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What’s Worth Streaming: What’s worth streaming in June 2021: Summer fun with ‘In the Heights,’ ‘Lupin,’ ‘Loki’ and more

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As the country opens back up in June, there’s a whiff of joy in the air, at long last — and that extends to streaming, too.

From Lin-Manuel Miranda’s vibrant musical “In the Heights” on HBO Max, to the ridiculously fun “Lupin” on Netflix, to the clever “Loki” on Disney+, to the outrageous “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars” on Paramount+, June offers some lighter fare than the usual gritty dramas and dark comedies (though there are plenty of both left).

Watching all of June’s feel-good stuff would be too expensive for most folks, so What’s Worth Streaming will try to make the tough decisions for you, capping the number of truly must-have services at three and keeping the total streaming bill under $40. We rate each major streaming service every month as a “play,” “pause” or “stop,” similar to investment analysts’ ratings of buy, hold and sell, and pick the best content to help you make your monthly decisions.

As we’ve previously mentioned, consumers can take full advantage of cord-cutting by churning — that’s the strategy of 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 new, lower-priced tiers (read more about new offerings from HBO Max and Paramount+ below), free trials and cost-saving bundles. There are a lot of them out there, but those deals won’t last forever.

BTW: Don’t worry about the recent WarnerMedia-Discovery deal, or Amazon’s purchase of MGM — streaming viewers won’t see any changes for probably a year or more; and even when those deals close, there are third-party licensing deals to be sorted out.

Here’s a look at what’s coming to the various streaming services in June 2021, and what’s really worth the monthly subscription fee.

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

For the second straight summer, streaming viewers can enjoy a smash hit musical from creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. Last year, the stage blockbuster “Hamilton” came to Disney+, and this year it’s an adaptation of his previous work, the 2008 Broadway hit “In the Heights” (June 11) coming to HBO Max. Directed by John M. Chu (“Crazy Rich Asians”) and starring Anthony Ramos and Melissa Barrera, it’s a romantic story about a dreamer striving for a better life, and a joyous celebration of a tight-knit neighborhood (New York’s Washington Heights). It’ll debut on Max the same day it opens in theaters, and will stream for 31 days. It’s already getting rave reviews, and should be worth the price of a monthly subscription by itself.

For some, that cost will be $5 less starting in the first week of June, as HBO Max rolls out an ad-supported tier for $9.99 a month. The bad news for those who want to save a few bucks: The cheaper tier won’t include the slate of current-run Warner Bros. movies — like “In the Heights.” However, it will include HBO’s entire library, which will still run uninterrupted by commercials (they’ll most likely have a few ads before the show starts). HBO Max originals, like “The Flight Attendant,” and other HBO Max-licensed shows, like “Friends,” will have commercial breaks, but WarnerMedia promises its shows will have fewer than four minutes of ads per hour.

There’s one more Warner Bros. movie hitting Max as soon as it opens in theaters: “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” (June 4), the latest installment in the popular horror franchise. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson star as paranormal investigators checking out a murderous demonic possession. Definitely not light, summer fare, but horror fans should dig it.

Among series, HBO’s big June addition is Season 2 of “Betty” (June 11), the first season of which was one of the most feel-good series of the past year. It’s a beautifully shot, almost hypnotically chill hangout dramedy about a diverse group of young female skateboarders in New York. Short on plot, the show is more of a vibe: It captures that sensation you get when you’re young, and have the freedom (and time) to explore a big city, forge friendships and find your true self. It’s different than almost anything else on TV, and that’s what makes it so great.

There’s also “LFG” (June 24), a documentary about the U.S. women’s soccer team’s fight for equal pay; Season 4 of the animated “Summer Camp Island” (June 17); and the second part of Season 1 of the teen dramedy “Genera+ion” (data TBA); as well as the season finales of “In Treatment” and the excellent new Jean Smart comedy “Hacks.” Max will also add every season of “Billy on the Street” (June 8) and “Rizzoli & Isles” (June 6) — for two very different audiences — and add all eight “Harry Potter” movies (June 1). And don’t forget the long-awaited “Friends” reunion show dropped May 27.

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

Play, pause or stop? Play. With perhaps the feel-good movie of the summer, a handful of compelling current-run shows and an extensive, excellent library, AT&T’s
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HBO Max offers the most quality in streaming, hands-down. And while the new ad-supported tier won’t get you the newest movies, getting access to HBO’s library of shows for $10 a month is a steal.

Netflix ($7.99 a month for basic, $13.99 standard or $17.99 premium)

Netflix has a loaded lineup in June, with new seasons of some of its biggest hits.

“Lupin” quietly premiered in January and immediately grabbed viewers’ attention, becoming one of Netflix’s most-watched shows ever. Omar Sy returns as the French gentleman thief in the six-episode second half of Season 1 on June 11, with the plot picking up after January’s cliffhanger ending, and his revenge mission still unresolved. Reminiscent of the breezy caper dramas on USA a decade or so ago (think “Burn Notice” and “White Collar”), “Lupin” is pure escapism with ridiculous plot twists that you really shouldn’t overanalyze. But it’s a lot of fun and well worth checking out.

Also on tap: Season 4 of “Elite” (June 18), as the soapy Spanish boarding-school drama adds new students along with new romantic entanglements and mysteries;  the fifth and final season of the beloved Canadian sitcom “Kim’s Convenience” (June 6);  “Sweet Tooth” (June 4), a new series based on a comic about a hybrid deer-boy who sets off to explore a post-apocalyptic world; and Season 2 of the dramedy “Feel Good” (June 4), Mae Martin’s semi-autobiographical series about a recovering addict and comedian.

There’s also a strong slate of summer movies with big-name stars, including  “Awake” (June 9), a thriller starring Gina Rodriguez as a mom trying to protect her kids after a mysterious event prevents people from falling asleep; “Wish Dragon” (June 11), an animated tale of a teen who meets a wish-granting dragon, starring the voices of John Cho and Constance Wu; “Fatherhood” (June 18), with Kevin Hart in a dramatic role as a newly widowed father trying to raise his young daughter; and “The Ice Road” (June 25), an action movie starring Liam Neeson as an ice-road trucker on a dangerous mission. It looks like good, dumb fun, perfect to cool down to on a hot summer night.

For more: Here’s everything new coming to Netflix in June 2021 — and what’s leaving

And good news/bad news: Netflix
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is adding all three seasons of the decade-old ABC hangout comedy “Happy Endings” (June 1), a hilarious cult favorite that deserves an even larger following, but all three seasons of NBC’s bloody, psychosexual, I-can’t-believe-this-was-on-network-TV crime thriller “Hannibal” are leaving June 4.

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

Play, pause or stop? Play. The Netflix programming firehose is back, and there are quality (or at least dumb-but-fun) shows and movies for pretty much everyone.

Disney+ ($7.99 a month)

After a slow month of May, Disney+ is back with an impressive slate of originals in June, highlighted by the next big Marvel show.

That would be “Loki” (June 9), the highly anticipated Marvel spinoff starring Tom Hiddleston as the shapeshifting god of mischief that takes pace after the events of “Avengers: Endgame” — but with a Loki from a different timeline. And that’s just the start of the alternate-timeline and time-traveling shenanigans the show will get into. Owen Wilson co-stars as Loki’s handler from the intergalactic time police. While “WandaVision” was more or less a psychological thriller and “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” was largely an action series, “Loki” appears set up to be more of a lighthearted mystery series, and it looks to be highly entertaining. Programming note: While the previous Marvel shows have dropped new episodes on Fridays, all six episodes of “Loki” will premiere on Wednesdays.

Disney
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also has a new Pixar movie on tap: “Luca” (June 18). The animated coming-of-age fantasy is about two sea monsters who take human form and explore the Italian Riviera (as sea monsters are wont to do, of course). Pixar movies are always a treat, and this should be excellent summer fun — and as an added treat will be available to subscribers for no additional fee. Speaking of which, “Raya and the Last Dragon” (June 4) will finally be available to Disney+ subscribers for no additional fee. (The beautifully animated fantasy/adventure movie landed in March in theaters and on Disney+ for an additional $30.)

For more: Here’s what’s coming to Disney+ in June 2021: ‘Loki,’ ‘Luca’ and more

There’s also “The Mysterious Benedict Society” (June 25), a new series about a group of gifted orphans on a secret mission to save the world, based on the book series, as well as fresh episodes of the “Star Wars: Clone Wars” spinoff “The Bad Batch,”  “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” and “Big Shot.” And for those who’ve been sleeping on it, “The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers” just wrapped its terrific first season, and is legitimately enjoyable for adults and kids alike.

Who’s Disney+ for? Families with kids, and hard-core “Star Wars” and Marvel fans. For those not in those groups, its library can be lacking.

Play, pause or stop? Play. Kids will love “Luca” and “Raya and the Last Dragon,” and older viewers should dig “Loki” and Disney’s library of nostalgic classics.

Apple TV+ ($4.99 a month)

Apple TV+ has a lot to offer in June. Not so coincidentally, a whole lot of its free-trial plans will expire July 1, so the push is on to grab eyeballs and convert them into paying customers.

Apple’s
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biggest-name premiere is “Lisey’s Story” (June 3), an eight-episode limited series written by Stephen King and starring Julianne Moore and Clive Owen, with guest spots from Joan Allen and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Moore plays a widow still grieving her deceased horror-novelist husband (Owen), and splits into two storylines, one following her present life where she becomes the object of a dangerous stalker, and one more fantastical as she remembers her late husband’s life. Despite the star power, early reviews have been middling.

There’s also “Physical” (June 18), an ’80s-set dramedy starring Rose Byrne as a repressed housewife who finds a second life as an aerobics instructor and entrepreneur; Season 2 of the delightful animated musical comedy “Central Park” (June 25), from co-creator Loren Bouchard (“Bob’s Burgers”) and a star-studded voice cast; Season 2 of “Home Before Dark” (June 11), starring Brooklynn Prince as a young investigative reporter who digs for the truth behind a small-town conspiracy; and “Fathom” (June 25), a documentary movie about the songs of humpback whales.

There’ll also be the season finales of “The Mosquito Coast” (June 4), which has been uneven in its first season, and “Mythic Quest” (June 25), which has been terrific in its second.

Who’s Apple TV+ for? It offers a little something for everyone, but not necessarily enough for anyone.

Play, pause or stop? Pause and think it over. There’s good stuff there, but next month might be a better bet, when “Ted Lasso” returns.

Amazon Prime Video ($12.99 a month)

Amazon’s
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longest-running series is back for a final season, along with a smattering of promising international series.

“Bosch” (June 25) will end its run after its upcoming seventh season (though curiously, a spinoff featuring most of the cast, including star Titus Welliver, is being made for Amazon’s free IMDb TV). The popular crime drama, based on the Michael Connelly novels, will see its namesake detective investigating a deadly arson with politically sensitive implications this season.

Meanwhile, “Flack” (June 11) returns for its second season, after Amazon took over production from ViacomCBS last year. Anna Paquin (“True Blood”) stars as a PR agent in London trying to juggle a high-pressure job and a chaotic personal life.

Amazon also has some intriguing international shows on the way, including “Dom” (June 4), a Brazilian crime drama about a father and son on opposite sides of a violent drug war; Season 2 of “The Family Man” (June 4), an Indian espionage thriller; and “September Mornings” (June 25), a Brazilian family drama about a trans woman reunited with the son she never knew she had.

Also: Here’s everything coming to Amazon Prime Video in June 2021

June’s also a good time to catch up with “The Underground Railroad,” director Barry Jenkins’ visually stunning series about a runaway slave in the antebellum South, that premiered in May. While at times bleak and disturbing (hard to tell a slavery story that’s not), it’s a powerful and captivating series that already ranks among this year’s best.

Who’s Amazon Prime Video for? Movie lovers, TV-series fans who value quality over quantity.

Play, pause or stop? Pause and think it over. “Bosch” is good and “The Underground Railroad” is outstanding, but there’s stiff competition for what to watch right now.

Paramount+ ($4.99 a month with ads but no live CBS, $5.99 a month with ads, $9.99 without ads)

Paramount+ is bulking up in June, adding 1,000 more movies, bringing back a new season of its top show and adding a buzzy streaming exclusive.

The critically acclaimed legal drama “The Good Fight” (June 24) is back for its fifth season, as crusading lawyer Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) joins an African-American firm after her practice gets scuttled, taking on cases related to Black Lives Matter and police shootings. Season 4 ended prematurely due to the pandemic, and reportedly Season 5 will wrap up some of those loose ends. Mandy Patinkin (“Homeland”) will also join the cast as a guy with no legal training who opens his own back-office courtroom.

Paramount+ will also be the new exclusive place to watch “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars,” which will kick off its sixth season June 24. Moving “All Stars” from cable’s VH1 to a streaming service is bound to vex some viewers, but ViacomCBS Inc. is betting it’ll be a big enough draw to lure new subscribers — and they’re probably not wrong.

Earlier this month, ViacomCBS
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announced it would double down on movies on Paramount+, adding 1,000 titles to the service in early June, with more to come in the next few months. The streaming service will also premiere the new Mark Wahlberg sci-fi thriller “Infinite” (date TBA), after its planned 2020 theatrical release was repeatedly delayed due to the pandemic. 

There’s also Season 2 of “Why Women Kill” (June 3), the darkly comedic drama series from Marc Cherry (“Desperate Housewives”). Set in 1949, Allison Tolman (“Fargo”) headlines this season’s cast, as a housewife with murder on her mind.

And for children of the ’90s, a reboot of the wildly popular animated series “Rugrats” debuted May 27, with much of the original voice cast — only its look has morphed from 2-D cartoon to 3-D CGI.

Of note: Paramount+ is adding a cheaper tier in June, for $4.99 a month, with ads, but without live CBS programming.

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

Play, pause or stop? Pause. “The Good Fight” is very good, “Drag Race All Stars” is always entertaining, and the movie additions will be welcome. But with both of those shows premiering late in the month, the more economical play may be to wait a month or so before ponying up for a subscription.

Hulu ($5.99 a month or $11.99 with no ads)

There’s not a lot of new stuff coming to Hulu in June, but what there is is pretty good.

Look for Season 2 of the teen dramedy “Love, Victor” (June 11), starring Michael Cimino, with the new season picking up after the Season 1 cliffhanger when Victor came out to his family, and then jumping ahead to his new, out-of-the-closet life; Season 2 of the raunchy hip-hop comedy “Dave” (June 16, streaming a day after it airs on FX), which in Season 1 impressively transformed from a funny but one-note comedy focused on genitalia-based jokes to something much deeper and surprising, at times reminiscent of the brilliant “Atlanta”; and “False Positive” (June 25), a pregnancy horror/thriller starring Ilana Glazer, Justin Theroux and Pierce Brosnan that gives some creepy “Rosemary’s Baby”-like vibes.

More: Here’s everything coming to Hulu in June 2021, and what’s leaving

There are also new seasons of network shows like “The Bachelorette” (June 8), “American Ninja Warrior” (June 1) and “MasterChef” (June 3), as well as the season finale of “The Handmaid’s Tale” (June 16), and there’s always the third and final season of Aidy Bryant’s “Shrill” to catch up on, as well as new episodes of the dark hitman dramedy “Mr Inbetween” streaming a day after they air on FX.

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? Stop. There’s a good library, but the new offerings just aren’t compelling enough. And for fans of “Dave” and “Love, Victor,” they’ll still be there to binge another month.

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

Coming on the heels of “Rutherford Falls” and “Girls5Eva” (both worth checking out), Peacock has another new sitcom coming in June: “We Are Lady Parts” (June 3), a British import about a punk band made up of Muslim women. It looks promising.

There’s also Season 2 of “Intelligence” (June 17), the British cyberintelligence comedy starring David Schwimmer (“Friends”) and Nick Mohammed (“Ted Lasso”); a new season of the gentle craft competition “Making It” (June 24), hosted by Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman; the reality spinoff “Vanderpump Dogs” (June 9), about Lisa Vanderpump’s dog rescue center; and for golf fans, Phil Mickelson will look to win back-to-back majors at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines (June 17-20).

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 
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 or Cox cable subscription, it’s also a perfectly fine free addition.

Play, pause or stop? Stop. By all means check out the free version, but the paid tier will be unnecessary for most people. If the Olympics are held as scheduled, though, it should be worth a subscription later this summer.

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

It’s another month of perfectly fine time-filler shows on Discovery+.

That includes “Pushing the Line” (June 5), a new unscripted series about high-line walkers; “Battle of the Brothers” (June 17), with “Top Chef” alums Bryan & Michael Voltaggio mentoring chefs in a head-to-head team cooking competition; “The House My Wedding Bought” (June 16), in which couples balance spending between their dream wedding and forever home (and sounds suspiciously like Netflix’s awful “Marriage or Mortgage”); “Weekend Getaway with Michelle Buteau” (June 10), a travel show from the Canadian comedian; and a pair of Food Network spinoffs, “The Great Food Truck Race: All Stars” (June 6) and “Chopped: Alton’s Maniacal Baskets” (June 22), streaming the same day they air on cable.

Who’s Discovery+ for? Cord cutters who miss their unscripted TV or who are really, really into “90-Day Fiance.”

Play, pause or stop?  Stop. Discovery+ is fantastic for background TV. But there’s not much there that’s essential viewing. It’s really only a good option for those who’ve cut the cord completely — if you still have cable or get Discovery 
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 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.)

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