Shows to Stream While You're Staying at Home

Daniel Hautzinger
The sunset in Havana over Hotel Nacional. Photo: Simon Phillips for WTTW's 'Weekend in Havana.'
You can still explore the world from the confinement of your home with shows and websites like WTTW's 'Weekend in Havana.' Photo: Simon Phillips

As much of the city, state, and country stay at home and practice social distancing to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, you might be looking for some things to do. Whether you’re working from home and need some entertainment during your lunch break, are a parent with a curious teenager who’s itching for more outside their school day, a teacher who needs some supplementary materials for their students, or anything else, here are some engaging PBS and WTTW programs that you can stream any time, any where, for free. (If you have a younger kid, here are some games and activities from PBS KIDS.)

Geoffrey Baer Tours

Geoffrey Baer on board a 1920s era CTA trainGeoffrey Baer on board a 1920s era CTA train

Even though you’re stuck indoors, you can still explore Chicagoland and beyond with Geoffrey Baer in his many specials, from Chicago by ‘L’, which premiered in early March, to Chicago on Vacation and the Chicago River Tour, among many others. Not only can you watch those programs; there’s also plenty more to explore on their extensive websites. Plus, you can travel farther afield with Geoffrey, in Weekend in Havana and the 10 That Changed America series, which focuses on influential buildings, towns, monuments, and more. 

My Neighborhood: Pilsen

A mural in Pilsen. Photo: Ken Carl for WTTW A mural in Pilsen. Photo: Ken Carl for WTTW

Immerse yourself in the Chicago neighborhood of Pilsen in this WTTW documentary and website covering everything from development and gentrification to arts, culture, food, and immigration. 

FIRSTHAND: Gun Violence

Reality Allah, an outreach worker with READI Chicago and subject of the WTTW digital series FIRSTHAND. Photo: WTTW and Zakkiyyah NajeebahReality Allah, an outreach worker with READI Chicago and subject of FIRSTHAND. Photo: WTTW and Zakkiyyah Najeebah

While there’s plenty to celebrate about Chicago, as in Geoffrey Baer’s tours, the city also has some intractable problems, including gun violence. In this WTTW digital series, follow the stories of five people directly affected by gun violence to witness the human side of the tragedy. Then turn to in-depth articles, expert talks about possible solutions, and more features focusing on this devastating issue. 

Urban Nature

A nesting osprey shares the sky with planes from New York City's John F. Kennedy Airport. Photo: Don Riepe / American Littoral SocietyA nesting osprey shares the sky with planes from New York City's John F. Kennedy Airport. Photo: Don Riepe / American Littoral Society

As spring begins to appear, it’s a great time to discover the extraordinary instances of nature that are flourishing right in our backyards–literally. Urban Nature is a WTTW digital series that looks at both the success and issues nature faces in huge cities like Chicago, Austin, Miami, New York City, and San Francisco. Two seasons of surprising nature await. 

Chefs off the Clock and Foodphiles and Chat, Please!

Carrie Nahabedian of the Michelin-starred restaurant Naha isn't just a James Beard Award-winning chef; she's also a wide-ranging and adventurous traveler.Carrie Nahabedian isn't just a James Beard Award-winning chef; she's also a wide-ranging and adventurous traveler, as seen in 'Chefs off the Clock'

In these three WTTW digital series, indulge your passion for food and learn more about the Chicagoans who make it their life’s work to serve it. Chefs off the Clock shows what ten accomplished chefs do to relax in their scant free time outside the kitchen. Foodphiles introduces you to some Chicagoans devoted to various aspects of the food industry, from foraging to roasting coffee to serving goat. And Chat, Please! Features conversations between the creator of Check, Please! And veterans from every aspect of Chicago’s restaurant world.

Central Standard

WTTW's digital series 'Central Standard''Central Standard' follows five eighth graders as they prepare for high school in Chicagoland

Applying to and getting into high schools in Chicago is a fraught task, as students strive to be accepted into a selective enrollment school that many view as a path to a better future. This 9-part WTTW digital series follows five such students as they prepare for high school with the help of their parents, their teachers, and administrators.

Chicago Stories

The Our Lady of the Angels tragedy is one 'Chicago Story'The Our Lady of the Angels tragedy is one 'Chicago Story.' Image: From WTTW's 'Chicago Stories'

Revisit documentaries from this archival WTTW series that tell the stories that have Chicago written all over them: Marshall Fields’ Christmas windows, the Edgewater Beach Hotel, the 1933 World’s Fair. For even more engaging stories, visit wttw.com/chicagostories.

Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns

Ken Burns's 'Baseball'

Revisit America’s favorite pastime in signature Ken Burns style: exhaustively, with rich documentary material, compelling stories, and fascinating interviews with players, historians, and others who love the game. 

Frontline

Jeff BezosThe rise of Amazon and its founder Jeff Bezos is the subject of a recent 'Frontline' investigation

A vast trove of Frontline documentaries going as far back as 1983 is available to stream. Cover everything from the rise of tech giants like Amazon and Facebook to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, protests in Hong Kong to a dissection of America’s toxic politics, all thanks to Frontline’s committed investigative journalism.

American Experience

Astronauts Neil Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Buzz Aldrin, lunar module pilot, leave the Kennedy Space Center’s Manned Spacecraft Operations Building during the prelaunch countdown for the Apollo 11 mission on July 16, 1969. Photo: courtesy of NASAAstronauts Neil Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Buzz Aldrin, lunar module pilot, leave the Kennedy Space Center’s Manned Spacecraft Operations Building during the prelaunch countdown for the Apollo 11 mission on July 16, 1969. Photo: courtesy of NASA

Now’s a good time to dive into American history, from episodes as well-documented as the moon race (the three-part Chasing the Moon is available to stream) to shameful chapters that should be better known (The Chinese Exclusion Act) as well as just unusual stories (President Theodore Roosevelt’s journey with Brazilian explorer Cândido Rondon into uncharted parts of the South American rainforest, in Into the Amazon).

NOVA

Image: WGBH Educational Foundation'NOVA Wonders' is a subseries of the science show, one of many episodes you can stream. Image: WGBH Educational Foundation

Explore the wide range of human knowledge in NOVA episodes that visit the planets in our solar system, investigate the devastating California wildfires of 2018, examine the frontiers of biology, and attempt to discover the secrets of the pyramids, among many more.  

Math in Music

Math in Music host Eugenia Cheng. Photo: Grittani CreativeMath in Music host Eugenia Cheng. Photo: Grittani Creative

Math in Music is an all-new digital series from our sister station WFMT that spotlights the surprising ways that math and music intersect, and how math can explain some of the wonderful effects of music, all in an accessible way.

window to the world