Starting in January, you’ll be able to watch old episodes of Welcome Back, Kotter (left, starring Gabe Kaplan and John Travolta), Wonder Woman, Babylon 5, The Fugitive, Growing Pains, Kung Fu, Lois & Clark, Maverick, Pinky and the Brain, and hundreds of other classic shows for free on your computer. It’s part of In2TV, a joint initiative of AOL and Warner Bros. Domestic Cable Distribution (both are part of Time Warner, as is In2TV will be available to anyone with broadband, and viewers will have to watch four 15-second ads to access each streaming episode. There’ll be six channels of content (comedy, fantasy, cartoons, nostalgia, etc.) and bonuses like trivia games and celebrity interviews.

In any case, it looks like the biggest step yet toward making the computer a viable, legal, piracy-free distribution platform for television content. In fact, it might even be too big, suggests a rival programmer, Larry Jones, president of Nick at Nite and TV Land. He told the Wall Street Journal he’s not worried In2TV will cut into the audience of his networks any more than the current boom in TV shows on DVDs has because it won’t really filter anything out for consumers. ”We pick the best of the best from multiple studios,” he said. ”I don’t know if viewers are ready for so much choice. Ultimately what [In2TV] does is force viewers to be their own programmers.” Well, yes, that’s the point.

Does this sound like a good idea to you, PopWatchers? Any classic shows you’d want to stream on your PC?