November is light on new streaming releases, offering consumers either a chance to widen their viewing horizons or an opportunity to save some money.
With the exception of Season 4 of Netflix’s “The Crown,” the slate of new prestige shows is blank (no, Peacock’s “Saved By the Bell” reboot doesn’t qualify). The one truly must-see series, Disney+’s “The Mandalorian,” technically debuts in October, though will drop new episodes every Friday in November.
While the light lineup will allow some viewers to take a breath and catch up with older shows, it should also give budget-minded consumers a chance to drop a service or two for a month, and save money without fear of missing out on the next big thing.
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.
While Netflix Inc.
has raised prices and ended its 30-day free preview, you can get a year of Apple TV+ for free when you purchase a new Apple
device (such as the new iPhone 12), and Verizon
offers a free 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 November 2020, and what’s really worth the monthly subscription fee.
Disney+ ($6.99 a month)
Walt Disney Co.’s
streaming service should be a must-have in November, thanks largely to its massive hit show “The Mandalorian,” which starts its second season Oct. 30, with new episodes every Friday. As mentioned in last month’s column, the “Star Wars” spinoff is one of most purely fun, enjoyable series out there, with first-rate special effects to boot. It makes the price of a Disney+ subscription worthwhile all on its own.
Luckily, there are more quality offerings, including the good-but-not-great reboot of “The Right Stuff” (new episodes every Friday until its season finale Nov. 20); its companion documentary “The Real Right Stuff” (Nov. 20); and a “modern-day reimagining” of “Black Beauty” (Nov. 27), the classic story of the bond between a girl and her horse.
We can’t forget the “Lego Star Wars Holiday Special” (Nov. 17). Die-hard “Star Wars” fans will remember (or at least have heard about) the “Star Wars Holiday Special” in 1978, which went down as one of the worst made-for-TV movies in history and was never re-aired again. It shouldn’t be hard to make a better version, and the Lego animated franchise has a pretty decent track record, so at the very least it should be watchable.
There are also new episodes of a few Disney docu-series, which, frankly, come off as extended infomercials, but viewers looking for value can counterbalance those with the entire catalog of “The Simpsons.”
Who’s Disney+ for? Families with kids, and hard-core “Star Wars” and Marvel fans. For those not in that group, its library can be lacking.
Play, pause or stop? Play. There aren’t many must-see shows anymore. But “The Mandalorian” is one, and it works on enough levels that the whole family can enjoy it.
Netflix ($7.99 a month for basic, $13.99 standard or $17.99 premium)
Netflix is focusing most of its energy in November to challenging Lifetime and the Hallmark Channel as THE place for holiday movies, rolling out a flurry of cheesy Christmas-themed rom-coms, family dramedies and musical specials (at least 19 at last count). Most look forgettable, though at least “Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square” (Nov. 22) features 14 original songs from Parton, who’s simply an American treasure.
Among non-holiday fare, the undoubted highlight is Season 4 of “The Crown” coming Nov. 15, introducing Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher, and Josh O’Connor and Emma Corrin as Charles and Diana. Olivia Colman stars again as Queen Elizabeth, and viewers can expect the usual fine acting, lavish sets and costumes, and behind-the-scenes personal drama of the royal family. At this point it’s Netflix’s crown jewel, and with good reason.
Last November, Netflix kicked off its big Oscar push with Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman.” This year, Ron Howard’s “Hillbilly Elegy” (Nov 24) gets that treatment. The drama, starring Amy Adams and Glen Close, is about a family’s struggles in Appalachia, based on the J.D. Vance memoir. Expect some controversy, as it’s already come under fire on social media about its depiction of poverty in rural America.
The rest of Netflix’s lineup for the month is surprisingly light — at least by its own drown-them-with-content standards. The dark-horse standout may be “The Liberator” (Nov. 11), a “Band of Brothers”-like World War II drama that uses a new animation technique that blends CGI and live action. The result is visually stunning.
Need more? Try the affable and comforting fourth season of the food/travel show “Somebody Feed Phil,” which drops Oct. 30; new episodes of “The Great British Baking Show” every Friday; the newly released chess drama “The Queen’s Gambit,” which is getting a lot of positive critical buzz; or dive into the library and check out “Occupied,” a pulse-pounding political drama set in Norway after Russia has seized control of the oil-rich country.
Who’s Netflix for? Fans of buzz-worthy original shows and movies.
Play, pause or stop? Play. Even at a slightly higher price and without a ton of new stuff, Netflix is still the king of streaming thanks to its massive library. This could be a good month to catch up on what you’ve missed over the past months.
Apple TV+ ($4.99 a month)
The time has finally come to give Apple’ s streaming service a chance. Now, is it really worth it? Meh. But a free year’s subscription to TV+ will come to all those buying the much-hyped new iPhone — and that should bring a lot of new viewers. Besides, it’s fairly cheap and there’s not a lot of streaming competition in November, so why not finally give TV+ a test drive?
Unfortunately, Apple has no new releases to speak of in November, as most of its second-season lineup has been pushed back to 2021 due to pandemic-related production shutdowns. Still, there’s enough there to explore.
The best of the bunch is the recently completed “Ted Lasso,” a surprisingly warm comedy about an American football coach who takes over a struggling English soccer team. You don’t need to be a sports fan to enjoy its charms. The same can be said about “Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet,” a deliberately nerdy-sounding workplace comedy set at a videogame company. Both start slow but become much more engaging than expected, ending on satisfying and emotional high notes. (Check out the “Mythic Quest” pandemic special too.)
Among dramas, “Little America” is a heartfelt, sometimes hilarious, sometimes tearful, look at immigrants in America, based on true stories. “Tehran” is a sharp, suspenseful spy drama (if you don’t mind subtitles), and “For All Mankind” offers an intriguing alternate history of the space race if the Soviets had landed on the moon first. It could actually be a fun binge after watching Disney+’s “The Right Stuff” (Eric Laden even plays a similar character in each), and Season 2 is expected soon, perhaps in December.
There’s also a Bruce Springsteen documentary, “Letter to You,” that dropped in late October and serves as a companion piece to his new album, and to the chagrin of many, Apple is also the new, exclusive home to the “Peanuts” holiday specials, meaning that for the first time in more than 50 years, there’ll be no Charlie Brown on network TV this year. The “Peanuts” Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas specials will be made available for free, however, for a few days each (click here for those dates).
Who’s Apple TV+ for? It offers a little something for everyone, but not really enough for anyone, unfortunately.
Play, pause or stop? Play. Despite a relatively shallow library, it’s worth a look, at least. And if you buy a new Apple device, there’s no excuse for not checking it out for free.
Hulu ($5.99 a month or $11.99 with no ads)
Hulu’s November lineup isn’t particularly impressive, save perhaps the reboot of “Animaniacs” (Nov. 20), which should be a treat for nostalgia-hungry adults who grew up in the ’90s. Its surreal, meta, slapstick antics should appeal to a new generation as well.
The most interesting-looking originals are “Eater’s Guide to the World” (Nov. 11), a new food/travel show narrated by Maya Rudolph; “I Am Greta” (Nov. 13), a documentary about teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg; and “No Man’s Land” (Nov. 18), a drama series about French man searching for his missing sister amid the carnage of Syria’s civil war.
Along with new episodes of “Fargo,” a pair of new FX series will stream on Hulu the day after they air on cable: “A Teacher” (Nov. 10), a drama about a teacher (Kate Mara) who has a ruinous affair with a teenage student, and “Black Narcissus” (Nov. 24), a drama set in a Himalayan convent in 1934, featuring one of the last performances by the late Diana Rigg.
There’s also the holiday rom-com “Happiest Season” (Nov. 25), which will debut on Hulu in lieu of theaters. Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis star as couple having a very awkward Christmas dinner with family.
Or dive into the library and binge the hilariously caustic “Difficult People,” which now is almost a time capsule of pre-pandemic New York City, or the fun, better-than-it-needed-to-be USA spy drama “Burn Notice.”
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. Hulu remains the best value in streaming, but with a weak offering of originals in November, you won’t miss much by dropping it for a month or so.
Amazon Prime Video ($12.99 a month)
Nothing new to see here. Amazon.com Inc.’s
streaming service might as well be taking a month off.
However, dog-lovers may enjoy “The Pack” (Nov. 20), a global adventure competition series with dogs and their companions, hosted by Olympian Lindsey Vonn, and “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” which came out Oct. 23, is worth a watch.
But the handful of other new releases look fairly generic and forgettable. If you have a yearly Prime subscription and want to make it worth your while, check out “Red Oaks,” a coming-of-age comedy set at a country club in the ’80s that lasted three seasons, or “Patriot,” a wonderfully unique dramedy from a few years back about a depressed spy, that’s dark and bizarre and often very funny; or “ZeroZeroZero,” an intense, cynical, violent drama from earlier this year that focuses on the three arms of a massive cocaine deal — the sellers in Mexico, the buyers in Italy, and the middlemen from America.
Who’s Amazon Prime Video for? Movie lovers, TV-series fans who value quality over quantity.
Play, pause or stop? Stop. While Amazon has an impressive catalog, there’s nothing compelling about November’s offerings.
HBO Max ($14.99 a month)
HBO Max has a little bit of everything in November, but it’s yet to be seen that any of it will be particularly good.
Along with new episodes of “The Undoing,” the thriller that debuted in late October starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant that’s only getting middling reviews, there’s Season 2 of the uneven fantasy epic “His Dark Materials” (Nov. 16); the Max original series “The Flight Attendant” (Nov. 26), a comedy/murder mystery starring Kaley Cuoco; and the Max original movie “Superintelligence” (Nov. 26), an action-comedy about AI that’s trying to destroy the Earth, starring Melissa McCarthy and James Corden.
There’s also a “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” reunion special (date TBA), a batch of classic Looney Tunes cartoons (Nov. 4), and the season finale of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” (Nov. 15). The supposed home of DC Comics movies is also losing “Aquaman” and “The Dark Knight” next month. Why? Who knows, since no one outside of Hollywood lawyers understand how licensing issues work anymore.
Who’s HBO Max for? HBO fans and movie lovers. Though frustratingly 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 — you’re already paying for it. And there’s a terrific movie library. 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)
The streaming service from Comcast Corp.’s
NBCUniversal doesn’t have a whole lot coming in November either.
Nostalgic reboots are all the rage these days, so Peacock is joining the fray with a new “Saved By the Bell” (Nov. 25), in which, God help us, Zack Morris is now the governor of California, who gets into hot water for closing a number of underfunded high schools and decides to solve the problem by sending the affected students to the state’s most well-funded schools, including good ol’ Bayside High. Where it just so happens that Jessie and Slater now work. It looks truly awful.
Along with new episodes from NBCUniversal’s broadcast and cable lineup, there’s also “Save Me Too” (Nov. 5), a sequel to the award-winning British series “Save Me,” as a father continues to hunt for his missing daughter, and Season 3 of the Kevin Costner drama series “Yellowstone” (Nov. 22), which aired on cable over the summer.
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 possible exception of soccer fans, since Peacock is the exclusive streaming home of the English Premier League).
CBS All Access ($5.99 a month or $9.99 with no ads)
Not much new to see here, aside from “Texas 6,” a new docu-series following a Texas high school six-man football team. That’s in addition to current shows from CBS and Viacom cable channels.
Sports fans will also get to watch NFL football, SEC college football, UEFA Champions League matches and The Masters golf tournament (Nov. 12-15).
Who’s CBS All Access for? Cord-cutters who miss live sports and shows from the ViacomCBS
family of networks.
Play, pause or stop? Stop. There’s not enough here to justify the price.
R.I.P., Quibi. The service is shutting down, to the surprise of no one, though programming will continue to run until around Dec. 1. It’s unclear where Quibi shows will end up — if anywhere — since the failed network didn’t own any of its content. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see a few titles pop up as repackaged, full-length episodes on other streaming services in the future, though.