6 Beloved TV Shows You Can't Stream Anywhere
These hit series aren't easily available on streaming, despite the amount of fans waiting to rewatch.
It's been said that we are currently in the midst of the peak streaming era, a time when it's easy to fire up your computer or smart TV and find pretty much any TV show you want to watch, whether that be a classic '50s sitcom, a '90s teen drama, to a straight-to-Netflix hit like Wednesday. Still, even some critically acclaimed, viewer-beloved hits of the past have fallen through the cracks, kept off of streaming services either due to legal red tape or through sheer corporate indifference. Read on for six classic TV shows you can't stream anywhere.
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WKRP in Cincinnati (1978–1982)
Chronicling the on- and off-mic antics of the crew at a struggling Ohio radio station, WKRP in Cincinnati is both a wacky workplace sitcom (see: the legendary "turkey drop" episode, regularly ranked among the funniest half hours of television ever made) and a perfect chronicle of the music and mores of the late '70s. Unfortunately, that time-capsule quality is exactly why the show is so hard to see today. Due to the high number of hit songs of the era played "on air"—and often tied into the plot of a given episode—the music licensing costs have put a streaming release out of reach. Shout! Factory did put out a full series DVD collection in 2018, however, and Apple TV+ has just the first season available digitally for purchase.
This his-and-hers mystery show perfected the romantic comedy on television, with a young Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd playing partners in a detective agency who butt heads while solving crimes and spend four seasons trying not to fall into bed together. When they finally did, the show became a case study in the dangers of giving audiences what they want. The ratings dropped, and the series came to an abrupt end a year before Die Hard made Willis an unlikely action superstar. Though previously available on DVD, the show is hard to see at all in 2023, as high music licensing costs have kept it off of streaming services.
The ultimate exercise in Me-Decade navel-gazing, Thirtysomething was the first in a string of generation defining TV dramas from co-creators Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick (My So-Called Life, Once and Again). Its singular focus on the self-centered concerns of late '80s yuppies—sexual mores, career ennui, and parenting angst, oh my—often come at the expense of dramatic plotting, making it a polarizing but much-discussed hit throughout its four-season run. Sadly, these days you can't relive the outmoded cultural critiques (nor the outlandish period fashions) without springing for the DVDs.The pandemic scuttled a planned revival, and though the show was previously available digitally, it's currently MIA on streaming.
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Murphy Brown (1988–1998)
What Thirtysomething did for families, Murphy Brown did for the working woman, capturing the leaning in lifestyle of hard-hitting reporter Murphy Brown (Candice Bergen) as she clashes with the patriarchal "good old boys" mentality of corporate newsrooms. For a time it became a political flashpoint, as then-vice presidential candidate Dan Quayle lamented a plotline that saw Murphy becoming a single mother as an affront to traditional family values. Yet for its historical merits—and a recent 11th season revival—the show remains off the air when it comes to streaming (though the whole thing is available on DVD).
Homicide: Life on the Street (1993–1999)
Years before he would create The Wire—one of the defining series of the early "Prestige TV" era—former Baltimore Sun journalist David Simon served as a writer and producer on Homicide: Life on the Streets, based on his own non-fiction book. Premiering on NBC in 1993, that show brought major gravitas and a gritty jolt of realism to the creaky cop show genre, setting out, as The Guardian noted, "to debunk the myths TV had created about police work, starting with the premise that cops get along." Across seven seasons, it redefined what network television could do, building a legacy that led Time, TV Guide, and Entertainment Weekly to name it one of the best shows ever made. That kind of reputation will earn you a fancy DVD box set, but the show is still waiting to be released from streaming jail—you won't find it available digitally anywhere.
The Adventures of Pete & Pete (1993–1996)
With a soundtrack by indie rockers Polaris; a cast of oddball character actors including Michelle Trachtenberg, Heather Matarazzo, Steve Buscemi, and Adam West; and an offbeat sense of humor and penchant for the surreal that led IGN to declare it "one of the best kids' shows ever," The Adventures of Pete & Pete connected with social outcasts young and old during (and after) its too-brief three-season run on Nickelodeon. Yet despite its loyal cult fanbase, Pete & Pete's afterlife isn't looking so rosy these days—reportedly due to, yes, problems with the music rights. The first two seasons are no longer available on DVD, a planned third season set was never released, and the show isn't available to stream.