By Mike Murphy
Luckily, in August you can get all the streaming entertainment you need with three services, for a pretty reasonable $25, total. That includes a little something for everyone, from the buzziest new shows of the summer, to some beloved classics, to a solid slate of action movies and rom-coms.
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. There are a lot of them out there, but the deals don’t last forever.
Here’s a look at what’s coming to the various streaming services in August 2021, and what’s really worth the monthly subscription fee.
Netflix ($7.99 a month for basic, $13.99 standard or $17.99 premium)
It’s generally not a great sign when a streaming service’s most anticipated new additions are shows that ended their runs almost a decade ago, but this may be an exception.
Netflix /zigman2/quotes/202353025/composite NFLX -1.24% will add two classics in August: Tina Fey’s brilliantly wacky showbiz sitcom “30 Rock” (Aug. 1), and the one series guaranteed to make male viewers cry, the high-school football drama “Friday Night Lights” (also Aug. 1). Both are among the best series of the past two decades, and well worth your time, whether re-bingeing or discovering for the first time.
As for new stuff, Netflix has a trio of conspiracy thrillers: “Beckett” (Aug. 13), a movie starring John David Washington (“Tenet”) as an American tourist in Greece who gets caught up in a deadly international plot; “Hit & Run” (Aug. 6), an Israeli series from the creators of “Fauda” and “The Killing,” about a husband unraveling the mysterious circumstances surrounding his wife’s death; and “Sweet Girl” (Aug. 23), a revenge movie starring Jason Momoa as a father who takes on Big Bad Pharma. The first two, at least, should be worth a look.
For the younger crowd, there are “The Kissing Booth 3” (Aug. 11), the third and final installment of the popular teen-romance movie series starring Joey King, and “He’s All That” (Aug. 27), a gender-flipped reboot of the ’90s teen rom-com “She’s All That,” as a high school influencer (Addison Rae) is tasked with turning a loser (Tanner Buchanan) into the prom king.
Other highlights include “The Chair” (Aug. 20), a dramedy series starring Emmy-winner Sandra Oh as a university professor who takes on the challenge of becoming chair of an English department that’s embroiled in turmoil; “Brand New Cherry Flavor” (Aug. 13), a surreal, supernatural revenge/horror limited series set in 1990s Los Angeles; “Clickbait” (Aug. 25), a limited-series thriller starring Adrian Grenier as a seemingly nice family man who gets kidnapped and reappears online with a sign reading “I abuse women. At 5 million views, I die.” (Drama, presumably, ensues); and “Sparking Joy” (Aug. 31), a new docuseries from Marie Kondo as the organization icon helps small businesses tidy up their workplaces, and workers’ lives. Of those, “The Chair” looks like the best bet, but each one has a pretty decent chance of becoming a low-key hit.
Netflix’s movie lineup isn’t hugely impressive, but it will add “Catch Me If You Can,” “Inception” and “Magnolia,” among others.
Who’s Netflix for? Fans of buzz-worthy original shows and movies.
Play, pause or stop? Play. Once again, Netflix’s sheer number of shows and movies make it a must-have. There’s something for everyone, and for a welcome change, there’s quality to go along with the quantity.
Hulu ($5.99 a month or $11.99 with no ads)
Hulu has been in a bit of a rut in recent months, but looks to be bouncing back in August with a pair of big-name originals and the return of some third-party favorites.
“Nine Perfect Strangers” (Aug. 18) is set up to be the must-see series of August. Nicole Kidman leads an all-star cast in a miniseries about nine people trying to de-stress from their busy lives at a wellness resort in Australia. Kidman plays a mysterious and charismatic guru, with a supporting cast that includes Melissa McCarthy, Bobby Cannivale and Regina Hall. If its dreamy-yet-unsettling atmosphere feels familiar, there’s a good reason: Showrunner David E. Kelley was also the creative force behind HBO’s “Big Little Lies,” which also starred Kidman, and it’s based on the bestselling book by “Big Little Lies” author Liane Moriarty.
In a lighter vein, there’s “Only Murders in the Building” (Aug. 31), a comedy/mystery series starring Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez as true-crime enthusiasts who find themselves wrapped up in a real-life whodunit as they try to solve a grisly murder in their ritzy Manhattan apartment building. Martin and Short are always good together, and Gomez should youth it up a bit. This could be a lot of fun.
Also on the way: “Reservation Dogs” (Aug. 9), an FX on Hulu comedy series about four Native American teens in rural Oklahoma and their misadventures, co-created by Taika Waititi (“Thor: Ragnarok” and “Jojo Rabbit”); the critically acclaimed documentary “Homeroom” (Aug. 12), as students at an Oakland high school navigate the pandemic, protests and budget cuts; Season 7 of ABC’s “Bachelor in Paradise” (Aug. 17); the eighth and final season of NBC’s cop comedy “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (Aug. 13); “American Horror Story: Double Feature” (Aug. 26), the 10th installment of Ryan Murphy’s horror anthology series (this season featuring aliens!); Season 12 of the animated FX spy comedy “Archer” (Aug. 26), which will still feature the voice of the late Jessica Walter; and a special animated episode of the Emmy-nominated, middle-school cringe comedy “Pen15” (Aug. 27). There are also new episodes of the spinoff “American Horror Stories,” with self-contained horror stories every week, and a solid slate of movies, such as “Attack the Block,” “Rudy” and “The Thin Red Line” (all Aug. 1), though the Hulu original movie “Vacation Friends” (Aug. 27), starring John Cena and Lil Rey Howery, looks skippable.
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. Hulu already has a strong TV library, and this month’s additions are top-notch, including many ABC, NBC and Fox fall premieres streaming the day after their air.
Apple TV+ ($4.99 a month)
Apple TV+ has some intriguing newcomers in August, to go along with new episodes every week of its relentlessly optimistic hit comedy “Ted Lasso.”
The heartwarming family drama “Coda” (Aug. 13) took the Sundance Film Festival by storm earlier this year, nabbing four awards including the audience award and the grand jury prize. The movie stars Emilia Jones as a teenager — and the only hearing person in a deaf household — who discovers a love of singing, and finds herself torn between pursuing music and helping with the family business. It co-stars Marlee Matlin and Troy Kotsur, and looks very good .
Apple /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL -0.49% also has “Mr. Corman” (Aug. 6), a promising new dramedy series starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a burned-out teacher struggling to find fulfillment in his imperfect life; the season finale of Rose Byrne’s “Physical” (Aug. 6); Season 2 of the mystery series “Truth Be Told” (Aug. 20), with Kate Hudson joining the cast alongside Octavia Spencer; and the Season 2 premiere of “See” (Aug. 27), the sci-fi drama starring Jason Momoa and Alfre Woodard as leaders of a tribe far in the future, after a deadly virus has left the surviving human population blind. Critics didn’t much like Season 1, but it won a bit of a cult following among fans. There are also new episodes every week of the musical comedy “Schmigadoon,” which, unfortunately, is a bit too corny for its own good.
Who’s Apple TV+ for? It offers a little something for everyone, but not necessarily enough for anyone.
Play, pause or stop? Play. It’s worth a subscription for “Ted Lasso” alone, but “Coda” and “Mr. Corman” should be worth checking out too. And a quality library is growing, with “Mythic Quest,” “For All Mankind,” “Home,” a slew of music docs and more.
HBO Max ($9.99 a month with ads, $14.99 without ads)
AT&T’s /zigman2/quotes/203165245/composite T +0.37% HBO Max has been on fire this year, but will hit a bit of a lull in August.
The best bang-for-your-buck choices remain the Warner Bros. movies that stream for 31 days starting the same day they hit theaters. In August, that’ll be “The Suicide Squad” (Aug. 5), a reboot of 2016’s creative flop that still managed to reap more than $700 million at the box office. This time around James Gunn (“Guardians of the Galaxy”) takes the directorial helm, looking to infuse his brand of twisted humor and completely over-the-top violence (see: anything involving King Shark ). Margot Robbie, John Cena, Idris Elba and Pete Davidson play the supervillains on a suicide mission this time around, and good or bad, it promises to be a spectacle. There’s also “Reminiscence” (Aug. 20), a hard-boiled noir/sci-fi thriller starring Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson and Thandie Newton in a futuristic Miami that’s been flooded by rising seas. Lisa Joy (“Westworld”) directs, and it looks intriguing. Keep in mind both movies are only available on the ad-free tier.
On the series side, it’s a bit light — relatively speaking. A new season of HBO’s annual NFL behind-the-scenes docuseries “Hard Knocks” kicks off Aug. 10, focusing on the Dallas Cowboys this year. Issa Rae (“Insecure”) is producing a new unscripted series, “Sweet Life: Los Angeles” (Aug. 19), chronicling a circle of young, Black friends in L.A. — like a reality version of “Insecure,” which is not at all a bad thing. There’s also the long-awaited second season of the under-seen comedy about celebrity “The Other Two” (Aug. 26), which hops to Max from Comedy Central; Season 3 of the teen superhero series “Titans” (Aug. 12); the documentary “Obama: In Pursuit of a More Perfect Union” (Aug. 3); the season finales of “Fboy Island” (Aug. 12), “White Lotus” (Aug. 15) and “100 Foot Wave” (Aug. 22); and the addition of Season 1 of CNN’s excellent food/travel show “ Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy” (Aug. 24).
Movie additions in August include “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” “Inception,” “Mean Streets” and “You’ve Got Mail.” (all Aug. 1), as well as “Jurassic Park” (Aug; 13) and “Godzilla vs. Kong” (Aug. 17).
Who’s HBO Max for? HBO fans and movie lovers.