Streaming services and the pandemic

As we’re stuck at home, streaming television services help keep us sane. Some of these services are making it easier or cheaper to stream during the pandemic.


If you haven’t yet discovered Kanopy, it’s about time. Supported by your local library, it’s free and contains no advertising. But your library can limit how many videos you can watch each month.

The Gold Rush

My Berkeley library card, along with Kanopy, used to give me seven credits a month. Every time I started watching a movie (or any other type of video), I’d use up a credit (and no, they don’t accumulate from month to month). Now, because of COVID-19, they’ve raised the number to ten.

To make things even easier while stuck at home, Kanopy is offering a Credit-Free Viewing section of movies. If you have five credits left in April, and you watch one of these, you still have five credits. I’m not familiar with most of these films, but they include Kansas City Confidential, Penny Serenade, Super Size Me, and best of all, Charlie Chaplin’s original, silent version of The Gold Rush.

And if you’re looking for something other than movies, their Great Courses collection is also credit free.

HBO for Free

You probably already know that the big network in the days of cable now offers a streaming service of old and new content. You don’t need to have cable or satellite. You just need an Internet connection and $15 a month.

The Wire

But over the duration, you can watch at least some of HBO’s content without payment. The movie selection isn’t exceptional. I’ve seen only a couple of these films, and I could only recommend Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun – and that’s a mild recommendation.

But HBO is also offering for free some of the best TV series ever broadcast. These include The Sopranos, Silicon Valley, Jane Fonda in Five Acts, and the greatest series I’ve ever seen, The Wire.


Menemsha Films distributes independent Jewish films throughout the country. If you go to Jewish film festivals, you’ve seen some of their titles. In March, Menemsha opened ChaiFlicks, a streaming service for Jewish-oriented films. The service costs $6 a month or $66 a year.


Their catalog includes 1945, The Women’s Balcony, Dough, and The Waldheim Waltz. But not everything that Menemsha distributes is at ChaiFlicks. Such excellent Menemsha titles, such as Budapest Noir and Red Cow, are not streaming here. Besides, you can watch most of these films for free on Kanopy.

As it stands now, I don’t think ChaiFlicks is worth a subscription. As near as I can tell, it currently has only 32 films, and it’s pretty easy to see them elsewhere. Maybe in a few months it will be a viable choice.