A murder mystery, a villainess origin story, a quest for an all-important pill, and a long-awaited reunion. Do you want to know where you’ll find the best bang for your buck among the streaming services? As always, there’s so much to choose from that the options are dizzying, so we are here to help you decide which service to (most) devote your time to this weekend. Ideally, we’d name one best option, but as luck would have it, there’s two frontrunners to favor and solid options from the rest.
This week, the top prize goes to HBO Max and Disney+, which are bringing a series finale for Kate Winslet’s return to TV and the O.G. cast of Friends for a one-hitter update, and the Cruella solo film that people never knew they wanted, respectively. Each of these services also offer a buffet of quality backup options, and the other highlighted streaming services won’t leave their subscribers empty-handed for fresh content. Hulu’s got a road-trip film of sorts and an in-case-you-missed-it supervillain series, and Netflix has several new offerings (including a dashing Devil helping to solve crime). Don’t count out Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, or Paramount+’s newest noteworthy selections, either. Let’s get down with what you’ll wanna put in your queues this weekend.
Mare Of Easttown (HBO series streaming on HBO Max) — It’s finale time! Kate Winslet returns not only to TV but to HBO (a decade after her award-winning Mildred Pierce turn) to star as a hard-vaping detective in a small town where she both portrays and elevates the “complicated” cop trope. She’s captivating while digging into a murder mystery that has rocked her small town and caused the community to feel utterly claustrophobic. This show will suck you in, and you won’t mind one bit. Also you’ll be wondering about this: what the heck was in that picture?
Friends: The Reunion (HBO Max feature-length special) — The whole O.G. gang is back in one place, which means that Rachel (Jennifer Aniston), Monica (Courteney Cox), Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow), Chandler (Matthew Perry), Ross (David Schwimmer), and Joey (Matt LeBlanc) are all here. Sadly, Paul Rudd is not on the scene, but there’s a buffay (get it?) of guest stars here to reinforce why this pop-culture phenomenon remains popular to this day, and why, oftentimes, friends can become your family.
Hacks (HBO Max series premiere) — Jean Smart’s not-so-quiet domination of recent prestige TV shows (Fargo, Watchmen, Mare of Easttown, Legion) and other popular shows of late (Big Mouth, Dirty John) has finally culminated with this leading-lady turn in a role she was arguably meant to play. Hacks hails from executive producer Michael Schur and has three Broad City alums in the writers’ room, so get ready for a (Las Vegas) buffet of complex female characters. Smart portrays a legendary comedian who forges a “dark mentorship” to a 20-something newcomer in town. Don’t miss this one.
Pause With Sam Jay (HBO Max series) — Emmy-nominated SNL writer Sam Jay will host a six-episode season that hopes to revamp the late-night talk show format with each episode taking place at Sam’s apartment, where she’s throwing a party. Each group will dive into divisive cultural issues, so get ready for some feisty conversations and, hopefully, a sense of understanding between those who hold different perspectives.
Cruella (Disney movie on Disney+) — Yes, Cruella de Vil is finally getting her origin story. Even if you don’t agree that she needed one, no one can argue that Emma Stone is the actress who could deliver a damn good time in this role. Granted, the film starts out slow (the runtime’s over two hours) with a protracted childhood era that doesn’t illustrate much about why she villained out and murdered puppies. Yet it does speed up, with lots of mayhem and a cackling Emma hanging off a truck in a billowing dress. Fashion can be evil! Also, the soundtrack feels like a character in its own right.
Launchpad: Season 1: Discover (Disney+ series) — This group of live-action shorts arrive from newcomer directors, often from minority backgrounds, all of whom want to spread their experiences of family and culture in uplifting ways. Each short this season revolves around the “discover theme,” and all directors worked under mentors from Disney+, Lucasfilm, Marvel Studios, Pixar, Walt Disney Animation Studios, and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
Inside Pixar: Unpacked (Disney+ series) — This docuseries packs a whole lot into its batch premiere. The season will dive into the artistry and culture within Pixar animation studios and emerge with a look at villains, the character known as “time,” the balance that the studio aims to strike between realistic characters and caricature, and the importance of background characters. The whole thing’s narrated by W. Kamau Bell, so you’re in for an extra special treat.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch: Episode 5 (Disney+ series) — You might prefer to think of this show as the Star Wars franchise’s version of D.C.’s Suicide Squad, but fear no Leto-Joker intrusion. Instead, this The Clone Wars spinoff follows the conclusion of its flagship series that recently wound down on Disney+. Dave Filoni is executive producing, and the show focuses on a mercenary squad of sorts that’s made up of (as the title indicates) “the Bad Batch” or Clone Force 99. These elite soldiers stand apart from standard clones due to their unique physical capabilities like super strength, super eyesight, and so on.
Plan B (Hulu film) — Oh boy, does this story ever hit home for countless ladies who find themselves driving from drug store to drugstore in the heartland. That’s exactly what happens in this film, after a regrettable sexual encounter sends a high school student (Kuhoo Verma) and her best friend (Victoria Moroles) on a bit of a road trip with the clock ticking to find Plan B in America’s heartland. As miserable as this potentially sounds, it’s actually a twist on the teen sex comedy, and it arrives by way of Cobra Kai and Harold & Kumar producers.
Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. (Hulu series) — Patton Oswalt’s the leading man in a very adult-oriented (and fantastic) animated series. Here, Oswalt’s portraying an egomaniacal supervillain who’s struggling to balance his day job as a bad dude with family life (it happens, even to the most evil among us!). In the process, he’s gotta deal with Tony Stark/Iron Man, who’s voiced by freaking Jon Hamm. Expect to hear Bill Hader, Whoopi Goldberg, Ben Schwartz, and Nathan Fillion all join the chorus as everyone on this show seems to want to push a bad man down.
Madagascar: A Little Wild: Season 3 (Hulu series) — Yep, this is the series that continues those lively, circus-life movies and the franchise that will (and parents will love this) never retire. Essentially, it’s a CGI musical comedy that follows four animal lead characters who live at the Central Park Zoo while dreaming big, as one does in New York City. And of course, this is all about never, ever declining to pursue one’s dreams.
Lucifer: Season 5B (Netflix series) — The Devil is still up to no good. Even worse, Lucifer is still plagued by his twin brother, Michael, who’s trying to take his place, and Lucifer also decides that he wants to be God? Alright. Well, God’s apparently retiring, so there’s an opening for that gig. Heaven help us all if this show ever starts to make sense (and Tom Ellis has so much swaggering fun with his lead role), but Netflix’s synopsis promises that “God himself comes to Earth. Secrets will be revealed, heroic sacrifices will be made, and the world will never be the same.” Season 6 will be the show’s final run, and I’m secretly rooting for Chloe to shake off her destiny and ditch the Devil.
Ragnarok: Season 2 (Netflix series) — This coming-of-age drama with a Norse mythology framework returns to show us more gloriously breathtaking Norwegian slices of nature. Unfortunately, not all goes smoothly, given that the residents of Edda are dealing with the effects of climate change, including melting poles, warm winters, and drastic, unpredictable changes in weather. Mysterious inhabitants turn this into a bit of a cautionary tale and a lot of entertainment.
Master of None: Season 3 (Netflix series) — It’s been (four) years since we’ve seen Aziz Ansari’s brainchild do its thing, and that’s not even (officially, at least) down to the pandemic. Ansari’s been largely out of the public eye following sexual misconduct allegations, although he did emerge a few years ago for an insightful comedy special that goes a long way to show that gazing inward, and this new batch of episodes proves it. Aziz takes a step behind the camera to direct in a season that he cowrote with the Emmy-winning Lena Waithe, whose character moves to the forefront.
The Kominsky Method: Season 3 (Netflix series) — The Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin-starring, Golden Globe-winning series reaches its final planned season with some heavy themes — money, death, love, murder, and the realization of dreams — at the forefront. An ex-wife and other family issues (including a contribution from Paul Reister) continue to make everything more complicated than it needs to be, but the show’s audience knows this drill, and they’re here for it.
High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America (Netflix series) — Food writer Stephen Satterfield takes a powerful voyage to discover the resourcefulness and straight-up artistry of the African American people. Satterfield draws upon knowledge from chefs, historians, and activists, and the results are mouthwatering.
Eden (Netflix series) — A city called “Eden 3” is filled with robots who no longer have human-boss types, which means that many robots now believe that humans never really existed at all and are only a myth. Naturally, a human baby girl shows up and throws the bots’ worldview into disarray.
Panic: Season 1 (Amazon Prime series) — This show’s a bit like The Purge in concept, only it revolves around a dangerous game that takes place over the course of a summer for graduating seniors in a tiny Texas town. They compete for a pot of money (while hoping to escape their tiny-town lives, of course), but the stakes are high and risky as players must confront their deepest fears. The story, which is based upon the bestselling novel by Lauren Oliver, will likely hook you, so be ready to binge.
Solos (Amazon Prime limited series) — This dramatic anthology series, which hails from David Weil (who also created Hunters), aims to explore the power of human connection while gazing through the eyes of seven individuals, who embody their own stories. The series stars Morgan Freeman, Anne Hathaway, Helen Mirren, Uzo Aduba, Nicole Beharie, Anthony Mackie, Dan Stevens, and Constance Wu, and expect to witness stories that will illuminate the human experience, even during times of isolation.
From Cradle To Stage (Paramount+ series) — This Dave Grohl-directed series follows Dave and his mom, Virginia, meeting up with another artist and their mom each week. This week, Grammy-award winning singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile arrives with her mom, Teresa, to guide Dave and Virginia around Ravensdale, Washington. Brandi’s trajectory from a tomboy kid to an openly gay artist gets the spotlight. Also, moms rule, and so does Dave Grohl.
Rugrats: Season 1 (Paramount+ series) — The 2021 revival of this series brings the babies back into action mode, which means that Tommy Pickles is leading his gang on a whole new set of adventures, this time in full-on three-dimensional CGI rendering. In the debut episode, dinosaurs are on the scene while Tommy helps Chuckie after his intent to appear brave does not go as planned.
The Me You Can’t See (Apple TV+ series) — On the heels of *that* interview, Prince Harry and Oprah are teaming up as co-creators and executive producers of this series that will dig into stories that revolve around mental health and emotional well-being. Expect a variety of guests, including Lady Gaga, the NBA’s DeMar DeRozan and Langston Galloway, plus a popular chef, and more.
Trying: Season 2 (Apple TV+ series) — Esther Smith and Rafe Spall return as a married couple who are painstakingly wading through the adoption process after learning that they’re unable to conceive a biological child. That particular angle on parenthood isn’t frequently tackled on TV, but as the couple moves past conquering the almighty adoption panel, they’ve got even harder work ahead of them. This show’s already landed a Season 3 renewal, so there’s an ultimate plan out there for this couple.
Mythic Quest: Season 2 (Apple TV+ series) — Two pandemic specials sustained viewers between seasons of Rob McElhenney’s workplace comedy, which shall see plenty of awkward maneuvering while the crew comes back to the office after you-know-what forced the work-at-home situation. The best news: Snoop Dogg stops by this season to spread his feel-good… vibes.