The end of summer is nigh, and with back-to-school and (shudder) back-to-the-office costs rising, no one needs to be overpaying for too many streaming services.
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.
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.
For more: Here’s what’s coming to Netflix in August 2021 — and what’s leaving
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.
See: Here’s what’s coming to Hulu in August 2021, and what’s leaving
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.
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)
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.
Play, pause or stop? Pause and think it over. It’s not like there’s nothing worth watching (there is), but August’s lineup is decidedly weaker than recent months, and that might make it an opportune time to save a few bucks on a subscription. On the other hand, the monthly cost is about the same as a single ticket to see “The Suicide Squad” or “Reminiscence” in the theater, so…
Paramount+ ($4.99 a month with ads but not live CBS, $5.99 a month with ads, $9.99 without ads)
Paramount+ has a lot to offer in August.
At the top of the list is Season 2 of “Star Trek: Lower Decks” (Aug. 12), the animated spinoff series that focuses on a starship’s support crew. Season 1 was a surprisingly entertaining underdog comedy, and not just for “Star Trek” die-hards.
After a brief summer hiatus, the supernatural hit “Evil” returns for the second half of its second season starting Aug. 29. Mike Colters, Katja Herbers and Michael Emerson star in the surreal and binge-worthy drama from the creators of “The Good Wife.”
There’s also “PAW Patrol: The Movie” (Aug. 20) for the kiddos; the harrowing California-wildfire documentary “Bring Your Own Brigade” (Aug. 20); three seasons of the hilarious and somehow educational “Drunk History UK” (Aug. 11); all seven seasons of Comedy Central’s “Workaholics” (Aug. 25); and new episodes of three of Paramount+’s best series, “The Good Fight,” “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars” and “Why Women Kill,” every Thursday.
On the movie front, which Paramount+ has really bulked up this summer, there’s “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” and “Rogue Nation,” “As Good As It Gets,” “Shane,” “Thelma & Louise” (all Aug. 1) and much more.
Who’s Paramount+ for? Gen X cord-cutters who miss live sports and familiar ViacomCBS
broadcast and cable shows.
Play, pause or stop? Pause. If you’ve been curious about trying out Paramount+, this is actually a good time to give it a go, with plenty of current-season episodes of “The Good Fight,” “Drag Race All Stars” “Why Women Kill” and “Evil” there to binge, and a ton of movies and older shows (especially from the Comedy Central vault, like “Review” and “Detroiters”) to revisit.
Disney+ ($7.99 a month)
August offers another rare opportunity for parents to save a bit, provided their kids can live without Disney
for a month.
It’s a fairly slow month for Disney+, with the biggest release being “Cruella” (Aug. 27) — the Emma Stone “101 Dalmations”-villainess origin story that premiered in May for an additional $30 fee will now be free for all subscribers.
Marvel fans will want to check out “What If…?” (Aug. 11), an animated anthology series that explores what would have happened if key moments in the Marvel universe happened differently, like “What if Peggy Carter became the Captain instead of Steve Rogers?” or “What if T’Challa was kidnapped by Yondu and became Star Lord instead of Peter Quill?” Based on the speculative comic book series, the stories could take new meaning in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the wake of the multiverse split that happened in “Loki.” It looks cool, but definitely second-tier behind the live-action Marvel shows. Oh, and Howard the Duck makes an appearance.
Disney+ also has Season 2 of Tess Romero in the comedy/drama “Diary of a Future President” (Aug. 18), with all 10 episodes dropping at once; the season finale of the “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” animated spinoff “The Bad Batch” (Aug. 13); Season 2 of the robotic reboot “Short Circuit” (Aug. 4); and the arrival of the Robin Williams classic “Mrs. Doubtfire” (Aug. 6).
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.
Play, pause or stop? Stop. There’s some decent stuff on the way, so it’s not like your subscription money would be entirely wasted, but none of it is compelling enough to demand your dollars this month. They’ll be around to watch later.
Amazon Prime Video ($12.99 a month)
Amazon Prime Video prioritizes quality over quantity, and that’s definitely the case in August, with just four notable originals — but all four look interesting.
The anthology series “Modern Love” (Aug. 13), based on the popular New York Times column, returns for its second season. The eight episodes (five set in New York, three set in Ireland, and each a self-contained, based-on-real-life love story) tout an all-star cast including Kit Harington, Minnie Driver, Dominique Fishback, Tobias Menzies, Anna Paquin and Sophie Okonedo. The first season was uneven but mostly charming, so here’s hoping for a more consistent second season.
Also on the way: “Val” (Aug. 6), a documentary about actor Val Kilmer, compiled largely from 40 years of his home videos; “Annette” (Aug. 21), the sexually charged musical love story starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard that caused a stir at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this summer; and “The Courier” (Aug. 27), a Cold War spy thriller starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Rachel Brosnahan.
There are also fresh episodes every week of “Making the Cut,” the fashion competition hosted by Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum. While Season 2 has streamlined a bit, to its benefit, it still lacks the drama and fast pacing of “Project Runway.”
Also see: Here’s everything coming to Amazon Prime Video in August 2021
Some good movies are coming too, such as “Jaws,” “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” and “Aliens” (all Aug. 1) and “In Bruges” (Aug. 16).
also had some late additions in July that could be worth perusing, with Norman Lear’s classic catalog of shows, including “All in the Family,” “Good Times,” “Maude” and “Sanford & Son,” available on Prime Video or its free IMDb TV streaming channel; and “Jolt,” a gleefully crazy action movie starring Kate Beckinsale.
Who’s Amazon Prime Video for? Movie lovers, TV-series fans who value quality over quantity.
Play, pause or stop? Stop. There’s not enough that demands to be watched now, so save your bucks for when Amazon has a more loaded lineup.
Peacock (free basic level, Premium for $4.99 a month with ads, or $9.99 a month with no ads)
Peacock will still be riding its Tokyo Olympics wave into August, with seven full days of programming before the Closing Ceremony (Aug. 8), with thousands of hours of live events, replays, highlights and studio shows. Remember, all of Peacock’s Olympic offerings are available on its free tier (newcomers will need to create an account to log in, though), while U.S. men’s basketball games will only stream on the paid tier. (They’ll also be broadcast on NBC or its sister cable networks.)
But aside from the Summer Games, there’s not much exciting on Peacock’s menu. The conspiracy thriller “Departure” (Aug. 5) returns for a second season, with Archie Panjabi’s character investigating a derailed train this season, and there’s also Season 2 of the Australian roommate dramedy “Five Bedrooms” (Aug. 19). Comedian Kevin Hart has a new talk show, “Hart to Heart” (Aug. 5), which will drop three episodes at once, following by new episodes every Thursday, and Bravo’s Andy Cohen will host “Ex-Rated” (Aug. 12), a relationship series in which people get blunt exit interviews from their exes. Neither show sounds worth a subscription.
Peacock will also add all eight seasons of the Mary-Louise Parker pot dramedy “Weeds” (Aug. 16); all three “John Wick” movies (Aug. 9), in addition to films such as “Apollo 13,” “Drive,” “The Exorcist” and “The Firm” (all Aug. 1); and has the start of English Premier League play (Aug. 14) and WWE Summerslam (Aug. 21). There are also a handful of very good originals in Peacock’s library, such as “Dr. Death,” “Girls5Eva” and “We Are Lady Parts.”
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. You don’t need the paid tier to watch the Olympics, and there’s frankly not much worth paying for this month anyway.
Discovery+ ($4.99 a month, $6.99 ad-free)
There’s a lot coming to Discovery+, but much of it is disposable.
There are the self-explanatory unscripted spinoffs “90 Day Journey: Couples Updates” (Aug. 22) and “Naked and Afraid of Love” (Aug. 22), because survivalists need love too; “Well Done with Sebastian Maniscalco” (Aug. 12), as the comedian explores food culture; Season 2 of “Heartbreak Island” (Aug. 7) a New Zealand reality dating show in the vein of “Love Island”; “Guy: Hawaiian Style” (Aug. 28), a four-part special with Guy Fieri exploring Hawaii’s cuisine and culture; and a slew of other shows centered around food, home improvement, relationships, true crime, prison or Alaska — or some mix of those.
All sound fine if you were to stumble across on basic cable while bored one night, but none sound remotely worth paying for.
Who’s Discovery+ for? Cord cutters who miss their unscripted TV or who are really, really into “90-Day Fiancé.”
Play, pause or stop? Stop. Discovery+ is fantastic for background TV. But there’s not much that’s essential viewing. It’s really only a good option for those who are HGTV/Food Network/TLC superfans who’ve cut the cord completely — if you still have cable or get Discovery
channels through a live-streaming service like YouTube TV or Hulu Live, it’s just not necessary. (Besides, many of its cable shows are also available on Hulu.)