Much like Hulu Live or YouTube TV, NBC Universal’s Peacock has been set up to be an alternative to cable. Not only can you watch new original programming like Brave New World and Intelligence, but you can check in on what’s happening on their family of networks like USA and NBC live.
Naturally, since Peacock is NBC product, it boasts a fairly deep TV catalogue — but not as deep as you think. As of launch day, it appears a surprising number of shows have exclusive licensing deals elsewhere, and so the bench is thinner than something like HBO Max, which has the entire history of the network in its reach. The result is a medley of recent hits and classic TV that can be hard to fish through to find the good stuff. Let us help.
Tina Fey turned her experience on Saturday Night Live into one of the most critically acclaimed comedies of all time. How much did people love 30 Rock? It was nominated for the Emmy for Best Comedy for all seven seasons that it ran, winning three of them. Its legacy has been a little controversial recently, but it remains one of the sharpest shows on network TV of the modern era.
Glenn Howerton (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) plays a disgraced professor sent to return to Toledo and teach a class in a place he doesn’t really want to be in this surprisingly funny comedy that’s already had a rocky run. After two low-rated seasons on NBC proper, it was canceled, but then the company announced that a third season would premiere on Peacock in September 2020.
Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Created, hosted, and produced by Alfred Hitchcock, this anthology series often doesn’t get enough credit for its overall quality, largely remaining in the shadow of shows like The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. There are stand-out greats throughout the run of this series, including episodes directed by Robert Altman, Ida Lupino, and William Friedkin.
Not the original, but the superior ’00s reboot from Ronald D. Moore, which really put the Sci-Fi Channel on the map (before they became SyFy and lost the path). Starring Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonell, Katee Sackhoff, and Tricia Helfer, this is an action-packed, philosophically complex look at what it means to be human that will likely be relevant for generations to come.
What were you thinking, FOX? After canceling this beloved comedy, Jake Peralta and the 9-9 jumped over to NBC, where it now looks like they could air for years. This is another comedy that started off on shaky ground but became one of the best ensemble comedies after about a year or two. It’s now as consistently funny as anything on network TV. Prediction: You know how everyone watched The Office over and over again on Netflix (before it jumped to Peacock)? This show will be like that in about a decade.
The Carol Burnett Show
One of the best comedy shows of all time has a selection of episodes available on Peacock divided over three seasons, but it’s hard to say exactly from when these chapters come in the 11-year run of the show. Consider it a sampler package of one of the funniest shows of all time. The comedy timing in The Carol Burnett Show from people like Burnett, Harvey Korman, Tim Conway, and Vicki Lawrence is some of the best in history.
Any list of the best sitcoms of all time that doesn’t include the gang at Cheers is simply wrong. Running for most of the 1980s, this NBC hit really defined that decade in terms of comedy, both in ratings and critical success. It’s also a great example of a show that needed time to find an audience after nearly being canceled after its first season.
The Chicago Shows
All three of the currently running series about crisis units in the Windy City are on Peacock: Chicago Fire, Chicago Med, and Chicago P.D. Case-of-the-week shows like this are often derided by critics, but the industry that drives these shows is actually pretty impressive, producing elaborate disaster mini-movies every week. The first, Fire, is still the best.
More a series of films than a TV show, NBC aired the Columbo mysteries through most of the ’70s (it was rebooted by ABC later but this is the original iteration on Peacock) and they’ve held up remarkably well. They’re comfort food for mystery fans, as rumpled and easygoing as Columbo himself.
Julian Fellowes’s historical drama was a legitimate word-of-mouth phenomenon, the rare ratings and critical juggernaut to come from PBS. What attracted people to this romantic drama with embedded commentary on class? People love to see history through relatable eyes, and the cast here became household names around the world.
Everybody Hates Chris
Based loosely on the life of creator Chris Rock, the UPN comedy was one of the highlights of that short-lived network before it moved to CW. Tyler James Williams plays a young Chris in a sitcom that offers a unique take on many of the tropes of the coming-of-age genre, and features great supporting performances from Terry Crews and Tichina Arnold.
Everybody Loves Raymond
One of the best sitcoms of all time, the CBS juggernaut remains hysterical, and Peacock is now the exclusive streaming home of the Barone family. The ensemble here is so strong from top to bottom, but revisit it now for the timing of Peter Boyle and Doris Roberts as Ray’s parents. They make every single joke funnier than it is on the page.
There may be a new true-crime series every week nowadays, but Forensic Files was breakthrough when it aired, bringing techniques like trace DNA and more elaborate crime-solving methods into average American homes. The show holds up great as a godfather to so much true-crime product being produced all these years later.
Is this the best spin-off ever? Watch all 11 seasons on Peacock and try to say it’s not. Turning Kelsey Grammer’s uptight Frasier Crane into the protagonist of his own show was a smart move, but it’s the ensemble here that made it a classic, especially John Mahoney and David Hyde Pierce. Frasier set a record for the most Emmy wins by a primetime scripted series — 37! — for a reason.
Friday Night Lights
“Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.” NBC took a film based on a non-fiction novel and turned it into one of the most beloved dramas of its era, and a launchpad for stars like Michael B. Jordan. Yes, there’s some bumpy ground over the five seasons, but, taken as a whole, FNL is an accomplished, nuanced drama with some great performances, especially those by Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton. We still miss Coach Taylor.
Greatest American Hero
A generation grew up watching this in syndicated reruns in the ‘80s, turning William Katt’s accidental hero into a cult icon. It’s a classic hero set-up in that a normal guy suddenly gets access to superpowers, this time in the form of a very dated supersuit that he doesn’t really know how to use. Cheesy in a way that’s totally ‘80s, this could be just what you need when you have an itch for something nostalgic.
This Fox hit made Gordon Ramsay into an international star and there are somehow 16 seasons of it on Peacock to scratch your reality competition itch. The set-up is virtually identical every season — a group of relatively mediocre chefs enter the titular restaurant in Las Vegas for a series of competitions in which Ramsay berates and insults them. The recipe may be the same each time, but see if you cans stop from gobbling it up.
Few shows in history have gone off the rails more magnificently than this NBC hit, which had an incredibly addictive and acclaimed first season — and then simply plummeted in esteem and ratings. We will always have that first season though and it’s worth a revisit to remember a time when everyone puzzled over a simple sentence: “Save the cheerleader, save the world.”
The medical mysteries of Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) will always be associated with Fox — it was one of the network’s biggest hits in history — but it was always produced by Universal, and so it finds a home here on Peacock. Enjoy the charming work from Laurie, who elevates what could have just another medical case-of-the-week show into something special.
The Johnny Carson Show
Interestingly, Peacock uses the label of The Tonight Show just for its Jimmy Fallon product (and Jay Leno is nowhere to be found), but you can dig in and find a bunch of old episodes of the late night classic under The Johnny Carson Show, which includes mostly best-of compilations from the ‘70s to the ’90s.
The King of Queens
Often in the shadow of its CBS comedy roommate Everybody Loves Raymond, King of Queens sitcom never quite got the attention it deserved but has had a long life in reruns and should find some fans on Peacock. Kevin James and Leah Remini have underrated comic timing, and Jerry Stiller and Patton Oswalt are fantastic in the supporting cast. It’s comfort food comedy that goes down easy even in repeats.
Law & Order
What would a streaming service from NBC be without its tentpole franchise, the Dick Wolf juggernauts that have been on most of our lives? The collection right now isn’t exactly complete — you can watch every single episode of Criminal Intent and Special Victims Unit, but you’ll have to start the original series in season 13 for some reason. That’s still a whole lot of ripped-from-the-headlines crime solving for one streaming service.
Leave It to Beaver
The description on Peacock for this comedy classic is appropriately simple: “The adventures of Ward, June, Wally, and Beaver Cleaver.” Yep, that’s about it. A definitive family sitcom, this hit series ran for six seasons in the ’50s and ’60s, but, get this, they made 234 episodes in those six years, producing 39 every year.
The biggest hit in the history of the USA Network arguably remains this case-of-the-week series about an obsessive detective named Adrian Monk, played unforgettably by Tony Shalhoub. The writing here isn’t exactly breakthrough, but Shalhoub gives such a fantastic performance that he elevates all 125 hours of the series, which ran for eight seasons and won the same number of Emmys.
The syndicated hit only ran for two seasons on CBS but gained a huge life in repeats in the ‘80s as kids found it and its network partner in creepy family comedy, The Addams Family. The concept is basically the same: Take the family sitcom formula and transfer it to a clan of literal monsters, this one featuring great comic performances from Fred Gwynne, Yvonne De Carlo, and Al Lewis.
Murder, She Wrote
Jessica Fletcher should be on the Mount Rushmore of television crime-solvers. She solved more of them than your average detective, putting murderers away for 12 seasons on this hit show that aired from 1984 to 1996. The entire arc is here on Peacock for you to spend your days in Cabot Cove, the most dangerous city in the world.
Peacock is banking on being the exclusive home of The Office, one of the most beloved comedies of all time. Now that it has exclusive access to the folks at Dunder Mifflin, they’re advertising it as the main reason to have the streaming service. Will it work? Only time will tell, but people keep returning to his modern classic for a reason, and it doesn’t feel like that’s going to change any time soon.
There’s always at least one beloved family drama on network TV, and Parenthood held that title on NBC for the first half of the 2010s. People couldn’t get enough of the Braverman family, presented with all their strengths and foibles in a manner that made them feel like they could be your neighbors. It may have been loosely based on the Ron Howard movie (also on Peacock), but it really distinguished itself as a great series on its own.
Parks and Recreation
It wouldn’t be a streaming service without the residents of Pawnee, Indiana. For some strange reason, this show is everywhere, currently available to subscribers of Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, and Peacock. Listen, if one show needs to be the comedy that comes with a subscription streaming service, we don’t see why it shouldn’t be this modern classic either.
James Roday Rodriguez stars in this USA hit as Shawn Spencer, a crime consultant who is so attuned to details that he can pretend to be psychic. A clever, modern riff on Sherlock Holmes, another detective who was simply more observant than anyone else, Psych has a massive following, one so loyal to the show that it’s led to two follow-up films, including one that premiered with the launch of Peacock: Psych 2: Lassie Come Home.
There are not many premium cable series on Peacock, but the fact that Universal produced this Showtime hit means subscribers can check it out. Now complete after its unexpected cancellation after seven seasons, Ray Donovan is the story of an L.A. fixer (Liev Schreiber) whose family turns out to be the biggest problem he can’t fix. Underrated in its run on Showtime, this could find a second life.
The Rockford Files
With people like Adrian Monk, Jessica Fletcher, and the revolving door of detectives on Law & Order, Peacock is clearly the place to go if you want a mystery of the week. One of the best ever is the story of Jim Rockford, unforgettably played by James Garner in this ’70s NBC hit.
After the success of Monk and Psych, USA invested in quirky case-of-the-week series with all their budget. This was one of the best and the most underrated, the story of a concierge medicine practice in the Hamptons. Yes, that sounds kind of horrible, but stars Mark Feuerstein and Paulo Costanzo keep it light and fresh.
Saturday Night Live
This is a weird one. As of this writing, only a sample of the history of NBC’s landmark late night series is on Peacock in the form of “Best of” compilations. And one can even watch a “channel” of random sketches. But the hope that Peacock would finally give fans of SNL a complete archive is still unfulfilled. Still, the frustrating selection doesn’t make “The Best of Christopher Walken” less funny.
Another “quirky characters” mystery series launched on USA in 2011 with this clever drama about a college dropout (Patrick J. Adams) who ends up being an essential asset to a high-powered attorney (Gabriel Macht) and his firm. It’s not breakthrough television, but it’s comfort food TV with clever writing and solid performances throughout.
The fact that no one watches network TV as much as they used to has led this NBC Thursday night comedy to slide farther under the radar than it deserves. Not only is it one of the funniest shows on TV, anywhere, but it’s become a smart commentary on class inequality. If this aired in the era of The Office, it would be huge. Hopefully, life on streaming services like Peacock will get it the attention it merits.
This Is Us
Network television may be on critical and ratings life support, but This Is Us is the exception, a show that still earns great reviews and has one of the most loyal followings on any network. The time-jumping structure has made it feel different from a standard family drama, but it’s the cast and characters that people have fallen in love with. Watch their story from the beginning.
Netflix may have the reboot but Peacock has the archive, dozens of hours of serial killers, UFO sightings, and paranormal phenomena. These are the Robert Stack-hosted originals, the show that broke new ground in terms of viewer involvement through tips and some of the most unforgettably cheesy crime re-creations ever produced.
Kevin Costner stepped into the well-worn shoes of this familiar drama like it was made for him when it premiered in 2018 on the little-known Paramount Network. It is likely to find a bigger audience here, where viewers can catch up with the first two seasons of this story about conflict around a cattle ranch and wait for the third, currently airing, to drop on Peacock.
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist
Jane Levy is fantastic in this musical dramedy about a young woman who can hear the thoughts of everyone around her, in the form of pop music performances. It’s a defiantly silly show that also finds true emotion through Levy’s work. She sells something that could have been so corny in a way that feels genuine and charming.