soap opera that aired on Fox from July 8, 1992 to May 24, 1999, for seven seasons. The show follows the lives of a group of young adults living in an ...more

More Melrose Place 

#310 of 383 The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years #61 of 104 The Best TV Spinoffslisted on Longest Running US Soap Operas

6
Falcon Crest is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The All-Time Best Primetime Soap Operas
Jane Wyman, Lorenzo Lamas, Chao Li Chi

Premiered: 1981

Number of Seasons: 9

Number of Episodes: 227

Network: CBS

Falcon Crest is an American primetime television soap opera which aired on the CBS network for nine seasons, from December 4, 1981 to May 17, 1990. A total of 227 episodes were produced. The ...more

More Falcon Crest 

#15 of 222 The Greatest Soap Operas of All Time #253 of 510 The Best '80s TV Showslisted on Longest Running US Soap Operas

7
Beverly Hills, 90210 is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The All-Time Best Primetime Soap Operas
Jason Priestley, Shannen Doherty, Luke Perry

Premiered: 1990

Number of Seasons: 10

Number of Episodes: 296

Network: Fox

Beverly Hills, 90210 (Fox, 1990) is an American teen drama television series created by Darren Star. A group of friends living in Beverly Hills, California make their way through life from their ...more

More Beverly Hills, 90210 

#306 of 802 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch #268 of 383 The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years Behind-The-Scenes Drama That Fueled 'Beverly Hills, 90210' In The '90s

8
Revenge is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The All-Time Best Primetime Soap Operas
Madeleine Stowe, Emily VanCamp, Gabriel Mann

Premiered: 2011

Number of Seasons: 2

Number of Episodes: 44

Network: American Broadcasting Company

Revenge (ABC, 2011) is an American drama television series created by Mike Kelley. An emotionally troubled young woman sets out to exact revenge against the people who wronged her father.

More Revenge 

#233 of 383 The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years #73 of 263 The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time

9
Peyton Place is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The All-Time Best Primetime Soap Operas
Mia Farrow, Leslie Nielsen, Ryan O'Neal

Premiered: 1964

Number of Seasons: 5

Number of Episodes: 514

Network: American Broadcasting Company

Peyton Place is an American prime-time soap opera which aired on ABC in half-hour episodes from September 15, 1964 to June 2, 1969. Based upon the 1956 novel of the same name by Grace Metalious, ...more

More Peyton Place 

#12 of 31 The All Time Greatest Daytime Soap Operas #124 of 247 The Very Best Shows That Aired in the 1960slisted on Longest Running US Soap Operas

10
The Colbys is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The All-Time Best Primetime Soap Operas
JonathanWilliams added Charlton Heston, Barbara Stanwyck, Katharine Ross

Premiered: 1985

Number of Seasons: 2

Number of Episodes: 49

Network: American Broadcasting Company

The Colbys is an American prime time soap opera, which originally aired on ABC from November 20, 1985 to March 26, 1987. Produced by Aaron Spelling, it was a spin-off of Dynasty, which had been ...more
11
Grey's Anatomy is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The All-Time Best Primetime Soap Operas
Ellen Pompeo, Justin Chambers, Chandra Wilson

Premiered: 2005

Number of Seasons: 16

Number of Episodes: 356

Network: ABC

Grey's Anatomy (ABC, 2005) is an American medical soap opera television series. The series focuses on the fictional lives of surgical interns and residents as they gradually evolve into seasoned ...more

More Grey's Anatomy 

#66 of 802 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch The Best 'Grey's Anatomy' Seasonslisted on Longest Running US Drama Shows

12
The O.C. is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The All-Time Best Primetime Soap Operas
Mischa Barton, Adam Brody, Ben McKenzie

Premiered: 2003

Number of Seasons: 4

Number of Episodes: 92

Network: Fox

The O.C. (Fox, 2003) is an American teen drama television series created by Josh Schwartz. A troubled youth (Ben McKenzie) becomes embroiled in the lives of a close-knit group of people in the ...more

More The O.C. 

#232 of 383 The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years #31 of 92 The Best Dramedy TV Series Seth Cohen Is A Disgrace To Nerds And A Horribly Manipulative, Narcissistic Character

13
Brothers and Sisters is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The All-Time Best Primetime Soap Operas
Mary Crosby, William Windom, Larry Anderson

Premiered: 2006

Number of Seasons: 1

Number of Episodes: 12

Network: NBC

Brothers and Sisters is an American sitcom that aired on NBC from January to April 1979. The series attempted to capitalize on the success of the 1978 motion picture National Lampoon's Animal ...more

More Brothers and Sisters 

#433 of 802 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch #98 of 263 The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time

14
Flamingo Road is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The All-Time Best Primetime Soap Operas
JonathanWilliams added Mark Harmon, Morgan Fairchild, Stella Stevens

Premiered: 1980

Number of Seasons: 2

Number of Episodes: 38

Network: NBC

Flamingo Road is an American prime time soap opera that aired on NBC. It was first seen as a TV movie on May 12, 1980, and as a series on January 6, 1981, after a rebroadcast of the pilot on ...more
15
Scandal is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The All-Time Best Primetime Soap Operas
Kerry Washington, Henry Ian Cusick, Columbus Short

Premiered: 2012

Network: ABC

Scandal (ABC, 2012) is an American political thriller television series created by Shonda Rhimes. A former White House Communications Director (Kerry Washington) starts her own crisis management ...more

More Scandal 

#104 of 802 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch #165 of 216 The TV Shows with the Best Writing 12 Mall Santa Scandals That Definitely Landed These Guys on the Naughty List

16
Melrose Place is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The All-Time Best Primetime Soap Operas
Heather Locklear, Andrew Shue, Courtney Thorne-Smith

Premiered: 2009

Number of Seasons: 1

Number of Episodes: 18

Network: The CW Television Network

Melrose Place is an American television drama series broadcast on The CW from September 8, 2009 to April 13, 2010. The series is a sequel/continuation of the 1992 FOX TV series of the same name ...more
17
Gossip Girl is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The All-Time Best Primetime Soap Operas
Blake Lively, Leighton Meester, Penn Badgley

Premiered: 2007

Number of Seasons: 6

Number of Episodes: 121

Network: The CW

Gossip Girl (The CW, 2007) is an American teen drama television series created by Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, based on the book series by Cecily von Ziegesar. After a mysterious ...more

More Gossip Girl 

#162 of 383 The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years #43 of 129 The Best High School TV Shows The Most Ridiculous Storylines 'Gossip Girl' Writers Ever Came Up With

18
Twin Peaks is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The All-Time Best Primetime Soap Operas
RobertA.Davis added Twin Peaks Kyle MacLachlan, Russ Tamblyn, Sherilyn Fenn

Premiered: 1990

Number of Seasons: 3

Number of Episodes: 48

Network: ABC, Showtime

Twin Peaks (ABC, 1990) is an American mystery horror drama television series created by Mark Frost and David Lynch and, despite being canceled after two seasons, sparked a cult following that ...more

More Twin Peaks 

#94 of 802 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch #93 of 383 The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years

19
Savannah is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The All-Time Best Primetime Soap Operas
George Eads, Jamie Luner, Robyn Lively

Premiered: 1996

Number of Seasons: 2

Number of Episodes: 34

Network: The WB Television Network

Savannah is an American prime time television drama that ran from January 21, 1996 to February 24, 1997 on The WB. It was created by Constance M. Burge and produced by Aaron Spelling.
20
One Tree Hill is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The All-Time Best Primetime Soap Operas
Chad Michael Murray, James Lafferty, Hilarie Burton

Premiered: 2003

Number of Seasons: 9

Number of Episodes: 187

Network: The WB Television Network, The CW Television Network

One Tree Hill is an American television drama series created by Mark Schwahn, which premiered on September 23, 2003 on The WB. After the series' third season, The WB merged with UPN to form The ...more

More One Tree Hill 

#175 of 383 The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years #257 of 391 TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate The Best Seasons of One Tree Hill

21
Nashville is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The All-Time Best Primetime Soap Operas
Connie Britton, Clare Bowen, Hayden Panettiere

Premiered: 2012

Number of Seasons: 1

Number of Episodes: 21

Network: American Broadcasting Company

Nashville is an American musical drama television series. It was created by Academy Award winner Callie Khouri and produced by R.J. Cutler, Khouri, Dee Johnson, Steve Buchanan, and Connie ...more

More Nashville 

#362 of 383 The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years #26 of 57 The Best (and Worst) TV Shows Ending in 2018

22
Models Inc. is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The All-Time Best Primetime Soap Operas
KeithBrennett added Carrie-Anne Moss, Garcelle Beauvais, Emma Samms

Premiered: 1994

Number of Seasons: 1

Network: Fox Broadcasting Company

Models Inc. is an American prime time soap opera that aired on the Fox television network during the 1994–95 television season. It is the third series in the Beverly Hills, 90210 franchise. The ...more

More Models Inc. 

#39 of 222 The Greatest Soap Operas of All Time #21 of 83 The Worst TV Spin-Offs

23
Devious Maids is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The All-Time Best Primetime Soap Operas
RobertA.Davis added Ana Ortiz, Dania Ramirez, Judy Reyes

Premiered: 2012

Number of Seasons: 1

Number of Episodes: 2

Network: Lifetime Television

Devious Maids is an American television comedy-drama series created by Marc Cherry, produced by ABC Studios and executive produced by Cherry, Sabrina Wind, Eva Longoria, Paul McGuigan, Larry ...more
24
Central Park West is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The All-Time Best Primetime Soap Operas
JonathanWilliams added Raquel Welch, John Barrowman, Lauren Hutton

Premiered: 1995

Number of Seasons: 2

Number of Episodes: 21

Network: CBS

Central Park West is an American prime time television soap opera that ran from September 1995 to June 1996 on CBS. The series was created and executive produced by Melrose Place's Darren Star. ...more
25
Dawson's Creek is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The All-Time Best Primetime Soap Operas
James Van Der Beek, Katie Holmes, Michelle Williams

Premiered: 1998

Number of Seasons: 6

Number of Episodes: 128

Network: The WB

Dawson's Creek (The WB, 1998) is an American teen drama television series created by Kevin Williamson. Four friends (James Van Der Beek, Katie Holmes, Joshua Jackson, and Michelle Williams) in a ...more

More Dawson's Creek 

#431 of 571 TV Shows Canceled Before Their Time #239 of 383 The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years