By Mike Murphy
It’s time to blow off some steam and watch something stupid.
March marks a full year since we’ve all been cooped up due to the pandemic, leaving many of us tethered to our TVs to an unhealthy degree. So after such a stressful year, consumers deserve to splurge a bit, and treat themselves to some brain sorbets.
March is bringing a lot of programming that may not be thought-provoking or even particularly good, but should at least be dumb fun ( cough cough “Godzilla vs. Kong” ). Because sometimes you just don’t want to think too hard.
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.
And heads up: Disney+ will raise its price by $1, to $7.99 a month, starting in March; meanwhile, Netflix raised the price on its most popular plan by $1 as well, to $13.99, in February. But consumers who dig around can take advantage of free trials and cost-saving bundles, though those deals won’t last forever.
Free and bundled possibilities aside, when it’s time to decide where your subscription dollars should go, What’s Worth Streaming is here to help. We rate each major streaming service every month as a “play,” “pause” or “stop,” similar to investment analysts’ ratings of buy, hold and sell, and pick the best content to help you make your monthly decisions.
Here’s a look at what’s coming to the various streaming services in March 2021, and what’s really worth the monthly subscription fee.
Disney+ ($7.99 a month)
“WandaVision” may be wrapping up (the finale is March 5), but Disney+ has another surefire Marvel hit in the works, with “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” (March 19). For those complaining “WandaVision” was too slow and introspective, though you could try to appreciate a slow burn, the six-episode “Falcon” looks to be a much more straightforward buddy comedy/action series. Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan star as the title characters, with the action picking up after the events of “Avengers: Endgame.” What it’s actually about is tightly under wraps, but safe to say, the two heroes will be trying to find their footing and carry on Captain America’s shield in a post-Steve Rogers world.
Disney (NYS:DIS) is also streaming one of its big movies of 2021, “Raya and the Last Dragon” (March 5), starting the same day it hits theaters, for an additional $30 fee (just as they did with “Mulan” last fall). The film, about a girl determined to track down the last living dragon in order to save her kingdom from monsters, looks spectacular. If you have kids, it might be worth a splurge ($30 is probably cheaper than movie tickets and snacks for a family), but keep in mind it’ll almost certainly be available on regular Disney+ for no extra fee within a few months. So if you’re patient you can save that money.
Who’s Disney+ for? Families with kids, and hardcore “Star Wars” and Marvel fans. For those not in those groups, its library can be lacking. Remember, the monthly price will rise to $7.99 in March.
Play, pause or stop? Play. The end of “WandaVision” and the beginning of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” alone are worth the price. Plus “The Muppet Show,” old episodes of “The Simpsons,” and much more? Yeah, worth it.
HBO Max ($14.99 a month)
HBO Max has two movies that will absolutely overshadow everything else it has in March: “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” (March 18) and “Godzilla vs. Kong” (March 31).
The long-rumored recut of 2017’s “Justice League” has fanboys drooling. (TLDR: Snyder, the film’s original director, dropped out following his daughter’s death; Joss Whedon took over production and the movie flopped. Read more about it here .) After an online campaign, HBO Max gave the go-ahead for Snyder to recreate his original dark and gritty vision, reportedly adding about $70 million in new special effects and doubling the length of the film, to four hours. Rarely in Hollywood history has such an ambitious project been pulled off. Snyder has his hardcore fans, as well his share of critical detractors, but whether or not the movie will be any good is almost beside the point: “Justice League” will be an unabashed spectacle and a victory for creative control that will at the very least make it worth a look.
Speaking of bashing and spectacles, two of cinema’s most iconic oversized creatures face off once again in “Godzilla vs. Kong,” streaming on Max the same day it hits theaters. Who’s starring in it? CGI monsters and who cares who else. It looks ridiculous and overblown and completely stupid and completely awesome. Not every movie needs to be important. As long as it causes grown adults to giggle like 8-year-olds, it will have served its purpose.
Don’t forget, first-run Warner Bros. movies are only available to stream for a month, so “Judas and the Black Messiah” will be leaving March 14 and “Tom & Jerry” departs March 28, while “Godzilla” will be gone at the end of April.
AT&T’s (NYS:T) HBO Max doesn’t have a ton of other new stuff in March, with highlights being the sexually-fluid teen dramedy “Genera+ion” (March 11); “Tina” (March 27), a documentary about the legendary singer Tina Turner, featuring interviews and little-seen archive footage; and another doc, “Persona: The Dark Truth Behind Personality Tests” (March 4), about the history behind the famous MBTI tests.
But the single best new thing to watch on Max could be “The Knick,” the brilliant two-season series about a drug-addicted doctor in 1900s New York City, starring Clive Owen and directed by Steven Soderberg. It joined Max in February, along with fellow Cinemax alum “Banshee” (a brilliant celebration of gratuitous violence in its own right). They’re both bloody, cringe-inducing fun, in very different ways.
Who’s HBO Max for? HBO fans and movie lovers.
Play, pause or stop? Play. Treat yourself to some seriously over-the-top entertainment. And if explosions, superpowers and blood-and-guts aren’t your speed, there’s still HBO’s deep library of excellent shows. Among newcomers, try the addictive Swedish drama “Beartown,” the critically praised AIDS drama “It’s a Sin” or the whimsical dark comedy “Pushing Daisies,” which were all recently added to Max.
Netflix ($7.99 a month for basic, $13.99 standard or $17.99 premium)
Make no mistake, a year of pandemic-related production delays are finally catching up with Netflix (NAS:NFLX) . But with a dearth of original scripted series ready to go in its pipeline, the streaming giant is filling in the gaps with docuseries and foreign-language series. That’s not necessarily a bad thing (see: January’s surprise French hit, “Lupin”).
March’s lineup has a plethora of docuseries on tap, including “Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell” (March 1), which examines the career of the late rapper The Notorious B.I.G.; “Murder Among the Mormons” (March 3), about a string of Salt Lake City bombings in the 1980s; and “Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal” (March 17), featuring dialogue from FBI wiretaps and sure-to-be-cheesy reenactments of the celebrity-laden scandal.
On the less salacious side, there’s “Last Chance U: Basketball” (March 10), which delves into players battling adversity at East Los Angeles College, as the Emmy-winning series shifts its focus from high-stakes junior-college football to basketball.
There’s also “Moxie” ( March 3), an appealing-looking movie directed by Amy Poehler about a teenage girl who’s inspired by her mom’s “riot grrrl” past to publish a ‘zine exposing sexism at her school; “Yes Day” (March 12), a family comedy where the kids get to make the rules for a day, starring Jennifer Garner; “Waffles + Mochi” (March 16), a kids cooking show from Michelle Obama; and “Marriage or Mortgage” (March 10), a reality series that sounds like a TLC/HGTV mashup, where couples choose between splurging on a fairy-tale wedding or a dream home.
Among foreign-language series and movies, there’s “Bombay Begums” (March 8), a soapy drama about a diverse group of ambitious women in India; “Sky Rojo” (March 19), a drama about a trio of women on the run in Spain, from the creators of “Money Heist”; “Cabras de Peste” (March 18), a Brazilian action/comedy about two mismatched cops who join forces to fight a gang; and “Caught By a Wave” (March 25), an Italian teen romance.
On the sillier side, there’s also “Bad Trip” (March 26), a gross-out prank movie from Eric Andre; the supernatural mystery series “The Irregulars” (March 26), about Sherlock Holmes’ young proteges; and “Nailed It! Double Trouble” (March 26), as the baking-disaster show highlights teams of hapless bakers.
Also getting a lot of recent buzz is the bonkers erotic thriller “Behind Her Eyes,” which dropped in February. It’s…well, let’s just say the ending will leave you asking “WTF,” for better or worse.
Who’s Netflix for? Fans of buzz-worthy original shows and movies.
Play, pause or stop? Play. While Netflix suddenly doesn’t seem so essential, it still has a vast supply of shows that are juuust good enough. In a volume game, Netflix is gonna win every time.
Hulu ($5.99 a month or $11.99 with no ads)
Once again, Hulu’s best selling point is its deep library of shows, old and new. There’s not much on tap in March in terms of originals, but most of what there is sounds decent enough.
The very adult animated comedy “Solar Opposites” (March 26), from two of the creators of “Rick and Morty,” returns for a second season as a family of aliens remains stranded on Earth. It’s first season was a pleasant — if sick and twisted — surprise last year, so it’s a welcome addition.
More iffy is the action movie “Boss Level” (March 5), a violent, satirical shoot-em-up about a secret agent reliving the same day over and over (and dying every time) that sounds like a “Groundhog Day”/”John Wick”/”Edge of Tomorrow” mashup. It looks like dumb fun and it’s got a good cast, but the biggest name — Mel Gibson as the bad guy — is the most problematic. With Gibson’s extensive history of repulsive anti-semitic , misogynistic and racist comments, I’m not sure he’s who anyone wants to see on their screen these days.
Hulu is also adding “kid 90” (March 12), a documentary about child stars in the ’90s, from ’90s child star Soleil Moon Frye, as well as Season 3 of the “Sons of Anarchy” spinoff “Mayans M.C.” (streaming a day after episodes air on FX, starting March 17), and “Genuis: Aretha” (March 22), the latest installment of the NatGeo series, which Aretha Franklin’s family has disavowed and urged fans to boycott .
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? Pause and think it over. With no marquee releases, you might be better off diving into Hulu’s library, featuring everything from classics (“Cheers,” “Golden Girls”) to current hits (“Superstore,” “Modern Family”) to Golden Globe nominees such as “Nomadland,” “The Great,” “Palm Springs” and “Normal People.”
Amazon Prime Video ($12.99 a month)
It’s a light month for Amazon Prime Video, with Eddie Murphy’s sequel “Coming 2 America” (March 5) the biggest-name debut, by far.
Murphy and Arsenio Hall will reprise their roles — as well as a multitude of other roles, in heavy makeup — as Prince (now King) Akeem and his loyal sidekick, Semmi, from the 1988 comedy “Coming to America.” This time around Akeem returns to Queens to track down his long-lost son — and surprise crown prince of the fictional African kingdom of Zamunda. The original is a comedy classic. Do we really need a sequel 30-plus years later? Probably not. Will it be good? Maybe not, but it should at least be fun to see those characters again.
Amazon (NAS:AMZN) also has a new animated series, “Invincible” (March 26), based on the Robert Kirkman comic about the teenage son of a superhero trying to figure out his superpowers and live up to his father’s legacy. Steven Yeun and J.K. Simmons provide the voices. Be warned, it’s ultra-violent and not for kids. Think “The Boys” meets “Teen Titans.”
Who’s Amazon Prime Video for? Movie lovers, TV-series fans who value quality over quantity.
Play, pause or stop? Pause. “Coming 2 America” might be worth it, fingers crossed. If not, there still Amazon’s deep library to fall back on. Catch up on the “Small Axe” movies, or “The Expanse,” or “One Mississippi.”
Apple TV+ ($4.99 a month)
Apple TV+ doesn’t have much new in March, though its one current series — Season 2 of “For All Mankind,” which debuted in February and drops new episodes every Friday — is excellent. As mentioned last month , the alt-history space drama has improved in its second season, and is one of the best shows currently airing, anywhere.
The only true March debut is “Cherry” (March 12), a movie starring Tom Holland (Marvel’s current Spider-Man) as an Army veteran traumatized by PTSD and hooked on drugs. It sounds like Oscar-bait, but the reviews are terrible , so it’s probably safe to skip.
Who’s Apple TV+ for? It offers a little something for everyone, but not necessarily enough for anyone.
Play, pause or stop? Stop. It’s tempting to say “For All Mankind” alone is worth a subscription, but to get your money’s worth, you’d be better off waiting until it ends and binging the series all at once with a one-month subscription. But If you’ve bought an Apple (NAS:AAPL) device in the past year, take advantage and watch for free. There’s enough there to explore.
Peacock (free basic level, Premium for $4.99 a month with ads, or $9.99 a month with no ads)
Not a lot coming to Comcast’s (NAS:CMCSA) Peacock either, though Season 3 of the Stephen King crime drama “Mr. Mercedes,” starring Brendan Gleeson, will drop March 4, after originally airing on the Audience network in 2019.
Other new additions include Syfy’s extraterrestrial dramedy “Resident Alien” (March 12), the true-crime doc “John Wayne Gacy: Devil in Disguise” (March 25) and new episodes of “The Amber Ruffin Show” every Friday. And wrestling fans will be happy that WWE Network will start airing on Peacock starting March 21.
Peacock also quietly added “Briarpatch” in February, and it’s well worth a look. Rosario Dawson stars in the pulpy, noir-ish mystery set in a sweltering Texas border town.
Sam Esmail (“Mr Robot,” “Homecoming”) executive-produced “Briarpatch,” and it has all the Esmail hallmarks — a slick, cinematic look, where things the casual viewer doesn’t usually notice, like lighting, sound and cinematography, are so perfect that they leap to the forefront. “Briarpatch” was canceled after just one season on USA, but it wraps everything up nicely, with no loose ends — it’s a fun watch.
Who’s Peacock for? If you like network and basic-cable TV and don’t mind ads, the free version of Peacock is great. If you’re eligible for Premium through a Comcast or Cox cable subscription, it’s also a perfectly fine free addition.
Play, pause or stop? Stop. By all means check out the free version, but the paid tier will be unnecessary for most people (with the exception of soccer fans, since Peacock Premium is the exclusive streaming home of the English Premier League).
Paramount+ ($5.99 a month with ads, $9.99 no ads)
Updated to reflect two tiers of pricing.
CBS All Access officially becomes Paramount+ on March 4 , with a legitimately impressive lineup of 30,000 episodes and 2,500 movies. It’s aiming to debut 36 original series this year, including revivals of “Frasier,” “Criminal Minds” and “Reno 911!,” as well as series adaptations of movies ranging from “Flashdance” to “Love Story” to “Fatal Attraction” and a “Grease” prequel. There are also more “Star Trek” spinoffs in the works, “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars,” a “Beavis and Butt-head” movie and revivals of everything from the animated “Rugrats” to MTV standbys such as “Road Rules” and “Behind the Music.” There’s also live sports, news and movies — such as “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Mission: Impossible 7” — coming 35-45 days after they first hit theaters. Basically, if you’re a Gen-Xer with any hint of nostalgia, Paramount+ will have a show for you.
Keep in mind, a $4.99-a-month tier will launch in June, with ads and lacking the live-TV features of the pricier tier.
However, none of those will be ready for the launch. The best you’re gonna get March 4 is “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” ; a SpongeBob spinoff, “Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years” ; and “The Real World: Homecoming,” a multi-episode reunion featuring the cast of “The Real World” Season 1 in New York.
Who’s Paramount+ for? Gen-X cord cutters who miss live sports (especially March Madness and UEFA Champions League soccer) and familiar broadcast and cable shows.
Play, pause or stop? Stop. There’s a ton of programming, but nothing terribly compelling. At this point, it’s just a pricier Peacock. Also keep in mind ViacomCBS (NAS:VIAC) is still licensing its shows to other streamers, so you can still watch things like “Criminal Minds” on Netflix and “Survivor” on Hulu.
Discovery+ ($4.99 a month, $6.99 ad-free)
Discovery+ continues to vex me. Its selection of pleasant, easy-on-the-brain background shows is fantastic. But is it worth paying for shows that are basically just there to keep you company at night while you fold laundry or scroll through your phone?
The service does have a ton of new shows in March, including a massive slate of true-crime docuseries, for those who are into that.
For non-murderinos, the best bets look to be “Cocktails and Tall Tales with Ina Garten and Melissa McCarthy” (March 26), a special that sounds special in every possible way (seriously, all four of those things sound delightful); “Pig Royalty” (March 16), a docuseries about prize pigs in Texas; and Season 2 of “Race Across the World” (March 2), an adventure series where competitors have to get to a certain spot on the globe without using a phone or flying.
Who’s Discovery+ for? Cord cutters who miss their unscripted TV or who are really, really into “90-Day Fiance.”
Play, pause or stop? Stop. It’s a fantastic one-stop shop for background TV. But it’s really only a good option for those who’ve cut the cord completely — if you still have cable or get Discovery (NAS:DISCA) channels through a live-streaming service like YouTube TV or Hulu Live, it’s just not necessary. (Besides, many of its shows are also available on Hulu.)