It really is trick-or-treat time for streaming services this October.
There are a handful of excellent treats coming — among them “The White Lotus,” “Derry Girls” and “The Peripheral” — but subscriptions to most services amount to a trick during a month when they really don’t have much to offer.
As streaming prices rise, it’s becoming more important to be choosy. And while this month’s must-have picks aren’t from the cheapest services of the bunch, they can still be had for under $40 in total.
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 and sell. We also pick the best content to help you make your monthly decisions.
As we’ve mentioned before, consumers can take full advantage of cord-cutting though 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 (HBO Max is offering 40% off an annual deal through Oct. 30), 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 October 2022, and what’s really worth the monthly subscription fee.
Netflix ($9.99 a month for basic, $15.49 standard or $19.99 premium)
In the three years I’ve been writing this column, probably the most frequent question I’ve been asked is, “When is ‘Derry Girls’ coming back?”
We finally have an answer. After the show’s three-year hiatus, fans don’t have much longer to wait: The third and final season of “Derry Girls” (which aired in the U.K. this spring) lands Oct. 7. Set amid The Troubles of 1990s Northern Ireland, the final seven episodes find the gang — Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Nicola Coughlan, Jamie-Lee O’Donnell, Louisa Harland and Dylan Llewellyn — beginning their final year of high school in the wake of the historic Good Friday accord. It’s a sharp, very specific and hilarious coming-of-age comedy — and don’t be afraid to turn on the subtitles (if not for the accents, then to pick up the slang).
On the movie side, Netflix has “The Good Nurse” (Oct. 26), a true-crime serial-killer thriller starring Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne; “Wendell & Wild” (Oct. 28), a fantastical stop-motion-animated extravaganza from director Henry Selick (“Coraline”) that stars Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele as demons from hell; and “The School for Good and Evil” (Oct. 19), a fantasy adventure from director Paul Feig (“Bridesmaids”) starring Sophia Anne Caruso, Sofia Wylie and Charlize Theron.
Who’s Netflix for? Fans of buzz-worthy original shows and movies.
Play, pause or stop? Play. When it’s at the top of its game, as it is this month, Netflix is a must-have.
Amazon Prime Video ($14.99 a month)
The slick-looking sci-fi series “The Peripheral” (Oct. 21) has an impressive pedigree, coming from “Westworld” creators Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan and based on the bestselling novel by William Gibson. Chloë Grace Moretz (“Kick-Ass,” “Let Me In”) and Gary Carr (“The Deuce”) star in the story of a young woman who, while struggling to hold her broken family together in a postapocalyptic America, discovers a secret technology that gives her a window into an alternate future — and the potential to change her own. The book was fantastic, and the series holds a lot of potential.
Traveling the opposite way in time, Bella Ramsey (“Game of Thrones”) stars in “Catherine Called Birdy” (Oct. 7), a movie directed by Lena Dunham (“Girls”) and set in medieval England that focuses on a spirted 14-year-old girl from a once-rich family that’s fallen on hard times who yearns for a life beyond being married off to the highest bidder. The coming-of-age comedy is adapted from the acclaimed 1994 novel by Karen Cushman. It was released in select theaters in September, and critics’ reviews were glowing.
Then there’s “The Devil’s Hour” (Oct. 28), a British thriller series starring Jessica Raine (“Call the Midwife”) as a mother who’s awoken by bizarre and terrifying visions every day at precisely 3:33 a.m. Peter Capaldi (“Doctor Who”) co-stars as an obsessive nomad who helps her piece together what’s happening.
Prime Video is also adding a slate of classic Halloween movies, headlined by “Edward Scissorhands” (Oct. 1), as well as recent movies like “Downton Abbey: A New Era” (Oct. 28) and “The Northman” (Oct. 11). And it has exclusive rights to NFL Thursday Night Football every week.
Who’s Amazon Prime Video for? Movie lovers, TV-series fans who value quality over quantity.
Play, pause or stop? Play. “The Rings of Power” is great at times, if you can stay awake, and October’s offerings bolster the case for a Prime subscription.
Disney+ ($7.99 a month)
It’s a mixed bag for Disney+ in October, with new stuff sparse but a strong slate of continuing series.
The biggest newcomer is “Werewolf by Night” (Oct. 7), a Halloween-themed special starring Gael García Bernal and Laura Donnelly that’s tied into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Based on a popular comic book, the special — shot in classic black and white — features a mysterious group of monster hunters on the trail of some big scaries, including the Werewolf and Man-Thing.
There’s also Season 2 of “Big Shot” (Oct. 12), the girls’ high-school basketball dramedy starring John Stamos, and a singalong version of the fairy-tale musical “Into the Woods” (Oct. 14).
But the real draw will be Disney’s DIS,
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. Unlike a couple of its very high-profile fellow prequel series on other streaming services, “Andor” knows how to tell a compelling standalone story from the get-go, focusing on characters and world-building rather than leaning on a mythology and special effects. It’s a refreshing throwback and already one of the best shows of the year. Even without much new programming, Disney+ is worth a subscription for “Andor” alone.
Hulu ($7.99 a month, or $14.99 with no ads)
Prices are rising at Hulu, where subscribers will pay $1-$2 more each month for their plans starting Oct. 10. A weak October lineup makes that price hike a bit more bitter.
Hulu’s biggest upcoming addition is all six seasons of the beloved Canadian comedy “Schitt’s Creek” (Oct. 3), which are moving over from Netflix. But aside from that, it’s a quiet month.
With an eye on horror as Halloween approaches, Hulu is resurrecting an iconic movie franchise with its original reboot of “Hellraiser” (Oct. 7), starring Odessa A’zion, with Jamie Clayton (“Sense8”) as a female Pinhead. It’s also got “Matriarch” (Oct. 21), another original movie, starring Emma Roberts as an ailing woman who visits her mother in a small English village only to discover a terrifying secret, and David Cronenberg’s latest, “Crimes of the Future” (Oct. 31), a squirm-inducing biotech horror starring Viggo Mortensen, Kristen Stewart and Lea Seydoux that freaked out crowds at the Cannes film festival.
Hulu is also adding a bunch of older horror flicks, like “Let Me In,” “The Sixth Sense” and “Blade” (all Oct. 1), and has next-day streaming of ABC’s fall slate of dramas, including “The Good Doctor” (Oct. 4), “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Station 19” and the new newspaper drama “Alaska Daily,” starring Hilary Swank (all Oct. 7).
But the real value is in the ongoing series, with new episodes every week of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Archer,” the revitalized final season of “Atlanta,” the sharp TV satire “Reboot,” ABC’s hit sitcom “Abbott Elementary” and the Steve Carell-Domhnall Gleeson serial-killer thriller “The Patient” (finale Oct. 25). Meanwhile, the funny, empathetic and moving “Reservation Dogs” ascended to another level in its recently completed second season. It just might be the single best thing on TV this year.
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? Pause and think it over. While there’s nothing new to speak of, Hulu’s roster of ongoing shows still has a lot of appeal.
HBO Max ($14.99 a month without ads, or $9.99 with ads)
While it has popular buzz, the “Game of Thrones” prequel “House of the Dragon” has somehow forgotten what made its predecessor such a massive hit: compelling characters and cohesive storytelling (well, at least for its earlier seasons). Frankly, “House of the Dragon” is a mess, with disruptive time jumps and a tendency to tell, not show, plot developments, which gives viewers no continuity and little to invest in and squanders potential emotional payoffs. It should be much better, and it may yet be able to course-correct, but time — and patience — is running out ahead of the season finale Oct. 23.
At least HBO’s post-“Dragon” future looks bright, with the welcome return of Mike White’s scathing dark comedy “The White Lotus” (Oct. 30), which just cleaned up at the Emmys. Season 2 of the resort-set anthology moves to a new location of the fictional luxury hotel chain, this time in Sicily. The characters are mostly new too — though Emmy-winner Jennifer Coolidge will return — with F. Murray Abraham, Michael Imperioli, Aubrey Plaza, Sabrina Impacciatore and Tom Hollander joining the cast. “The White Lotus” was one of last year’s absolute highlights, and there are very high expectations for Season 2.
Meanwhile, the intergalactic-cruise-disaster comedy “Avenue 5” (Oct. 10) returns for its second — and likely last — season. Armando Iannucci’s series first debuted way back in January 2020, and the pandemic forced long production delays that did it no favors. The first season was uneven and felt forced, and Season 2 may be better off staying lost in space.
There’s also Season 3 of the newly rebranded (and now SEO-friendly) “Batman” prequel series “Pennyworth: The Origin of Batman’s Butler” (Oct. 6); “Fixer Upper: The Castle” (Oct. 4), a new series from Chip and Joanna Gaines, who restore a castle in Waco, Texas; and “The Vow, Part Two” (Oct. 17), a follow-up documentary series following the legal journeys of those involved with the NXIVM cult. And in the run-up to Halloween, check out new episodes of the wonderfully weird “Los Espookys” (season finale Oct. 21), about a group of friends who stage horror-inspired experiences. You can also catch up on the addictive investment-banking series “Industry,” which made the jump to top-echelon drama in its recently completed second season.
Who’s HBO Max for? HBO fans and movie lovers.
Play, pause or stop? Pause and think it over. “House of the Dragon” is not great, but “Los Espookys” is, and the new installment of “The White Lotus” very well could be. But beyond those, there’s a severe drop-off in quality.
Paramount+ ($4.99 a month with ads but not live CBS, $5.99 a month with ads, $9.99 without ads)
It’s a pretty slow month for Paramount+ too.
Six years after airing its last episode on Comedy Central, the critically acclaimed sketch-comedy series “Inside Amy Schumer” (Oct. 20) is being revived for a five-episode fifth season. Sticking with Comedy Central shows, there’s also a new season of “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” (starting Oct. 3), and Seasons 1-6 of the hilarious and somehow educational “Drunk History” (Oct. 19).
There are also new episodes of “The Good Fight” (every Thursday), “Mike Judge’s Beavis & Butt-head” (every Thursday) and “Star Trek: Prodigy” (starting Oct. 27), as well as the insipid-looking Mattel commercial “Monster High: The Movie” (Oct. 6). Paramount is also adding a ton of Halloween-themed scary movies, including “Burnt Offerings” and “Jacob’s Ladder” (both Oct. 1), the first three “Scream” movies (Oct. 3) and “The Grudge” (Oct. 17).
On the sports side, Paramount has college football every Saturday, NFL football every Sunday, and group-stage matches from UEFA’s Champions League and Europa League.
Note: There’s also a new Paramount+/Showtime bundle for $11.99 basic or $14.99 with no commercials, with Showtime integrated into the P+ app. It’s not as good a value as the similarly priced HBO Max, but it does offer a big movie library and access to Showtime hits like “Yellowjackets,” “The Chi” and “Billions.”
Who’s Paramount+ for? Gen X cord-cutters who miss live sports and familiar Paramount Global PARA,
Play, pause or stop? Pause. If you’re a fan of “The Good Fight,” CBS shows or live sports, it may be worth signing up. But the budget play may be to wait until “The Good Fight” ends, subscribe for a month and binge then.
Apple TV+ ($4.99 a month)
It’s feast or famine for Apple AAPL,
And the plate is not particularly full this month. The big additions are “Shantaram” (Oct. 14), a drama series starring Charlie Hunnam (“Sons of Anarchy”) as an Australian fugitive trying to rebuild his life in India; “Raymond and Ray” (Oct. 21), a comedy/drama movie starring Ewan McGregor and Ethan Hawke as half-brothers trying to reinvent themselves after their awful father’s death; Season 2 of the affable resort comedy “Acapulco” (Oct. 21); and the documentary “Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues” (Oct. 28), a biography of the iconic musician. They all look … fine, but not particularly compelling.
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? Stop. There’s just not enough to justify a subscription this month.
Peacock (free basic level, Premium for $4.99 a month with ads, or $9.99 a month with no ads)
Peacock continues to frustrate. It’s got an impressive library, next-day streaming of NBC and Bravo shows, along with some very good originals, but a clunky user experience and a tendency to cancel some of its more interesting series, like “Queer as Folk” and “Rutherford Falls,” is dismaying, as is how its free tier has been stripped of almost anything worth watching.
For October, Peacock is touting its star-studded true-crime miniseries “A Friend of the Family” (Oct. 6), starring Jake Lacy, Anna Paquin, Colin Hanks and Mckenna Grace. Lacy plays a seemingly nice guy who’s actually a psychopath and kidnaps the girl next door. Based on the trailer, it looks well done but not particularly original or enjoyable.
Peacock also has next-day streaming of the new season of “Saturday Night Live” (Oct. 1) and the return of the excellent “Amber Ruffin Show” (Oct. 3), as well as a ton of horror movies just in time for Halloween, including “Halloween Ends” (Oct. 14), the final (?) installment of the latest Michael Myers saga starring Jamie Lee Curtis.
On the sports side, there’s Notre Dame football, NFL Sunday Night Football and a full slate of English Premier League soccer.
Who’s Peacock for? If you have a Comcast CMCSA,
Play, pause or stop? Stop. There’s not a lot that’s particularly enticing right now.
Discovery+ ($4.99 a month, $6.99 ad-free)
Expect more of the usual unscripted programs from Discovery+, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This month’s highlights include: “We Bought a Funeral Home” (Oct. 1), a docuseries about a family renovating a spooky Victorian funeral home; “Jack Osbourne’s Haunted Homecoming” (Oct. 2), as Jack returns to his family home in England and checks out nearby haunts; “Be My Guest with Ina Garten” (Oct. 9), featuring food and chats with celebrity guests; and “The Journey of India” (Oct. 10), a wide-ranging docuseries examining India’s global legacy, narrated by Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan.
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. Sorry. Discovery+ is still fantastic for background TV, but it’s not worth the cost. Still, it should add value when the reconfigured Warner Bros. Discovery WBD,