Anyway, this little debacle has led me to find the best places online to watch the shows I missed and I thought I would share which websites were the most helpful in my endeavor.
The CW- There are only two shows on the CW that I watch, and both had full episodes available for viewing. Supernatural (the best show on television) had the two latest episodes available and the Vampire Diaries had an impressive four. I had to download their special viewer to watch, but the video was clear (even in full-screen mode), ran without many interruptions and only had some minor sound match-up issues. It makes sense that this site is user-friendly, flashy, and up-to-date: the network's target audience is pretty young and expects that sort of thing. Overall, this was a good experience for viewing online content. Which brings me to....
CBS- I was not impressed with website of this major network. While it was easy enough to find what I was looking for, the video playback of the episode of How I Met Your Mother was poor and had some streaming issues (it kept stopping on me). The episode of Medium I watched was better, but the insertion of commercials was choppy and weird. My biggest complaint, however, is that full episodes of The Big Bang Theory are inexplicably absent from the site. There are highlight clips, but if you want to watch the whole thing, you're out of luck. I did take full advantage of the site's feedback function (at the very bottom of the home page) and complained about this. No clue whether anyone will read it though.
ABC- This network site is tons better than CBS. It boast episodes of most of it's shows about 5 deep and for it's best show, Lost, there are an unprecedented 138 episodes (all of them!)available to watch, including the one that aired only last night. The quality was good, the commercials were not annoying, and overall I'm pretty happy with the offererings on this website and the player worked well with minimal issue.
NBC- This site is noteworthy, not because it boasts full episodes of it's shows (it does) but because it also has full episodes of it's past favorites as well. I stared in wonder at the idea that I could watch old episodes of The A-Team, Miami Vice, Quantum Leap, and quite randomly, Charles in Charge. I could easily waste many hours at my desk watching my old favorites, or getting into new ones, like Parenthood, that I was interested in but didn't start watching due to scheduluing conflicts.
Fox- I've used Fox before to try to keep up with episodes of Fringe when they moved it to the too-crowded Thursday time slot. It didn't work, not because of the site or the video player, but because I just couldn't sit and watch that many episodes on my computer and got behind. Good for catching up on your favorites, but not for staying with the shows you're not really watching on the TV (even if you would if they were in a different time slot...) For those, I'll wait until they come out on DVD and get them from Netflix like I do for the great HBO shows I like to watch but am too cheap to pay for.
TNT- A great network known for it's unique, edgy programming and for saving shows that didn't do so well on other networks (most notably Southland). Functional, not too flashy website
with full episodes of their shows and the shows they run in syndication in the daytime (ER, Supernatural, Angel and others). It takes a bit for a recently aired episode to show up on the site, but that's okay: I'll wait.
The History Channel and F/X both have full episodes of shows as well, and their sites are pretty basic and user-friendly. My biggest dissappointment was BBC America, where my kids and I get our Doctor Who fix. No full episodes here, only clips and previews. To get the full episode I was missing I had to go to ITunes and download it for $3.00. ITunes is great in a pinch, but the download times are long and the episodes a bit pricey. They play well, though, and you get an HD version of the show with the download if you're into that. You can also go to Hulu and watch a lot of episodes, but they are usually limited to whatever is already available on each networks websites.
Well, hopefully losing my DVR won't happen again for a while, but it's nice now I know where I can go to get the episodes I've missed and what to expect when I get there.