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The Best Shows to Stream for Free: Greek, The Carrie Diaries, Friday Night Lights, and More

You don't need to subscribe to Netflix or Hulu or Amazon Prime to watch these great TV series

Kaitlin Thomas
The Best Shows You Can Watch for Free Right Now
1 of 21 ABC/Pop TV/NBC

The Best Shows You Can Watch for Free Right Now

We know that not everyone has the ability to subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+, Apple TV+ and/or whatever other subscriptions are out there, especially now that the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, has left many out of work and struggling to make ends meet.

This is why TV Guide has compiled a list of the best shows you can stream legally, for free, without a subscription! If you don't mind putting up with a few ads now and again, these shows are a great way to pass the time while you sit at home in quarantine or while social distancing. So sit back and relax and take your mind off the real world for a bit with these great TV shows.

2 of 21 The CW

The Carrie Diaries

It is relatively easy to forget that The CW series The Carrie Diarieswas a prequel to Sex and the City, because the charming show, which lasted just two seasons, was able to stand on its own. The coming-of-age series that followed a teenaged Carrie Bradshaw (AnnaSophia Robb) while she lived in Connecticut and Manhattan and interned at a magazine was relatively innocent compared to the original series. The show's 1980s setting made it easier for the writers to focus on more harmless family storylines and teenage heartbreaks, but the show never shied away from the heartstring-tugging drama of young adulthood either. It's a shame the show never got the kind of ratings it deserved and wasn't able to exist beyond Carrie's high school years, but the Season 2 finale works well as a series finale, too, so viewers won't feel as if the story was left incomplete.

Watch it on: CW Seed

3 of 21 Eric McCandless/ABC Family via Getty Images

Greek

Greek accomplished what very few shows in the history of television have been able to do: portray an authentic college experience without turning it into an alcohol-soaked cliché. The ABC Family (now Freeform) show, which ran from 2007 until 2011, followed the ups and downs of various fraternity and sorority members at the fictional Cyprus-Rhodes University. Spencer Grammer and Jacob Zachar anchored the series as siblings Casey and Rusty Cartwright, and the series tested the bonds of the Cartwrights' growing relationship as well as the bonds that were created by their participation in the Greek system. The series is also notable for being many viewers' first introduction to Scott Michael Foster, and for that we're forever grateful.

Watch it on: Freeform app

4 of 21 ABC

The Dick Van Dyke Show

The Dick Van Dyke Show being streaming for free is a bit like winning a secret lottery or viewing an exceptional piece of art without paying the museum admission fee. The classic comedy, which ran for five seasons, was created by Carl Reiner and starred Dick Van Dyke as the head writer of a TV show, while Mary Tyler Moore portrayed his wife. It's a timeless series -- one that took home 15 Emmys during its run, and if you've yet to experience it, you literally have no excuse at this point.

Watch it on: Tubi (complete series), Pluto TV (complete series)

5 of 21 Pop TV

Schitt's Creek

If you don't have access to Netflix but still want to watch Schitt's Creek, the TV show equivalent of a big hug, you'll be happy to know you can watch the first five seasons of the heartwarming Emmy-nominated comedy series, about a wealthy family who loses everything they own except the town of the show's title and finds a new life and love in the process, for free on CW Seed.

Watch it on: CW Seed (first five seasons)

6 of 21 NBC/Getty Images

Friday Night Lights

We may never know what it feels like to have Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler) be proud of us, but we can pretend by watching the complete series of Friday Night Lights, a show that was as much about a Texas community as it was about the sport that united it. By the end of the five seasons, you'll be asking yourself "What Would Riggins Do?" and tattooing "Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose" on your body, all while chanting "Texas forever!"

Watch it on: IMDb TV (complete series)

7 of 21 ABC

Trophy Wife

Trophy Wife's short life -- it was canceled after just one season -- can probably be chalked up to its unfortunate title, which was meant to be ironic but ultimately kept viewers from tuning in and experiencing the warmth of the show and the relationships at its center. Malin Akerman starred as the young wife of Bradley Whitford's middle-aged lawyer, and the comedy explored the dynamics between the two, his children, and his two ex-wives, who were played by Marcia Gay Harden and Michaela Watkins.

Watch it on: ABC app (complete series)

8 of 21 Mark Seliger/ABC/Getty Images

My So-Called Life

Critically beloved but struck down before its time, My So-Called Life has been praised for its realistic and honest portrayal of teen life, not just through the show's heroine, Angela Chase (Claire Danes), but through the rest of the show's young supporting cast as well. Now considered to be one of the best shows of all time, it tackled topics like homophobia, homelessness, drug use, and more without ever feeling preachy or veering into after-school special territory. Also, Jordan Catalano (Jared Leto) could lean.

Watch it on: IMDb TV (complete series), ABC app (complete series)

9 of 21 Giovanni Rufino/ABC

Forever

The charming and playful Forever, which starred Ioan Gruffudd as an immortal medical examiner, was the one show that could have saved ABC's Tuesday at 10 p.m. death slot. But the network still canceled the series anyway, enraging the show's fans, who have never let the sting of its death go. Luckily, it now lives on, ahem, forever (aka until the content license expires) on CW Seed.

Watch it on: CW Seed (complete series)

10 of 21 Syfy/NBCU/Getty Images

Battlestar Galactica

Syfy's Battlestar Galactica reimaginedthe kitschy original series and turned it into one of the best shows of the 2000s and even beyond. Starring Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Katee Sackhoff, Tricia Helfer, Michael Hogan, James Callis, and Jamie Bamber, the show, which kicked off with an epic miniseries, explored the aftermath of a nuclear attack by the Cylons, cybernetic creatures invented by man who eventually evolved and rebelled against their creators. The series ran for four seasons and was acclaimed for the way it tackled the subjects of science, religion, and politics, and for the way it explored the complicated notion of what makes us human. The miniseries, the show, and the two BSG films (Razor and The Plan) are currently streaming for free on Syfy's website, so there's no better time to watch it.

Watch it on: Syfy

11 of 21 FOX

Fringe

A team of experts led by a kooky old scientist (John Noble), his son (Joshua Jackson), and an FBI agent (Anna Torv) investigate strange occurrences around the country, X-Files style, in the J.J. Abrams-produced Fringe. The series is one of the best broadcast science-fiction shows of all time, particularly in its first three seasons, and perfected the art of the serialized procedural by weaving the show's deep mythology and excellent character work into weekly standalone stories, making it easy to binge or watch in spurts. And by the time the end of Season 1 starts, you'll have a hard time stopping. - Tim Surette

Watch it on: IMDb TV (complete series)

12 of 21 CTV

Degrassi: The Next Generation

Degrassi: The Next Generation, the fourth series in the Degrassi franchise, is the defining iteration of the long-running Canadian series for many fans. The young adult-oriented show, which was sometimes so overly dramatic it was unintentionally funny, thoughtfully tackled everything from date rape and suicide to sexual orientation and teen pregnancy. The series, which notably launched the careers of Drake (then known as Aubrey Graham) and Nina Dobrev, is streaming on multiple free platforms.

Watch it on: IMDb TV (complete series), Tubi (complete series), Pluto TV (first 13 seasons), YouTube (first 13 seasons)

13 of 21 Touchstone Pictures/Getty Images

Felicity

Felicity is best known as the show in which Keri Russell cut her hair (not to be confused with the show in which Keri Russell wore a lot of great wigs, aka The Americans). Depicting Felicity Porter's (Russell) college years and the struggles that accompany trying to figure out who you're supposed to be, the show is also famous for Scott Speedman's whisper-talking and the ongoing battle of Ben (Speedman) vs. Noel (Scott Foley). (The answer is obviously Ben!) Although the WB series was previously streaming on Hulu, you can now watch it for free on the ABC app.

Watch it on: ABC app (complete series)

14 of 21 Bobby Bank/WireImage

Kings

Loosely based on the Biblical story of King David, Kings was a compelling drama before its time. Rudely cut down after just one season by NBC, the show starred Ian McShane as the king of the fictional kingdom of Gilboa, while Christopher Egan portrayed an idealistic young soldier whose counterpart is David. The show also starred Sebastian Stan, which is reason enough to want to check it out.

Watch it on: NBC app (complete series)

15 of 21 The Red Green Show

The Red Green Show

A Canadian treasure, The Red Green Show was a long-running comedy starring Steve Smith as Red Green, a handyman who consistently tried to cut corners using duct tape (the handyman's secret weapon!) and who had his own cable TV show. It was a parody of home improvement shows and outdoor programs and featured segments like Handyman Corner, Adventures with Bill, and The Possum Lodge Word Game. The show ran for 15 seasons, airing on PBS in the U.S. Some might find it a bit weird, but it's a great way to pass the time.

Watch it on: YouTube (nearly every episode)

16 of 21 Scott Garfield,/ABC/Getty Images

Pushing Daisies

It's a shame Bryan Fuller's dramedy Pushing Daisies, about a pie-maker (Lee Pace) with the ability to bring the dead back to life with a simple touch, couldn't bring itself back to life after becoming a casualty of the 2007-08 writers' strike. A saturated, whimsical delight, the show featured the pie-maker teaming up with a local private eye (Chi McBride) to solve murders by reviving the victims for a brief time to find out what happened to them. Known for its quirky characters, eccentric visual style, and Jim Dale's pitch-perfect narration, it remains must-see TV.

Watch it on: CW Seed (complete series)

17 of 21 ABC

The Middle

It sounds odd to say The Middle, which ran for nine seasons on ABC, was unfairly overlooked, but it always felt like the series, which followed the middle class Midwestern Heck family, was a bit of a hidden gem. It wasn't as popular with Emmy voters as, say, Modern Family, and critics also failed to give it its due, but it was a real, heartfelt, reliable family comedy with mass appeal, and you can stream it on IMDb TV for free.

Watch it on: IMDb TV (complete series)

18 of 21 ABC

Reaper

Ray Wise portrays Satan in Reaper, a supernatural dramedy about a slacker (Bret Harrison) who reluctantly becomes a reaper tasked with capturing escaped souls from hell after it's revealed his parents made a deal with the devil many, many years before. The fact the show only lasted two seasons is a crime against humanity. Luckily, you can watch it in its entirety for free.

Watch it on: ABC app (complete series)

19 of 21 ABC1

Dance Academy

The Australian young adult-oriented series Dance Academy is not exactly what you'd call "great television," but it is great fun. Brimming with teen angst and melodrama, the series, which ran for three seasons and even had a follow-up movie, followed a handful of dancers at Sydney's National Academy of Dance as they trained in the sport they loved while also falling in and out of love with each other. The acting was sometimes questionable, but the series itself was addictive, not to mention one of the easiest binges you'll ever encounter.

Watch it on: Pluto TV (all three seasons), Vudu (all three seasons), Tubi (all seasons)

20 of 21 NBC/Getty Images

Columbo

Columbo kicked off nearly every episode by revealing the crime and its perpetrator to the audience, which means that unlike most crime dramas, the show was less about whodunnit and more about Peter Falk's iconic raincoat-wearing homicide detective catching the perpetrators and getting them to confess. Oh, and just one more thing: it's great.

Watch it on: IMDb TV (first seven seasons)

21 of 21 Syfy

Being Human

Although American TV producers would eventually adapt Being Human, the original British version, which followed three supernatural beings trying to live amongst humans, is far superior. The show, which ran for five seasons, starred Aidan Turner, Russell Tovey, and Lenora Crichlow as a vampire, werewolf, and ghost, respectively. So skip the U.S. version entirely and watch the U.K. series for free.

Watch it on: Tubi (complete series), Vudu (complete series)