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Taylor Swift, '3 Body Problem,' 'Shogun' -2-

Get current: The best reason to watch Hulu this month is for FX's epic miniseries "Shogun," which dropped its first episodes at the end of February and concludes in April. It's a sumptuous adaptation of the 1975 James Clavell novel, with gorgeous cinematography and a more well-rounded approach than the 1980 TV miniseries, especially when it comes to the perspective of its Japanese characters. Hiroyuki Sanada oozes gravitas as a powerful warlord surrounded by enemies, Anna Sawai is striking as a Catholic convert and translator, toeing a fine line between two cultures, while Cosmo Jarvis plays an boorish shipwrecked English sailor whose idea of civilization becomes turned upside down by the new world he encounters. It's a gripping tale, reminiscent of early "Game of Thrones" at its scheming, dialogue-heavy best. I'll mention my favorite show of this year (so far) a little further down, but "Shogun" could easily claim that title by the time all is said and done. It's very, very good.

Who's Hulu for? TV lovers. There's a deep library for those who want older TV series and next-day streaming of many current network and cable shows.

Play, pause or stop? Pause and think it over. There's a case to be made that "Shogun" and "Abbott Elementary" are worth a subscription by themselves, but there aren't many new shows that are worth paying for. Still, if you do, the cheaper, ad-supported plan is the way to go. Hulu has a lot of good stuff, but not $18-a-month worth of goodness.

Apple TV+ ($9.99 a month)

It seems a rarity when Apple (AAPL) doesn't have a new sci-fi series, but March is all about the past, starting with the streaming premiere of Ridley Scott's action spectacle "Napoleon" (March 1), starring Joaquin Phoenix, which hit theaters last November to mixed reviews.

"Manhunt" (March 15), tells the surprisingly little-known true story about the desperate search for Abraham Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth (Anthony Boyle). Based on the bestseller by James L. Swanson, the long-simmering adaptation stars Tobias Menzies as Edwin Stanton, Lincoln's secretary of war, who led the manhunt. Apple has another throwback series with "Palm Royale" (March 20), a dramedy starring Kristen Wiig, Laura Dern and Ricky Martin about a woman trying to break into Palm Beach high society in 1969.

There's also a new season of the off-the-beaten-path travel show "The Reluctant Traveler with Eugene Levy" (March 8); the new historical comedy series "The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin" (March 1), starring Noel Fielding ("The Great British Baking Show") as a bumbling 18th-century highwayman; and the second season of the rebooted kids show "Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock" (March 29).

And there are new episodes every week of the WWII drama "Masters of the Air" (finale March 15), the sci-fi thriller "Constellation" (finale March 27) and the historical fashion drama "The New Look" (finale April 3).

Who's Apple TV+ for? It offers a little something for everyone, but not necessarily enough for anyone - although it's getting there.

Play, pause or stop? Pause. While good but not great, "Masters of the Air" is still worth a watch, "Constellation" has gotten mostly good reviews, and "Manhunt," "Palm Royale" and "Dick Turpin" have potential - but is that enough to justify a subscription?

Disney+ ($7.99 a month with ads, $13.99 with no ads)

Disney's (DIS) hands-down highlight of the month is the streaming premiere of the blockbuster concert movie "Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour (Taylor's Version)" (March 15), with five songs not included in the original theatrical release. If you have a Swiftie in your house, then yeah, you'll be watching this a few times.

Disney+ also has "X-Men '97" (March 20), an animated revival featuring the iconic band of mutants and picking up where the much-loved 1990s "X-Men: The Animated Series" left off; new episodes of the animated "Star Wars" spinoff "The Bad Batch"; "NHL Big City Greens Classic" (March 9), a Nickelodeon alt-broadcast of the hockey game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins; the historical adventure series "Renegade Nell" (March 29); and the documentary "Madu" (March 29), about a Nigerian teen dancer.

Who's Disney+ for? Families with kids, hardcore "Star Wars" and Marvel fans. For people not in those groups, Disney's library can be lacking.

Play, pause or stop? Pause, and it completely depends on your household's level of love for Taylor Swift. Sure, it's absolutely worth a subscription for that, especially if you kid will watch it like 47 times. But for those not on the Tay-Tay Train, there's not much there.

Peacock ($5.99 a month with ads, or $11.99 with no ads)

Peacock has an intriguing new miniseries, "Apples Never Fall" (March 14), based on the best-selling mystery novel by Lianne Moriarty ("Big Little Lies"). Annette Benning stars as the newly retired matriarch of a family who suddenly goes missing, leaving her children to re-examine what they thought was her perfect life. There's an impressive lineup behind the show, including co-stars Sam Neill, Jake Lacy and Alison Brie, and showrunner Melanie Marnich (who produced and wrote a number of episodes of "A Murder at the End of the World" and "The Affair," among others).

"Top Chef" (March 21) returns for its 21st season, with episodes streaming a day after they first air on Bravo. Former winner Kristen Kish is the new host, replacing Padma Lakshmi, and Wisconsin is the setting for the most elite kitchen competition on TV. While largely maintaining its longtime format, the series has really reinvigorated itself in recent years, focusing less on classic cooking techniques and cutthroat rivalries and more on diversity of cuisines and feel-good, "food is love" vibes. It's nice, in the best possible way, and remains a must-watch.

There's also "Stormy" (March 18), a documentary about the life and times of porn star Stormy Daniels, the docuseries "The McBee Dynasty: Real American Cowboys" (March 28) and the streaming premiere of the hit kids musical movie "Trolls Band Together" (March 15).

Peacock is also regaining temporary custody of the "Harry Potter" movies (they bounce between Peacock and Max for complicated reasons), and has new episodes of network and cable favorites like "Saturday Night Live," "Below Deck" and "Night Court" a day after they air, and the conclusion of the buzzy reality competition "The Traitors" (season finale March 14).

On the sports side, there's plenty of golf, English Premier League soccer, Big Ten college basketball, winter sports and auto racing to keep fans happy.

Maybe don't go deeper: Peacock beat its rival to the punch and quietly added "Three-Body" a month ahead of Netflix's premiere of "3 Body Problem." This is the Chinese adaptation that aired overseas last year and was created by Tencent, and it's a whopping 30 episodes, so as one might imagine, it goes into much more detail and closely follows the first book in the series, "The Three Body Problem." Unfortunately, it's dense and dry, with cheesy-looking special effects and poor subtitling. It's skippable for all but the most die-hard fans.

Who's Peacock for? Live sports and next-day shows from Comcast's (CMCSA) NBCUniversal are the main draw, but there's a good library of shows and movies. Also, if you're a Comcast cable subscriber, look into its Xfinity Rewards program - you may qualify for a free Peacock subscription.

Play, pause or stop? Pause. Peacock is one of those streamers you really only need to bother watching a handful times a year, to binge through a few things. Thanks largely to "Top Chef," this may one of those times (along with the Summer Olympics from Paris this summer). That said, it may be more economical to wait a month or two and binge "Top Chef" when it has more episodes already banked.

Amazon's Prime Video ($14.99 a month with ads, $8.99 without Prime membership, both +$2.99 to avoid ads)

Amazon (AMZN) has found itself at the center of a Hollywood donnybrook, thanks to its treatment of "Road House" (March 21), the remake of Patrick Swayze's so-bad-it's-great 1989 cult classic. A super-jacked Jake Gyllenhaal stars this time around as a UFC fighter/bouncer in the Florida Keys who gets into a brawl or two, yadda yadda yadda. But director Doug Liman ("The Bourne Identity," "Mr. & Mrs. Smith") is angrily boycotting the movie's premiere at SXSW, due to Amazon's decision to make it a streaming exclusive rather than give it a theatrical release, and wrote a scathing open letter published by Deadline. "I signed up to make a theatrical motion picture for MGM. Amazon bought MGM. Amazon said make a great film and we will see what happens. I made a great film," Liman said. "They turned around and are using 'Road House' to sell plumbing fixtures." (Pain don't hurt, but that line should.) Liman has a good point, and it's a curious decision by Amazon, especially with a fairly light schedule of theatrical releases through the spring, aside from "Dune: Part Two." In the vein of "Barbenheimer," why not "DuneHouse"?

BTW, if you feel like comparing the two, the original "Road House" will start streaming on Prime Video on March 1.

Amazon's streaming service also has the second half of Season 2 of "Invincible" (March 14), after weirdly dropping the first four episodes way back in November. The super-violent, animated superhero story, starring the voices of Steven Yeun and J.K. Simmons, will drop new eps once a week through April 4. It's worth watching, but maybe wait until later and watch all eight eps at once.

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03-03-24 1650ET

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