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Though the song is nearly 30 years old, Bruce Springsteen’s “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On)” encapsulates the struggle viewers face today. With hundreds of cable channels, dozens of streaming services, and countless on-demand titles, trying to decide what to watch can feel like an endless ordeal.
That’s where we come in. Each month, Boston.com recommends 10 must-watch movies and TV shows available on streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+, HBO Max, and more.
Many recommendations are for new shows, while others are for under-the-radar releases you might have missed, or classics that are about to depart a streaming service at the end of the month.
Have a new favorite movie or show you think we should know about? Let us know in the comments, or email me at [email protected]. Looking for even more great streaming options? Check out previous editions of our must-see list here.
Since leaving “Saturday Night Live” in 2012, Kristen Wiig hasn’t had a vehicle that allowed her to unleash her sketch comedy sensibility to its fullest, instead playing funny but undeniably tamped-down characters in “Bridsemaids” and “Ghostbusters,” among others. That changed with the release of “Barb and Star Go to Vista del Mar,” a 90-minute romp for Wiig and Annie Mumolo as walking caricatures on the vacation of their dreams. After a successful video-on-demand run, “Barb and Star” is headed to Hulu this Friday, and is free for subscribers to the streaming service.
How to watch: “Barb and Star Go to Vista del Mar” is streaming on Hulu.
Hamilton native Bo Burnham got his first big break as one of the earliest YouTube stars, writing and performing linguistically clever comedy tunes in his childhood bedroom. Since then, he has grown and progressed artistically, trying his hand at directing (“Eighth Grade”) and filming increasingly esoteric specials for Netflix. His latest, “Bo Burnham: Inside,” begins with a straightforward premise of a comic trying to make people laugh from the confines of his bedroom during the pandemic. But as the show progresses, Burnham veers from surface-level critiques of internet culture and the nature of performance into a darker place, plumbing the depths of his anxiety-filled brain.
How to watch: “Bo Burnham: Inside” is streaming on Netflix.
Newton is a well-known hub of comedic talent, thanks to folks who grew up there like “The Office” stars John Krasinski and B.J. Novak, “Friends” alum Matt LeBlanc, and “Newsradio” actor-turned-podcast-giant Joe Rogan. While he may not have the Q rating of the aforementioned funnymen, Zach Kanin should also be on that list, thanks to his years spent as a writer on “SNL,” a cartoonist for The New Yorker, and the co-creator of Netflix’s absurd sketch comedy series “I Think You Should Leave,” which returned for a second season earlier this week. Kanin and star Tim Robinson traffic in the uncomfortable and the odd, putting characters in embarrassing situations who go to extreme lengths to save face, even when the possibility of doing so is long gone. If you want a taste of what’s to come, check out this sketch from season one about a group of shoppers shell-shocked by a novelty hot dog car crashing through the store window, and the mysterious man in the hot dog costume (Robinson) who’s “trying to find the guy who did this.”
How to watch: “I Think You Should Leave” is streaming on Netflix.
Before going global with his Broadway megahit “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda found early success with “In the Heights,” the story of a New York City bodega owner looking to improve his lot in life. The big-screen adaptation, directed by Jon Chu (“Crazy Rich Asians”), has a mostly new cast, though both Miranda and Christopher Jackson (“Hamilton”) appear in different roles than the ones they originated on Broadway. Though the film had a relatively disappointing box office haul and faced backlash due to a lack of dark-skinned Afro Latinx characters, “In the Heights,” is an undeniable good time, full of catchy songs, dazzling choreography, and winning lead performances. If you’re still not ready to head back to the theaters, “In the Heights” will remain on HBO Max for a few more days as part of the streamer’s $14.99 a month plan that lets viewers stream new Warner Bros. releases for the first 30 days of their theatrical run.
How to watch: “In the Heights” is streaming on HBO Max.
“Kevin Can F**K Himself,” the new dark comedy from AMC, is two shows for the price of one. Set in Worcester and filmed in Massachusetts (towns featured include Brockton, Hingham, Milton, Randolph), “Kevin” begins as a brightly lit, multi-camera, laugh track-filled sitcom about a dopey husband named Kevin and his long-suffering wife, Allison (Annie Murphy, “Schitt’s Creek”). As soon as Allison exits stage left, however, “Kevin” flips the script, employing a single camera, darker lighting, and darker thoughts, as Allison begins to plot ways to extricate herself from her clod of a hubby.
How to watch: “Kevin Can F**k Himself” airs a week early on streaming service AMC+, and airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC. Those with a valid cable subscription can catch up on the first four episodes right now on AMC’s website.
Set in the 1950s along the Italian Riviera, two best friends named Luca and Alberto bond over a shared sense of adventure. As is to be expected with a Pixar movie, there’s a twist: Unbeknownst to each other, the boys are both sea monsters living in disguise. “Luca” was originally slated for a theatrical release, but Disney has chosen to put it directly on Disney Plus instead. Unlike other Disney titles that skipped theaters like “Mulan” and “Raya and the Last Dragon,” “Luca” is not subject to a Premier Access pricing tier, but is instead available to all Disney Plus subscribers.
How to watch: “Luca” is streaming on Disney Plus.
If you’re a fan of sleek crime movies or fizzy heist films, any new Steven Sodebergh release is a cause for celebration, thanks to his success with the “Ocean’s 11” series, “Out of Sight,” and “Logan Lucky,” among others. His newest, “No Sudden Move,” is more crime than heist, and doesn’t have the sexy sizzle like “Out of Sight” or the belly laughs of “Logan Lucky.” But the film is laden with snappy dialogue, distinctive camerawork, and great performances from Benicio Del Toro and Don Cheadle as two small-time crooks stuck in a complex web of double crosses and schemes involving a valuable missing document.
How to watch: “No Sudden Move” is streaming on HBO Max.
While Woodstock was busy grabbing headlines, an equally star-studded New York music festival flew comparatively under the radar. That’s the subject of “Summer of Soul,” a new documentary from Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival. Showcasing performances from the likes of Nina Simone, B.B. King, and Stevie Wonder, “Summer of Soul” also features engrossing interviews from people who experienced the magic of the festival in person.
How to watch: “Summer of Soul” is streaming on Hulu.
If you’re looking for a weekend watch that’s truly out of left field, give British game show “Taskmaster” a try. Each episode, five British comedians are assigned absurd tasks, and must come up with creative ways to solve them in order to receive points doled out by the haughty Taskmaster. Scrolling through the show’s YouTube page, you’ll get a sampling of the ludicrous challenges at hand — “Order a pizza without saying ‘Pizza,’ ‘Tomato,’ ‘Cheese,’ or other helpful words,” “Conceal an entire pineapple on your body,” “Build the tallest tower made of lemons.” The comedian’s creative successes and miserable failures are a joy to watch, as are the whims of Taskmaster Greg Davies. Moreover, there’s something to be said for watching a reality competition where, as “Whose Line Is It Anway?” famously put it, “the rules are made up and the points don’t matter.”
How to watch: Full episodes of “Taskmaster” are streaming on the show’s YouTube page.
The definition of pop music is a nebulous one, as popular tastes change faster than anyone can keep track of, including the music industry itself. With its eight-part documentary series “This Is Pop,” Netflix chronicles eight pivotal moments in pop history, including the rise of auto-tune and the music festival industrial complex. You may learn some new things as well, like how some of your favorite pop songs were created in Sweden, or how Boyz II Men weren’t fans of their biggest single ever before its release.
How to watch: “This is Pop” is streaming on Netflix.
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