Opinion: What’s worth streaming in September 2022, from ‘Andor’ to ‘The Rings of Power’

It’ll be worth splurging a little — or a lot — on streaming subscriptions in September.

From the well-rounded offerings of Disney+ — including “She-Hulk,” “Andor” and “Mighty Ducks: Game Changers” — to Amazon’s blockbuster “Lord of the Rings” prequel series “The Rings of Power,” to Hulu’s stockpile of quality comedies, to HBO’s compelling “House of the Dragon,” there is no shortage of must-see fall TV on the way. And the best of it can be had for less than $50 in total.

Each month, this column offers tips on how to maximize your streaming — along with your budget — rating the major 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 (HBO Max has a 40% off deal right now), 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 September 2022, and what’s really worth the monthly subscription fee.

Disney+ ($7.99 a month)

Disney+ recently announced a price hike that’ll take effect before the end of the year, but if its programming lineup remains as strong as it is right now, it’s a good bet that most subscribers will be willing to pay more.

This month’s big addition is the long-anticipated (and delayed by a month) “Rogue One” prequel “Andor” (Sept. 21), starring Diego Luna as the spy Cassian Andor in the early days of the rebellion against the evil Galactic Empire. It’s a longer season — 12 episodes — than previous “Star Wars” spinoffs, and a second season is already in the works. One hugely encouraging sign: It’s helmed by Tony Gilroy, who co-wrote “Rogue One,” along with four “Bourne” movies and “Michael Clayton.” Could this finally be a “Star Wars” show for grown-ups, darker and grittier, that expands the story well beyond worn-out Tatooine and the all-too-familiar Skywalker clan? Fingers crossed, but hopes are high.

“The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers” (Sept. 28), the surprisingly fun sequel series to the ’90s movie franchise, is back for a second season of youth hockey hijinks. The always delightful Lauren Graham returns, but the face of the franchise — Emilio Estevez’s hotshot player-turned- grumpy coach Gordon Bombay — is out, and will be replaced by Josh Duhamel, who’ll play a former NHL player running a summer hockey camp.

There’s also a live-action reboot of “Pinocchio” (Sept. 8), directed by Robert Zemeckis, and starring Tom Hanks as Geppetto opposite a slightly creepy-looking computer-generated Pinocchio; “Hocus Pocus 2” (Sept. 30), a sequel to the beloved 1993 supernatural comedy, with Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy and Bette Midler reprising their roles as a trio of villainous witch sisters; and the streaming debut of this summer’s Marvel blockbuster “Thor: Love and Thunder” (Sept. 18), starring Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman’s biceps.

Disney is also adding a slate of ESPN’s “30 for 30” sports documentaries (Sept. 2), and in a game-changing move, “Dancing With the Stars” (Sept. 19) will become the streamer’s first live weekly series, as the hit celebrity dancing competition moves over from ABC.

And don’t forget new episodes every week of Marvel’s breezy superhero comedy “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.”  

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. There’s a lot to offer, and something for everyone.

Hulu ($6.99 a month, or $12.99 with no ads)

For years, this column has dubbed Hulu the best value in streaming — but it’ll lose a big chunk of that value in September, as next-day streaming of NBC and Bravo shows ends.

It’s part of the gradual unraveling of Hulu, as a longtime content-sharing deal between majority owner Disney
and minority stakeholder Comcast
expires, and Comcast migrates its most valuable NBCUniversal programming to its own streaming service, Peacock.

While older seasons of many NBCUniversal series will remain on Hulu — at least for a while, thanks to long-term licensing contracts — next-day streaming of current NBCU shows like “Saturday Night Live” will stop, and will stream exclusively on Peacock instead. But some library shows are leaving right away — such as all seasons of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “Top Chef” and the “Real Housewives” franchises (all leaving Sept. 18).

But onto the good news: Hulu still has a ton of new series on the way.

“The Handmaid’s Tale” (Sept. 14) returns for its fifth season, and the grim, dystopian drama has never been quite as timely, coming after the overturning of Roe v. Wade. The new season finds June (Elisabeth Moss) still fighting Gilead after escaping to Canada, while grieving widow Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) finds a new fan in a certain Mrs. Wheeler (Genevieve Angelson), a villain who poses a major new threat.

After a two-year layoff, the thoughtful clash-of-cultures comedy “Ramy” (Sept. 30) returns for its third season. Ramy Youssef stars as an Egyptian-American slacker navigating life in New Jersey, who, this season, will abandon his rather disastrous spiritual journey and focus instead on working at his uncle’s diamond business. Donald Glover’s “Atlanta” (Sept. 16) is also back for its fourth and final season, just a few months after the finale of an uneven Season 3. The new season finds Earn (Glover), Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry), Darius (LeKeith Stanfield) and Van (Zazie Beetz) back in Atlanta after their European travels, and promises to be a “nostalgic” goodbye. New episodes will stream a day after they first air on FX.

There’s also “Reboot” (Sept. 20), a very meta sitcom about a rebooted sitcom and its reunited, dysfunctional cast, starring Keegan-Michael Key, Rachel Bloom and Judy Greer; “Tell Me Lies” (Sept. 7), a twisty, toxic-relationship drama starring Grace Van Patten and Jackson White; a new season of “The Kardashians” (Sept. 22); and a slew of fall-premiere ABC and Fox shows, such as the excellent “Abbott Elementary,” “The Goldbergs” and “The Masked Singer” (all Sept 22); “Bob’s Burgers” and “The Simpsons” (both Sept. 26); and “Bachelor in Paradise” (Sept. 28).

More: Here’s everything new to Hulu in September 2022 — and what’s leaving

And look for new episodes every week of “Archer,” “The Patient,” “What We Do in the Shadows” (season finale Sept. 4), “Welcome to Wrexham” (season finale Sept. 14) and “Reservation Dogs” (season finale Sept. 28), as well as all 10 eps of August’s under-the-radar but very funny gang member-rehabilitation comedy “This Fool.”

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. Though “The Handmaid’s Tale” can be misery porn, it’s offset by Hulu’s unrivaled lineup of outstanding comedies. But be advised: Prices are going up in October.

Amazon’s Prime Video ($14.99 a month)

September is arguably the biggest month ever for Amazon’s Prime Video, which will premiere the long-awaited and massively expensive “The Lord of the Rings” prequel series “The Rings of Power” and kick off exclusive coverage of NFL Thursday Night Football.

Coming two decades after Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy reaped nearly $3 billion at the global box office, the first season alone of “The Rings of Power” (Sept. 1) reportedly cost roughly $715 million, including licensing rights — the most expensive TV show ever — and Amazon is planning an ambitious five-season run.

Based on the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien, the series takes place in the Second Age of Middle Earth, thousands of years before the events of “The Lord of the Rings,” and will reveal how the kingdoms and alliances of men, elves, dwarves and Harfoots (think pre-hobbits) were forged — along with the magical rings — and chronicle the rise of an evil that their world has never before seen. The sprawling cast includes Morfydd Clark, Robert Aramayo, Owain Arthur, Sophia Nomvete, Ismael Cruz Cordova and Nazanin Boniandi.

The first two episodes will drop at once, starting Thursday at 9 p.m. Eastern, with new episodes coming every Friday. The trailers look spectacular, and it should be interesting to see how “Rings” fares in a nearly head-to-head battle with another fantasy blockbuster, HBO’s “Game of Thrones” prequel series “House of the Dragon.”

has committed even more money ($13.2 billion over 10 years) for exclusive rights to the most lucrative programming in the U.S. — NFL football. While Prime Video has streamed 11 Thursday-night games every season since 2017, this is the first time the games won’t air anywhere else. Prime Video will stream 15 exclusive regular-season games Thursday Night Football games starting Sept. 15, with the Chiefs hosting the Chargers.

See: Here’s everything coming to Amazon’s Prime Video in September 2022

There’s also the Boeing 737 Max documentary  “Flight/Risk” (Sept. 9); Season 2 of the trans family drama “September Mornings” (Sept. 23); and the addition of all five seasons of the beloved high-school football drama “Friday Night Lights” (Sept. 1). You can also catch up with the uneven but likeable “A League of Their Own” reboot and new episodes every week of Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum’s fashion competition “Making the Cut.”

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” looks fantastic, and exclusive NFL games are an added bonus. And if you get bored, a “Friday Night Lights” rewatch is never a bad idea (though maybe skip most of Season 2).

HBO Max ($14.99 a month without ads, or $9.99 with ads)

HBO Max is offering 40% off a 12-month subscription through Oct. 30, which is a great deal, but it comes a very odd time, amid a slashing of original content and jobs from new corporate parent Warner Bros. Discovery
and an unusually slow month of programming.

The cuts at HBO Max have been disturbing, with not-yet-completed movies (such as the $90 million “Batgirl”) getting yanked along with a swath of series cancellations and the removal of hundreds of episodes of original content — particularly in animation — all in an apparent effort to save money through tax write-offs and eliminating residual payments to creators. And while it’s one thing to cancel a project, it’s quite another to entirely remove it from the archives, especially when it may have little or no availability on other platforms. The content slashing has sparked a backlash among subscribers and serves as a bitter reminder that the entertainment business is, first and foremost, a business, and often that comes at the expense of the creative side. What makes it even more of a shame is that HBO Max has quickly built itself into the premiere streaming service, and the cuts threaten to severely tarnish its reputation among subscribers and Hollywood creatives alike, who are left to wonder if fan-favorite but less-popular titles will simply vanish.

Meanwhile, HBO is resting on its laurels in September — and why wouldn’t it, with new episodes every week of the blockbuster “Game of Thrones” prequel series “House of the Dragon”? There’s not a lot else, though.

The bilingual horror comedy “Los Espookys” (Sept. 16) is one highlight, returning for its second season, and Baz Luhrmann’s recent musical biopic hit “Elvis” (Sept. 2), starring Austin Butler, will make its streaming debut. Max is also adding a selection of Magnolia Network programming (Sept. 30), with a slew of home and lifestyle shows from Chip and Joanna Gaines, while “The Vampire Diaries” (Sept. 4) and “Gotham” (Sept. 30) will migrate over from Netflix. There are also new eps of the addictive investment-bank drama “Industry” (season finale Sept. 19) and the brilliantly filthy animated supervillain series “Harley Quinn” (season finale Sept. 15).

Who’s HBO Max for? HBO fans and movie lovers.

Play, pause or stop? Pause and think it over. “House of the Dragon” is great, but there’s not much else there right now. If you’re not a Westeros fan, save your money for another month (for example: Season 2 of “The White Lotus” is coming in October).

Paramount+ ($4.99 a month with ads but not live CBS, $5.99 a month with ads, $9.99 without ads)

September features the sixth and final season of arguably the best series on Paramount+, the legal drama “The Good Fight” (Sept. 8), which will see Diane (Christine Baranski) despondent over the political state of the country and her life. Andre Braugher and John Slattery join the cast this year, and Alan Cumming will reprise his “Good Wife” role as Eli Gold. It’s a solidly entertaining and addictive show, and makes a Paramount+ subscription at least worth thinking about.

Meanwhile, the David Boreanaz military drama “SEAL Team” (Sept. 18) has a new exclusive home, moving over from CBS, and “Ink Master” (Sept. 7) has a new host, Good Charlotte frontman Joel Madden. Fall brings new seasons of plenty of other CBS shows, such as “NCIS” and “NCIS: Hawaii” (Sept. 19); all three “FBI” shows (Sept. 20); and “Survivor” and “The Amazing Race” (Sept. 21).

There are also new episodes every week of “Blood & Treasure,” “Star Trek: Lower Decks” and “Mike Judge’s Beavis and Butt-Head,” the return of college football on Saturdays starting Sept. 3, NFL football on Sundays starting Sept. 11, and plenty of soccer. Also of note: A live Taylor Hawkins tribute concert (Sept. 3) for the late Foo Fighters drummer, featuring an all-star lineup of musicians.

UPDATE: Paramount+ is finally offering a Showtime bundle that features the premium cable channel within the Paramount+ app. It’s largely seamless and it does cost extra, but it’s better than two entirely separate apps. To mark the new feature, Paramount+ is offering a special bundle price of $7.99 a month (with ads for Paramount+ but not Showtime) or $12.99 a month (no ads at all) through Oct. 2. But after that the price rises to$11.99 and $14.99 a month, respectively.

Who’s Paramount+ for? Gen X cord-cutters who miss live sports and familiar Paramount Global
 broadcast and cable shows.

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.

Peacock (free basic level, Premium for $4.99 a month with ads, or $9.99 a month with no ads)

As mentioned previously, Peacock is benefiting from the gradual split between Disney and Comcast over at Hulu, and will become the exclusive next-day streaming home of current NBC and Bravo shows starting Sept. 18. And as further enticement, Peacock is offering Premium subscriptions at a discount of $1.99 a month, or $19.99 for a year, through September.

The new season of “Saturday Night Live” won’t debut until October, but September will feature next-day streaming of Bravo hits such as the various “Real Housewives” and “Below Deck” iterations, and NBC shows like the rebooted and intriguing “Quantum Leap” (Sept. 20), starring Raymond Lee, Ernie Hudson and Caitlin Bassett; Dick Wolf’s “Chicago” trio — “Fire,” “Med” and “P.D.” — (Sept. 22) and the “Law & Order” trifecta (Sept. 23).

Peacock also has “Last Light” (Sept. 9), a five-episode apocalyptic thriller starring Matthew Fox in his first big role since “Lost”; “Vampire Academy” (Sept. 15), a YA fantasy series based on the books by Richelle Mead about two young women, played by Sisi Stringer and Daniela Nieves, as they prepare to enter vampire society; “Meet Cute” (Sept. 21), an original rom-com starring Pete Davidson and Kaley Cuoco involving the use of time travel to recreate a perfect first date; and the streaming premiere of the objectively terrible summer hit “Jurassic World: Dominion” (Sept. 2).

Peacock will also be the only place to watch the long-running soap “Days of Our Lives” (Sept. 12), which moves over from NBC after 57 years, and all seasons of the classic Fox sitcom “That ’70s Show” arrives Sept. 1.

A loaded live-sports lineup includes the return of NFL football on Thursday, Sept. 8, with the Bills vs. Rams; Sunday Night Football starting Sept. 11; Sunday morning MLB games; Notre Dame football starting Sept. 10; and a strong weekly lineup of English Premier League soccer, golf and IndyCar racing.

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). But the addition of next-day streaming of current broadcast and cable shows is a big deal and really bolsters the case for paying for Peacock — especially at the current discount rate.

Play, pause or stop? Pause. If you’re a cord-cutter who likes NBCUniversal shows and/or live sports, there’s a strong case to be made.

Netflix ($9.99 a month for basic, $15.49 standard or $19.99 premium)

It’s a surprisingly slow month for Netflix
The fan-favorite “Karate Kid” spinoff series “Cobra Kai” (Sept. 9), starring Ralph Macchio and William Zabka, returns for its fifth season, and the ever-comforting “Great British Baking Show” (date TBA) is back for another season. And MarketWatch readers should appreciate “Eat the Rich: The GameStop Saga” (Sept. 28), a documentary about the meme-stock phenomenon.

Then there’s the buzzy and NC-17 Marilyn Monroe biopic “Blonde” (Sept. 28), starting Ana de Armas, which director Andrew Dominik promises will be a nightmarish peek into a life spinning out of control that will “offend everyone.” So…OK then!

More: Here’s everything new to Netflix in September 2022 — and what’s leaving

But aside from that, Netflix doesn’t have a whole lot. “Do Revenge” (Sept. 16), a dark comedy about high school girls wreaking revenge on their enemies, starring Camila Mendes and Maya Hawke, could be decent, as could “Lou” (Sept. 23), a “Taken”-like action thriller starring Allison Janney. But the vast majority of Netflix’s new additions are uninspiring throwaways like “Floor Is Lava” (Sept. 30), “Love Is Blind: After the Altar” (Sept. 16) and Rob Zombie’s reboot of “The Munsters” (Sept. 27).

Who’s Netflix for? Fans of buzz-worthy original shows and movies.

Play, pause or stop? Stop. Not much to see here, try another month.

Apple TV+ ($4.99 a month)

It’s an unusually slow month for Apple
as well, with only a handful of notable premieres: the third season of the animated musical “Central Park” (Sept. 9); “Gutsy” (Sept. 9), a docuseries from Hillary and Chelsea Clinton celebrating inspirational women; “Sidney” (Sept. 23), a terrific-looking documentary film about screen legend Sidney Poitier; and “The Greatest Beer Run Ever” (Sept. 30), an action-comedy movie based on the true story of a Marine veteran (Zac Efron) who decides to sneak into Vietnam and deliver beer and messages from home to his friends serving overseas.

There are also new episodes every week of “See,” the delightfully nasty “Bad Sisters” and “Five Days at Memorial.”

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? Stop. There’s just not enough to justify a subscription this month.

Discovery+ ($4.99 a month, $6.99 ad-free)

You know exactly what you’re getting every month with Discovery+, and this time around the relationship/lifestyle/true crime/paranormal highlights include: “90 Day: The Single Life” (Sept. 12), a new season with now-single “90 Day” fan favorites back in the dating scene; “Deadliest Catch: The Viking Returns” (Sept. 13), as crabber (and often crabby) Sig Hansen brings his family to his ancestral home of Norway to start a new family fishing empire; Food Network’s “Halloween Baking Championship” (Sept. 12), with judges Stephanie Boswell, Carla Hall and Zac Young; “Bobby’s Triple Threat” (Sept. 27), with Iron Chef Bobby Flay taking on multiple challengers in the kitchen at one time; HGTV mainstay “Love It Or List It” (Sept. 12); a new season of “Ghost Adventures” (Sept. 15); and a new season of ID’s long-running true-crime newsmagazine “On the Case with Paula Zahn” (Sept. 15).

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 combines it with HBO Max next summer.

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