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Best free shows on YouTube: TV series you can enjoy without paying

From sci-fi to crime dramas to superhero shows, there's lots of series to watch on YouTube.
By
September 4, 2023
YouTube on smartphone
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

As traditional streaming services raise the price, you might find yourself looking for more free streaming content. Luckily there are plenty of sources, including YouTube. YouTube has had free, ad-supported movies on its service for a while now for folks who simply don’t want to pay for premium streaming services like Netflix or Disney Plus. However, Google has added some free YouTube TV shows to the mix as well.

While the selection of free YouTube TV shows is pretty bare-bones, there are a few gems in here that you can check out for free. You can also get rid of the ads as one of the features of YouTube Premium.

Best free YouTube TV shows

Editor’s note: We will add more free YouTube TV shows to this list as they go live on the service.


The Prisoner (1967-1968)

The Prisoner
ITV

What you need to know:

  • Rating: TV-PG
  • Seasons: 1
  • Creator: Patrick McGoohan
  • Main cast: Patrick McGoohan, Angelo Muscat
  • Genre: Spy/Sci-fi
  • Ratings: 8.5 – IMDB / 100% – Rotten Tomatoes

Patrick McGoohan stars as an unnamed secret agent who, in the first episode, resigns from his position for unknown reasons. He’s then kidnapped and finds himself in “the Village,” a small town that, in reality, is a very sophisticated prison. He’s also given the name “Number 6”. Whoever is in charge of this place wants to know why he resigned. Each episode (some of which were written and directed by McGoohan) sees Number 6 try to avoid revealing his secrets while also attempting to escape from the Village.

The show deals with themes of privacy, identity, and the nature of freedom and also has some of the more surreal storylines and art designs ever made for a TV show. It’s a must-watch and perhaps the best of the free YouTube TV shows.

Ready to watch? You can find the TV show right here on YouTube.


Sanctuary (2008-2011)

Sanctuary
Syfy

What you need to know:

  • Rating: TV-14
  • Seasons: 4
  • Creator: Damian Kindler
  • Main cast: Amanda Tapping, Robin Dunne, Ryan Robbins, Christopher Heyerdahl, Emilie Ullerup
  • Genre: Action, Drama, Fantasy
  • Ratings: 7.3 – IMDB / 88% – Rotten Tomatoes

Dr. Helen Magnus is devoted to protecting the world from creatures called Abnormals. She also protects these creatures as well in her “Sanctuary,” where they can live in peace away from fearful humans.

This show is a nice mix of sci-fi with pulp action adventure. Fans of the Stargate TV show franchise should also enjoy this series. It was created and directed by many of the writers and directors of the Stargate shows and stars Stargate SG-1’s Amanda Tapping as Dr. Magus. For some reason, Google has separated the four seasons of this show into two parts, but you can still watch all four seasons for free.

Ready to watch? You can find seasons one and two of the TV show right here on YouTube.


The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966)

Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, and a child in The Dick Van Dyke Show - best shows on freevee
CBS

What you need to know:

  • Rating: TV-G
  • Seasons: 5
  • Creator: Carl Reiner
  • Main cast: Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, Rose Marie, Morey Amsterdam, Larry Mathews
  • Genre: Comedy, Family
  • Ratings: 8.4 – IMDB / NR – Rotten Tomatoes

Rob Petrie is a writer for a popular TV comedy variety show. When he’s not working, he’s at home with his wife Laura and son Ritchie, and he gets into some interesting home and work situations.

This series quickly became one of the best sitcoms of all time when it launched in 1961. Created by comedy legend Carl Reiner, it’s been highly influential for many other TV shows, including most recently WandaVision. YouTube has the first two seasons of the show, totaling 60 episodes, to stream for free right now.

Ready to watch? You can find the TV show right here on YouTube.


The Carol Burnett Show (1967-1978)

The Carol Burnett Show
CBS

What you need to know:

  • Rating: TV-G
  • Seasons: 11
  • Creator: Carol Burnett
  • Main cast: Carol Burnett, Harvey Korman, Lyle Waggoner, Vicki Lawrence, Tim Conway
  • Genre: Comedy Variety
  • Ratings: 8.7 – IMDB / NR – Rotten Tomatoes

This long-running comedy variety show starred Carol Burnett, who played (of course) a variety of roles. That includes a continuing sketch where she played Eunice, the daughter of a rather loud and opinionated family.

The 1960s and 1970s were the height of popularity for the TV variety show. An argument could be made that The Carol Burnett Show was the best of them. Burnett herself was funny and charming as the host and main performer of the show, but she wisely allowed her supporting players like Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence, Lyle Waggoner, and Tim Conway to take the comedy ball and run with it in their comedy sketches. Indeed, the “Family” series of sketches later turned into a full-fledged sitcom, Mama’s Family (although Burnett’ would only guest star in a handful of episodes).

Ready to watch? You can find the TV show right here on YouTube.


The Greatest American Hero (1981-1983)

A man in a red superhero outfit stands with a woman in front of a blue screen in The Greatest American Hero
ABC

What you need to know:

  • Rating: TV-14
  • Seasons: 3
  • Creator: Stephen J. Cannell
  • Main cast: William Katt, Connie Sellecca, Robert Culp, Faye Grant, Jesse D. Goins
  • Genre: Superhero Comedy
  • Ratings: 7.3 – IMDB / NA – Rotten Tomatoes

An ordinary high school teacher is confronted by aliens one night and is given a suit that gives him all sorts of superpowers in an effort to keep humanity from destroying itself. Unfortunately, he lost the instruction book that told him how to use the suit properly. With the help of his girlfriend and a very hard-nosed FBI agent, he tries to learn how to use his suit and powers for good.

In this era of many superheroes TV shows and movies, this early 1980s comedy still stands out as perhaps one of the best shows of this particular genre. It’s a great mix of comedy and action and one of the best free YouTube TV shows.

Ready to watch? You can find the TV show right here on YouTube.


Space: 1999 (1975-1977)

Space 1999
ITV

What you need to know:

  • Rating: TV-14
  • Seasons: 2
  • Creator: Gerry and Sylvia Anderson
  • Main cast: Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, Nick Tate
  • Genre: Sci-fi
  • Ratings: 7.3 – IMDB / 66% – Rotten Tomatoes

In the “future” of 1999, the Earth’s moon, with the crew of Moonbase Alpha on it, breaks away from orbit due to a nuclear explosion. Every week, the crew members of Moonbase Alpha encounter a new planet or new alien threat as the moon heads out uncontrollably into deep space.

Yes, the premise of the show is a bit silly. If you put that illogical idea for a TV show aside, this is a fun romp, made all the better with some impressive spaceship models and visual effects that (mostly) still hold up today. If you are new to Space: 1999, be prepared for a big shift in the show’s second season, which made it more of a colorful action-adventure show.

Ready to watch? You can find the TV show right here on YouTube.


Unsolved Mysteries (1987-2010)

Unsolved Mysteries
NBC

What you need to know:

  • Rating: TV-PG
  • Seasons: 14
  • Creator: John Cosgrove, Terry Dunn Meurer
  • Main cast: Robert Stack, Virginia Madsen
  • Genre: Documentary, Crime, Drama
  • Ratings: 8.3 – IMDB / NR – Rotten Tomatoes

Robert Stack was the host of this classic show. It features several different kinds of criminal cases and supernatural events that had yet to be solved at the time the episodes went on the air.

Long before the current wave of true crime podcasts and TV shows, there was Unsolved Mysteries. This show is still fun to watch, and you can definitely see the origins of the more recent true crime shows in this series.

Ready to watch? You can find the TV show right here on YouTube.


Con Man (2015-2017)

Alan Tudyk in Con Man
Con Man productions

What you need to know:

  • Rating: TV-14
  • Seasons: 2
  • Creator: Alan Tudyk
  • Main cast: Alan Tudyk, Nathan Fillion, Mindy Sterling
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Ratings: 7.7 – IMDB / 89% – Rotten Tomatoes

A working actor, who was on a cult-favorite sci-fi show, is now struggling to find work. He regularly goes to sci-fi conventions to try to make ends meet. He also doesn’t like that one of that show’s other actors is now a major movie star.

Alan Tudyk, an actor with a very busy career in the last couple of decades, including recently starring in Resident Alien, used online crowdfunding to produce this show. He also created, wrote, and directed the series. Look for lots of recognizable actors in this series, which is a funny satire on the job of being an actor, as well as fandom.

Ready to watch? You can find the TV show right here on YouTube.


Ascension (2014)

A husband and wife in formal wear in Ascension
Syfy

What you need to know:

  • Rating: TV-MA
  • Seasons: 1
  • Creator: Adrian Cruz, Philip Levens
  • Main cast: Tricia Helfer, Brian Van Holt, Gil Bellows, Andrea Roth, Brandon P Bell
  • Genre: Drama, Sci-fi
  • Ratings: 7.1 – IMDB / 67% – Rotten Tomatoes

A secret NASA mission was launched from Earth in 1963. A ship containing hundreds of people set out into space on a 100-year journey to the nearest star. Most of the series takes place about 50 years later, and we see how the society on board this generational spaceship has evolved, and how class structures might threaten the mission before it reaches its goal.

This is a very surprising and entertaining three-part mini-series. If you watch the show and find yourself thinking, “Hey, there’s no way a space mission like this could have been launched in 1963,” there’s a clever explanation for that as well in the first episode that we won’t reveal here.

Ready to watch? You can find the TV show right here on YouTube.


The Dead Zone (2002-2007)

The Dead Zone
USA Network

What you need to know:

  • Rating: TV-14
  • Seasons: 6
  • Creator: Michael Piller, Shawn Piller
  • Main cast: Anthony Michael Hall, Nicole de Boer, Chris Bruno, John L. Adams, David Ogden Stiers
  • Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Mystery
  • Ratings: 7.4- IMDB / 85% – Rotten Tomatoes

Johnny Smith is a man who discovers he has psychic powers after coming out of a coma. He can now see both the past and future of events by touching things, including people. He tries to use his abilities to solve crimes, but there’s also something else he finds with his powers that could cause all life on Earth to die if he doesn’t change future events.

This long-running series is based on a Stephen King novel and stars Anthony Michael Hall as Johnny Smith, It’s one of the better attempts to adapt and expand on one of King’s novels, combining a crime procedural with some supernatural themes.

Ready to watch? You can find the TV show right here on YouTube.


Charlie’s Angels (1976-1981)

Charlies Angels
ABC
What you need to know:

  • Rating: TV-PG
  • Seasons: 5
  • Creator: Ivan Goff, Ben Roberts
  • Main cast: Jaclyn Smith, Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett
  • Genre: Action, Adventure, Crime
  • IMDB rating: 6.5

Receiving missions from an unseen boss, Charlie, the Angles are three fierce, beautiful, sophisticated women who use their detective and combat skills and unparalleled charm to solve difficult cases.

A classic of action TV rebooted twice, Charlie’s Angels is a hugely influential and iconic series, and it’s free to watch in its entirety on YouTube.

Ready to watch? You can find the TV show right here on YouTube.


Mutant X (2001-2004)

A man and woman lay together on a beach in Mutant X
Fireworks Entertainment

What you need to know:

  • Rating: TV-PG
  • Seasons: 3
  • Creator: Avi Arad
  • Main cast: Victoria Pratt, Victor Webster, Forbes March
  • Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama
  • Ratings: 5.8 – IMDB / NR – Rotten Tomatoes

An evil corporation has used genetic engineering to create people with superpowers. The lead scientist of this project departs in protest of the company’s plans for these “mutants.” Instead, he recruits a number of people who have been a part of the program and forms a team designed to protect other mutants.

Well before the formation of Marvel Studios, the comic book company developed this series for syndication. It couldn’t use the X-Men (their rights were owned by 20th Century Fox), so it created its own superteam show, in its own continuity, with the title Mutant X. This is just a fun show to watch on a lazy or rainy Saturday afternoon, and the “mutants” actually have some interesting powers.

Ready to watch? You can find the TV show right here on YouTube.


Andromeda (2000-2005)

Gene Roddenberrys Andromeda
Syfy

What you need to know:

  • Rating: TV-PG
  • Seasons: 5
  • Creator: Gene Roddenberry, Robert Hewitt Wolfe
  • Main cast: Kevin Sorbo, Lisa Ryder, Keith Hamilton Cobb, Laura Bertram, Gordon Michael Woolvett
  • Genre:  Action, Adventure, Drama
  • Ratings: 6.6 – IMDB / NR – Rotten Tomatoes

Far in the future, the mighty space empire known as the Systems Commonwealth is brought down by a surprise attack. Captain Dylan Hunt, commanding the ship Andromeda Ascendant, get stuck in time in a black hole as the fall of the Commonwealth begins. 300 years later, he is freed from his time prison, and with the help of a ragtag crew tries to bring the Systems Commonwealth back again.

Based on some story notes by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, this show seems to answer the question, “What if Star Trek’s Federation would fall?” There are also elements of Buck Rogers in this show (a man suspended in time for hundreds of years). Like Mutant X, this show is meant to be a fun action-adventure show and it works most of the time.

Ready to watch? You can find the TV show right here on YouTube.


Thunderbirds (1965-1966)

Marionettes pilot a spacecraft in Thunderbirds
ITV

What you need to know:

  • Rating: TV-G
  • Seasons: 1
  • Creator: Gerry and Sylvia Anderson
  • Main cast: Peter Dyneley, David Graham
  • Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure
  • Ratings: 7.9 – IMDB / 100% – Rotten Tomatoes

In the near future, the Tracy family has formed a special organization called International Rescue. Whenever and wherever disaster strikes, the group sends out their Thunderbirds vehicles to assist people in need.

Well before Space: 1999, Gerry and Sylvia Anderson were best known for their series of Supermarionation children’s action shows that used puppets and miniatures to tell stories. Thunderbirds remains the most well-known and loved of these shows, and is perfect viewing for kids and their parents to watch together. It also served as an inspiration for the much more adult Team America: World Police movie from the creators of South Park.

Ready to watch? You can find the TV show right here on YouTube.


The Weird Al Show (1997-1998)

The Weird Al Show
CBS

What you need to know:

  • Rating: TV-G
  • Seasons: 1
  • Creator: “Weird Al” Yankovic
  • Main cast:  “Weird Al” Yankovic
  • Genre: Children’s show
  • Ratings: 7.5 – IMDB / 80% – Rotten Tomatoes

“Weird Al” Yankovic is a TV host who lives in an underground home. He brings in a number of special guests and musical artists to his home to perform on his show.

After Paul Rubens hit it big with his Saturday morning kid’s show Pee Wee’s Playhouse, musical satirist “Weird Al” Yankovic decided to give the genre a try as well. While not as well remembered as Pee Wee’s Playhouse, this show was in many ways funnier while perhaps more accessible to a general audience.

Ready to watch? You can find the TV show right here on YouTube.


The War of the Worlds (2019)

A man and woman look up in fear in The War of the Worlds
BBC

What you need to know:

  • Rating: TV-14
  • Seasons: 1
  • Creator: H.G. Wells, Peter Harness
  • Main cast: Rafe Spall, Eleanor Tomlinson, Rupert Graves, Robert Carlyle, Taliyah Blair
  • Genre: Sci-fi, Historical Drama
  • Ratings: 5.2 – IMDB

In 19th century England, a young couple is just starting out in life. However, they soon have to deal with an alien invasion that threatens their happiness.

This BBC three-part mini-series is the first live-action adaptation of H.G. Wells’ classic novel that takes place in the same time period as the original story. As a result, this show has a very different look visually and makes it stand out from other adaptations of the same tale.

Ready to watch? You can find the TV show right here on YouTube.


The Outer Limits (1995-2002)

The Outer Limits
Showtime

What you need to know:

  • Rating: TV-14
  • Seasons: 6
  • Creator: Leslie Stevens
  • Main cast: Kevin Conway
  • Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Horror
  • Ratings: 7.7 – IMDB

There is nothing wrong with your television set. Just sit back and enjoy the many sci-fi stories that will be shown, which extend from the inner mind to the outer limits.

This revival of the classic 1960s sci-fi anthology series has a ton of great scripts, many written or adapted by major science fiction writers. You can also expect to see a ton of well-known actors in the series throughout its run.

Ready to watch? You can find the TV show right here on YouTube.


Merlin (2008-2012)

Merlin
BBC

What you need to know:

  • Rating: TV-PG
  • Seasons: 5
  • Creator: Johnny Capps, Julian Jones, Jake Michie, Julian Murphy
  • Main cast: Colin Morgan, Bradley James, Richard Wilson, Angel Coulby, Katie McGrath
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Ratings: 7.9 – IMDB

In the Middle Ages, a young wizard named Merlin becomes friends with Prince Arthur, heir to the throne of England. The duo, along with other friends take on many adventures to defend the kingdom.

If you are a stickler for the King Arthur myth, you might be disappointed that this series makes a number of deviations from the standard lore of Arthur and Merlin. However, if you want a family-friendly fantasy adventure series to watch, this one is highly entertaining.

Ready to watch? You can find the TV show right here on YouTube.


The Kill Point (2007)

John Leguizamo in The Kill Point
Spike TV

What you need to know:

  • Rating: TV-MA
  • Seasons: 1
  • Creator: James DeMonaco
  • Main cast: John Alberto Leguizamo, Donnie Wahlberg
  • Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
  • Ratings: 7.3 – IMDB

A group of military vets attempts to rob a Pittsburg bank, but the heist goes south pretty quickly. Now the leader of this group has to talk with the city police’s main hostage negotiator. Who will come out on top.

This eight-episode mini-series has lots of twists and turns in its plot, as we see each side in this bank heist try to gain the upper hand with both talk and action. It also has some great performances from its two leads, John Leguizamo and Donnie Wahlberg.

Ready to watch? You can find the TV show right here on YouTube.


Earth: Final Conflict (1997-2002)

alien in Earth Final Conflict
CTV

What you need to know:

  • Rating: TV-MA
  • Seasons: 5
  • Creator: Gene Roddenberry
  • Main cast: Robert Leeshock, Jayne Heitmeyer, Von Flores, Leni Parker, Anita La Selva
  • Genre: Action, Drama, Mystery
  • Ratings: 6.2 – IMDB / NA – Rotten Tomatoes

A race of highly advanced aliens has arrived on Earth. A few years after their arrival, the aliens have helped to make the world a better place. However, a small group of humans are distrustful of these aliens, and they attempt to infiltrate their ranks to find out their true motives.

Gene Roddenberry’s notes were the basis of this series as well. The idea of aliens arriving on Earth and claiming to want to help humanity is not a new idea, but this series goes deep into how such an event would affect Earth, and how it might not be as great as it first seems to be.

Ready to watch? You can find the TV show right here on YouTube.


Heartland (2007)

Heartland (1)
CBC

What you need to know:

  • Rating: TV-PG
  • Seasons: 16
  • Creator: Murray Shostak
  • Main cast:  Amber Marshall, Michelle Morgan, Shaun Johnston
  • Genre: Drama, Family
  • Ratings: 8.5 – IMDB / NA – Rotten Tomatoes

Set against the stunning vistas of the Alberta Rocky Mountains, Heartland follows the lives of the Fleming-Bartlett family as they navigate the challenges and joys of life on a horse ranch. The story is about Amy Fleming, a young woman gifted with the ability to help injured and troubled horses. She loses her mother in Episode 1, and the grief of that makes her tune into this ability and make use of it.

Heartland is a warm family drama, reflected in the plot and the picturesque settings it is shot in.

Ready to watch? You can watch 7 seasons of the TV show right here on YouTube.