The latest streaming wave is about to crest.
After a slew of high-profile, high-quality programming premiered on various streaming services in March, an even larger crop of must-see series is set to drop in April as Emmy season really gears up, including Apple’s “Slow Horses,” HBO Max’s “We Own This City” and Netflix’s “Russian Doll.”
That poses a dilemma for budget-minded consumers, because there’s really no way to watch everything without breaking the bank. But for around $35 in total, our top three recommendations will get you the highlights, at least. And there’s always the option to splurge for more — in April, it might be worth it.
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 April 2022, and what’s really worth the monthly subscription fee.
Apple TV+ ($4.99 a month)
Don’t look now, but Apple is quietly challenging HBO Max as the streamer with the best crop of current shows. And that roster will only get stronger in April.
The month kicks off with “Slow Horses” (April 1), a new British spy series adapted from Mick Herron’s popular novels. Gary Oldman stars as the head of Slough House, a dumping ground where MI5 screwups are put to pasture (hence the nickname Slow Horses). Forget James Bond antics, this is an old-school slow burn in the John le Carré vein, balancing deep cynicism with modern geopolitics and a rapier wit. The fantastic cast includes Kristin Scott Thomas, Jonathan Pryce and Jack Lowden as the newest addition to the team, who gets caught up in a kidnapping plot where all is not what it appears. It’s a must-see.
also has “Roar” (April 15), a star-studded, darkly comic anthology series about what it means to be a woman in today’s world, featuring Nicole Kidman, Cynthia Erivo (“Harriet”), Merritt Wever (“Nurse Jackie”) and Alison Brie (“Mad Men,” “Community”). Each episode tells a different story, ranging from magical realism to psychological horror. It sounds interesting on paper, but anthology series rarely seem to hold together well; only time will tell if this can be an exception.
Meanwhile, Elisabeth Moss (“The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Mad Men”) has a gritty new reality-bending thriller series, “Shining Girls” (April 29), starring as a Chicago reporter hunting down the man who assaulted her — who happens to be a time-traveling killer.
And fresh on the heels of HBO’s L.A. Lakers series “Winning Time,” which takes plenty of liberties with the truth, is the four-part documentary series “They Call Me Magic” (April 22), which is basically Magic Johnson’s version of Michael Jordan’s “The Last Dance.”
All that is in addition to Apple’s incredibly strong current crop of shows: “Severance” (which concludes its jaw-dropping first season April 8); Samuel L. Jackson’s compelling mystery/drama miniseries “The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey” (which also ends April 8); the weird but watchable WeWork bio-series “WeCrashed” (which ends April 22); and the powerful family drama “Pachinko” (new eps every Friday). It’s also the only place to stream the recent Oscar winner for best picture, “CODA.”
Apple is also getting into live sports, with two Major League Baseball games every Friday night starting April 8. Best part: Those games will be free to watch for non-subscribers.
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. This column used to call Hulu (with ads) the best bargain in streaming. But for just $5 a month and an ever-growing library of high-quality shows, Apple TV+ may have taken over that title.
HBO Max ($14.99 a month without ads, or $9.99 with ads)
HBO Max is absolutely loaded in April, with returning favorites and originals from some of the biggest names in Hollywood.
After a nearly three-year layoff, “Barry” (April 24) returns for its third season, with Bill Hader’s eponymous hitman continuing his harrowing journey of trying to become an actor and leave his violent past behind. That’ll be tough, seeing how when we last saw him, Barry’s acting coach (Henry Winkler) had figured out his big secret, with very personal repercussions. Stephen Root and a scene-stealing Anthony Carrigan co-star in this very dark, very funny show that, when it hits its marks, is one of the best on TV.
Max’s first true original hit, “The Flight Attendant” (April 21) is also back, with its second season. Kaley Cuoco was a revelation in Season 1 playing a functioning alcoholic whose ditzyness belied serious personal trauma that emerged as she got caught up in a murder mystery. Her character is struggling to stay sober in Season 2, but that could be tough as she’s now working with the CIA (long story) and gets caught up in more international intrigue. Don’t let the dark description scare you off though, the series managed to be funny and breezy while balancing some serious suspense. Season 2 will be worth checking out.
HBO wouldn’t be HBO without David Simon (“The Wire,” “Treme”), and the acclaimed writer/producer revisits his Baltimore roots with his latest show. “We Own This City” (April 25), produced by Simon and his longtime collaborator, crime author George Pelecanos, tells the true story of of the rise and fall of a corrupt unit in the Baltimore Police Department. Jon Bernthal (“The Walking Dead”), Jamie Hector (“The Wire”) and Josh Charles (“The Good Wife”) star in the limited series that, like Simon’s best works, serves as a parable of moral collapse and institutional failures. Simon’s shows have been must-sees for nearly 30 years, and this should be no different.
Just as intriguing, though with more of a downside risk, is “Tokyo Vice” (April 7), the long-awaited Michael Mann drama about an American crime reporter who delves into the underworld of 1990s Tokyo. Mann (“Heat,” “Miami Vice”) directs the pilot and serves as a producer for the show, which is set in a neon-lit urban landscape that is right in Mann’s wheelhouse, and the indomitable Ken Watanabe (“The Last Samurai,” “Inception”) co-stars — all sounds good so far — but the weak link may be Ansel Elgort (“West Side Story,” “Baby Driver”), who stars as the reporter. Yet to truly make an impression as an actor and under a cloud of sexual-assault allegations, Elgort may end up being too much of a distraction for the show’s own good.
Those four shows alone would be a huge month for most streamers, but HBO Max has even more, including Season 3 of the Emmy-winning comedy series “A Black Lady Sketch Show” (April 8); Season 2 of the “Black Mirror”-esque dark-comedy series “Made for Love” (April 28), starring Cristin Milioti and Ray Romano; Season 2 of the gender-bending historical drama “Gentleman Jack” (April 25); the feature documentary “Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off” (April 5); the Holocaust drama “The Survivor” (April 27), from filmmaker Barry Levinson and starring Ben Foster; and Season 5 of the gentle and completely addictive British competition show “The Great Pottery Throw Down” (April 14).
And of course there are the returnees, which include the ultra-meta but wildly entertaining “Winning Time,” about the 1980s “Showtime” L.A. Lakers, and the Julia Child bio-series “Julia,” which both have new episodes every week in April.
Who’s HBO Max for? HBO fans and movie lovers.
Play, pause or stop? Play. “Barry,” “The Flight Attendant” and “We Own This City” should be among the year’s best shows, and there are plenty very watchable other options a tier below those. Critics may grumble about HBO’s price, but you get what you pay for — and in this case, it’s TV at its highest level.
Netflix ($9.99 a month for basic, $15.49 standard or $19.99 premium)
had an underwhelming first quarter, with few buzzy hits before the recent second season of “Bridgerton.” But things are starting to perk up in April.
After a long layoff, the existential comedy “Russian Doll” (April 20) — one of the best shows of 2019 — is returning for its second season. Season 1 saw Nadia (played by Natasha Lyonne) struggle to break out of a time loop (and die many, many times trying to do so). Season 2 picks up four years later, after she and fellow time-looper Alan (Charlie Barnett) discover a time portal in Manhattan, and delve deeper into their respective pasts. Season 1 was a mind-bending, dazzlingly creative triumph, and there are high hopes that Season 2 can recapture that magic.
Meanwhile, two of Netflix’s longer-running shows will come to an end. The dark crime drama “Ozark” (April 29) will drop the seven remaining episodes of its fourth and final season (the first batch of episodes were released in January). When we last saw them, Marty and Wendy Byrde (Jason Bateman and Laura Linney) were in neck-deep with the cartel and running scared, while Ruth (Julia Garner) was out looking for revenge. Fans can expect any possible resolution to be very bloody. Also on April 29, “Grace and Frankie” returns with its seventh and final season, as the two unlikely friends (Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda) start the final chapter in their lives.
There’s also Season 5 of the soapy Spanish high-school drama “Elite” (April 8); “Anatomy of a Scandal” (April 15), a British legal-thriller series from producer David E. Kelley that stars Rupert Friend, Sienna Miller and Michelle Dockery; Season 5 of the real-estate reality series “Selling Sunset” (April 22); and “The Ultimatum: Marry or Move On” (April 6, with new eps every week), a trashy new relationship reality show whose title says it all.
On the movie front, Netflix has “The Bubble” (April 1), a comedy from Judd Apatow about a film cast and crew trying to shoot a blockbuster movie while maintaining a pandemic bubble at a posh hotel; “Apollo 10 1/2” (April 1), a nostalgic coming-of-age story from director Richard Linklater, using his signature rotoscope animation; and “Return to Space” (April 7), a documentary chronicling SpaceX’s first NASA astronaut launch last May.
But really, perhaps the biggest addition of the month is Season 5 of “Better Call Saul” (April 4). This most recent (and best to date) season aired in 2020, and comes to Netflix two weeks before the “Breaking Bad” sequel’s final season begins on cable’s AMC.
Who’s Netflix for? Fans of buzz-worthy original shows and movies.
Play, pause or stop? Play. Netflix is reclaiming its must-have status.
Hulu ($6.99 a month or $12.99 with no ads)
Hulu has only a handful of new offerings in April, but they include some very big names.
And the biggest is “The Kardashians” (April 14). The new reality series basically picks up where E’s “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” left off after ending its 20-season run in March. Fans can expect more of the same (for better or worse) from Kris, Kim, Khloe, Kendall and the rest of the family.
Oscar nominee Andrew Garfield stars in a new drama miniseries, “Under the Banner of Heaven” (April 28), based on the Jon Krakauer book about a 1984 double murder in Utah. Garfield plays a Mormon detective investigating the crime, whose faith is tested as he discovers the church may be linked to the killings. Oscar-winner Dustin Lance Black (“Milk”) wrote the series, which could be very interesting. New eps will stream a day after airing on FX.
The surreal comedy “Woke” (April 8) returns for its second season, with Lamorne Morris starring as a Black cartoonist who’s trying to balance art and social activism. It’s an interesting concept, but Season 1 was never able to nail the proper tone, or get particularly deep into the issue (unlike, say, “Atlanta,” which deals with similar issues but goes there all the way).
The teen mystery series “The Hardy Boys” (April 6) is also back for its second season, with a more supernatural twist this time around, and the motorcycle-gang drama “Mayans M.C.” (April 20) returns for its fourth season, with new episodes streaming a day after they air on FX.
The two best current shows on Hulu are FX ones that premiered in March — the final season of the single-mother comedy “Better Things” (new eps every Tuesday until it concludes April 26) and the long-awaited third season of the afore-mentioned “Atlanta,” (new eps every Friday), which is still as weird and amazing as ever. There are also new eps every Tuesday of the “texting suicide” drama “The Girl From Plainview,” starring Elle Fanning; the conclusion of the Theranos miniseries “The Dropout” (April 7); and the final episodes of Season 5 of the ’80s drug-lord drama “Snowfall” (April 21).
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. But it’s worth a splurge if you can. While the newcomers are less than inspiring, at least until “Under the Banner of Heaven” at the end of the month, there are enough continuing series, like “Atlanta,” “Better Things” and “The Dropout,” worth the subscription price.
Amazon’s Prime Video ($14.99 a month)
Prime Video has a light but intriguing lineup in April, led by “Outer Range” (April 22), a supernatural Western starring Josh Brolin, in his first TV-series role in 20 years, as a Wyoming rancher who discovers a very literal metaphysical void on his land. The trailer looks like a creepier, much weirder version of “Yellowstone,” which is not at all a bad thing.
And for those missing Netflix’s “The Crown,” there’s Season 2 of “A Very British Scandal” (April 22), starring Claire Foy and Paul Bettany as real-life British royals — the Duke and Duchess of Argyll — going through a very public divorce (gasp!) in the 1960s.
There’s also “The Outlaws” (April 1), a British comedy series starring Christopher Walken and Stephen Merchant as misdemeanor lawbreakers thrown together to perform community service; “All the Old Knives” (April 8), a spy thriller starring Chris Pine and Thandiwe Newton about a CIA operative trying to expose a mole; and the acclaimed, genre-bending animated series “Undone,” which returns for its second season April 29.
Who’s Amazon Prime Video for? Movie lovers, TV-series fans who value quality over quantity.
Play, pause or stop? Pause. While there might not be a surefire hit, there’s a lot of potential in April’s additions. And Amazon
has a great library and selection of movies.
Disney+ ($7.99 a month)
The biggest new thing for Disney+ in April actually hit March 30 — the Marvel superhero series “Moon Knight,” starring Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke. It’s a departure from the previous Marvel series, much darker, scarier and stranger, with more emphasis on psychological drama than typical superhero special effects (though there are plenty of those too). The performances from both Isaac and Hawke (as the villain) are top-notch, too. The six-episode series will drop new episodes every Wednesday until its finale May 4.
The rest of the lineup is fairly sparse. Among the highlights: the musical comedy movie “Better Nate Than Never” (April 1), based on the acclaimed novel by Tim Federle; “Ice Age: Scrat Tales” (April 13), a series of animated shorts about the saber-toothed squirrel from the “Ice Age” movies; and a slate of Earth Day programming that includes the documentary “Polar Bear” (April 22) and “The Biggest Little Farm: The Return” (April 22), a follow-up to the 2018 documentary about an urban farm in L.A.
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? Pause. It really depends on whether “Moon Knight” is your jam or not. If not, April doesn’t have a lot to offer.
Paramount+ ($4.99 a month with ads but not live CBS, $5.99 a month with ads, $9.99 without ads)
On the 50th anniversary of “The Godfather,” Paramount+ will go deep into the making of the iconic mob film with “The Offer” (April 28), a 10-episode miniseries based on the behind-the-scenes-drama that threatened to derail the production at nearly every step. Miles Teller (“Whiplash”) stars as producer Albert S. Ruddy, Dan Folger (“Fantastic Beasts”) plays director Francis Ford Coppola, and Giovanni Ribisi (“Sneaky Pete”) plays mob boss Joe Colombo, who was one of the movie’s early opponents. There are rich details to mine from “The Godfather’s” notoriously tense production process — series creator Michael Tolklin told Vanity Fair earlier this year that “What sealed it for me was when Al [Ruddy] said, ‘Every day of making ‘The Godfather’ was the worst day in my life,’ and that told me we had a show.”
That same day the streaming service will also add “The Godfather,” “The Godfather, Part II” and “The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone” (that’s the director’s cut of “The Godfather, Part III”).
In non-“Godfather” programming, there’s Season 2 of the rebooted “iCarly” (April 8), livestreams of the Grammy Awards (April 3) and CMT Awards (April 11), new episodes of “Star Trek: Picard” and “Halo,” and a slate of sports that includes UEFA Champions League quarter- and semifinals, and The Masters golf (April 9-10).
Play, pause or stop? Stop. “The Offer” looks good, but the nagging question is whether it’ll appeal to those who aren’t hardcore “Godfather” fans. And there’s not a whole lot to offer besides that.
Peacock (free basic level, Premium for $4.99 a month with ads, or $9.99 a month with no ads)
The biggest addition for Peacock is “Killing It” (April 14), a new 10-episode sitcom from Dan Goor and Luke Del Tredici (the team behind “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”), starring Craig Robinson (“The Office”) as a Florida security guard who resorts to hunting big snakes to make serious money so he can pursue the American Dream. There’s some impressive talent here, and the trailer looks legitimately funny — this could be a sleeper hit.
Also of note: Season 4 of the hit cable drama “Yellowstone” (which wrapped up in January) landed on Peacock on March 28; Wrestlemania 38 will stream exclusively April 2-3; and the Irish mystery thriller “Smother” (April 28) returns for its second season.
On the sports front, Peacock has a full slate of English Premier League soccer, IndyCar racing, and in yet another attempt at making spring football happen, the rebooted, made-for-gambling USFL, starting April 16.
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. “Killing It” looks solid, but there’s not much to lure paying viewers, aside from Premier League fans. The resurrected USFL sounds stupid in nearly every way (every game will be played in Birmingham, Ala., for one) and smart football fans will skip it.
Discovery+ ($4.99 a month, $6.99 ad-free)
Discovery+ has more of the same on tap for April.
That includes “Serving the Hamptons” (April 7), following the juicy drama of a Southampton, N.Y., restaurant staff; “High Design with Kim Myles” (April 13), as the HGTV “Design Star” winner gives makeovers to cannabis dispensaries; “Handcrafted Hotels” (April 16), about cute and crafty hotels around the country; “All on the Table” (April 20), a reality show where hopeful restaurateurs pitch potential investors; and the cold-case anthology show “Unraveled: Once a Killer” (April 22), about killers who strike only one time, leaving investigators baffled.
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.)
CNN+ ($5.99 a month)
The first thing to know about CNN’s new streaming service that launched in late March is that it is not just a streaming version of CNN. (Long story short, CNN makes its money from cable advertising and carriage fees, and offering that same content on streaming would hobble its cable revenue stream, since live news remains a major selling point for cable subscriptions.)
Instead, think of it as supplemental content for CNN — or a more upscale version of Discovery+ — featuring a library of unscripted shows like “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” “Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy” and W. Kamau Bell’s “United Shades of America”; CNN documentaries like the recent “The Murdochs: Empire of Influence”; news analysis and interview shows from hosts like Chris Wallace and Brian Stelter; and lifestyle shows from hosts such as Alison Roman, Scott Galloway and Anderson Cooper.
It sounds…fine? But for $5.99 a month, pretty unnecessary. The guess here is that once Discovery’s acquisition of WarnerMedia from AT&T
is complete this will get lumped into a bundle deal with HBO Max and Discovery+, and eventually they’ll all probably merge in a, say, $20-a-month “Discovery Max” streaming mega-service.
Play, pause or stop? Stop. There’s no need.