Hulu has already won the summer, and streaming subscribers are the beneficiaries.
For the third straight month, the Disney-controlled streaming service is at the top of its game and at the top of our list, rolling out one spectacular show after another, from “The Bear” to “Justified: City Primeval” to “What We Do in the Shadows.” Hulu is keeping the hits coming in August, with “Reservation Dogs” and “Only Murders in the Building,” while its rivals mostly stay pat.
That light schedule of new releases on other services should allow consumers to save a few bucks and cut back on their subscriptions, especially as prices rise again (this time it’s Peacock, while Netflix has eliminated its $10-a-month basic plan).
Each month, this column offers tips on how to maximize your streaming and your budget, rating the major services as a “play,” “pause” or “stop” — similar to investment analysts’ traditional ratings of buy, hold or sell. We also pick the best shows to help you make your monthly decisions.
Consumers can take full advantage of cord cutting with a churn-and-return strategy — adding and dropping streaming services each month. All it takes is good planning. Keep in mind that a billing cycle starts when you sign up, not necessarily at the beginning of the month, and keep an eye out for lower-priced tiers, limited-time discounts, free trials and cost-saving bundles. 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 August 2023, and what’s really worth the monthly subscription fee.
Hulu ($7.99 a month with ads, or $14.99 with no ads)
Hulu has been killing it for months with exceptional programming, and the schedule is not easing up in August.
“Reservation Dogs” (Aug. 2), which was hands-down the best show of 2022, returns for its third and final season, as Bear (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai), Elora (Devery Jacobs), Willie Jack (Paulina Alexis) and Cheese (Lane Factor) return home to their Oklahoma reservation after Season 2’s trip to California. It’s an extraordinary series about four rebellious Indigenous teens, their families and their community, at once funny and heartbreaking, hyper-specific yet deeply relatable. It deserves to be seen by a much wider audience.
Also back for its third season is “Only Murders in the Building” (Aug. 8), the cozily entertaining comedy/mystery that won’t make your brain hurt. Meryl Streep and Paul Rudd join Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez in the all-star cast this season as the podcasting trio get caught up in yet another murder, this time at a Broadway show.
Hulu’s also got Season 4 of the animated sci-fi comedy “Solar Opposites” (Aug. 14), as Dan Stevens takes over co-creator Justin Roiland’s voice role; the fourth and final season of the British parenthood comedy “Breeders” (Aug. 1); the South Korean supernatural drama “Moving” (Aug. 9); and the 14th and final season of the animated spy spoof “Archer” (Aug. 31).
For more: What’s new on Hulu in August 2023 — and what’s leaving
There are also new episodes every week of “Justified: City Primeval” (finale Aug. 29), “What We Do in the Shadows” and “Futurama,” all of which remain worth checking out.
Who’s Hulu for? TV lovers. There’s a deep library for those who want older TV series and next-day streaming of many current network and cable shows.
Play, pause or stop? Play. Hulu is a must-have right now, in a class of its own.
Disney+ ($7.99 a month with ads, $10.99 with no ads)
After a weak couple of months (exemplified by the blah “Secret Invasion”), Disney
is ramping things back up in August, with a small but mighty slate.
The highlight should be “Star Wars: Ahsoka” (Aug. 23), starring Rosario Dawson as a dual-lightsaber-wielding, emotionally complex Jedi who first won fans’ hearts in the animated “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Star Wars: Rebels.” “Ahsoka” is essentially a live-action fifth season of “Rebels,” with a ton of familiar characters including Natasha Liu Bordizzo as Mandalorian warrior-turned-rebel Sabine, Mary Elizabeth Winstead as New Republic general Hera and Lars Mikkelsen as Imperial Grand Admiral Thrawn. With the notable exception of “Andor,” Disney’s most recent “Star Wars” shows have been disappointing, but hopes are high this time around — as long as the prosthetic headpiece on Dawson’s Ahsoka isn’t too distracting.
Meanwhile, the teen hit “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” (Aug. 9) is back for its fourth and final season, with guest appearances from some original “High School Musical” alumni (through probably not now-megastar Olivia Rodrigo), and Marvel’s smash hit “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” (Aug. 2) makes its streaming debut.
Who’s Disney+ for? Families with kids, hardcore “Star Wars” and Marvel fans. For people not in those groups, Disney’s library can be lacking.
Play, pause or stop? Play. “Ahsoka” looks fun, and being able to watch/rewatch “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” for less than the price of a matinee ticket is a no-brainer.
Apple TV+ ($6.99 a month)
has had a terrific slate of programming in recent months, but August’s new releases are a bit less impressive.
The dramedy “Physical” (Aug. 2) returns for its third and final season, starring Rose Byrne as a 1980s housewife-turned-aerobics mogul. Zooey Dechanel joins the cast as a TV star who wants to build a fitness empire of her own, setting up a major clash. Byrne acts the hell out of the role, but from the start, the series has gone all-in on darkness and trauma at the expense of being entertaining.
“Invasion” (Aug. 23) is another Apple show with a lot of potential but disappointing execution. The alien-invasion drama, told from the perspectives of characters around the world, is back for a second season, with Earth now on the counterattack. It’s a bit of a mishmash of familiar sci-fi tropes, from “War of the Worlds” to “Arrival,” and while it’s not too late to course-correct, there’s a lot of heavy lifting to be done to make Season 2 compelling.
Apple’s also got “Strange Planet” (Aug. 9), a new adult animated series from co-creator Dan Harmon (“Community,” “Rick and Morty”) and based on the popular online comic about aliens trying to understand the quirks of human life; the four-part documentary “Wanted: The Escape of Carlos Ghosn” (Aug. 25), as the former Nissan and Renault CEO-turned-fugitive tells his story, from his rise up the corporate ladder in Japan to his arrest and eventually his audacious escape to Lebanon; and new episodes every week of “The Afterparty,” “Foundation” and “Swagger” (season finale Aug. 11).
Who’s Apple TV+ for? It offers a little something for everyone, but not necessarily enough for anyone — although it’s getting there.
Play, pause or stop? Pause and think it over. There’s plenty of decent stuff, but maybe not enough to warrant a subscription this month.
Max ($9.99 a month with ads, or $15.99 with no ads)
It’s a fairly light schedule for Max as well. “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty” (Aug. 6) returns for its second season, which will time-jump its way from the end of the 1980 NBA Finals through the 1984 season. Quincy Isaiah and Sean Patrick Small return as Magic Johnson and Larry Bird as their rivalry reaches epic proportions. The new season looks ridiculously fun, even though (or because?) the series plays fast and loose with the facts.
Max also has a new season of the NFL docuseries “Hard Knocks” (Aug. 8), following Aaron Rodgers and the New York Jets, who really seem to want nothing to do with it; “Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake” (Aug. 31), an animated spinoff series about the young adventurer and her magical cat; Season 2 of the hip-hop comedy “Rap Sh!T” (Aug. 10); and the HBO documentary “BS High” (Aug. 23), about an Ohio prep football program that turned out to be a scam.
See more: Everything new coming to Max in August 2023 — and what’s leaving
There are also new episodes every week of “Harley Quinn,” “How To with John Wilson” and “And Just Like That…” (season finale Aug. 24).
Who’s Max for? HBO fans and movie lovers. And now, unscripted-TV fans too, with a slew of Discovery+ shows added under the Warner Bros. Discovery
Play, pause or stop? Pause. While the current lineup is light, an argument could be made that there’s enough quality stuff to catch up on, or rewatch (cough cough “The O.C.”), to make a subscription pay off.
Netflix ($6.99 a month for basic with ads, $15.49 standard with no ads, $19.99 premium with no ads)
has a few fan favorites coming in August, including Season 2 of the massively popular queer romantic dramedy “Heartstopper” (Aug. 3), telling the sweet love story of two British high schoolers, Nick (Kit Connor) and Charlie (Joe Locke), as they prepare for prom and head abroad for a trip to Paris.
There’s also the second half of Season 2 of the legal drama “The Lincoln Lawyer” (Aug. 3), and the addition of all five seasons of the late-oughts ABC hit “Ugly Betty” (Aug. 1), as well as a live-action adaptation of the popular fantasy manga “One Piece” (Aug. 31) and “Painkiller” (Aug. 10), an opioid-epidemic drama starring Matthew Broderick.
See more: Everything coming to Netflix in August 2023 — and what’s leaving
On the documentary side, Netflix will debut “Ladies First: A Story of Women in Hip-Hop” (Aug. 9), delving into female artists such as Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Latto and Tierra Whack; Season 3 of the sports docuseries “Untold” (weekly starting Aug. 1); and “Depp v Heard” (Aug. 16), a series about last year’s lurid celebrity trial.
There’s also “Heart of Stone” (Aug. 11), a derivative spy thriller starring Gal Godot and Jamie Dornan that looks like it was stitched together from scenes of other, better action movies.
Note: Netflix dropped its $9.99-a-month basic plan for new subscribers in July, though existing subcribers can remain on the plan.
Who’s Netflix for? Fans of buzz-worthy original shows and movies.
Play, pause or stop? Pause. Netflix has a massive-enough library that’s there’s almost always something for everyone, but the fresh offerings are light this month.
Amazon’s Prime Video ($14.99 a month)
It’s a super slow month for Amazon
with the most prominent new releases being “The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart” (Aug. 4), an Australian family drama/mystery starring Sigourney Weaver, and “Red, White & Royal Blue” (Aug. 11), a rom-com starring Uma Thurman as a U.S. president whose son falls in love with a British prince. NFL Thursday Night Football is back with a preseason game between the Eagles and Colts, and there are some good movies coming, such as the stupid but fun “Cocaine Bear” (Aug. 15), the charming fantasy adventure “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” (Aug. 25), and the Oscar-winning drama “Women Talking” (Aug. 29).
More: Here’s everything coming to Amazon’s Prime Video and Freevee in August 2023
Also, if you haven’t already, watch “Jury Duty,” which is deserving of all the accolades it’s getting.
Who’s Prime Video for? Movie lovers, TV-series fans who value quality over quantity.
Play, pause or stop? Stop. It’s a slow month, come back another time.
Peacock (Premium for $5.99 a month with ads, or $11.99 a month with no ads)
The comedy series “Killing It” (Aug. 17) is back for its second season, starring Craig Robinson as a down-on-his luck Florida dad struggling to pursue the American dream of building his own business while staying on the straight and narrow (more or less). It’s also got pythons, gators and creepy swamp people, and is one of Peacock’s better comedies.
Peacock also has the streaming debut of the blockbuster “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” (Aug. 3), WWE Summer Slam (Aug. 5) and a slew of live sports, including Spanish-language broadcasts of the Women’s World Cup, the Jets vs. Browns in the NFL’s Hall of Fame Game (Aug. 3), Notre Dame vs. Navy (Aug. 26) in Ireland to kick off the college football season, a new season of English Premier League soccer and an MLB game every Sunday morning.
Note that Comcast Corp.
is raising the price of Peacock by $1 to $2 a month on Aug. 17, and Xfinity subscribers no longer have free access to it.
Who’s Peacock for? Live sports and next-day NBCUniversal shows are the main draw, but there’s a good library of shows and movies.
Play, pause or stop? Stop. “Killing It” is good, but there’s not much more. And if you want Peacock for live sports, September is a better bet, once football and soccer really get into full swing.
Paramount+ ($5.99 a month with ads, $11.99 a month with Showtime and no ads)
Showtime is rolling out new seasons of two of its biggest hits in August, with Season 6 of “The Chi” (Aug. 4), the richly told drama about life on the South Side of Chicago (note the season will be split in half, with eight more eps coming later), and the seventh and final season of “Billions” (Aug. 11), the high-finance drama that will see Damian Lewis return as hedge-fund king Bobby Axelrod, surely to act as a foil once again to Paul Giamatti’s U.S. attorney Chuck Rhodes and Corey Stoll’s rival billionaire Mike Prince. Both series have been outstanding at times, but may have overstayed their welcome.
There’s also “Love in Taipei” (Aug. 10), an original YA romance movie adapted from Abigail Hing Wen’s bestselling novel, a ton of older Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle content, golf’s PGA Championship (Aug. 26-27), NWSL soccer, preseason NFL football with the Lions vs. Panthers (Aug. 25), and the kickoff of Italy’s Serie A soccer and Champions League qualifying matches. Paramount also has new eps of “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” (season finale Aug. 10) and “Special Ops: Lioness” (season finale Sept. 3).
Who’s Paramount+ for? Gen X cord-cutters who miss live sports and familiar Paramount Global
broadcast and cable shows.
Play, pause or stop? Stop. It’ll be more cost-effective to binge-watch “Strange New Worlds,” “The Chi” or “Billions” all in one go at a later date.