What’s Worth Streaming: What’s worth streaming in November 2021: ‘Cowboy Bebop,’ ‘Hawkeye,’ ‘Wheel of Time’ and much more
Stuffed yet? Don’t worry, if Thanksgiving doesn’t fill you up, November’s streaming lineup will.
The month is ridiculously stacked, with Netflix’s “Cowboy Bebop,” Disney’s “Hawkeye,” Hulu’s “The Great,” Apple’s “The Shrink Next Door,” Amazon’s “The Wheel of Time” and Paramount+’s “Mayor of Kingstown” — and we haven’t even gotten to HBO Max yet. Spoiler alert: You’re probably going to want to splurge a bit on your monthly streaming spending.
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 November 2021, and what’s really worth the monthly subscription fee.
Netflix ($7.99 a month for basic, $13.99 standard or $17.99 premium)
Netflix NFLX has one of the year’s most anticipated series on the way, along with a slew of new seasons of returning favorites.
The most anticipated of the bunch is undoubtedly “Cowboy Bebop” (Nov. 19), the long awaited live-action adaptation of the beloved 1998 Japanese anime series. John Cho stars as the leader of a group of sharply dressed intergalactic bounty hunters in the genre-busting sci-fi/noir/Western series. Live-action anime reboots can be challenging (see: the cringe-worthy “Ghost in the Shell” movie), but hopes are high that this 10-episode version can pull off a stylish and clever new take. A bonus: All 26 episodes of the original “Cowboy Bebop” moved to Netflix on Oct. 21, for those who need a pre-binge.
Netflix also has the third and final season of “Narcos: Mexico” (Nov. 5), set in the drug wars of the 1990s as the Arellano Félix brothers, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán and others moved to fill the power vacuum left by the arrest of kingpin Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo; Season 5 of the raunchy yet sweet animated pubescent comedy “Big Mouth” (Nov. 5); Season 2 of the Mexican-American family comedy “Gentefied” (Nov. 10); and the saga of Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin continues in a follow-up to the pandemic smash-hit docuseries, with “Tiger King 2” (Nov. 17), though it’s frankly unclear how much of that story there is left to tell. Meanwhile, Part 2 of Kevin Smith’s “Masters of the Universe: Revelation” (Nov. 23) drops, and Netflix will try to repeat the success of “Squid Game” with “Hellhound” (Nov. 19), a Korean supernatural drama directed by Yeon Sang-ho (“Train to Busan”).
There are also some major movies, including the Western shoot-em-up “The Harder They Fall” (Nov. 3), starring Idris Elba, Regina King and Jonathan Majors in a star-studded and violently stylish revenge tale; “Red Notice” (Nov. 12), an international crime thriller — reportedly Netflix’s most expensive movie ever — starring Ryan Reynolds, Gal Godot and Dwayne Johnson (expect plenty of smirks and explosions); and “tick tick…BOOM” (Nov. 19), an autobiographical musical about Jonathan Larsen, the creator of “Rent,” starring Andrew Garfield and directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
There are also a ton of cheesy holiday movies coming, but you can be trusted to find those on your own.
Who’s Netflix for? Fans of buzz-worthy original shows and movies.
Play, pause or stop? Play. One again, there’s so much to choose from that Netflix remains a must-have, offering something for literally everyone. (Also, if you’re one of the 17 people on the planet who haven’t watched “Squid Game” yet, do so. If the violence is off-putting, then look at it as a parable about late-stage capitalism as a life-or-death, zero-sum game.)
HBO Max ($9.99 a month with ads, $14.99 without ads)
AT&T’s T HBO Max has a lot on tap for November, but it’ll be its Sunday-night lineup (“Succession,” “Insecure,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”) that will be worth the subscription price.
The biggest new series is “The Sex Lives of College Girls” (Nov. 18), a comedy from producers Mindy Kaling and Justin Noble about four college-freshmen roommates navigating classes, relationships and life away from their parents’ prying eyes.
There’s also the second half of Season 1 of the disappointing and boring “Gossip Girl” reboot (date TBA); a “Head of the Class” reboot (Nov. 4), featuring Robin Givens as a grown-up Darlene; Season 2 of “South Side” (Nov. 11), the appealing comedy series about a pair of Chicago friends/entrepreneurs that’s hopping over from Comedy Central; and “Kamikaze” (Nov. 14), an award-winning Danish drama about a young woman trying to rediscover herself after tragedy, as Max tries to branch out to a more global audience. Just in time for hitting the slopes, Max also has the documentary “Dear Rider” (Nov. 9), about snowboarding pioneer Jake Burton. And don’t forget about “Love Life” (Oct. 28), the charming rom-com anthology series that changes out leads in Season 2 to William Jackson Harper (“The Good Place”).
But the low-key best show of the month may be Season 2 of one of 2020’s biggest surprises: “How to With John Wilson,” which returns Nov. 26. The hilarious and moving docuseries almost defies description (like, it’s a gently humorous observational documentary that evolves — or devolves — into intimate and bizarre profiles?). Anyway, it’s excellent and like nothing else on TV. Check it out.
There’s also “King Richard” (Nov. 19), a biopic starring Will Smith as Richard Williams — father of Venus and Serena — chronicling his unstoppable drive to make his young daughters the best tennis players in the world. That’ll stream for 31 days, starting the same day it hits theaters, but only for subscribers on the ad-free plan. The spectacular sci-fi epic “Dune” will also still be available to stream through Nov. 21.
Who’s HBO Max for? HBO fans and movie lovers.
Play, pause or stop? Play. The November shows (while good) are almost irrelevant, because the ongoing series — “Succession,” “Insecure” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” — are that essential.
Disney+ ($7.99 a month)
After a fairly sparse few months, Disney+ is back with some promising non-kiddie content in November.
“Hawkeye” (Nov. 24) marks the return of Marvel’s live-action spinoff shows. The holiday-themed, six-episode limited series stars Jeremy Renner as the most boring Avenger (sorry, but it’s true) and Hailee Steinfeld as Kate Bishop, his apparent successor, with the two teaming up to… well, it’s unclear — fight bad guys and get home in time for Christmas, or something like that (the Disney anti-plot-spoiler machine is strong with this one). Anyway, the trailer looks like a lot of fun.
Disney DIS also has a Thanksgiving treat for the olds: “The Beatles: Get Back,” a three-part documentary dropping over three days starting on Thanksgiving (so Nov. 25, 26 and 27). Directed by Peter Jackson, the doc covers the making of the 1970 album “Let It Be,” featuring interviews and a treasure trove of previously unseen audio and video footage.
Also of note: “Home Sweet Home Alone” (Nov. 12), a “Home Alone” reboot with 12-year-old Archie Yates in the Macauley Culkin role, and Ellie Kemper and Rob Delaney as the would-be burglars; “Becoming Cousteau” (Nov. 24), a critically praised Nat Geo documentary about the legendary ocean explorer; and this summer’s hits “Jungle Cruise” and Marvel’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” will become available for no extra fee for Disney+ subscribers starting Nov. 12. There are also a ton of holiday movies and specials coming all through the month.
Who’s Disney+ for? Families with kids, and hardcore “Star Wars” and Marvel fans. For those not in those groups, Disney’s DIS, -1.12% library can be lacking.
Play, pause or stop? Play. Besides plenty of fodder for the kids to watch over Thanksgiving weekend, there’s finally some quality stuff for the grownups too.
Apple TV+ ($4.99 a month)
So, focus on star power or niche genre shows? On its second anniversary, Apple TV+ will try both strategies, with a pair of premieres from some of the most bankable stars in Hollywood, while also offering some prestige TV with significantly less mass appeal.
Those would be the final episodes of the slow yet mostly compelling sci-fi epic “Foundation,” which ends its first season Nov. 19, and the third and final season of the genre-bending series “Dickinson” (Nov. 5). In Season 3, the loose-with-the-facts historical comedy/drama about America’s greatest female poet finds Emily (Hailee Steinfeld) flourishing as an artist as the Civil War rages and her family is bitterly divided. “Dickinson” is super quirky and not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s a wholly original and unique series that, thankfully, got a chance to go out on its own terms.
Apple’s two new star vehicles aim for a much broader audience. “Finch” (Nov. 5) stars Tom Hanks as a dying engineer living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland with his beloved dog, and a robot he builds to take care of his canine companion after he’s gone. Expect tears. Then there’s “The Shrink Next Door” (Nov. 12), a dark comedy about a psychiatrist (Paul Rudd) who becomes obsessed with one of his patients (Will Farrell) — think a reverse “What About Bob?” The eight-episode limited series is based on a true-events podcast, and looks intriguing.
Apple AAPL will also premiere “Hello Jack! The Kindness Show” (Nov. 5), a children’s show starring Jack McBrayer; “Twas the Fight Before Christmas” (Nov. 26), a documentary about a battle between a Christmas-lights fanatic and his HOA; and new episodes every week of the feel-good resort comedy “Acapulco,” the surprisingly good basketball drama “Swagger” and the plodding sci-fi drama “Invasion.”
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. “Dickinson” is definitely worth a look, and “The Shrink Next Door” could be too. And there’s more. The days of Apple TV+ being a punchline are over.
Hulu ($6.99 a month or $12.99 with no ads)
Hulu has a pair of excellent returnees to join its impressive lineup of shows that stream a day after airing on the networks.
“The Great” (Nov. 19) is back for a second season, with a young and pregnant Catherine (Elle Fanning) — now on the Russian throne after deposing husband Peter — declaring herself “The Great” as she moves to spread Enlightenment ideas to her empire. Much like Apple’s “Dickinson,” the series take great liberties with history, and blends comedy and drama to give it a quirky, witty, very modern spin. Gillian Anderson joins the cast this season as Catherine’s mother, and the terrible-in-all-ways Peter (Nicholas Hoult) is still there, scheming to regain his power. It’s one of Hulu’s best original shows, hands down.
Speaking of, another one of Hulu’s very best shows is back as well, with a four-episode holiday special. In “Taste the Nation: Holiday Edition” (Nov. 4), “Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi will explore the American-immigrant food traditions of Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Nochebuena (Latino Christmas Eve) and Seollal (Korean Lunar New Year).
Hulu also has a pair of interesting docs, “The Informant: Fear and Faith in the Heartland” (Nov. 1), an ABC News production from George Stephanopoulos, about a foiled militia attack against Somali immigrants in Kansas in 2016, and “The Curse of Von Dutch” (Nov. 18), a docuseries examining the rise and fall of the trendy 2000s fashion brand. And there’s the streaming debut of “Pig” (Nov. 26), perhaps the most bonkers movie of 2021, as a vengeful Nicolas Cage hunts down the people who stole his priced truffle pig — kind of a culinary “John Wick.”
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. “The Great” is, well, great, and “Taste the Nation” is an outstanding example of a post-Bourdain, food-as-culture show. But the rest isn’t particularly compelling, especially in a month with so much competition from other services.
Paramount+ ($4.99 a month with ads but not live CBS, $5.99 a month with ads, $9.99 without ads)
Surprisingly enough, Paramount+ has one of the more intriguing lineups in November.
First, there’s the premiere of the dadcore drama “Mayor of Kingstown” (Nov. 14), starring Jeremy Renner and Kyle Chandler as brothers and power brokers in a small, depressed town where the only thriving industry is its prison. Co-created by Paramount hit-maker Taylor Sheridan (“Yellowstone”), the gritty crime drama has an impressive pedigree, with a cast that also includes Dianne Wiest, Aidan Gillen and Hugh Dillon, and Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day”) as director. It very much looks like the sort of manly-men prestige series (think “Brotherhood” + “Ray Donovan”) that in olden times would have surely aired on Showtime.
Paramount+ is also aiming to be all things “Star Trek,” and to that end has Season 4 of “Star Trek: Discovery” (Nov. 18), as newly promoted Captain Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) deals with a mysterious anomaly that could destroy all life in the galaxy. And remember “The Game”? The long-running football dramedy, which ran from 2006-2015 on The CW and later BET, is being revived (Nov. 11). While moving to a new city (Las Vegas), the series still follows the off-the-field lives of (fictional) pro football players and their families.
Also on tap: a live-action “Clifford the Big Red Dog” movie (Nov. 10, the same day it hits theaters); an Adele concert special, “One Night Only” (Nov. 14); a new season of the addictive reality competition “The Challenge: All Stars” (Nov. 11); and the premiere of “Real World Homecoming: Los Angeles” (Nov. 24), a reunion special with most of the cast from the 1993 season (Beth, Irene, David, Jon…). The New York version earlier this year was actually very good, especially for those who grew up on “The Real World,” as the cast reflected on the show’s impact on themselves and pop culture. As pure nostalgia plays go, this is solid.
Live-sports fans will appreciate a full slate of UEFA Champions League matches, U.S. men’s national team matches, college football and NFL games, including the Raiders-Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day.
Turkey Day will also bring “South Park: Post Covid,” a special episode of the long-running animated comedy. There aren’t many details about it yet, but keep in mind ViacomCBS paid $900 million in August to keep “South Park” running through 2027, including 14(!) “South Park” specials exclusively for Paramount+.
Of note: Season 4 of your dad’s favorite show, “Yellowstone,” will premiere Nov. 7 on cable’s Paramount Network, and will stream on the Paramount Network’s website, but NOT on Paramount+. Confused? Join the club. Long story short: Streaming rival Peacock has the streaming rights, so it has the three previous seasons, and Season 4 will apparently stream on Peacock too in 2022, after the upcoming season ends. Streaming rights are weird.
Who’s Paramount+ for? Gen X cord cutters who miss live sports and familiar ViacomCBS VIAC broadcast and cable shows.
Play, pause or stop? Pause. Paramount+ is getting interesting, and could be worth subscribing for a month or two to check things out, especially if you’re a soccer or football fan.
Amazon Prime Video ($12.99 a month)
Every streaming service is looking for “the next ‘Game of Thrones,”’ and Amazon Prime Video is banking on “The Wheel of Time” (Nov. 19) to be its next big franchise hit (at least until next year’s “Lord of the Rings” series).
Starring Rosamund Pike as a mysterious and magical woman intent on testing five young villagers in order to prove an ancient prophecy, “The Wheel of Time” is based on a best-selling series fantasy novels by Robert Jordan. The sprawling epic reportedly had a budget of $10 million per episode, and it’s already been renewed for a second season. Hard-core fantasy can be a tough sell to a broad audience, but “Game of Thrones” aside, Amazon AMZN would be very happy if this series replicated even half the success of “The Witcher” from rival Netflix.
Meanwhile, the underseen but very effective action thriller “Hanna” (Nov. 24) returns for its third season. Esmé Creed-Miles plays Hanna, a young woman who was created to be an unstoppable assassin, and this season she’ll team with her former nemesis (and ex-CIA agent), played by Mireille Enos, to take down the big bad black-ops organization behind everything. Ray Liotta also joins the cast, so expect extra intensity. This is a show that sounds like one big cliché, but is way better than it needs to be, a sort of female Jason Bourne kicking asses across Europe.
Other notables coming to Amazon: “Tampa Baes” (Nov. 5), an eight-episode docuseries about a group of lesbian friends in Florida; “The Electrical Life of Louis Wain” (Nov. 5), the true story of an eccentric British artist, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Claire Foy; the new docuseries “Always Jane” (Nov. 12), about a transgender girl growing up in rural New Jersey; and the documentary “Mayor Pete” (Nov. 12), about Pete Buttigieg’s presidential bid.
Who’s Amazon Prime Video for? Movie lovers, TV-series fans who value quality over quantity.
Play, pause or stop? Pause. “Hanna” should be fun and “The Wheel of Time” may be great (for that money, it better be), but it’s a thin lineup behind those.
Peacock (free basic level, Premium for $4.99 a month with ads, or $9.99 a month with no ads)
Peacock doesn’t have much new to offer in November.
The highlight might be the “Psych” standalone movie, “Psych 3: This Is Gus” (Nov. 18), as the guys return for another breezy mystery investigation, this time digging up the dirt on Gus’s fiancée’s apparent double life.
There’s also “The Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip” (Nov. 18), as cast members from various cities vacation together in the Caribbean; “Paris in Love” (Nov. 11), a 13-episode(!) docuseries following Paris Hilton as she prepares for her wedding; and Season 2 of the “Saved By the Bell” reboot (Nov. 24).
Peacock is also adding every season of “Downton Abbey” (Nov. 1), including the movie, and has a ton of older holiday movies on the way. And of course there’s a full slate of live sports, including Premier League soccer, college football, the NASCAR Cup series championship (Nov. 7), Breeders Cup horse racing (Nov. 6), and NFL games, including the Bills-Saints matchup on Thanksgiving Day.
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 CMCSA or Cox cable subscription, it’s also a perfectly fine free addition.
Play, pause or stop? Stop. Unless you’re a cord cutter who still needs live sports, it’s just not essential — especially the paid tier.
Discovery+ ($4.99 a month, $6.99 ad-free)
It’s a familiar refrain for Discovery+ — viewers who really love their unscripted shows are probably already subscribers, but there’s not much to compel newcomers to sign up.
November offers more of the same: a pair of Ree Drummond holiday specials (Nov. 1); “Space Titans” (Nov. 1), a special focused on spacey billionaires Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson; a new season of “90 Day: The Single Life” (Nov. 12); the two-part special “Carole Baskin’s Cage Fright” (Nov. 13), as the “Tiger King” villainess tries to repair her reputation; and “The World’s Biggest Druglord” (Nov. 14), a documentary feature about alleged Golden Triangle drug trafficker Tse Chi Lop.
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. Discovery+ is 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 DISCA 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.)