In total, there was a whopping total of forty-one main cast members in the history of the show. And that doesn't even count all the recurring characters that appear throughout the series.
American Horror Story has a huge amount of characters per season. Since the series is an anthology, each season brings in a whole new cast (although some characters from previous seasons will make an appearance, showing they share the same universe).
Another Period boasts thirteen actors in the main cast alone. Factor in guest stars and extra servants, and the per-episode number can double or even treble.
Auction Kings: Paul has an expert for everything. In one case where he didn't have an expert (A very valuable Ford sports car), he manages to get the head ford mechanic to do the appraisal instead.
Babylon 5 had no less than 11 characters listed in the opening credits, counting all seasons together, with a fair amount of turnover from one season to the next. This is not counting the large number of semi-important characters that didn't make the opening roll.
Band of Brothers is about an entire company of soldiers (150-200 men) and many of them die and are replaced by new ones throughout the series.
BattleBots had so many teams competing that only a handful of them could appear on television in the original series on Comedy Central that lasted from 2000-2002. However, the second season of the ABC reboot over a decade later takes it to a ridiculous extreme. There are 56 different teams competing for the giant nut on a televised playing field.
Battlestar Galactica (2003) is notable not only for the size of its cast (with knowledge of over 20 characters required for even basic comprehension) but for the sheer number of named recurring minor characters, many of whom have been with the show ever since the miniseries. This may be a function of the show's premise: as replacement officers are in perishingly short supply, the Galactica naturally has a very low staff turnover rate.
Tricia Helfer in herself plays Loads And Loads Of Characters. All the Significant Seven Cylons have many copies, such as Number Eight's Boomer and Athena, but Number Six has more distinct and/or significant copies than any other model. Yet Tricia only gets one salary.
Beverly Hills, 90210 fits this trope very well. Many of the characters that were retired returned for the finale.
The Brady Bunch: The original show had 9 main characters. The Reunion Series The Bradys had all of those plus each of the six kids in the original had wives/husbands/ boy/girlfriends/ kids of their own added to the mix. No wonder it was an hour-long show!
Carrusel had a classroom of 20 kids, their teacher, at least 4 other teachers, the principal, the groundskeeper, the kids' parents (most had both), siblings of various kids, and a lot of other friends and random people involved in random plotlines.
Community: Aside from the 9 main characters (the study group, the Dean, Chang) there must be a dozen or more recurring named characters throughout the series. Leonard, Starburns, Professor Professorson, heck, every professor they've had in their main class that they all take together each season throughout the show, only to name a few.
Deadwood, by its third season, had at least thirty "regular" characters, most of whom actually did appear in every episode.
Degrassi: The current incarnation began with 13 title characters, 7 recurring, and 1 regularly mentioned unseen character note 20 or 21 depending on if Heather Sinclair counts. Due to the focal point being a school, the cast naturally shifts around, some leave, some join, lots of bus rides and mysterious disappearances. As of Season 10 only one title character from the original season is left in the opening credits, but the series now boasts 22 title characters, 14 recurring... and one regularly mentioned unseen characternote 36 or 37 if you count Heather Poulette. For those keeping score at home- note The series has had 54 main characters, over 50 recurring without a bump up to main character, and two ghosts named Heather.
Dickensian has over thirty characters from the works of Charles Dickens. In the interests of completion: from Oliver Twist, there's Fagin, Nancy, Bill Sikes and The Artful Dodger, Mr and Mrs Bumble and, eventually, Oliver himself. From Great Expectations, there's Miss Havisham, Compeyson, Arthur Havisham and Jaggers the lawyer. From Bleak House, there's Frances and Honoria Barbary and their father Edward Barbary, Sir Leicester Dedlock, Captain Hawdon and Inspector Bucket. From A Christmas Carol, there's Scrooge, Marley and an entire Cratchit family, including a husband for the eldest daughter. From various other stories, there's Mr Venus, Mrs Gamp, Silas Wegg, Little Nell and her grandfather. There's also an original character called Fanny Biggitywitch and an unnamed messenger boy. And that's just the lead cast.
Doctor Who has had a ridiculous amount of characters in its 50+ year history. Thankfully, at one time you'll only need to know about maybe five or six max (the Doctor, their companion(s), and any family/friends/recurring characters), plus the one-shot characters for a single episode. But if we were to list every "main" or major-supporting character the show had ever had, we'd be here all day.
The first series of Downton Abbey had twenty major characters who appeared in every episode, with an additional five recurring characters appearing in two to four episodes. Series two is promised to add a least one new regular and three heavily recurring characters.
ER went through this over its 15-season run, with the main billed cast never going under 10 or so. Although they were pretty good about writing characters out and in properly, except for Romano where they Dropped A Helicopter On Him. The show also had a huge supporting cast of nurses, paramedics, desk clerks, Satellite Love Interest and staff from other departments, many of whose actors got the Fake Guest Star treatment.
Farscape had accumulated so many main characters by the third season that the writers had to split the crew into two parties, both of which had a copy of the protagonist John Crichton.
Game of Thrones: Similar to its source. The principals who are in the credits alone number nearly 20 in the first season (and Jason Momoa isn't included there for strange reasons). Factor in the remaining cast of secondary, tertiary, and ancillary characters, and the number balloons to over 200. In 2015 there were nineteen character subpages- eight of which have ten or more characters. By 2017 the number was thirty-seven and thirteen - though a number of them are now dead.
Happened on Generation Kill, which represents nearly the whole of First Recon at the onset of the Iraq War.
This is usually true for any miniseries that focuses on the military, such as The Pacific and Band of Brothers. In The Pacific the focus is three different men from three different companies, all with their entirely different friends, families, commanding officers, etc. featured. The large cast was also one of the few criticisms Band of Brothers received when it was first aired, even though the 25 or so men that make up the main cast is a relatively small number compared to the amount of soldiers that are featured in the book and were a part of the company in real life.
Gilmore Girls had eight characters who remained through the whole series (Lorelai, Rory, Emily, Richard, Luke, Sookie, Lane, Michel) and at least a dozen major recurring ones, some of whom were very popular (Mrs Kim, Lucy, Olivia, Kirk, Taylor, Jackson, Zack...). They managed to get most of them together for the finale (though no Paris, Christopher or Logan - they'd all had their series wrap on the penultimate episode).
Gossip Girl: You have the main cast (Serena, Blair, Dan, Nate, Chuck, Jenny, Vanessa), the parents (Lily and Rufus, mostly), Georgina, Eric, Serena's "Boyfriend of the Month", Gossip Girl herself (as omniscient narrator), Penelope and the Mean Girls (3 of them), Dorota, Olivia Burke (if they bring Hilary Duff back), Eva and Juliet Sharp ( both of whom will no doubt be a big part of the entire 4th season). That's 21, and that assumes they don't add anyone else from their colleges, which is unlikely. Soap Opera, indeed.
Grey's Anatomy: The cast got so big that recurring characters like Nurses Tyler and Olivia and the Chief's secretary completely disappeared. They even killed off Mer's mom, George's dad and put several main characters on buses in order to cut down on the amount of people we have to keep track of....
Harper's Island had a bad case of this, mainly because it's a murder mystery and they needed lots of people to die. Out of 29 characters who were murdered, we never really got to know a dozen or so of them.
High&Low has no less than 9 gangs, each with a good 2-6 regulars, as well as numerous side characters and rogue agents. The only way the fit all of the characters in is in the movies.
Check the 44-years of this show (1971-2015) and you'll typically find that the bigger the list of Riders in a year, the more non-Rider characters there's gonna be. Example of shows with many Riders in the series including Kabuto (11note Kabuto, TheBee, Drake, Sasword, Gatack, KickHopper, PunchHopper, Dark Kabuto, Caucasus, Hercus, Ketaros, including the 3 Movie-Only Riders), Ex-Aid (at least 12 unique Riders and 11 users at this pointnote Emu, Hiiro, Taiga, Kiriya (as both Lazer and Lazer Turbo), Kuroto, Parado, Poppy, Nico, Masamune, Game World Hiiro, and Nagumo, excluding the Goriders, Ride-Players, and Ninja-Players), former record holder Ryuki (16 unique Riders and 18 users total, including the 13 Ridersnote Shinji, Ren, Sudo, Kitaoka, Tezuka, Jun, Asakura, Tojo, Sano, Odin, Miho, Dark Shinji, Takamizawa, the Decade-only Rider Abyss, the two Alternatives, as well as two other usersnote Sakakibara (original Ryuki) and Goro (Second Zolda)), and current record holder Gaim (24 unique Riders and 20 users total; 14 from TV seriesnote Kouta, Kaito, Mitsuzane (as Ryugen and Ryugen Yomi), Takatora (as Zangetsu and Zangetsu Shin), Hase, Jonouchi, Oren, Zack, Ryoma, Yoko, Sid, Kougane (as Jam), 6 from the moviesnote Kougane (as Mars), Lapis, Kouta (as Gaim Yami), Peko, Aoi, Bujin Gaim, and 4 from Gaiden specialsnote Touka, Alfred, Kugai, Shura).
And now it goes Serial Escalation - with a whopping 486 confirmed costumed characters on screen, not only is this the biggest collection of characters ever, Toei has even sent this to Guinness World Records for the biggest number of suited stunt actors on screen.
The Ingallses: Charles, Caroline, Mary, Laura, Carrie and Grace, plus (starting in Season 5) adopted children Albert, James and Cassandra). Plus, Mary's husband, Adam Kendall and don't forget Almonzo Wilder, the man 10 years older than Laura that won her heart and became her husband, or their daughter, Rose.
The Olesens: Nels, Harriet, and their children Nellie and Willie (plus, later in the series, their respective spouses, Percy and Rachel) and (in the last two seasons) the adopted Nancy.
Dr. Hiram Baker, the town doctor.
Rev. Robert Alden, pastor of the Walnut Grove church.
Melinda Foster, the postmistress.
The Garveys: Included Jonathan, Alice and Andy (from seasons 4-7, except for Alice, whose death came in Season 6).
Isaiah Edwards: First three seasons, late in Season 8 and again in the last season. From seasons 2-3, also included Grace Snider (who was recurring in Season 1 as well) and their adopted children, John Jr., Alicia and Carl.
Eva Beadle, the schoolmarm during the first four seasons; and Etta Plum: the schoolmarm in the final season.
Lars Hanson, the blacksmith and town leader for the first four seasons.
Hester Sue Tehrune, a teacher's aide at the School for the Blind.
The Carters: Season 9 family that included John (a blacksmith), Sarah (the housewife and reporter for the Walnut Grove newspaper), and their sons Jeb and Jason.
Sherwood Montague''': Englishman who moves from London to Walnut Grove. Last Episode, New Character who had the series continued would have had stories about him adjusting to life in an American small town. So with such a large cast, at any given time, only a few would be featured in any one episode. Some characters were strictly background (such as Miss Foster at the post office and had one or two lines episode) while others had multiple episodes where their characters were extensively developed, the most prominent example aside from the Ingallses, in particularly Laura being the Olesens.
Lost had twenty-eight credited cast members in total, with about twelve to seventeen being a part of the cast at the same time, due to the Anyone Can Die factor. That's not even counting the large stable of important secondary characters, nor the dozens of smaller recurrers.
To give an example: season four starred sixteen people. There were twenty two important recurring characters, some of whom appeared in nearly every episode, and numerous recurring, named Red Shirts and Mauve Shirts like Keamy's team. That's not even counting the sheer number of important one-off characters who will probably come back later or the random friends and family members of the Oceanic 6 who came back in the finale or the dead characters who appeared in flashbacks or visions or the stranger ones like Jacob.
Lost has reached the point that it's nearly impossible to jump in to the show having missed a few episodes. Even if you followed the story from the beginning, if you miss 3 or more episodes you'll come back to the show to find a brand new character referencing another character you've never heard of before. Even once you figure out this new character, eventually (probably during a season finale) another character you've never heard of will show up accompanied by dramatic reveal music as the main characters look at them in awe...it turns out that the new character was introduced in a dream sequence in the episode you missed and is crucial to the plot.
Mad Men not only has the large number of employees at Sterling-Cooper as regulars and semi-regulars but also has multiple episodes involving into Don's harem and home life, Betty's circle of friends, and the personal lives of Sal, Joan, Pete, Peggy, Roger, and Bert, and Harry.
For obvious reasons. A live-action show will probably find it cheaper/easier to hire a new actor to play an extra or bit part rather than track down the guy who was in that one episode seven seasons ago, whereas a puppet show will almost always find it easier to pull that old puppet out of the closet. Helps that a lot of the voice actors were men of a thousand voices.
My Three Sons: By the late 1960s and into the early 1970s, the cast grew from five core characters (patriarch Steven Douglas; his three sons Mike, Robbie and Chip; and Uncle Bub) to a dozen. Mike and Bub were replaced by Ernie and Uncle Charlie, respectively, but Robbie got married and the couple had triplets; and then later Chip married his college sweetheart (a sweetie named Polly). Then, Steven got re-married to Barbara Harper and became a stepfather to a 6-year-old girl. One history of situation comedies remarked that the cast had grown so big that stories tended to focus on just a few core cast members each week, implying that one or more cast members were absent altogether from some episodes.
NUMB3RS: While the core duo of Don and Charlie appear in every episode, and characters like Colby, David, Alan, and Amita are almost always present, there's a revolving cast of other characters who are so known to the audience that their appearance is nothing special, but who still don't make it into every episode.
The American version of The Office had a pretty big group in the Scranton Dunder-Mifflin office, plus the warehouse crew, corporate, family and significant others of the main characters, vendors...
Once Upon a Time: Due to pulling characters from every single fairy tale, this is pretty much a given.
Orphan Black: The central characters (as of the end of season three) are five clones, each with her own supporting cast: family, lovers, colleagues, enemies. At least three shadowy organizations vie to control or destroy the clones, and fight each other. That's the concise version. Fourteen actors appeared in at least ten of the first thirty episodes.
Oz: During any given season, there are about 15-20 recurring characters that are prisoners, and that's not even counting the prison staff.
Person of Interest: Despite the main cast topping out at six in Season 3, there are several factions of recurring characters from H.R., Elias's crew and rival gangs, government agents, Decima Technologies, Vigilance, etc. who end up becoming the focus of different multi-episode arcs. Often two or more of these factions, in addition to being antagonists to the main characters, are attempting to sabotage or outright wage war with one another as well.
Power Rangers: There are somewhere around 120 people who count as the eponymous Rangers alone, then add in at least 15 distinct sets of allies, supporting characters, and villains. If you count the 22 years of weekly monsters, you have a cast of thousands.
Revolution: The cast consists of 12 characters who qualify as main characters. Then there are 19 characters who at least qualify as recurring characters. There are at least 83 minor characters with actual names. As you can probably expect, a large number of these characters get killed off, put on a bus, or just mysteriously disappear. Also, this is only for the first season. There's no telling how the numbers will change in the second season.
While Robot Wars generally only has a dozen robots per episode, counting the house robots, once you realise that there are about a hundred competitors, maintained by roboteer teams of at least three people, the total number of faces in a single series is incredible.
Runaways (2017) has six main characters in the titular team. Then you have each members' parents who are also part of the cast (two of whom are dead), adding another ten characters with their own subplots and role in the story. Add in the Big Bad and you have a main cast of seventeen key players.
Saving Grace, though primarily about its title character, features about a dozen main supporting characters, and another couple dozen recurring minor characters. All are well-written & well-acted.
Scandal has ten main characters going into its third season. There are also various supporting and recurring characters.
Scrubs has a huge expanded cast of recurring characters, the most famous one being Janitor who was technically a guest star every episode of the first season. Among the major guest cast is Nurse Laverne, The Todd, Keith (who managed better than most of Elliot's long-time boyfriends), Doug, Ted, Lonnie and a few more that aren't quite as frequent like J.D.'s brother Dan.
Then there are the "Third Tier" of characters, who started the show as background extras or crew cameos. Listen to the commentaries on the Season 2 and 3 DVDs, and one can hear jokes about the crew nicknames given to recurring extras, like Dr. Beardface, Snoop Dogg Intern/Resident/Attending and Colonel Doctor.
The show also regularly expands its cast every year, with new interns.
Shameless (UK) has the Gallagher family, which itself is a big one, plus their neighbors and some supporting characters. The Maguires then joined in Series 2. Supporting characters would also get their chance in the limelight every so often. This being the Chatsworth Estate, most of the original cast left by some point due to Long-Runner Cast Turnover, probably because they wanted to get away from the area, with the only original characters left being Frank and Karen.
The American version, of course, follows this trope as well while also retaining much of the same cast. Initially, there's the Gallaghers, their neighbors Kevin and Veronica, Fiona's Love Interest Jimmy/Steve, Lip's Love Interest Karen and her mother Sheila for the main characters, but there's also loads of recurring characters like Tony, Jasmine, Ethel, Monica, Kash, and a lot of others. By Season 3, the main cast grows even larger by promoting Jody and the Milkovich siblings Mickey and Mandy to main characters (Jody was a recurring character in Season 2, and the other two have been recurring since the third episode of the show as Ian's Love Interest and Platonic Life Partner respectively). Not to mention all the secondary characters that start piling up around the Gallaghers; Alpha Bitch Holly, Debbie's Love Interest Matty, Terry Milkovich, Frank's long lost daughter Sammi (who's promoted to main character in Season 5) and her son Chuckie, Mickey's "beard" Svetlana... the list could go on forever.
Skins has a new cast every 2 seasons. Considering there are 8 or 9 major characters per season, and then you add in all their family and other acquaintances...yeah, it's starting to get confusing after a while.
According to the Smallville wiki, throughout the series there are 18 main characters, 170 recurring characters and 341 minor characters, with a total of a staggering 529 characters. Not to mention some closely-related minor characters are merged into one page, for example the 4-man Insurgence team, the two Disciples of Zod and the 3 Weather Girls, meaning the count should be even higher.
Sons of Anarchy has at least a dozen members of the titular motorcycle club as main characters, but then you add in their families, law enforcement, rival gangs, other chapters, the entire Irish subplot, and miscellaneous politicians and citizens of Charming, and you have a huge cast, most of which can reappear at any time.
The Sopranos gradually became this, with upwards of 20 actors listed in the opening credits (in the episodes in which they appeared) and at least as many significant recurring ones. Some, like Bobby and Agent Harris, started as minor roles and grew more significant over the course of multiple seasons. Even at the rate at which they were weeded out, jumping from the end of season 1 to the beginning of season 5 or 6 would have to be pretty bewildering.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had a cast of 7 regulars (admittedly, Cirroc Lofton AKA Jake Sisko didn't appear that much later on) all of whom were very well developed. However, the show had an enormous set of secondary and tertiary characters, many of whom were just as developed, if not MORE developed than the main cast. Gul Dukat and Garak in particular were very deep characters despite not being part of the main cast. Since the Deep Space Nine regulars were for the most part (if not all of them) more developed than the main cast of other Star Trek series, it follows that even the Deep Space Nine guest stars were more developed than the main characters in the other series.
The State mocked this with a fictional TV program called "Just the 160,000 of Us." It was presented as a soap opera where the aforementioned number of people all somehow shared a house, and all of them had their own subplots.
Stranger Things started Season 1 with 11 main characters, most of whom have several family members, and kept adding people. By season 3 there were 16 characters actively contributing to the plot with many more characters playing smaller parts, with the cast split into four Cast Herds to keep the story moving
Supernatural has several dozen recurring characters (most of whom have at least one episode that heavily features them). However, pretty much all of them are dead or Put on a Bus by now, bringing the number of characters in the main cast down to a more manageable number. Which hasn't kept the writers from bringing a few Back from the Dead (Castiel) or otherwise giving them posthumous cameos (Mary Winchester, Bobby).
The Super Sentai franchise has 199 heroes (including the 6 Gokaiger and AkaRed) as of the main 35th Anniversary movie this year, with 35 teams over the past 36 years (1975-2011), that's counting the Core 3/5 and the 6th/Others (such as BullBlack/Magna Defender from Gingaman/Lost Galaxy). Toss in the 35 lots of villains, allies and supporting characters you'll easily hit the thousands before having to add in the weekly monsters.
The German comedy Switch! presented a similar parody to The State with the fictional soap "Alle und wir" ("everyone and us"), which seems to have hundreds, if not thousands of characters... although we only see six of them, and a seventh one (Robin) is mentioned.
Taken: Over the course of the series, a total of 25 actors playing 24 characters are listed in the opening credits. Anton Yelchin and Chad Donella are credited for playing the child and adult versions of Jacob Clarke. Dakota Fanning (Allie) is the only one credited for every episode. There are also numerous recurring and one-off characters who play significant roles.
Third Watch: There are seventeen main characters listed on its trope page, alone.
Parodied with Too Many Cooks on [adult swim], which has an Opening Credits sequence that introduces us to nine characters. Just as it seems to end, it introduces nineteen more characters for a total of 28. The intro again seems to end, but then it just keeps on introducing characters... and then it turns into a complete and utter Mind Screw.
Trailer Park Boys, surprisingly, became this in later seasons. That Other Wikilists twelve main characters and twenty-four recurring characters. In season 7, previously minor characters like Sam and Jake Collins and Sam Losco were developed in multi-episode StoryArcs.
True Blood has an insane amount of cast members and characters. This became especially prevalent in the third season-onwards. There is Eric's posse, Bill's allies, the opposing vampires (Russell Edgington and the like), a bunch of werewolves, Sam and his shifter buddies, Bon Temps' general population, Sookie's close friends, Lafayette's witch circle.. It's getting hard to follow at the end of season 4.
Because the show's episodes last 50 minutes, it usually gives the writers an excuse to flesh out more and more characters. In the fourth season, they had the annoying tendency to switch over to the issues that were being had by characters like Alcide - who weren't main characters at all in the novels.
In fact, at one point the writers of the show admitted that they killed off Terry simply because they couldn't keep up with all the main characters in season 6.
Twin Peaks had about 20-25 major characters who were given character arcs, and about 40 minor recurring characters. This is pretty impressive considering that the series lasted only for 30 episodes, and that almost all of the major characters were introduced during the first season, which had only 8 episodes.
Ultra Series has just way too many characters to count. With at least 31 shows in the franchise (as of 2018's Ultraman R/B), the Land of Light is just brimming with canon Ultra characters, not to mention the humans, kaiju, and aliens that populate each show. It doesn't help that many characters have spouses and children that are mentioned, but never shown in any canon material.
Example-in-an-example: Ultraman Gaia probably holds the record for being the Ultraman show with the most characters. Whereas other entries have one team of about five members as the sole focus of the series, XIG has multiple three-person teams with specialized roles, with Gamu, three commanders, and three Bridge Bunnies (though one is a support recruit) as Mission Control. Then there's Fujimiya, XIG's parent organization GUARD (the American and Japanese divisions), the Kanto Community Broadcasting crew, the Alchemy Stars Network, Gamu's peers at Jounan University, his parents, and so on and so forth.
Van Kooten En De Bie: Despite having a Minimalist Cast of only two regular actors, Van Kooten and De Bie themselves, they portrayed hundreds of characters, enough to fill an entire book. Which they did. It was published as Ons Kent Ons.
At any given time, The Walking Dead will have 10-20 main characters, in a constant state of change as existing characters die, supporting characters step up, and new characters are introduced. As of season 6, the show's cast page lists 32 present and past characters, notably omitting a bunch of characters who were introduced and killed within a single season.
The Waltons: had three generations under one roof (11 named cast members at the start), plus numerous recurring characters among their neighbors. Good night!
By the time The Wire reached its fourth season it had 29 regular cast members, eleven of which appeared in every episode; they were split between the police, the gangs, the Baltimore City mayor's office and a local high school. The show also featured about 30 other characters with recurring roles. EVERY ONE of these characters was fleshed out, with their own unique arc. Nobody on The Wire is 2-Dimensional.