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On Streaming Services, Nostalgia Rules

Classic TV shows are finding new (and old) audiences

  • Getty Images

    A Stream of Classic TV Shows

    The new network television season kicks off this week. But on streaming services, everything old is new again — and wildly popular. A recent Los Angeles Times article noted that long-in-the-tooth TV series have become lucrative staples on services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video, where audiences are rediscovering — and younger viewers are discovering — older shows. Here’s a selection of classic TV shows getting new life on streaming services, and where to watch them.

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  • ABC/Getty Images

    'The Golden Girls'

    It might sound odd that a sitcom about a quartet of Florida retirees would endure, but a quarter-century after it last aired, the BFF adventures of Blanche, Sophia, Dorothy and Rose are proving timeless. Hulu offers all 180 episodes. Twenty-five-year-old Jessica Mata told the L.A. Times she watches four episodes a day. For some younger viewers, it’s a reminder of childhood: “You know how when you're sick, you want something comfortable that you already know? Chicken soup, a hug from your mom," 36-year-old Emily Taffel told CNBC about the show’s appeal.

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  • NBC/Getty Images

    'Friends'

    To millennials who connect via text and SnapChat, a sitcom about friends who gather at a New York City coffee shop and actually talk to each other (face to face!) might sound like science fiction. Whatever the draw, the staple of '90s pop culture has been embraced by Netflix viewers — the service doesn’t release viewing figures, but HighSpeedInternet.com estimated that it’s the second-most popular show, behind only Sherlock. A dozen years after its run ended, a 2016 New York magazine headline asked: “Is Friends still the most popular show on TV?”                             

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  • ABC/Photofest

    'Full House'

    The late '80s-era sitcom inspires such fervent nostalgia that Netflix rebooted it last year with most of the original cast — the third season of the sequel series “Fuller House” premiered last Friday. To watch episodes of the original, though, head over to Hulu — where, beginning Sept. 29, the show will be paired with Family Matters, Perfect Strangers, Hanging With Mr. Cooper and Step by Step to recreate ABC’s classic TGIF lineup of family sitcoms from the mid-1990s. Get your Urkel on.

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    'The West Wing'

    If you’re missing those walk-and-talk days when President Bartlet inhabited the Oval Office and The West Wing ruled the airwaves, Netflix has you covered. All seven seasons and 156 episodes of the show, which won four straight Emmys for outstanding drama series, from 2000 to 2003, are available for your binge-watching pleasure. Many other shows since have used the White House as a setting, including Netflix’s own original hit House of Cards, but this one still gets its fair share of the popular vote.

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  • CBS/Photofest

    'The Twilight Zone'

    All five seasons of the original series, which ran from 1959 to 1964, are available for purchase on Amazon Video. All but the fourth season are available for streaming for Amazon Prime members.

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    'Star Trek'

    The streaming situation for the visionary science fiction franchise is a kind of glimpse into the future itself: CBS is using the latest Star Trek spin-off series, Discovery, to anchor and grow CBS All Access, its own fledgling $5.99-per-month streaming service that also features plenty of classic programs, including Perry Mason, Cheers and MacGyver. In launching Star Trek: Discovery, the network inked a deal with Netflix to carry the new show in foreign markets. As part of that pact, Netflix will also carry every other Star Trek episode, across all six franchises.

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  • NBC/Getty Images

    'Will & Grace'

    The sitcom’s huge popularity on iTunes sparked the revival that premieres on NBC this week, and that’s not the only good news for its fans. Hulu now streams all 194 episodes of the original series, and will also air the new episodes of the reboot beginning the day after they air on NBC.

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