Once upon a time people could only see their favorite shows on TV — and if they missed them, too bad! They’d have to wait for reruns (or wait for the invention of the VCR). Now, thanks to streaming, the problem is that there’s too much available content to choose from, including shows from overseas and shows from many decades ago.
To help people choose wisely, 24/7 Tempo has compiled a list of the best classic TV shows available to stream right now. The newest shows on the list date back to 1990, the year that saw the debut of classics such as “Law & Order” and “Twin Peaks” in the United States and “Jeeves and Wooster” and “Mr. Bean” in the United Kingdom.
By coincidence the No. 1 and No. 2 shows, “The Simpsons” and “Seinfeld,” both debuted in 1989. The oldest show, “I Love Lucy,” goes all the way back to 1951. (Whether through streaming services or on broadcast TV, these are the highest-rated shows you can watch today.)
There’s something here for every taste, from “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” to “Law and Order.” There are classic comedies such as “The Andy Griffith Show” and “I Love Lucy” and science fiction such as “The Twilight Zone” and two iterations of “Star Trek.” There’s educational fare too, including “Sesame Street” for kids and “Nova” for grown-ups. The stream is overflowing. (These are the most anticipated shows coming out in July.)
To determine where you can stream the best classic TV shows right now, 24/7 Tempo developed an index based on several measures from IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon, and the streaming guide Reelgood. The index consists of each movie’s IMDb user rating, the total number of audience votes on IMDb, and the Reelgood rating. Each measure was weighted equally. Only shows that have at least 1,000 IMDb votes, premiered in 1990 or earlier, and are available to stream on major services as of June 2021 were considered. Data was collected June 2021.
Information on debut year, average episode length, and cast came from IMDb. Information on principal streaming services for each series came from Reelgood and Decider, a pop culture website run by the New York Post. Where more than one service streams a series, the ones offering the most seasons or episodes are given. Seasons that have been announced or produced but not yet aired were not included. In the case of shows still running, the number of episodes will change. Note, too, that availability on various platforms changes frequently.