After a relatively slow summer, the major streaming services are kicking it back into gear in September, with a slew of new series and movies featuring some very big names. That includes “Mulan,” which will pose perhaps the most difficult choice for consumers this month: Is it really worth paying $30 for a movie? (More on that below.) As this column has previously mentioned, consumers can take full advantage of cord-cutting by capitalizing on the ability to add and drop streaming services each month, and all it takes is good planning and timing. Remember, a billing cycle starts when you sign up, not necessarily at the beginning of each month.
Consumers can also take advantage of deals for free streaming trials, as Disney and Apple TV in particular focus on building subscriber bases rather than growing revenue (for now, at least). You’re never going to get a better deal than free, and the offers won’t last forever.
Keep in mind, some offers have lapsed while new ones have popped up (such as an intriguing bundle of Apple TV , CBS All Access and Showtime for $9.99 a month, and a free Verizon bundle of Disney , Hulu and ESPN for some wireless customers).
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 September 2020, and what’s really worth the monthly subscription fee
Disney ($6.99 a month) OK, let’s get this out of the way first.
Disney ’s September offerings pretty much begin and end with “Mulan” (Sept. 4), the bold gambit for one of the most anticipated movies of the year that could pave a new way for major movies to be released. With the coronavirus pandemic forcing theaters to close (some are starting to reopen only now, with sharply reduced seating capacity), Walt Disney Co.
has decided to take the movie directly to subscribers for $30.
“Mulan” is, of course, the live-action remake of Disney’s 1998 animated hit, about a young Chinese girl who disguises herself as a male warrior to save her father, and becomes a hero battling invaders. The new version looks to be a fairly spectacular action drama.
Keep in mind, it’s not quite a rental and not quite a purchase — for $30 on top of the $6.99-a-month subscription price, Disney says the “unlocked” movie be available to watch for as long as you have a Disney subscription. That’s a big caveat though — if you drop Disney for a month to save money, you’ll also lose access to “Mulan.”
See:$30 to watch ‘Mulan’ on Disney is either outrageous or an amazing deal, depending on who you ask
So bottom line: Is “Mulan” worth paying for? Maybe. While a lot of people gasped at the $30 price tag when it was announced, that still could be cheaper (and safer) than taking multiple kids to the multiplex. Of course, there are those who have no problem splurging on a new Disney movie, and that’s fine. But for the rest of us, there are a few things to consider — IF you’re OK with committing to subscribing to Disney for the long haul, and IF you have multiple kids (or multiple housemates) who’d watch it, and IF “Mulan” gets decent reviews, then sure, feel free to shell out $30 without regret since you can probably justify the cost. But if the answer to any of those is “no,” then consider it safe to skip — $30 is, after all, significantly pricier than a DVD purchase or a typical digital download. One more thing: Don’t count on “Mulan” to be added for free on Disney too quickly. While it will likely join the service’s regular lineup eventually (perhaps six to nine months from now?), remember that for decades Disney has been the master at keeping movies locked in its vault and making their limited availability a selling point.
Who’s Disney for? Families with kids, and hard-core “Star Wars” and Marvel fans. For those not in that group, its library is lacking.
Play, pause or stop? Pause and think it over. Splurging on “Mulan” aside, if you have kids, it’s a no-brainer — Disney is worth a subscription. If not, then you’re not missing much.
Netflix ($8.99 or $12.99 a month) Netflix
is rolling out the big names in September, starting with “Away” (Sept. 4), a space/family drama series starring Oscar-winner Hilary Swank as an astronaut leading the first manned flight to Mars, coping with both the challenges of her mission and the pain of leaving her family behind on Earth. Jason Katims (“Friday Night Lights,” “Parenthood”) serves as executive producer, so expect some serious pulling of the heartstrings.
Another Oscar-winner — writer/director Charlie Kaufman (“Being John Malkovich,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) — will debut his latest film the same day, with the psychological thriller “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” (Sept. 4), starring Jessie Buckley as a young woman meeting her boyfriend’s parents for the first time. Safe to say, it does not go well, as she ends up questioning her sanity and the very nature of reality. Based on the trailer, it looks typically Kaufmanesque — very weird, and likely very good. Staying in the psychological thriller genre, producer Ryan Murphy will roll out his latest drama series “Ratched” (Sept. 18), with Emmy-winner Sarah Paulson starring in the technicolor and campy origin story of one of Hollywood’s great villains: Nurse Ratched from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
There’s also “Enola Holmes” (Sept. 23), a rollicking mystery movie starring Millie Bobby Brown (“Stranger Things”) as the younger sister of Sherlock; Rachael Leigh Cook and Damon Wayans Jr. in the rom-com movie “Love, Guaranteed” (Sept. 3), which looks sappy and predictable but slightly charming; and “Sing On!” (Sept. 16), a karaoke competition series hosted by Tituss Burgess (“The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”).
See: Here’s everything coming to Netflix in September 2020 — and what’s leaving
And after a popular series of novels and at least two TV adaptations, troubled-but-brilliant Swedish detective Kurt Wallander is back, this time in an English-language prequel series exploring how the young cop became a super-sleuth. Adam Palsson plays the rookie investigating a hate crime in “Young Wallander” (Sept. 3). Fans of Nordic shows will also appreciate the addition of all three seasons of the acclaimed 2010-’13 political drama “Borgen” (Sept. 1), which was hailed by critics as the Danish “West Wing.”
September also brings the animated kids’ adventure series “Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous” (Sept. 18); “Sneakerheads” (Sept. 25), a new comedy series about a man and his sneaker obsession; and a ton of mouth-watering food docuseries, including “Chef’s Table: BBQ” (Sept. 2), “Taco Chronicles Volume 2” (Sept. 15) and Season 2 of Jon Favreau’s “The Chef Show” (Sept. 24).
And among older additions, check out “Midnight Special” (Sept 7), a clever 2016 indie sci-fi chase movie that may satisfy your itch for “Stranger Things” until a new season arrives; all three “Back to the Future” movies (all Sept. 1); and the final season of the hit NBC afterlife comedy “The Good Place” (Sept. 26).
Who’s Netflix for? Fans of buzz-worthy original shows and movies.
Play, pause or stop? Play. Netflix is still the king of streaming, and September looks to be a strong month for new releases.
Hulu ($5.99 a month or $11.99 with no ads) As stacked as Netflix’s lineup is in September, Hulu’s is just as impressive. That’s thanks largely to its streaming partnership with FX — arguably cable’s most high-quality network.
A pair of FX favorites are set to return for new seasons, available for streaming the next day on Hulu. It’s been three years since the last season of Noah Hawley’s brilliant crime anthology “Fargo,” but the fourth season will finally drop on Hulu on Sept. 28 (it was originally due in April, but was pushed back due to the pandemic). The series will step back in time this go-around, focusing on a Kansas City mob war in 1950, and stars Chris Rock and Jason Schwartzman as capos in rival crime syndicates. If it’s anything like the previous three installments, “Fargo” will be one of the year’s best shows and very much worth watching. Another FX (technically FXX) hit also returns, with the 11th season of “Archer” (Sept. 17), the animated but extremely adult spy comedy. After three seasons of meandering stories sourced from the comatose Archer’s mind, he’s awake again and back in the spy business — which has apparently changed a bit during his absence. Perhaps going back to basics will rekindle the magic that made “Archer” one of the funniest, most demented shows of its time.
Hulu will also launch a pair of original comedies, with the second season of “Pen15” (Sept. 18) and the debut of “Woke” (Sept. 9). “Pen15” is the cringe-worthy comedy from the brains of Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle, who play seventh-grade versions of themselves. In addition to being incredibly awkward, it’s also very funny. “Woke,” meanwhile, is an intriguing series about a sheltered Black cartoonist who gets harassed by the police, and suddenly sees the world in a whole new, more paranoid light. The trippy-looking series mixes live action and animation, and appears to be very timely.
See: Here’s what’s coming to Hulu in September 2020, and what’s leaving
There’s also the FX docuseries “A Wildness of Error” (Sept. 26), about the notorious Jeffrey MacDonald murder case, and next-day streaming of Fox’s fall shows, including “Bob’s Burgers” and “The Simpsons” (Sept. 28).
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 is the best value in streaming, and with the addition of FX, the top spot for high-quality series.
Amazon Prime Video ($12.99 a month) Amazon.com Inc.’s
streaming service has a new season of a fan favorite coming in September, along with an intriguing conspiracy thriller.
“The Boys” returns for its second season Sept. 4, with the eponymous gang of superhero-haters on the run from the police and the corporate-backed superhero group The Seven. It’s a cynical, ultra-violent and very adult series that has a strong cult following, but its unrelenting unpleasantness isn’t for everyone.
Sept. 25 will see the release of “Utopia,” adapted by Gillian Flynn (“Gone Girl”) and featuring Sasha Lane, Rainn Wilson and John Cusack, among others. It’s about a group of fanboys and -girls who discover that a comic-book conspiracy is actually real, and only they can stop a coming pandemic from wiping out humanity. While feeling a bit meta, the concept of a group of good guys preventing a pandemic seems like nice wish-fulfillment at this point of 2020, and the trailer, at least, looks solidly entertaining.
Also: Here’s everything coming to Amazon Prime Video in September 2020
Prime Video will also debut the political documentary “All In: The Fight for Democracy” (Sept. 18), about voter suppression in the U.S., as well as the soccer docuseries “All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur” (Aug. 31) and a handful of classic movies, such as “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “The Graduate,” and “The Last House on the Left” (all Sept. 1).
Who’s Amazon Prime Video for? Movie lovers, TV-series fans who value quality over quantity.
Play, pause or stop? Pause and think it over. Is this a necessary month to subscribe? Probably not. Is there still enough interesting content there to make it worth your while? Probably.
HBO Max ($14.99 a month) It’s not just Netflix with the big names in September — HBO Max has plenty of its own to offer.
That includes director Ridley Scott’s original Max sci-fi series “Raised by Wolves” (Sept. 3), about a pair of androids raising human children on a mysterious planet; as well as the HBO social-distancing comedy movie“Coastal Elites” (Sept. 12), starring Bette Midler, Issa Rae and Sarah Paulson; and “The Third Day,” a miniseries starring Jude Law and Naomie Harris as visitors to a mysterious island. The trailer, at least, looks intriguingly unsettling.
There’s also the Max original movie “Unpregnant” (Sept. 10), a road-trip comedy about two former best friends mulling over major life decisions; “We Are Who We Are” (Sept. 14), a coming-of-age drama series about two American kids on a military base in Italy; the true-crime story “The Murders at White House Farm” (Sept. 24); and the dog-grooming competition series “Haute Dog” (TBA).
There are also new episodes of the terrific and fantastical horror series “Lovecraft Country” and John Oliver’s always excellent “Last Week Tonight” on tap.
Who’s HBO Max for? HBO fans and movie lovers. Though oddly enough, it’s still NOT for Roku or Amazon Fire users, since HBO Max owner AT&T Inc.
has yet to hammer out a deal with the two biggest makers of streaming-TV devices.
Play, pause or stop? Stop. If you already get HBO, then by all means explore Max. But the lack of Roku and Amazon compatibility makes it hard to recommend Max for most consumers.
Peacock (free basic level, $4.99 a month with ads, or $9.99 a month with no ads) After an underwhelming slate of originals when it launched, September should finally offer a reason or two to consider upgrading to the paid, Premium tier of Peacock, the streaming arm of Comcast Corp.’s
NBCUniversal, with the arrival of NBC Sports, Premier League soccer and a new season of the underrated sitcom “A.P. Bio” (Sept. 3).
Peacock announced a deal in early July to become the U.S. streaming home for the English Premier League, offering more than 175 matches during the 2020-’21 season, starting Sept. 12. That’s about half of the Premier League slate, with the rest being shown on NBC’s broadcast and cable channels. Peacock will also feature live NBC Sports coverage of U.S. Open golf (Sept. 17-20).
Most people missed “A.P. Bio” during its two seasons on NBC, which was a shame. The high-school comedy moves to Peacock for its third season, and it’s well worth checking out. Starring Glenn Howerton (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”) as the worst teacher ever, and featuring one of the best ensemble casts on TV (including Patton Oswalt, Paula Pell and Lyric Lewis), it’s a show that balances twisted humor and just enough heart.
Also coming in September: “Departure” (Sept. 17), a new drama starring Archie Panjabi and Christopher Plummer as investigators probing the mysterious disappearance of a jetliner; “The Public” (Sept. 15) a movie written and directed by Emilio Estevez about a police standoff after a public library is taken over by the homeless during winter; the documentary “A Most Beautiful Thing” (Sept. 3), about the nation’s first Black high school rowing club; “Anthony” (Sept. 4), about a murdered Black teen in Liverpool; the documentary film “The Sit-In: Harry Belafonte Hosts the Tonight Show” (Sept. 10); the documentary “Black Boys” (Sept. 10) from writer-director Sonia Lowman and executive producer and NFL veteran Malcom Jenkins; and new weekly late-night talk shows from comedians Amber Ruffin and Larry Wilmore (dates TBA).
Who’s Peacock for? If you’re a cord-cutter who misses network TV, 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. The free version is nice, but the paid tier will be unnecessary for most people, though its offerings are improving.
Apple TV ($4.99 a month) Looks like yet another month of Apple Inc.’s
streaming service adding a couple of perfectly adequate series.
That’ll be “Tehran” (Sept. 25), a spy thriller about an Israeli agent (Niv Sultan) who goes deep undercover for a dangerous mission in Iran, and “Long Way Up” (Sept. 18), a docuseries about another epic motorcycle trip by actor Ewan McGregor and TV host/travel writer Charley Boorman. Both look just fine, but not quite compelling enough on their own to sign up for a subscription. There are also new episodes of “Ted Lasso,” a surprisingly charming comedy that debuted in August.
Who’s Apple TV for? That’s the big question — it offers a little something for everyone, but not enough for anyone, really.
Play, pause or stop? Stop. With the shallowest library of any other streaming service and only one or two originals a month, it’s still not worth the admittedly low price, although its new bundle deal with CBS All Access/Showtime is intriguing.
CBS All Access ($5.99 a month or $9.99 with no ads) Live sports will be the draw for CBS All Access in September, with the return of the NFL on Sept. 13 (if all goes according to schedule) and the new season of UEFA Champions League soccer. The Champions’ League third qualifying round kicks off Sept. 15, and qualifying playoffs start Sept. 22.
All Access is bolstering its offerings, though, adding a host of shows from across the ViacomCBS Inc.
family of networks (Comedy Central, BET, MTV among others), and is expected to formally relaunch in 2021.
Who’s CBS All Access for? Cord-cutters who miss network TV and sports.
Play, pause or stop? Stop. There’s still not enough to justify the price, though between the upcoming reboot and the bundling deal with Showtime and Apple TV , that could be changing.
Quibi ($4.99 a month with ads, $7.99 a month with no ads) Quibi, too, has at least one big-name release in September, with the new Steven Soderbergh (“Ocean’s Eleven”) drama series “Wireless” (Sept. 14). It stars Tye Sheridan (“Ready Player One”) as a college student lost in the wilderness without cell service.
Who’s Quibi for? Unknown. Perhaps people who like YouTube videos but would rather pay for them?
Play, pause or stop? Stop. Save your money. Just not nearly enough quality for the price.