That’s one simple solution for streaming subscribers on a budget in October. With HBO Max, you get some of the most eagerly awaited movies and series of the year, including “Dune” and “Succession,” and with Netflix you get, well, a whole lot of shows and movies (more on that later). And while it’s being spent on just two services, $30 gets a lot of bang for those bucks.
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 (HBO Max recently offered 50% off for six months, for example, and the new Paramount+ and Showtime bundle is cheaper than getting Showtime alone). 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 October 2021, and what’s really worth the monthly subscription fee.HBO Max ($9.99 a month with ads, $14.99 without ads) This is a month to splurge on HBO Max. It’s hard to tell what the highlight is, there are so many. Fans are drooling over the two new movies from AT&T’s
Warner Bros. that will stream the same day they hit theaters: the “Sopranos” prequel “The Many Saints of Newark” (Oct. 1) and the sci-fi epic “Dune” (Oct. 22). Keep in mind that both are only available on the ad-free tier. “Dune” is the adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic novel by director Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival,” “Blade Runner 2049”), starring Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Jason Momoa and Oscar Isaac. The visually spectacular movie has earned mostly positive reviews, but it may need a strong box-office performance to ensure a sequel is made (not a spoiler, but the movie doesn’t exactly end with a resolution).
While “The Many Saints of Newark” features Michael Gandolfini playing a younger version of Tony Soprano, a role played by his late father, the action focuses more on the older generation of Jersey mobsters in the late ’60s and early ’70s: Dickie Moltisanti (Allesandro Nivola), Johnny Boy Soprano (Jon Bernthal) and wife Livia (Vera Farmiga), and younger versions of “Sopranos” mainstays Silvio, Paulie and Uncle Junior. It’ll be a must-see for “Sopranos” fans, who can also catch up on old episodes on HBO Max. Meanwhile, “Succession” (Oct 17), the deliciously back-stabby, Emmy-winning corporate/family drama (or is it a dark comedy?) returns for its third season, after a nearly two-year layoff, with Logan and Kendall Roy still at each others’ throats and the rest of the family circling to decide whom they should ally with. “Succession” might be the best series on TV, period, and is a must-see.
There’s also a new season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (Oct. 24), featuring Larry David’s unique take on post-pandemic life (“Pretty, prett-ay bad”), and the fifth and final season of Issa Rae’s excellent, Emmy-winning comedy “Insecure” (Oct. 24). The rom-com anthology “Love Life” (Oct. 28) is also back with a second season, this time focusing on the romantic life of a recently divorced guy in New York, played by William Jackson Harper (“The Good Place”). Max is also slipping in “Ten Year Old Tom” (Sept. 30), an animated comedy about the misadventures of a kid, from the creator of the late, great “The Life and Times of Tim.” If you’re one of the seven people who watched “Tim,” you’ll probably love “Tom.” Who’s HBO Max for? HBO fans and movie lovers. Play, pause or stop? Play. HBO Max should be a lot of fun in October. Netflix ($7.99 a month for basic, $13.99 standard or $17.99 premium) Netflix
has left the content firehose on for another month. Don’t like this show? Then check out this one. Or this one. Or … The best of the bunch in October may be Season 3 of the stalker thriller “You” (Oct. 15), as Joe and his new wife and baby take their devious ways to the suburbs, along with Joe’s kidnap cube. It’s a ridiculously soapy, twisted show, but also a really fun binge. Other top picks include “The Guilty” (Oct. 1), an Antoine Fuqua–directed thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a 911 operator trying to save a caller who’s in grave danger; “Maid” (Oct. 1), a drama miniseries based on Stephanie Land’s best-selling memoir about a young woman trying to work her way out of poverty, starring Margaret Qualley; and new seasons of the tween coming-of-age series “The Baby-Sitters Club” (Oct. 11) and the supernatural mystery “Locke & Key” (Oct. 22).
There’s also “Army of Thieves” (Oct. 29), a safe-cracking heist thriller that’s an unlikely prequel to Zack Snyder’s “Army of the Dead”; the vampire movie “Night Teeth” (Oct. 20), starring Megan Fox and Sydney Sweeney; Gwyneth Paltrow’s unscripted relationship show “Sex, Love & Goop” (Oct. 21); “Colin in Black & White” (Oct. 29), the Colin Kaepernick biographic series from Ava DuVernay; and a second season of the costumed dating show “Sexy Beasts” (Oct. 7). Netflix is also adding all nine seasons of “Seinfeld” (Oct. 1), and has a good selection of movies on the way, including “Gladiator,” “Step Brothers,” “Ghost,” “Titanic” and “Zodiac” (all Oct. 1). Read: Here’s everything coming to Netflix in October 2021 — and what’s leaving Who’s Netflix for? Fans of buzz-worthy original shows and movies. Play, pause or stop? Play. There’s just so much stuff. Not all of it is great, but there’s enough in the “good enough” category that Netflix remains a must-have. Apple TV+ ($4.99 a month) Apple
has another month with a pretty loaded lineup. “Invasion” is the big debut in October. The sprawling series about an alien invasion, and its impact around the globe, looks like a mashup of every “War of the Worlds”– and “Independence Day”–type movie you’ve ever seen, but, with a $200 million budget, it should at least look good. Sam Neill and Shamier Anderson star. Three episodes will drop Oct. 22, with new eps every subsequent Friday.
There’s also the bilingual resort comedy “Acapulco” (Oct. 8); “Blush” (Oct. 1), a cute animated short film from the writer/director of “Big Hero 6”; and “Swagger” (Oct. 29), a drama series inspired by Kevin Durant’s youth basketball experience. That’s on top of the season finales of “Ted Lasso” (Oct. 8) and “See” (Oct. 15), and new episodes every week of the disappointing second season of “The Morning Show” and the slow but visually striking sci-fi epic “Foundation.” There’s also “The Problem with Jon Stewart,” which debuts Sept. 30 and will drop new eps Oct. 14 and 28 (every other week, which is a little confusing). Who’s Apple TV+ for? It offers a little something for everyone, but not necessarily enough for anyone — though it’s getting there. Play, pause or stop? Pause and think it over. “Invasion” could be hit or miss, and once “Ted Lasso” ends there’s not a lot that’s must-see — though there is finally plenty to browse. Hulu ($6.99 a month or $12.99 with no ads, starting Oct. 8) Hulu is raising prices by $1, to go along with one very big addition in October: “Dopesick” (Oct. 13), a limited series starring Michael Keaton that examines the birth of the opioid crisis, ranging from the Purdue Pharma boardroom to a small-town Virginia doctor seeing the drugs’ devastating effects firsthand. It looks powerful, if exceedingly grim.
The other new Hulu originals are decidedly more niche, including the baking competition “Baker’s Dozen” (Oct. 7), David Chang’s food docuseries “The Next Thing You Eat” and the incarceration/drug-addiction documentary “Jacinta.” There are also the last few episodes of the delightful comedy-mystery “Only Murders in the Building,” which concludes its first season Oct. 19. (And who knew Selena Gomez would be the perfect foil for Steve Martin and Martin Short?) See: Here’s what’s new on Hulu in October 2021 — and what’s leaving Hulu also has a lot network shows for cord cutters, including the season premieres of “Saturday Night Live” (Oct. 3), “Shark Tank” (Oct. 9) and “The Bachelorette” (Oct. 18) streaming a day after they air. But really, the best watches are via FX on Hulu, with new episodes of the excellent vampire mocumentary “What We Do in the Shadows” and the gradually improving sci-fi drama “Y: The Last Man.” Or catch up on the recently completed first season of “Reservation Dogs,” which started as a breezy hangout comedy about a group of indigenous slackers on an Oklahoma reservation and turned into a powerful, existential character study (shades of “Atlanta”) and just might be the best new series of 2021. 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. “Dopesick” should be very good, and the strong slate of FX on Hulu series make up for weaknesses elsewhere, but it’s also a safe time to drop Hulu without FOMO. Those series will still be there later. Peacock (free basic level, Premium for $4.99 a month with ads, or $9.99 a month with no ads) I’m not much of a horror-movie person, but for those who are Peacock will be one to watch in October. NBCUniversal’s service has a slew of creepy, spooky and blood-splattered movies on tap just in time for Halloween, topped by “Halloween Kills” (Oct. 15), as Jamie Lee Curtis returns to the iconic franchise to lead a vigilante mob to hunt down and kill Michael Myers once and for all. It’ll stream the same day it hits theaters.
It’s also the streaming home of “Friday the 13th,” “Saw,” “Chucky” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” franchises, along with movie classics like “Dracula,” “Frankenstein” and “The Invisible Man.” Peacock will also feature special Halloween episodes of some of its best series, including “Cheers,” “Frasier,” “Superstore,” “30 Rock” and “Saturday Night Live.” There’s also the addition of all eight Harry Potter movies (Oct. 15); “One of Us Is Lying” (Oct. 7), a teen drama that sounds like roughly “The Breakfast Club” plus murder; and “The Girl in the Woods” (Oct. 21), a new supernatural teen drama; and the second seasons of “The Amber Ruffin Show” (Oct. 8) and the British comedy “Hitmen” (Oct. 28). On the sports side, there are five Sunday-night NFL games, three Notre Dame football games, the WWE Crown Jewel pay-per-view event (Oct. 21), and a slate of English Premier League matches. 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? Pause and think it over. If you’re a cord cutter who still needs live sports, it’s a solid choice, and there’s a good amount of content on the paid tiers. But it’s not necessarily essential for everyone. Paramount+ ($4.99 a month with ads but not live CBS, $5.99 a month with ads, $9.99 without ads) Paramount+ will look to bring the scares with “Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin” (Oct. 29), the latest installment in the Blumhouse horror-movie franchise, along with library movies such as “A Quiet Place” (I and II), “The Ring,” “Zodiac” and more. On the non-Halloween-themed side, there’s the premiere of the animated “Star Trek: Prodigy” (Oct. 28), about a young crew mentored by a holographic Capt. Janeway; “Madame X” (Oct. 8), a Madonna concert documentary shot in Lisbon on her 2019-20 tour; and “Guilty Party” (Oct. 14), an intriguing dramedy series starring Kate Beckinsale as a disgraced journalist who tries to salvage her career while working to exonerate a wrongly imprisoned young mother.
There’s also a healthy slate of sports, including the NFL, college football, CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers and UEFA Champions League soccer matches. Heads up for those looking for a deal: Paramount+ is offering a limited-time bundle with Showtime, starting at $9.99 a month, which is cheaper than Showtime’s standalone service. Who’s Paramount+ for? Gen X cord cutters who miss live sports and familiar ViacomCBS
broadcast and cable shows. Play, pause or stop? Pause. Unless you need your sports fix, there’s just not enough that’s sufficiently compelling to pay for. Disney+ ($7.99 a month) Disney+ revealed recently that subscriber growth has slowed this quarter, and it’s easy to see why: Without one of the live-action Marvel or “Star Wars” series, there’s no big draw. October looks to be another slow month, with the only major release the Halloween special “Muppets Haunted Mansion” (Oct. 8), inspired by the Disneyland ride (hey, corporate synergy!), as Gonzo tries to spend the night in the aforementioned haunted mansion. It doesn’t look nearly as sharp as the Muppet specials of old.
On the other hand, “Black Widow” (Oct. 6) will finally be available for no additional fee. The Scarlett Johannson movie hit theaters in July and earned a fair bit of critical acclaim. Meanwhile, there are new episodes of the solid coming-of-age dramedy “Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.” and the finale of Marvel’s animated “What If …” Who’s Disney+ for? Families with kids, and hardcore “Star Wars” and Marvel fans. For those not in those groups, Disney’s
library can be lacking. Play, pause or stop? Stop (if your kids will let you). While there’s enough in the library to entertain the family, there’s nothing that demands to be seen right now. Amazon Prime Video ($12.99 a month) Like Peacock, Amazon Prime Video is all about horror in October. But for those not into horror, there’s not much else. The highlight is “I Know What You Did Last Summer” (Oct. 15), a reboot of the 1997 slasher movie about a group of awful teenagers who share a guilty secret and are being stalked by a serial killer. It was written and produced by Sara Goodman, who had a similar role on the original “Gossip Girl,” so there’s a chance this will be better and more clever than you might expect — much like “GG” and the original “I Know What You Did Last Summer” movie.
also has four original Blumhouse horror movies, with “Bingo Hell” and “Black as Night” dropping Oct. 1, and “The Manor” and “Madres” coming Oct. 8, all part of Prime’s “Now Screaming” collection, which also includes a ton of horror thrillers, including the out-of-season but still disturbing “Midsommar.” For more: Here’s what’s new to Amazon Prime Video in October 2021 Horror aside, the pickings are slim, though sports fans can check out the docuseries “All or Nothing: Toronto Maple Leafs” (Oct. 1) and the return of the NFL on “Thursday Night Football” (every Thursday starting Oct. 7). Who’s Amazon Prime Video for? Movie lovers, TV-series fans who value quality over quantity. Play, pause or stop? Stop. Amazon has a great library, but there’s nothing worth paying for right now.Discovery+ ($4.99 a month, $6.99 ad-free) You would think the home of “Ghost Hunters” and a million true-crime series would be on top of things for Halloween, and you’d be right. Paramount+ has a ton of Halloween stuff, including “Ghost Adventures: Goldfield Hotel” (Oct. 1), “Eli Roth Presents: A Ghost Ruined My Life” (Oct. 8), “Jack and Kelly Osbourne: Night of Terror” (Oct. 24) and, of course, “Ghost Hunters” (Oct. 31). On the nonspooky side, there’s the documentary “Introducing, Selma Blair” (Oct. 21), an intimate portrait of the actress and her fight with multiple sclerosis, and the sports documentary “The Men Who Stole the World Cup” (Oct. 17), about Qatar’s 2022 World Cup bid and FIFA corruption.
Who’s Discovery+ for? Cord cutters who miss their unscripted TV or who are really, really into “Ghost Hunters.” 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.)