Summer used to mean a lull in TV programming. And with a few exceptions, that’s how the streaming scene feels this July.
After a frenzy of new shows launched in the spring, Hulu and Apple appear to be the only streaming services still putting their best feet forward this summer. But that might actually be a good thing, as it gives consumers a chance to reduce their streaming spending and viewers a chance to go outside and do something.
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 or sell. We also pick the best shows to help you make your monthly decisions.
Consumers can take full advantage of cord cutting with 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, 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 July 2023, and what’s really worth the monthly subscription fee.
Hulu ($7.99 a month with ads, or $14.99 with no ads)
Hulu has another fantastic month, and is really filling the gaps while a lot of other streamers seem to be taking the summer off.
At the top of the list is “Justified: City Primeval” (July 19), picking up the story of gunslinging U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), after the beloved crime drama “Justified” ended its six-season run on FX in 2015. The limited-series spinoff, based on another Elmore Leonard novel, finds Raylan in Detroit, squaring off against a killer known as the Oklahoma Wildman (Boyd Holbrook). New episodes will stream a day after they air on FX. This is about as close to a sure thing as it gets, and should have “Justified” fans (you know who you are) giddy.
Also making a comeback after a long layoff is “Futurama” (July 24), Matt Groening’s animated sci-fi comedy that is back for an 11th season — and fourth revival (it’s been dormant since Comedy Central canceled it in 2013). Ten episodes are on tap, with another 10-episode season to come, and all the original voice cast are returning. Meanwhile, the critically acclaimed vampire mocumentary “What We Do in the Shadows” (July 14) — quite possibly the funniest show on TV — returns for its fifth season, and “This Fool” (July 28), the offbeat, heartfelt and hilarious comedy about family and gang life in South L.A., is back for its second season.
Hulu also has livestreams from the Essence Festival of Culture in New Orleans (June 30-July 2), with headliners Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliott and Megan Thee Stallion, the country music documentary “CMA Fest: 50 Years of Fan Fair” (July 5), and the rock doc “Imagine Dragons Live in Las Vegas” (July 14), on top of a slew of true-crime docuseries, including “The Ashley Madison Affair” (July 7) and “The Jewel Thief” (July 13).
Don’t forget to catch up on all the Season 2 episodes of the restaurant dramedy “The Bear” (Season 1 was brilliant and Season 2 is somehow even better), and check out new episodes every week of the always funny “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (season finale July 20).
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? Play. Hulu is on fire, with easily the best crop of shows this summer — and it still has a new season of the superb “Reservation Dogs” coming in August.
Apple TV+ ($6.99 a month)
The hit, star-studded comedy/mystery series “The Afterparty” (July 12) returns for its second season. This time there’s a murder at a wedding attended by Aniq and Zoe (Sam Richardson and Zoë Chao), and Detective Danner (Tiffany Haddish) is once again on the case, with guest stars including John Cho, Paul Walter Hauser, Ken Jeong, Anna Konkle, Elizabeth Perkins and Zach Woods. The conceit of the series is that each episode is told from the perspective of one suspect, with each story told through its own genre (rom-com, musical, period drama, etc). Season 1 worked like a charm, and hopes are high for a return to form.
Also back for its second season is “Foundation” (July 14), the sci-fi epic based on the series of novels by Isaac Asimov. Set a century after the events of Season 1, Lee Pace, Jared Harris and Leah Harvey return in the sprawling story of a galactic empire on the brink of collapse, with the fate of humanity hanging in the balance. Season 1 was visually stunning but suffered from uneven plotting. But there’s a lot of potential to be tapped and this is a series that could be great if given the chance.
Beyond that, Apple has “Stephen Curry: Underrated” (July 21), a Ryan Coogler-produced documentary about the NBA superstar, and “The Beanie Bubble” (July 28), a comedy movie about the biggest toy craze of the ’90s, starring Zach Galifianakis, Elizabeth Banks and Sarah Snook.
Also look for new episodes every week of the Seth Rogen-Rose Byrne hangout comedy “Platonic” (season finale July 12), the Idris Elba midair thriller “Hijack” and the coming-of-age basketball drama “Swagger.”
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? Play. Apple has a very watchable current lineup, and for just $7.
Netflix ($6.99 a month for basic with ads, $9.99 basic with no ads, $15.49 standard with no ads, $19.99 premium with no ads)
A month after dropping the first half of episodes for its third season, the fantasy drama “The Witcher” (July 27) wraps things up with its second half, in which it’ll also say farewell to star Henry Cavill. (Liam Hemsworth will take over the role of monster hunter Geralt of Rivia for Season 4.)
Netflix is taking baby steps into streaming live sports, but it’s all-in on gripping, behind-the-scenes sports docs (see: “Drive to Survive,” “Break Point” and “Full Swing”). Its latest is the new series “Quarterback” (July 12), following NFL stars Patrick Mahomes, Kirk Cousins and Marcus Mariota at home and on the field during the 2022-’23 season. Spoiler alert: It was a pretty successful season for Mahomes, which should be fun to follow.
There’s also “They Cloned Tyrone” (July 21), a comedy/conspiracy thriller movie starring John Boyega, Teyonah Parris and Jamie Foxx that looks to be in the genre-bending vein of “Attack the Block,” the 2011 movie that shot Boyega to stardom; “Wham!” (July 5), a docuseries about ’80s pop icons George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley; the first half of Season 2 of the legal drama “The Lincoln Lawyer” (July 6); “The Out-Laws” (July 8), a comedy movie starring Adam Devine as a bank manager who suspects his fiancee’s parents (Pierce Brosnan ad Ellen Barkin) are bank robbers; Season 5 of the dating series “Too Hot to Handle” (July 14); “Bird Box Barcelona” (July 14), a Spanish spinoff movie of the hit 2021 post-apocalyptic horror flick (though no Sandra Bullock this time); and Season 3 of the small-town drama “Sweet Magnolias” (July 20).
Who’s Netflix for? Fans of buzz-worthy original shows and movies.
Play, pause or stop? Pause and think it over. Netflix’s appeal is that it has something for everyone, and that’s still the case for July — even though none of its new additions scream to be watched immediately, like “Stranger Things” was this time last year.
Max ($9.99 a month with ads, or $15.99 with no ads)
Max has a few standouts in an otherwise sleepy July lineup.
From director Steven Soderbergh and writer Ed Solomon comes “Full Circle” (July 14), a limited-series drama about a botched kidnapping that unravels many long-held secrets. It’s got an impressive cast — including Zazie Beetz, Claire Danes, Jim Gaffigan, Timothy Olyphant, CCH Pounder and Dennis Quaid — and Soderbergh productions are almost always worth watching.
“How to With John Wilson” (July 28) returns for its third and final season. The observational docuseries deftly blends curiosity, self-discovery and absurdity in a way that almost defies description, but it’s great. Also great, and back for its fourth season, is the gleefully violent and raunchy animated superhero series “Harley Quinn” (July 27), with Batgirl taking a larger role in Gotham while Harley and girlfriend Ivy solidify their relationship. And also back, after a nearly seven-year layoff, is the filmmaking docuseries “Project Greenlight” (July 13), with Issa Rae, Kumail Nanjiani and Gina Prince-Bythewood serving as mentors.
There are also new episodes every week of the “Sex and the City” sequel “And Just Like That…,” the megachurch comedy “The Righteous Gemstones” and the historical action series “Warrior.” Discovery will also release a ton of “Shark Week” programming to be announced later.
Who’s Max for? HBO fans and movie lovers. And now, unscripted-TV fans too, with a slew of Discovery+ shows. There’s cause for concern though, after deep cuts and questionable moves by corporate parent Warner Bros. Discovery WBD,
Play, pause or stop? Pause. There are some quality shows on the way, but for that high price, it’d be nice if there were more.
Disney+ ($7.99 a month with ads, $10.99 with no ads)
It’s a low-key month for Disney DIS,
Disney also has new episodes every week of the disappointingly ho-hum Marvel series “Secret Invasion” (finale July 26); “Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire” (July 5), an interesting-looking animated anthology series presenting 10 futuristic visions of Africa; and a slew of shark programming (July 2).
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? Stop, if your kids will let you. Let them run amok outside for a month then maybe pick up Disney+ for the next “Star Wars” series, “Ahsoka,” in August.
Amazon’s Prime Video ($14.99 a month)
It’s also a slow month for Prime Video, with the best bets being two shows back for their second seasons: The teen romance “The Summer I Turned Pretty” (July 14), as Belly (Lola Tung) returns to Cousins Beach for a complicated love triangle with brothers Conrad and Jeremiah (Christopher Briney and Gavin Casalengo); and “Good Omens” (July 28), the cult comedy hit about the twisted friendship between an angel (Michael Sheen) and a demon (David Tennant), which this season adds Jon Hamm as the archangel Gabriel, who falls to Earth with no memories.
Who’s Prime Video for? Movie lovers, TV-series fans who value quality over quantity.
Play, pause or stop? Stop. It’s a slow month, and you could catch up on “Good Omens” and “I’m a Virgo” later.
Peacock (Premium for $4.99 a month with ads, or $9.99 a month with no ads)
Peacock has shifted its focus from getting subscribers to making money, and in late June cut off free access to Comcast CMCSA,
Oddly enough, Peacock isn’t offering many compelling reasons to subscribe right now. July’s meager highlights are the standup comedy special “Kevin Hart: Reality Check” (July 6); the entertainingly trashy relationship show “Love Island USA” (July 18), which is now exclusive to Peacock; and a movie adaptation of the classic videogame “Twisted Metal” (July 27), starring Anthony Mackie and Stephanie Beatriz.
On the sports front, there’s the Tour de France (starting July 1), Spanish-language livestreams of the Women’s World Cup (starting July 20) — note that since Fox will carry the Women’s World Cup games, Peacock will be the only streaming option for cord-cutters without a live service like YouTube TV or Hulu Live — and Major League Baseball every Sunday, along with a ton of golf and motorsports.
Who’s Peacock for? Live sports and next-day NBCUniversal shows are the main draw, but there’s a good library of shows and movies.
Play, pause or stop? Stop. There’s just not enough there.
Paramount+ ($5.99 a month with ads, $11.99 a month with Showtime and no ads)
Paramount+ and Showtime effectively merged June 27, and streaming prices rose by $1 to $2 a month too.
The month brings yet another Taylor Sheridan show: The eight-episode thriller “Special Ops: Lioness” (July 23), starring Laysla De Oliveira as a CIA operative tasked with infiltrating a terrorist organization, with Nicole Kidman and Zoe Saldaña co-starring as her Agency bosses. Oh, and Morgan Freeman is also in that ridiculously stacked cast. Say what you will about Sheridan (the “Yellowstone” creator is getting blowback after a recent interview in which he dissed writers’ rooms amid the writers strike, among other cringe-worthy comments), but he knows how to make hit shows, and this one seems to have all the ingredients to be another one.
There are also new episodes every week of Season 2 of the critically acclaimed “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds”; the Showtime docuseries “Goliath” (July 14), about basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain; and live sports including WNBA, NWSL, golf and motorsports action.
Who’s Paramount+ for? Gen X cord-cutters who miss live sports and familiar Paramount Global PARA,
Play, pause or stop? Stop. “Strange New Worlds” is fun and “Lioness” could be good, but there’s not a whole lot else right now.