Good news: March’s streaming lineup offers a welcome respite from grim war news and doom-scrolling.
That’s because it’s the start of Emmy season, with streaming services launching their best and brightest shows, from a new season of Netflix’s romantic megahit “Bridgerton” to Apple’s sweeping family drama “Pachinko” to Paramount’s escapist shoot-’em-up “Halo.”
The one catch? Consumers who want to catch the best of the bunch will have to shell out a bit more money in March: The four top streaming services of the month can be had for less than $40 in total — but that doesn’t count Netflix, which, despite a few returning hit shows, is still mired in an overall programming slump, and one could easily spend another $15 to $30 depending on which shows feel essential.
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 though a churn-and-return strategy — that’s 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. 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 March 2022, and what’s really worth the monthly subscription fee.
Apple TV+ ($4.99 a month)
Not content to already have one of the year’s best new series (“Severance”), Apple
is rolling out one of the year’s most anticipated new series (and another sure Emmy contender) in March.
That would be “Pachinko” (March 25), an epic and intimate drama about a Korean family who immigrate to Japan at the beginning of the 20th century, with flash forwards to their descendants living in the U.S. in the 1980s. Oscar-winner Yuh-Jung Youn (“Minari”) stars as the family’s matriarch reflecting back on her life, with Minha Kim and Yu-na Jeon playing younger versions of herself. The eight-episode series is based on Korean-American author Min Jin Lee’s bestselling novel and will be told in three languages: Korean, Japanese and English. Touching on universal themes of love, family and resilience, “Pachinko” could be one of the TV highlights of the year. American audiences have shown they’re no longer afraid of subtitles, and Apple has high hopes that this will become its first global hit drama.
Another potential hit is “The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey” (March 11), a miniseries based on the Walter Mosley novel starring Samuel L. Jackson as a 93-year-old man with dementia who undergoes an experimental treatment that restores all his life’s memories, but just for a short time, and he uses his brief lucidity to try to solve his nephew’s murder. It co-stars Dominique Fishback and — in a good sign — Walton Goggins, who never seems to be in anything bad.
Apple also as “WeCrashed” (March 18), an eight-episode miniseries based on the popular podcast about the rapid rise and stunning fall of the multibillion-dollar startup WeWork. It stars Jared Leto (doing another over-the-top accent) as charismatic founder Adam Neumann and Anne Hathaway as his wife/muse/manifestor. Amid a general docudrama overload, and with no shortage of news articles, books and documentaries about the real-life rise and fall of WeWork, it’s unclear why we need a whole miniseries. But it could be entertaining enough to watch Oscar-winners Leto and Hathaway chew the scenery.
There are also new episodes every Friday of “Severance,” mentioned above, a riveting and surreal workplace thriller starring Adam Scott and Patricia Arquette, and the season finale of the puzzle-box comedic mystery series “The Afterparty” (March 4).
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? Play. “Severance” and “Pachinko” could be among the best things on TV this year, and “Ptolemy Grey” has serious potential.
HBO Max ($14.99 a month without ads, or $9.99 with ads)
HBO Max is spending March largely going back in time.
For starters, there’s “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty” (March 6), Adam McKay’s behind-the-scenes story of the 1980s “Showtime”-era Los Angeles Lakers. The ridiculously fun-looking series features an all-star cast, including John C. Reilly as Jerry Buss, Quincy Isaiah as Magic Johnson, Jason Clarke as Jerry West and Adrien Brody as Pat Riley. It should be entertaining even for non-basketball fans, and the trailer alone proves that having John C. Reilly as a narrator can make anything about 50% better.
There’s also “Julia” (March 31), a new biographic series starring Sarah Lancashire (“Happy Valley”) as the pioneering chef and TV personality Julia Child; “Our Flag Means Death” (March 3), a comedy from Oscar-winner Taika Waititi about a foppish 18th-century pirate played by Rhys Darby (“Flight of the Conchords”); “Minx” (March 17), a porn-magazine comedy set in the 1970s; “The Larry David Story” (March 1), a two-part documentary on the misanthropic comedian; and the addition of all 14 seasons of the Canadian high-school soap “Degrassi: The Next Generation” (March 25).
Standing on the other side of all that nostalgia is “DMZ” (March 17), starring Rosario Dawson as a medic in a demilitarized Manhattan during a second American civil war. It’s based on a critically acclaimed graphic novel and should be good, if bleak. There’s also “The Tourist” (March 3), an amnesia-mystery series set in the Australian outback starring Jamie Dornan (“Fifty Shades of Grey”).
HBO Max is also adding a quartet of Oscar-nominated movies: “Dune” (March 10), “King Richard” (March 24), “West Side Story” (March 2), and the highly praised Japanese drama “Drive My Car” (March 2). And there are also new episodes of “The Gilded Age” every Monday until its season finale March 28 and “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” every Sunday.
Who’s HBO Max for? HBO fans and movie lovers.
Play, pause or stop? Play. AT&T’s
HBO Max has something for everyone in March, and they all look good. And no more complaining about its price, now that Max is cheaper than Netflix and the same as Prime Video.
Hulu ($6.99 a month or $12.99 with no ads)
Hulu will be very watchable in March, and that’s mostly thanks to the FX series it’ll have.
After a nearly four-year layoff, Donald Glover’s transcendent, genre-busting comedy “Atlanta” (March 25) returns for its third season. Season 2 ended with rapper Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry) and the crew headed overseas for a tour, and Season 3 will pick right up, with all 10 episodes shot on location in Europe. Episodes will stream on Hulu a day after they air on FX, and a fourth and final season will air later this year. The first two seasons of “Atlanta” were among the best television of the past decade, and its return should be a must-watch.
Another brilliant FX comedy is back as well: The fifth and final season of “Better Things” (March 1), starring Pamela Adlon as a stressed single mom trying to balance her family life and career. Never flashy, “Better Things” has kept focused on small, nuanced stories and has quietly been one of the best shows on TV. If you’re looking for a binge, look no further. Like “Atlanta,” new eps will stream a day after they air on FX.
Meanwhile, Hulu has a pair of high-profile originals: “The Dropout” (March 3), starring Amanda Seyfried as Elizabeth Holmes in a ripped-from-the-headlines limited series about Theranos and its mercurial founder, who was convicted earlier this year on four counts of fraud and conspiracy; and “Life & Beth” (March 18), a semi-autobiographical new dramedy from Amy Schumer, about a woman who shakes up her too-comfortable life and confronts her childhood traumas while rediscovering herself. Both sound interesting, and early reviews of “The Dropout” have been excellent.
There’s also “Deep Water” (March 18), an erotic thriller starring Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas, and directed by Adrian Lyne (“Fatal Attraction,” “Indecent Proposal”); “The Girl from Plainview” (March 29), a true-crime limited series starring Elle Fanning (“The Great”) as a teen convicted of manslaughter after her boyfriend kills himself after she sends him a text encouraging him to take his life; NBC’s crime miniseries “The Thing About Pam” (March 9), starring Renée Zellweger in an unfortunate fat suit; a new season of Fox’s insipid but popular “The Masked Singer” (March 10); “American Song Contest” (March 22), NBC’s answer to the Eurovision Song Contest; as well as new episodes of “Pam & Tommy” and FX’s “Snowfall.”
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, for “Atlanta” and “Better Things” alone, with “The Dropout” and “Life & Beth” as potential bonuses. The one caveat: If you already have cable, and FX, then Hulu becomes a bit less necessary.
Disney+ ($7.99 a month)
After a slow February, Disney+ is getting back in gear in March.
The biggest addition comes late in the month, with “Moon Knight” (March 30), starring Oscar Isaac as one of Marvel’s weirdest superheroes, a former mercenary whose body is possessed by an ancient Egyptian god. But there’s a split-personality thing going on as his dark side delivers vigilante justice without his “normal” side knowing. This one looks significantly darker and more violent than the previous batch of Marvel shows, which should be interesting.
But before that lands, there are a few big-name movies that the whole family can enjoy, starting with Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated musical revival “West Side Story” (March 2); followed by the new Pixar movie “Turning Red” (March 11), about a 13-year-old Chinese-Canadian girl who turns into a giant red panda whenever she gets excited or stressed (Pro tip: Pixar movies are always worth watching, no matter how old you are); “Cheaper By the Dozen” (March 18), another reboot of the mixed-family Disney classic, starring Zach Braff and Gabrielle Union this time around; and “Olivia Rodrigo: Driving Home 2 U” (March 25), a concert movie with the 19-year-old pop star reflecting on her first hit album.
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? Play. Families should love the new movies, Marvel fans should love “Moon Knight,” and everyone should be happy.
Netflix ($9.99 a month for basic, $15.49 standard or $19.99 premium)
Netflix executives warned the first quarter was going to be slow, and they weren’t kidding. While March has a few more returning hits than the past couple of months, the lineup is still significantly lighter than viewers have gotten used to.
The big returnee is Season 2 of “Bridgerton” (March 25), the Shondaland romantic drama set in Regency-era England. According to Netflix, Season 1 was its most-watched English-language series ever, so the company has high, high hopes for Season 2 to be just as big of a hit. One problem: Season 1 breakout star Regé-Jean Page is not returning. That’s reportedly because Season 2 will shift focus to another Bridgerton family romance, and favorites such as Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor), Anthony (Jonathan Bailey) and Eloise (Claudia Jessie), as well as Penelope Featherton (Nicola Coughlan), will be back, with Simone Ashley (“Sex Education”) joining the cast as Kate Sharma, a potential suitor for Anthony.
also has Season 4 of its popular behind-the-scenes racing series “Formula 1: Drive to Survive” (March 11), which will focus on the hugely dramatic 2021 season that pitted Lewis Hamilton vs. Max Verstappen; “Pieces of Her” (March 4), an eight-episode crime thriller starring Toni Collette (“United States of Tara”) and Bella Heathcote (“The Man in the High Castle”) as a mother-daughter duo who gain national fame, but are forced to go on the run after dark secrets from their past emerge; “Human Resources” (March 18), an animated spinoff of “Big Mouth” featuring the voices of Nick Kroll, Aidy Bryant and Randall Park, among others; the fifth and final season of the bloody Medieval drama “The Last Kingdom” (March 9); “The Adam Project” (March 11), a time-traveling action movie starring Ryan Reynolds and Jennifer Garner; the Leighton Meester Croatian-vacation thriller “The Weekend Away” (March 3); Ryan Murphy’s six-part documentary “The Andy Warhol Diaries” (March 9), which uses AI to creepily recreate Warhol’s voice to narrate; and the docuseries “Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives” (March 16), about a celebrity restaurateur who embezzles millions with her new boyfriend and goes on the run.
Who’s Netflix for? Fans of buzz-worthy original shows and movies.
Play, pause or stop? Pause and think it over. “Bridgerton” has its loyal fans, as does “Drive to Survive” and “The Last Kingdom.” But there’s not much else that sounds intriguing enough to lure viewers.
Amazon Prime Video ($14.99 a month)
The dark superhero series “The Boys” won’t return until June, but fans will be able to get a taste in March with the animated spinoff series “The Boys Presents: Diabolical” (March 4). Starring the voices of Justin Roiland (“Rick and Morty”), Seth Rogen, Awkwafina, Andy Samberg and Aisha Tyler, among others, the series features a variety of animation styles and promises as much pitch-black humor and gore as the original series.
also has Season 2 of “Upload” (March 11), the Greg Daniels-created rom-com/sci-fi mystery set largely in a digital afterlife. The new season finds Nathan (Robbie Amell) at a crossroads after his ex-girlfriend Ingrid (Allegra Edwards) unexpectedly uploads herself to join him, while his other romantic interest, Nora (Andy Allo), who’s still the real world, gets involved with an anti-tech rebel group. Season 1, which dropped in May 2020, was uneven but decent, and Season 2 should be worthy of a binge, though not necessarily right away.
Also on the way: “Lucy & Desi” (March 4), a documentary from director Amy Poehler about the partnership and legacy of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Jr. that comes on the heels of Aaron Sorkin’s movie “Being the Ricardos,” which is also streaming on Prime Video; “Master” (March 18), a movie about three women striving to find their places at an elite New England university, starring Regina Hall; and “Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls” (March 25), an unscripted show that has the pop star out to find “confident, bad-ass women” to join her world tour. There are also new episodes of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” until the season finale March 11.
And a couple of library recommendations: “Reacher,” which was released in early February, turned out to be a dumb but highly entertaining series, very reminiscent of Cinemax’s classic action shows like “Quarry” and “Banshee”; and “Voltaire High” (aka “Mixte”), a French dramedy series that came out last fall, about a boys school that goes coed in 1963, and follows the travails of students and teachers in the nascent days of the sexual revolution. It’s surprisingly solid, and presented more as a prestige drama than the soap that it could have been. Definitely worth a look.
Who’s Amazon Prime Video for? Movie lovers, TV-series fans who value quality over quantity.
Play, pause or stop? Pause. The new shows seem good but not great, and the price has gone up by $2 a month, but on the other hand there’s a deep and excellent library of series and movies.
Paramount+ ($4.99 a month with ads but not live CBS, $5.99 a month with ads, $9.99 without ads)
Paramount+ should make sci-fi fans happy in March.
The month begins with Season 2 of “Star Trek: Picard” (March 3), with Patrick Stewart returning as the iconic, now-retired space admiral. The new season will feature cameos from “Next Generation” fan favorites Q (John de Lancie) and the Borg queen (Annie Werschin) as Jean-Luc Picard (in his new body) and his crew travel back in time to 2024 to try to save the future. Season 1 was dinged by critics for its plodding story, but a little fine-tuning could make the new season zippier.
The month ends with the long-awaited series adaptation of the popular videogame “Halo” (March 24), starring Pablo Schreiber (“Orange Is the New Black”) as Master Chief. Set in the 26th century as humanity battles an alien threat, the nine-episode series hopes to do what almost every live-action adaptation of videogames has not — be good. The show’s budget is reportedly around $200 million, so at least you should be able to expect some good explosions. There’s potential here for something cool, but non-videogame fans may want to take a wait-and-see approach as to whether it can develop the story past “kill all aliens.”
Paramount+ also has “The Fairly OddParents: Fairly Odder” (March 31), a reboot of the turn-of-the-century kids show; new episodes of “Star Trek: Discovery” every week until its season finale March 17; and a full slate of sports, including the men’s NCAA basketball tournament (starting March 15), UEFA Champions League Round of 16 matches, and critical CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers, including the U.S. vs Mexico (March 24) and Costa Rica (March 30).
Play, pause or stop? Pause. If you’re a fan of sci-fi or sports, there’s a good case for signing up. If not, there may not be enough there to be worth the money.
Peacock (free basic level, Premium for $4.99 a month with ads, or $9.99 a month with no ads)
After the hoopla of the Winter Olympics — which Peacock pulled off pretty well — the streaming service will fall back to Earth in March.
The biggest release is “Joe vs. Carole” (March 3), a limited series that’s being billed as a deeper look into the real-life rivalry that spawned Netflix’s hit docuseries “Tiger King.” This one’s based on the second season of Wondery’s “Over My Dead Body” podcast. Kate McKinnon and John Cameron Mitchell star as Carole Baskin and Joe Exotic in this eight-episode dramedy — and their performances look comically over the top — but it’s not at all clear why anyone needs even more “Tiger King,” especially after Season 2 of the Netflix series flopped, suggesting that viewers are over that particular sordid story.
Peacock also has “Bust Down” (March 10), a promising new comedy series from Sam Jay, Langston Kerman, Jak Knight and Chris Redd (“Saturday Night Live’) about four friends in dead-end jobs who aspire for more; “Below Deck Down Under” (March 17), an Australia-set spinoff of the popular yacht-crew reality show; NBC’s Renée Zellweger-led crime miniseries “The Thing About Pam” (March 9, with new eps every week); the Winter Paralympics from Beijing (March 4-13); English Premier League soccer; and the World Figure Skating Championships (March 26).
Who’s Peacock for? If you like network and basic-cable TV, a good movie lineup and don’t mind ads, the free version of Peacock is great. And if you have a Comcast
or Cox cable subscription, you likely have free access to the Premium tier (with ads). The paid tiers are generally unnecessary, except for soccer fans.
Play, pause or stop? Stop, nothing much to see here.
Discovery+ ($4.99 a month, $6.99 ad-free)
Discovery+ will add to its voluminous slate of unscripted programming in March with more of the same lifestyle, true-crime, paranormal and relationship shows.
The best of the bunch appear to be the classic “Ghost Adventures” (March 10), returning for its 25th season; the tough-love restaurant-makeover show “Restaurant Rivals: Irvine vs. Taffer” (March 3); “Legacy: In the Shadow of Greatness” (March 8), a docuseries about the athletic pursuits of the children of sports greats like Dwyane Wade, Evander Holyfield and Randall Cunningham; and “Last Exit: Space” (March 10), a documentary from Rudolph and Werner Herzog about mankind’s quest to colonize space.
Who’s Discovery+ for? Cord cutters who miss their unscripted TV or who are really, really into “90 Day Fiancée.”
Play, pause or stop? Stop. Sorry. Discovery+ is still 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.)