College football is back, and so is fall television. If you're looking to pick up some free TV shows (legally), the Internet is your friend and is a great place to go for digital versions of TV shows, sans a TV or the need for a VCR or DVR to watch shows when you want to. Note that several of these sites are walking a fine line of what's legal and what's not, which was outlined in yesterday's post about legal suicide for start-ups. We don't condone piracy or encourage it; this guide is for entertainment purposes only.
Free (and paid-for) downloads:
iTunes. iTunes is worth mentioning here because you can often get the first and last episode of any show for free. You can then put it on your iPod, iPhone, or watch it full-screen on your computer. While the iTunes Store is now lacking shows like The Office, because of NBC pulling out of its renewal deal, you can still find shows from ABC, CBS, and Fox--which incidentally is offering free pilots of all of their series, which you can find here (link opens up in iTunes).
Amazon Unbox. While we may not have had the best experience using this service in the past, if you're looking for legal digital copies of NBC's newest shows, you're stuck with Unbox until Hulu launches next month. Like the iTunes Store, you'll find all the big players here, although keep in mind that you can't watch these shows on any portable media players, which makes the $1.99 price tag a little harder to swallow.
Editor's Pick: MythBusters
Joost. There is an absolute ton of content on Joost, including entire seasons of the original Transformers from the 80s. The only catch? You've gotta download and install the client, and get a private beta token, which these days is about as easy to get as it was to get a Gmail invite a few years back.
Click the "read more" link below to continue reading, and find out about free, streaming options.
Free streaming shows:
TV-Video.net. This site really can't be legal, but it definitely delivers the goods. You can find free streaming episodes of about 50 shows. Each one plays in a tiny little box on screen, so if you're expecting some quality here, you're out of luck. I had mixed results with this service, as many videos simply just didn't play, but you can't beat the price.
Editor's pick: Six entire seasons of 24.
TV Links is a great place to find episodes from a wide variety of TV shows. I also had great results with their Flash players, which pop up in a window and don't have ads on them. If there is a fault here, you're likely to find a hodgepodge of episodes, and will have to track down the ones that are missing elsewhere.
Editor's pick: The IT Crowd (UK)
Videohybrid is a strange mix of ideas. Users gather together to request which shows they like, and when they've been found (by other users), they're added to the service. You can browse the catalog of "acquired" shows, which either play right in the site, or kick you out to where it's being hosted. The service also lets you subscribe to a show's feed, so you can keep track of when new episodes have been added without having to check the site.
Editor's pick: Ghost Hunters
Blinkx Remote searches for TV shows where they belong--a.k.a. the content creator's home page. You're bound to find a lot of free content here, along with links for the paid versions. The keyword here is legal--unlike some of these other services, you're likely to help the content provider, instead of pirating the content. Full hands-on here.
These are just a few services. There's also a whole tier devoted to live TV on the Internet, which I nixed including, as most of the sites are ad-infested and a pain to use. Anything we missed? Leave it in the TalkBack.