By Mike Murphy
The weather may be warming up in July, but the streaming offerings promise to keep it breezy.
July’s streaming slate offers nothing too heavy and is filled with laugh-out-loud comedies (like the return of “Ted Lasso”) and trashy, guilty-pleasure shows — as well as the Summer Olympics . July can be light on your budget, too, with our picks for four services coming in at under $35.
Each month, we rate each major streaming service as a “play,” “pause” or “stop,” similar to investment analysts’ traditional ratings of buy, hold and sell, and pick 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 July 2021, and what’s really worth the monthly subscription fee.
HBO Max ($9.99 a month with ads, $14.99 without ads)
AT&T’s /zigman2/quotes/203165245/composite T +0.19% HBO Max continues its roll, out-Netflixing Netflix with another month of compelling movies, new series and documentaries.
The best of the bunch looks to be “No Sudden Move” (July 1), a crime thriller from Steven Soderbergh set in 1954 Detroit. Don Cheadle and Benicio del Toro star as small-time crooks caught up in a complex heist that goes awry, and they have to scramble to figure a way out to stay alive. The cast is loaded, with Jon Hamm, David Harbour, Ray Liotta, Brendan Fraser, Kieran Culkin, Amy Seimetz and Julia Fox, and the trailer looks extremely fun. Soderbergh knows how to make a killer crime movie (see: “The Limey,” “Out of Sight,” “Ocean’s 11”), and this looks like a must-see.
Then there’s “Space Jam: A New Legacy” (July 16), the Warner Bros. movie-of-the-month that will stream the same day it hits theaters. LeBron James stars in the hybrid live-action/animated sequel to a 1996 film that starred Michael Jordan. This time around, LeBron and his son find themselves trapped in a different dimension, and the NBA star must lead an animated basketball team of Looney Tunes characters (including — cringe — a rapping Porky Pig) against a team of Goons if they want to get home. It does not look good, but your 8-year-old probably won’t care. (Note: This and other brand-new Warner Bros. movies are not available on the $9.99-a-month, ad-supported plan.)
HBO Max has two of the most intriguing series of the summer: the reboot of the ridiculously addictive 2007–12 teen drama “Gossip Girl” (July 8), featuring a whole new cast of awful rich kids (troublingly, the show’s creators say this new version won’t glorify the characters’ privilege , which was half the fun of the original); and “The White Lotus” (July 11), a six-episode satirical comedy from Mike White (“Enlightened”) about the intersecting lives of guests and employees at a tropical resort.
That’s not all. Also on tap: “100 Foot Wave” (July 18), a jaw-dropping docuseries about big-wave surfers; “FBoy Island” (July 29), a dating series hosted by comedian Nikki Glaser in which three women try to find love among 24 men, who are a mix of “nice guys” and, well, “f-boys”; Season 1 of “Wellington Paranormal” (July 12), a New Zealand comedy that takes place in the “What We Do in the Shadows” universe (think “X-Files” plus “Cops” plus vampires and ghosts); “Through Our Eyes” (July 22), a docuseries from Sesame Workshop about children’s perspectives on today’s problems; “Catch and Kill: The Podcast Tapes” (July 12), a docuseries of Ronan Farrow’s interviews with sources for “Catch and Kill,” his book that helped expose Harvey Weinstein’s years-long sexual abuses; the animated reboot “Jellystone” (July 29), featuring Yogi Bear and other Hanna-Barbera favorites; and “The Immortal” (July 29), a spinoff movie based on a favorite character from the gripping Italian crime series “Gomorrah.”
The Oscar-winning movie “Judas and the Black Messiah” also returns July 1, and take note that the musical hit “In the Heights” will leave the service July 11 (it’ll probably be back in the fall).
Who’s HBO Max for? HBO fans and movie lovers.
Play, pause or stop? Play. Prestige offerings, buzzy newcomers, quality children’s programming … there is so much good stuff here, for everyone, that you could subscribe to just HBO Max in July and be perfectly happy. And that’s only considering the coming attractions — the deep library makes HBO Max even more of a must-have.
Netflix ($7.99 a month for basic, $13.99 standard or $17.99 premium)
Of course, that’s not to say there’s nothing on Netflix /zigman2/quotes/202353025/composite NFLX +3.06% . Because there is.
Two of the service’s best comedies return for their second seasons: “I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson” (July 6), an absurd and laugh-out-loud sketch series that lives at the intersection of Stupid and Smart and has spawned a million meme GIFs ; and “Never Have I Ever” (July 15), the smart and sweet coming-of-age sitcom about an Indian-American teen, created by Mindy Kaling.
There will also be the nostalgic allure of Kevin Smith’s “Masters of the Universe: Revelation” (July 23), a reboot of the 1980s toy commercial disguised as a cartoon, with the voices of Mark Hamill and Sarah Michelle Gellar, among others; a trio of “Fear Street” movies (July 2, 9 and 16), based on R.L. Stine’s teenage horror novels, with each taking place in a different time period: 1994, 1978 and 1666; and Season 2 of “The Movies That Made Us” (July 21), a docuseries that goes behind the scenes of some movie favorites, including “Jurassic Park” and “Back to the Future.”
Netflix also has a raft of bingeable hits on tap, including the fourth and final season of the autism comedy “Atypical” (July 9); Season 3 of “Virgin River” (July 9), the soapy small-town drama; Season 2 of the addictive teen mystery “Outer Banks” (July 30); the badass-women action movie “Gunpowder Milkshake” (July 14), starring Karen Gillan, Lena Headey, Angela Bassett, Michelle Yeoh and Carla Gugino as assassins; “Heist” (July 14), a docuseries about three of the greatest robberies in American history; and “Sexy Beasts” (July 21), an absolutely ridiculous-looking dating show where the contestants wear elaborate masks, makeup and prosthetics that, much like a car crash or a portrait made of lunch meat, is likely to deliver a mix of repulsiveness and fascination that will be somehow impossible to look away from.
Who’s Netflix for? Fans of buzz-worthy original shows and movies.
Play, pause or stop? Play. You may be ashamed and hate yourself afterwards, but don’t say you’re not at least somewhat intrigued by “Masters of the Universe” and “Sexy Beasts.” Though, to be fair, you probably won’t respect yourself after laughing yourself silly watching “I Think You Should Leave,” either. Just embrace the stupidity and think of Netflix next month as the streaming equivalent of a trashy summer beach book. No judgment here.
Apple TV+ ($4.99 a month)
Enough wading. Apple TV+ is about to jump into the pool.
Since the service’s launch a year and a half ago, the vast majority of Apple TV+ viewers have been watching on free trials — which Apple /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL +1.69% has repeatedly extended — from purchases of iPhones and other Apple products. But those free trials will start expiring in July, meaning many consumers will, for the first time, be faced with a choice of whether TV+ is worth paying for.
It is — for now, at least. And a big reason is “Ted Lasso,” last year’s surprise, feel-good hit comedy, which returns for its second season July 23. Jason Sudeikis is back as the eponymous coach of a mediocre English soccer team that’s battling to return to the Premier League. Expect more hilariously relentless positivity and inspirational locker-room speeches, and get ready to meet Ted’s angry alter ego, Led Tasso. This is one of the best shows on TV, period, and a must-watch.
Apple is also premiering the musical comedy “Schmigadoon!” (July 16), starring Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key as a bickering couple who go on a backpacking trip hoping to reconnect, only to stumble across a magical town that’s living inside a 1940s musical — and they can’t leave until they find true love. There’s a deep and talented cast that should elevate this to, if not a must-see series, at least a worth-a-peek one. And for straight-up music fans, there’s a new docuseries, “Watch the Sound with Mark Ronson,” as the famed DJ/producer interviews other hitmakers about technology and musical innovation.
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 if you need more reasons, check out “For All Mankind,” “Mythic Quest,” “Tehran,” “Central Park,” “Home” and “Dickinson,” for starters.
Peacock (free basic level, Premium for $4.99 a month with ads, or $9.99 a month with no ads)
Peacock pinned its debut last year on the 2020 Olympics, and stumbled after they were postponed due to the pandemic. A year later, NBCUniversal hopes the Games can still give the streaming service a much-needed jolt.
The Tokyo Olympics — assuming they’re not postponed again or canceled at the last minute (still not out of the realm of possibility, based on the latest pandemic developments in Japan) — kick off July 23 with the opening ceremonies, and Peacock will carry a vast amount of programming (there’ll be about 7,000 hours in total over NBCUniversal’s many outlets), including live events, dedicated Olympic channels and curated highlights.
For anyone with even a slight interest in the Olympics, Peacock will be worth checking out. All Olympic programming will be free, except for U.S. men’s basketball games, which will livestream only on the premium tiers (sneaky move, but they’ll almost certainly still be broadcast on NBC or cable). Coverage will begin every morning with Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbajabiamila in the studio for “Tokyo Live”; Rich Eisen will host “Tokyo Gold,” a daily highlights show; Lindsay Czarniak, Lolo Jones and MJ Acosta-Ruiz will host “On Her Turf at the Olympics,” focusing exclusively on women’s events; and Cari Champion and Kenny Mayne will be in the studio for “Tokyo Tonight” to wrap up each day’s events. Amber Ruffin, Kevin Hart and Snoop Dogg will chime in with commentary.
Along with live sports, Peacock will roll out a ton of original Olympic programming and previews in the days leading up to the Games, starting with the July 15 launch of its Olympics portal.
Olympics aside, July 15 will also see the premiere of “Dr. Death,” an eight-episode limited series based on the true-crime podcast about a killer surgeon and the two doctors who set out to stop him. It stars Joshua Jackson, Alec Baldwin, Christian Slater and Grace Gummer, and it’s Peacock’s highest-profile show to date.
Peacock also has the animated movie sequel “The Boss Baby: Family Business” (July 2), starring the voice of Alec Baldwin, streaming on its two paid tiers the same day it opens in theaters.