15 Classic TV Shows You Didn't Know You Could Stream Right Now
From I Love Lucy to Cheers, these streaming TV classics are perfect comfort viewing.
In these times of uncertainty and social distancing, our best friend just might be streaming. The age of peak television could not have come at a more opportune time: If we all have to be stuck in our homes, at least we have a bounty of TV to watch. And while the networks, cable stations, and streaming platforms continue to churn out new shows for us, it's important to note that the classic TV of old is very much available for our viewing pleasure. These 15 classic TV shows you can stream were all landmark television in their day, and they're still worth bingeing here in the turbulent present. And for more nostalgic television, revisit these 20 '90s TV Shows You've Completely Forgotten About.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show (Hulu)
Perhaps the definitive workplace comedy, The Mary Tyler Moore Show was a landmark series when it came to female TV characters. Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore) was an independent, unmarried woman focused on her career and not finding a man, which, in the 1970s, made an indelible political statement. But more than politics, the show was warm, funny, and perfectly cast, with characters popular enough to launch three spinoffs: Rhoda (starring Valerie Harper), Phyllis (starring Cloris Leachman), and Lou Grant (starring Ed Asner). All three of those performers—plus Betty White, Ted Knight, Georgia Engel, and Gavin MacLeod—can be found in the seven seasons of Mary Tyler Moore streaming on Hulu right now.
The Carol Burnett Show (Amazon Prime)
When you talk about impeccable comedic casts, that story begins and ends with the quartet on The Carol Burnett Show. Every week, Carol Burnett, Tim Conway, Harvey Korman, and Vicki Lawrence teamed up to deliver sketch comedy that left audiences howling. And just as often, they wound up howling with laughter themselves. The show ran for 11 seasons, from 1967 to 1978, and helped Burnett establish herself as the patron saint of female comedians.
I Love Lucy (Hulu)
One of the most foundational TV series of all time, I Love Lucy's run from 1951 to 1957 broke all kinds of new ground for television and set the standard for the American sitcom for the ensuing half a century. The adventures of Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball); her bandleader husband, Ricky (Desi Arnaz); and their neighbors, Fred and Ethel Mertz (William Frawley and Vivian Vance), captivated and entertained the nation, delivering such still-famous comedic set pieces as the conveyor belt at the chocolate factory and Lucy's tipsy delivery as a spokeperson for Vitameatavegamin.
Star Trek: The Original Series (Hulu)
The original voyages of the starship Enterprise may have been initially appreciated by a cult audience, but they spawned an entire science fiction universe that thrives to this day. The adventures of Captain Kirk (William Shatner), Spock (Leonard Nimoy), and their crew became a cultural institution and one of the most influential pieces of science fiction ever. At under 100 episodes, the series made its mark not through epic space battles (those phasers were set to "stun"!) but through exploration and discovery. All three seasons are streaming on Hulu now.
The landmark CBS comedy about a mobile army surgical unit in the Korean War ran for 11 seasons, and when it came time to wrap things up, the finale was the most-watched television program for decades. Just in case you needed a refresher as to just how important this TV show was! This was the show that gave us enduring national treasure Alan Alda, plus two spin-off series: AfterMASH and Trapper John, M.D. The series, based on the Oscar-nominated Robert Altman film, really pushed the TV sitcom forward, featuring complex and thought-provoking plots in addition to its sillier side.
If The Mary Tyler Moore show was the quintessential workplace comedy in the 1970s, Cheers established the hangout comedy in the '80s by essentially turning the workplace into a Boston bar and populating it with both employees and patrons alike. Bar owner and former pro baseball player Sam Malone (Ted Danson) captained this ship of fools, though he was just as often the fool himself. Sam's romantic chemistry with waitress Diane Chambers (Shelley Long) set the standard for longform TV romance for decades, while supporting characters like Woody (Woody Harrelson), Frasier (Kelsey Grammer), Carla (Rhea Perlman), and Lilith (Bebe Neuwirth) provided big laughs and raked in awards. And for more shows that had iconic final episodes, check out our picks for The 25 Best TV Series Finales of All Time.
The Brady Bunch (Hulu)
The story of a lovely lady (Florence Henderson), a man named Brady (Robert Reed), and their blended family of six kids was so symmetrically conceived that the opening credits were an actual grid. Three sisters, three brothers, each similarly spaced out in age, plus a snappy maid named Alice (Ann B. Davis)—the math worked out perfectly. The Brady Bunch was a show that worked on multiple levels: It was simultaneously the ideal family comedy of the '70s, featuring the changing look of the American family, while also being almost intentionally prefabricated, right down to the AstroTurf backyard. It's an incredible time capsule to revisit, and watching the Brady kids grow up over the course of five iconic seasons is a lesson in TV history.
The Andy Griffith Show (Netflix)
The picture of an idyllic, classic American comedy, The Andy Griffith Show ran for eight seasons, from 1960 to 1968, depicting the goings on in the sleepy southern town of Mayberry. Andy Griffith played Andy Taylor, this small town's sheriff, with his deputy the eternally bumbling Barney Fife (Don Knotts). The expressed vibe of the show was to evoke a simpler time at a time when America was undergoing tumultuous changes. Nowadays, the show seems like even more of an artifact, though the sheer curiosity factor of a young Ron Howard as little Opie is enough to draw curious eyeballs.
The Golden Girls (Hulu)
Four older women—Dorothy (Bea Arthur), Blanche (Rue McClanahan), and Rose (Betty White), as well as Dorothy's mother, Sophia (Estelle Getty)—cohabitating in a breezy Miami home turned out to be one of the most surprisingly modern TV shows of its time. And in an America that has steadily become more and more youth-obsessed as the years have gone by, looking back at The Golden Girls, with its unapologetic depiction of older women dating freely and enthusiastically while always falling back on their close bond as sisters, it's no wonder that the TV show this most often gets compared to is Sex and the City. And for some series that you can put on while multitasking, try these 13 TV Shows That Are Perfect Background Noise While Working From Home.
Monty Python's Flying Circus (Netflix)
The comedic eccentricity of Britain's Monty Python comedy troupe made its mark in films like Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Life of Brian, but it was in their four-season BBC comedy series that their true comedic genius shone through. The all-star lineup included John Cleese, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Graham Chapman, Terry Jones, and Terry Gilliam, all delivering sketches that pushed boundaries and inspired countless comedians after them. And for more laughs on the streaming service, watch The 17 Best Stand-Up Comedy Specials on Netflix.
Magnum, P.I. (Amazon Prime)
Tom Selleck as Thomas Magnum might have struck the most iconic pose of any TV character of the '80s: flowered Hawaiian shirt, Detroit Tigers ballcap, legendary '80s mustache. Who wouldn't want to speed through eight seasons and 162 episodes of Hawaiian private investigation on Amazon Prime? Especially with that classic theme song to propel you along! Selleck became a huge star on the back of this show, and just one episode's worth of his charisma is enough to see why.
Designing Women (Hulu)
The days and nights of the Sugarbaker & Associates interior design firm in Atlanta is the setting for one of the best comedies of the 1980s. Designing Women was a smart, snappy, often overtly political sitcom about women striving to make it in business in a world that just as often tries to belittle and overlook them. Featuring a bulletproof central ensemble of Dixie Carter, Delta Burke, Jean Smart, and Annie Potts, the series offers female-centric comedy that still feels smart and funny, particularly when Julia Sugarbaker (Carter) winds up for one of her classic fiery monologues.
The Addams Family (Amazon Prime)
It's always so surprising to realize that The Addams Family lasted only two seasons on ABC, from 1964 to 1966, because its influence on popular culture was so widespread. Based on Charles Addams' New Yorker cartoons, the series starred John Astin and Carolyn Jones as Gomez and Morticia Addams, patriarch and matriarch of a spooky, kooky, ooky family of creepy characters straight out of a haunted house, including sullen children Wednesday and Pugsley, cue-ball-headed Uncle Fester, and Frankenstein's monster-esque Lurch. The more outlandish the character—like disembodied hand Thing and walking pile of hair Cousin Itt—the more memorable it remained in pop culture. The series famously inspired two feature films, but the original series is worth it for sheer quirk value.
The Twilight Zone (Netflix)
Quite simply, we wouldn't have Black Mirror (and maybe not American Horror Story) if we never got The Twilight Zone, the Rod Serling-produced anthology series that ran from 1959 to 1964. Specializing in stories of the strange and macabre, The Twilight Zone injected a dose of creepy, darkly-imagined fiction into a mostly squeaky-clean TV landscape. The stories Serling presented, with maximum ominous voiceover, became famous for their sinister twists and shocking turns, and before long, the phrase "Twilight Zone" became synonymous for anything creepy, out-there, and outlandish.
NYPD Blue (Amazon Prime)
ABC's groundbreaking police drama made headlines in its early days for pushing network TV's boundaries for language, nudity, and thematic content. In other words, it paved the way in the '90s for the directions TV dramas would go in the 21st century. Its Season1 1 cast was headed by Dennis Franz and David Caruso, though the show was so successful that Caruso left after one season to pursue an ill-fated movie career. Through the years, Franz was partnered with the likes of Jimmy Smits, Rick Schroder, and Mark-Paul Gosselaar, but it was the hard-boiled production by Stephen Bochco and David Milch that was the real star of the show.