Years ago, people didn't have many options when it came to television. You had to be in front of the TV when your favorite show came on; if you missed it, you were out of luck. Nowadays, that's all changed. The Internet in particular has been a godsend for those who couldn't be home in time for a given TV show, allowing them to watch a streaming video or download it directly to their computers. It's not hard to do, provided you know where to look.
Downloads usually cost a token fee, but in return, you receive a digital copy of the episode to keep. You can find them on places such as iTunes, Amazon and TVFreeload; in some cases, these sites carry shows in high definition as well. You purchase them the same way you purchase an mp3: you provide the site with your credit card information, PayPal account or similar method of payment and then click on the show you want to see. Your account will be charged, and you will be allowed to download the show.
Most downloads take a few minutes, though HD programs may take longer than that (depending on your modem speed). In addition, iTunes and several other sites let you subscribe to an entire season at once, paying an upfront fee in exchange for downloading each episode whenever it becomes available.
TV networks' home pages often make TV episodes available after they air. The sites are easy to remember (you just need to know which network the show is on), and the shows are usually available within 24 hours of their first appearance. Few network sites charge anything for the service, but the episode is usually streaming (which means you can't normally save it), and you may be asked to watch a commercial or two before the show. On the plus side, the sites rarely place commercials within the show itself, allowing you to view it in its entirety uninterrupted. Simply go to the network's home page and find the tag labeled "Watch Episodes," "Streaming Episodes" or the like.
A large number of sites offer online television content for consumers. They include sites like Hulu, CastTV and MyEasyTV. Like the network sites, they typically offer free streaming videos, with commercials placed beforehand to help pay for the service. They don't always offer every show—network sites are usually better for that—but they have the advantage of offering shows from multiple networks in the same place. They work the same way the network sites work: search their database for the episode you want and then click on it and watch as you will. Most of these sites are perfectly legal, and you won't be breaking any laws by using their services.