So the writer’s strike is raging and there’s less and less scripted TV to watch. And the cable bill is past due, and the TV is broke, or at the very least, it’s all the way in the other room. Too much damn walking. What to do, nephew?
I have cataloged here all best the ways to legally obtain video entertainment on the Internet. So no jackbooted stormtroopers from the MPAA will kick down your door and haul away your computer. And your children.
Note: As much as I love Firefox, I find most embedded video players perform far better on IE. Many won’t work at all in Firefox, even with IE Tab.
The Crack Team has been pointing you to great videos since this site was launched. Through the miracle of tagging (and the back-breaking labor of back-tagging over 400 posts), you can now see an archive of all video posts on TCT. Try to find good stuff sites like YouTube and you’ll end up slogging through one mediocre video after another – even when you stick to the popular and highly rated ones. Save your time and watch Crack TV!
Netflix is awesome. Without a doubt the biggest DVD selection anywhere, including HD-DVD and Blu-Ray.1 They also have a streaming service. While the selection of downloads is limited, it’s still good. I just finished season 1 of Dexter and next is Dead Like Me. They also have several NBC shows and a bunch of crap shows from the 70’s and 80’s. Best of all, they now allow you to download as much as you want! The quality is high, too. I’ve had no problems since signing up several years ago and they even give me an early adopter discount.
If you can, you’re probably best served by getting a good TV tuner card2 and using DVR software like Windows Media Center. This way you can get everything and skip all the commercials.3
All major broadcast networks have some video content online, but vary widely in the quality, selection, and commercial content. It’s a great way to try new shows now that so little new stuff is produced. Journeyman would be a great example, if you didn’t watch it before it was canceled.4 You can now watch the entire series. Similarly, I recently discovered Life at the suggestion of a friend and now I’m all caught up.
Cable networks are much more conservative, choosing to only offer video clips like you might see on YouTube. Full episodes (for the cable channels I watch) are nonexistent.
Most TV shows I watch are on Fox, and they’ve done an awesome job with Fox On Demand. The selection is great:
- Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
- The Simpsons
- Family Guy
- King of the Hill
- American Dad
- Plus some crappy shows I don’t watch
New shows appear 1-8 days after airing; it depends on the show. The videos are high quality; some are even in HD. I find that cranking up the resolution to 1280 x 1024 on my 21″ monitor gives a great HD image for shows like Terminator.5 And most shows are commercial free! Rupert Murdoch is my homeboy.
NBC is the #2 network for online viewing. The video quality is excellent. The bad news is that all their shows run commercials during the normal spots for commercial breaks. The good news is that they only run one 15-30 second spot. The bad news is that it’s the same commercial, over and over. Better than watching it live, but not as good as a DVR. Like Fox, NBC also has a great selection:
The only ABC show I really watch is Lost, but they seem to do a great job with it. Amazingly, they have all 4 seasons online in HD (1280 x 720), and when I boosted my resolution, full screen looked fantastic. Lost is easily the best looking show on the Internet. I thought I might try Pushing Daisies, as I heard that was good, but I found they only offer a few episodes of their other series.
Smallville is one of my longtime faves, due in no small part to Kristin Kreuk. And Reaper is great. But CW’s online video offering is weak sauce. Very few full episodes and what they have is low quality. I have to admit, I am surprised they put online the director’s cut of the next new Smallville episode before it even aired. But it still wasn’t enough to get me to watch.
It sucks. First, I didn’t watch it when I had a TV. CBS has picked up Dexter, which is an awesome show, but they’re just airing censored versions of the Showtime series. When it’s all on Netflix, what’s the point? The only current CBS show I’m interested in is Jericho, as it was recently suggested to me by a few friends. When I went to watch past episodes, however, I found the video quality sucked. Full screen is almost unwatchable; it’s just stretching the original size, which is only 9″ diagonal on my monitor.
I used to watch this more often to get a quick feed of major stories. This is still possible online through their Prime News segments. Personally, I can’t stand Nancy Grace, and don’t often bother with their other shows.
Discovery, TLC, Animal Planet
Decent quality full episodes, but very few shows (3 total at this time, none of which I watch), and only a couple episodes per show.
More of a video clip outlet with no full episodes. Do you really need to see every second of The Daily Show or Colbert Report? Maybe not, especially now that the strike is affecting them. But I would like to see full episodes of South Park, Reno 911, and, should they ever return: Chapelle’s Show, Dr. Katz, Stella, Strangers With Candy, and Upright Citizen’s Brigade. I won’t be holding my breath.
They’ve produced some fantastic animated series, especially their superhero adaptations (Justice League Unlimited) and Adult Swim (Harvey Birdman, Sealab 2021). But the site seems very much geared towards kids, and only provides video clips. Nothing to see here.
- If you tell them you have either player, they just automatically send you those. [↩]
- Make sure it’s ATSC for HD [↩]
- Except for the upcoming Agent Mystery-produced So You Think You Can Dance. Be sure to watch it live and soak in all the commercials. [↩]
- Thanks for killing a great show. [↩]
- They do force you to download a proprietary video player, but it seems harmless. And yes, I know it’s a tragedy to watch Terminator on anything less than a 50″ 1080P screen. [↩]