The start of a new month makes for the perfect opportunity to reconsider that up-to-$20 you spend on Netflix. Yes, it's one of the best streaming services, but its reliance on unscripted documentary and reality TV programming as it leans away from scripted shows makes it a tough sell.
Personally, I've accepted that I won't cancel Netflix this month, even though I've given up Ciri and Geralt after The Witcher season 3 volume 2. For me, there's more to the service, like the rewatchable I Think You Should Leave.
Let's take a look at Netflix's August 2023 list, which I find a little underwhelming on multiple fronts.
Netflix's big August shows examined
The first big returning Netflix show of the month is YA drama Heartstopper, which continues to show that queer stories can be blissful and not heavy on the tragedy. Charlie Spring (Joe Locke) is back for Season 2 (Aug. 3), Nick (Kit Connor) is out of the closet to his mother (Olivia Colman) and their circle is expanding.
Then, just like The Witcher season 3 volume 2, The Lincoln Lawyer season 2 part 2 (Aug. 3) debuts its back half a month after its first. Hopefully, this conclusion is much better than the end of Henry Cavill's run.
If we had to put our money on one new series, it would be Painkiller (Aug. 10), which brings fictionalized retellings of stories of the opioid epidemic to the big red streaming machine. It's based on the book Pain Killer by Barry Meier and Patrick Radden Keefe's New Yorker article about the topic, and stars Uzo Aduba, Matthew Broderick, Taylor Kitsch, Dina Shihabi and West Duchovny.
The Upshaws season 4 (Aug. 17) brings Mike Epps, Kim Fields and Wanda Sykes' sitcom back for more.
But the biggest potential hit on Netflix's August calendar is One Piece (Aug. 31). Yes, Netflix is trying its hand against with another big live-action anime, following the Cowboy Bebop flop. This series tracks aspiring adventurer Monkey D. Luffy (Iñaki Godoy), who wants to be the king of the pirates, and track down a fabled treasure.
Netflix's next movies seem very hit or miss
Gal Gadot is the kind of lead you either love or loathe, but she's co-starring in spy flick Heart of Stone (Aug. 11) with the pretty well-liked Jamie Dornan. The big twist is that Gadot's Rachel Stone isn't just working for MI6, she's also a part of a peacekeeping initiative, but trust is gone after her cover is blown. From the producers of The Old Guard and Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One.
In family-friendly animated film The Monkey King (Aug. 18), we meet a monkey who needs his magical fighting stick to battle "demons, dragons and gods." Inspired by a 16th century Chinese novel, The Monkey King's other big problem is internal, as he must overcome his own ego.
In Killer Book Club (Aug. 25), Netflix gets a jump on spooky season by setting a killer clown up against eight horror fiends. Of course, this group shares a secret that their foe appears to know.
You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah (Aug. 25), from Adam Sandler's Happy Madison production company, follows besties Stacy (Sunny Sandler, Adam's daughter) and Lydia (Samantha Lorraine), whose friendship hits a snag. Their local cool boy Andy (Dylan Hoffman) plus Hebrew school drama mix together for a chaotic cocktail about being young.
Documentaries and reality TV
Okay, this one is probably why many will want Netflix, but for some of us it's the kind of thing that we rear our heads away from. On Aug. 16, DEPP V HEARD, a three-part docuseries, examines the testimonies of both Johnny Depp and Amber Heard from the massive defamation case that drew eyes from around the world.
Similarly, social media megastar turned boxer Jake Paul will be featured in the first chapter of the Untold series. Jake Paul the Problem Child (Aug. 1) goes behind the scenes of the controversial personality that you may love, love to hate or need to ignore for your own sanity.
The other Untold: Volume 3 chapters (Aug. 8, 15, 22) dive into the lives of Johnny Manziel (Johnny Football), doping scandal figure Victor Conte and the 2005-10 Florida Gators.
Netflix's other big sports documentary is Mark Cavendish: Never Enough (Aug. 2), which is perfectly timed after the Tour de France. It explains the rollercoaster rise, fall and comeback of its titular star cyclist.
For true crime, we will apparently only get one doc, The Last Hours of Mario Biondo (Aug. 3), which Netflix says "uncovers new details" about the mysterious death of the camera operator married to Spanish TV host Raquel Sánchez Silva.
For true crime-adjacent content, Poisoned: The Dirty Truth About Your Food (Aug. 2) examined foodborne illnesses, by interviewing victims' families and experts.
Need something more lighthearted? Ladies First: A Story of Women in Hip-Hop (Aug. 9) argues that women deserve the rap throne. It examines 50 years of their contributions to the culture.
Netflix delivers the guilty pleasure reality TV it's known for near the end of the month with The Ultimatum: Marry or Move On: Season 2 (Aug. 30), where couples having trouble at the precipice of marriage test their commitment.
Down for Love (Aug. 11) changes the mood on Netflix's love of unscripted dating content. Unlike the drama prone series, this "feel-good" series tracks people with Down syndrome as they thrive and endure the dating scene.
Later in the month, we'll see what it's like to Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones (Aug. 30), as author Dan Buettner goes to communities where people beat the normal life expectancy.
Netflix's licensed movies and shows haul is fast, furious and childish to boot
This might just be my inner movie snob turning its nose, but I expect some range from Netflix's monthly delivery of licensed films. Instead, this month's list is mostly highlighted by the first five Fast & Furious movies, a bunch of recent family-friendly animated movies and a few respected classics.
I might love the Fast films, but their recent drop-off at the box office makes me think this is an odd bet. I know the likes of Bee Movie, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2 and Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted aren't made for me, but it's so weird when I look to this list and only see a handful of films that seem interesting: Coming to America, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Jerk and Lost in Translation.
Here's the whole list of films that drop on Aug. 1.
- 2 Fast 2 Furious
- Bee Movie
- Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
- Coming to America
- Despicable Me
- Despicable Me 2
- Eat Pray Love
- Fast & Furious
- Fast Five
- The Fast and the Furious
- The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
- Ferris Bueller's Day Off
- Friends with Benefits
- It's Complicated
- The Jerk
- Just Go With It
- Lost in Translation
- Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted
- No Strings Attached
- The River Wild
- Terminator Genisys
At least The Big Short (Aug. 23) comes later in the month.
Also, in licensed TV deals, Ugly Betty seasons 1-4 and Pawn Stars season 14 arrive.
Outlook: So, is Netflix worthy of your cash?
As Netflix eliminates its ad-free basic tier and continues its password crackdown, it's not hard to foresee people becoming more disgruntled with the service. So, as I say with every edition of this column, rethink the value of your Netflix account.
Heartstopper and The Lincoln Lawyer fans will scoff. Some folks will see the above documentaries and say "wait, who would even think about canceling Netflix?" Anime fans with a trust or curiosity will also be on the line. Those of us waiting for shows delayed by the strikes, such as Stranger Things season 5? We may be a little concerned.
So, peruse the above list. Think about if the Netflix price you pay is worth these latest additions. And make your choice from there.
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Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.