The short answer… no. Unless “Classic Sitcoms” means, Friends, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, or Sex and the City, you don’t need HBO Max to catch up with classic sitcoms.
But you didn’t think that would be the whole post, did you? Of course not. If you want your streaming service to have a bank of classic sitcoms, which one SHOULD you go with? To decide who deserved the edge with Classic Sitcoms, I compiled a list of 148 shows dating back to the 1950s and ended before 2010. (I know this might be a somewhat liberal view of “classic” but it seems as good a place to draw the line as anywhere else.) The 2010 deadline only applied to a show’s original run, any classics that got rebooted in the ’10s were still fair game. I excluded anything animated, as I’ve already done another post in the series focused on animation on streaming platforms. I also plan to do a SciFi/Fantasy edition at some point, so I’ve decided to excluded shows such as Star Trek, The Twilight Zone, etc. even though they certainly still count as classic tv. I’ve also left out anything that was marketed primarily towards children. However, teen focused shows such as Boy Meets World and Saved by the Bell which aired on regular network television are still fair game. Then I went through and checked to see which ones were on which platforms.
Of those 148 shows, 63 were not easily streamable, with “easily streamable” defined as included in a flat-rate paid subscription such as Hulu or Netflix, available for free w/ads on platforms such as Vudu or IMDb TV, or available for free on a library-supported platform such as Kanopy or Hoopla. Many of these “unavailable” shows are technically available to purchase on platforms such as Apple TV+ or Amazon for a few dollars per episode, and you might also be able to find stray episodes of questionable legality uploaded to YouTube. For the remaining 85 Easily Streamable Shows, the breakdown goes like this:
HBO Max: 4
Amazon Prime*: 22
CBS All Access: 10
IMDb TV: 6 (including 2 shows where only select seasons are available)
FlixFling: 2 (both of which are on Amazon w/Best TV Ever extension)
Roku Channel: 12
BET +: 1
CW Seed: 1
*In the case of Amazon Prime offerings, there are 7 out of 22 shows where select seasons are included with a regular Amazon Prime subscription, but the show’s entire run isn’t. There’s also three shows that require a “Best TV Ever” add-on, however this add-on is only $1 a month extra. (Those three shows were The George Burns and Gracie Allen show, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, and The Bob Cummings Show with the last also being one of the 7 partially available shows).
Since I’m sure some of you might’ve noticed that those numbers add up to more than 85, we should probably address the fact that some of these classic sitcoms are available on more than one platform. Cheers for example is available in its entirety on Netflix, Hulu, or CBS All Access. While I didn’t expect Netflix to have a particularly strong showing in this category, their offerings become even less impressive when we take into account that three of the four shows they do have are available elsewhere. There’s the aforementioned Cheers, The Andy Griffith Show (also available on Amazon Prime) and Arrested Development, whose original run is on Hulu even if the reboot seasons are exclusive to Netflix. HBO Max has relatively few classic sitcoms, but the ones they do have include high demand shows such as Friends and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air that aren’t available anywhere else.
This realization prompted me to run the numbers again, this time only accounting for shows where that site could claim exclusivity. In cases like Arrested Development where only one platform has the show’s whole run but some seasons were available elsewhere, I’ve made a note in parentheses. Those numbers go like this:
Hulu: 23, (including Just Shoot Me, which has 4 seasons on the Roku Channel and 3 Seasons on Crackle).
HBO Max: 3
Amazon Prime: 15 (2 shows are partial seasons)
CBS All Access: 3 (1 of these is Happy Days, where for some reason only Season 2 appears to be available)
Disney +: 1
IMDb TV: 2 (including The Partridge Family where only 3 seasons is available)
Roku Channel: 3 (None of these are full runs, but the seasons they do have are exclusive to Roku)
Crackle: 2 (including 1 partial run)
Netflix: 2 (including Arrested Development)
CW Seed: 1
Unlike some categories of this little project, running the numbers on Classic Sitcoms leads to a clear winner: Hulu. There are significantly more shows, most of what they do have are full runs, and about two thirds of these offerings are exclusive to Hulu. Amazon Prime takes second place, and it really feels like these tw are the only ones even trying. Starz also deserves an unexpected Honorable Mention for focusing on the classic sitcoms that center around black families. Who would’ve thought that Good Times, The Jeffersons, Diff’rent Strokes and Sanford and Son are all living on one streaming platform in their entirety, and that platform is Starz?
Curious to see what specific shows I used in my calculations and where they’re streaming? Here’s a link to all my data about where classic sitcoms are streaming. Special shoutout reelgood.com and justwatch.com, the streaming search engines I used while compiling my data.
Other posts in this series:
Do You Need HBO Max?: Animated TV edition