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Free trials give you access to TV’s best

Toni Collette in the Netflix series "Unbelievable."Beth Dubber/Netflix

Readers sometimes complain about the number of shows I write about that are only available on pay services. I wonder if they ever go out to the movies, because the price of one night at a theater with a date can wind up costing you a lot more than a month of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon all together.

But I’m not here to reason with them about the worth of good TV entertainment. I’m here to note that a number of services are extending free trials, hoping to seduce new subscribers at a time when everyone is watching TV because of the coronavirus. That means that, if you’re shrewd enough, and remember to cancel in time, you can spend the next few weeks testing out various outlets and catching up on some of their best shows for free. Here are a few of the offers, with a few suggestions from me.


Netflix: The biggest streamer is giving you 30 days, if you’re ready to try the unbelievable crime drama “Unbelievable,” or the elegant “The Crown,” or the haunting “Black Mirror.”

Amazon: You’ve got 30 days to sample the honest relationship comedy “Catastrophe,” the coolly charming “Fleabag,” and the thriller “Homecoming” with Julia Roberts.

Hulu: You’ll find plenty during the streamer’s 30-day trial period, including the devastating “Handmaid’s Tale,” the biting comedy “Difficult People,” and Aidy Bryant’s sweet comedy about body image, “Shrill.”

CBS All Access: Until April 23 (with the promo code GIFT), you can watch CBS’s streaming platform for free and, finally, check out “The Good Wife” spinoff “The Good Fight,” or “Star Trek Picard,” or Jordan Peele’s reboot of “The Twilight Zone.”

Acorn TV: Sound the Anglophile alert. You can take 30 days (with the code FREE30) to sample all the streaming service’s many, many British dramas and comedies, from Agatha Christie adaptations and the medical comedy “Doc Martin” to the procedural “Line of Fire.”


Shudder: From AMC Networks, this service will give you 30 free days (with the code SHUTIN) to watch all the scary stuff you need — assuming reality isn’t doing it for you right now. It includes tons of horror movies, along with original series including the adaptation of Deborah Harkness’ “A Discovery of Witches.”

Showtime: The pay cabler is offering you 30 free days, which gives you the opportunity to finally check out “Shameless,” “Homeland,” and/or the Boston accent-vaganza, “Ray Donovan.”

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at matthew.gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.