By Mike Murphy
Buckle up. It’s time to binge again.
September is absolutely packed with streaming offerings, with new seasons of beloved fan favorites and an impressive slate of eagerly anticipated newcomers. And, for those on a budget, here’s the highlight: The best of the bunch can be had for a very reasonable $25 in total, across three services.
Each month, this column rates the major streaming services as a “play,” “pause” or “stop,” similar to investment analysts’ traditional ratings of buy, hold and sell, and picks the best content to help you make your monthly decisions.
As we’ve previously mentioned , consumers can take full advantage of cord cutting by churning — that’s the strategy of adding and dropping streaming services each month — and all it takes is good planning. Keep in mind that a billing cycle starts when you sign up, not necessarily at the beginning of a month. Also keep an eye out for lower-priced tiers, limited-time discounts, free trials and cost-saving bundles (T-Mobile is currently offering 12 months of free Apple TV+ , for example). There are a lot of offers out there, but the deals don’t last forever.
Here’s a look at what’s coming to the various streaming services in September 2021, and what’s really worth the monthly subscription fee.
Apple TV+ ($4.99 a month)
September offers a look of the past, present and future of Apple TV+.
There’s the second season of the newsroom drama “The Morning Show” (Sept. 17), almost two years after it debuted to rocky reviews as the much-hyped flagship show for a brand-new streaming service. There’s “Ted Lasso” (new episodes every Friday), the surprise hit that has worked its way up to become Apple’s current flagship show. And then there’s “Foundation” (Sept. 24), the sci-fi epic that has long been planned to be the flagship series for Apple /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL +0.75% , the next “Game of Thrones”–type of universe-building, long-term megahit with a devoted fan base that will drive new subscriptions.
And while things don’t always go as planned, all three should be worth a watch. While “Ted Lasso” now finds itself facing a bit of an online backlash from certain grumps, it’s getting very interesting for the second half of its second season, and remains a must-watch.
“The Morning Show,” meanwhile, suffered a sloppily plotted first season but was largely a victim of its own high expectations. For Season 2, the cast is still fantastic, with Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carell and Emmy winner Billy Crudup now joined by Julianna Margulies, Will Arnett and Hasan Minaj, among others, and the premise — a high-stakes, backstabby workplace drama — is still compelling. With a few tweaks, the pieces are in place for a bounce-back season, elevating the series to the prestige level that Apple originally planned on.
But “Foundation” is the future, in every sense. The long-awaited series, adapted from Isaac Asimov’s classic series of novels, tells the thousand-year story of a sprawling intergalactic empire that’s on the decline, and the effort to preserve humanity and rebuild civilization from its imminent fall. Lee Pace (“Halt and Catch Fire”), Jared Harris (“Mad Men”), Lou Llobell (“Voyagers”) and Terrance Mann (“Sense8”) star. It’s a massive story with a huge production budget that’s set to run for multiple seasons and should challenge Amazon’s “The Expanse” as the best hard sci-fi series out there. The one concern is making it compelling enough — the source text is a bit dry by today’s storytelling standards. But assuming the writers can pull that off, “Foundation” could be a big hit, for a long time.
Apple also has a couple of 9/11 specials: the documentary “9/11: Inside the President’s War Room” (Sept. 1), and a filmed version of the Tony-winning Broadway musical “Come From Away” (Sept. 10), about how the people of Newfoundland embraced airline passengers who were diverted and stuck there.
And at the end of the month, Jon Stewart makes his return to TV . The longtime “Daily Show” host stepped out of the limelight in 2016 but will return Sept. 30 with a new series: “The Problem With Jon Stewart,” a single-issue-per-episode current-affairs show with an accompanying podcast, running every other week. Sounds a bit like the “Last Week Tonight”/”Patriot Act” format, and should be worth checking out.
Who’s Apple TV+ for? It offers a little something for everyone, but not necessarily enough for anyone — though it’s getting there.
Play, pause or stop? Play. There are enough solid new shows worth checking out, along with new episodes of “See” and “Truth Be Told” (both watchable, though you can skip the dour “Mr. Corman”) dropping in September, and there’s finally a large enough catalog (try “Mythic Quest,” “Dickinson,” “Physical,” “For All Mankind” and “Little America”) to keep new subscribers happy even if the latest shows don’t pan out.
Netflix ($7.99 a month for basic, $13.99 standard or $17.99 premium)
Netflix /zigman2/quotes/202353025/composite NFLX -0.87% is bringing out the big guns in September, with a ton of returning favorites and some intriguing newcomers.
The criminal masterminds trying to rob Spain’s Royal Mint return for a fifth and final season of “Money Heist” (Sept. 3). Annoyingly, this heist has not only been split over three seasons, but Season 5 will be split in two, with the second part streaming in December. The show has slipped in quality, but it’s still a fun-enough thrill ride, ridiculous as it is.
Also returning are the final season of the supernatural crime drama and fan favorite “Lucifer” (Sept. 10); Season 3 of the cringingly funny British high-school dramedy “Sex Education” (Sept. 17), which shakes things up with a new headmistress (Jemima Kirke) and a truly unfortunate mustache for young Otis; and the college dramedy “Dear White People” (Sept. 22), which, for its fourth and final season, will play out as a musical set in the ’90s.
If you’re looking for reality shows, Netflix has Season 3 of the addictive competition series “The Circle” (Sept. 8, with new episodes weekly); Season 6 of the baking-fail show “Nailed It!” (Sept. 15); the spinoff dating show “Too Hot to Handle Latino” (Sept. 15); and Season 2 of the autism relationship show “Love on the Spectrum” (Sept. 21).
Among the more interesting originals, Netflix has “Q-Force” (Sept. 2), an animated comedy from Mike Schur (“Parks & Recreation”) and Sean Hayes (“Will & Grace”) about a team of LGBTQ super spies; Julie Delpy’s “On the Verge” (Sept. 7), a dramedy series about four women in Los Angeles going through midlife crises; “Kate” (Sept. 10), an action movie starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead as an assassin who’s been poisoned and has 24 hours in Tokyo to find her killer and get her revenge (which sounds suspiciously like the plots to “D.O.A.” and “Crank”); and “Countdown: Inspiration4 Mission to Space” (Sept. 6, with new episodes weekly), an intriguing near-real-time docuseries that follows the progress of an upcoming all-civilian space launch and mission aboard a SpaceX capsule — hopefully it’ll be more than just a commercial for Elon Musk.
UPDATE: A couple of late-breaking additions: “Midnight Mass,” a new horror series from the creator of “The Haunting of Hill House,” about a creepy priest who brings supernatural goings-on to a small town; and if that freaks you out, you can calm down with a new season of “The Great British Baking Show,” the gentle fan favorite about amateur bakers trying to avoid soggy bottoms. Both premiere Sept. 24 and will be worth a look.
Who’s Netflix for? Fans of buzz-worthy original shows and movies.
Play, pause or stop? Play. Once again, Netflix wins with sheer volume.
Hulu ($5.99 a month or $11.99 with no ads)
After more than a decade of misfires, an adaptation of “Y: The Last Man” (Sept. 13) is finally ready for the screen. The postapocalyptic drama is based on an iconic comic book, about a world in which every mammal with a Y chromosome has died off — except for one man and his monkey, who find themselves scrapping to survive in a new world order. Ben Schnetzer stars as Yorick (a.k.a. the Last Man); Diane Lane plays his mother, who’s also the new president; and, notably, pretty much everyone in front of and behind the camera is female. While the postapocalyptic thing has been done to death, with a unique twist and solid source material, this should be a must-see.
Hulu’s other September originals look less compelling: “The Premise” (Sept. 16), a familiar-looking anthology series from B.J. Novak (“The Office”) that appears to be about everything, and yet nothing (see: Amazon’s “Solos” — or, better yet, don’t); Season 2 of the biographical rap series “Wu-Tang: An American Saga” (Sept. 8); and “The D’Amelio Show” (Sept. 3), a reality series about TikTok celebrity sisters and their family.
But viewers can look forward to a new season of the funniest show currently on TV, the vampire mocumentary “What We Do in the Shadows” (starting Sept. 3, with new episodes streaming a day after they air on FX), and a ton of fall series streaming a day after they air on network TV, including “The Voice” (Sept. 21), “The Wonder Years” reboot (Sept. 23), “Bob’s Burgers” (Sept. 27) and “The Good Doctor” (Sept. 28). There’ll also be new episodes each week of the highly entertaining Steve Martin/Martin Short/Selena Gomez mystery-comedy “Only Murders in the Building,” and the excellent new slacker-hangout comedy “Reservation Dogs.”
Who’s Hulu for? TV lovers. There’s a deep library for those who want older TV series, and next-day streaming for many current network and cable shows.
Play, pause or stop? Play. “Y: The Last Man” and “What We Do In the Shadows” should be worth the subscription alone, and there’s always Hulu’s deep and broad selection of current and past TV series to fall back on.
Peacock (free basic level, Premium for $4.99 a month with ads, or $9.99 a month with no ads)
The big draw for Peacock in September is live sports, with NFL games kicking off Sept. 9 and Notre Dame football starting Sept. 11. There’s also golf’s PGA Tour Championship (Sept. 4-5) and a full slate of English Premier League soccer.