Here’s what’s worth watching in March 2020: ‘Ozark,’ ‘Making the Cut,’ ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ and more

Time to splurge.

While March doesn’t have a huge volume of new series and movies (Netflix excepted), it seems almost every streaming service has one or two or three high-quality, highly promising and star-studded new offerings — and budget-minded consumers might have to face the fact that if they want to see all the good stuff, they’re going to have to splurge a bit. For a month, at least.

As we have previously mentioned, consumers can take full advantage of cord-cutting by capitalizing on the ability to add and drop streaming services each month, and all it takes is good planning and timing. Remember, a billing cycle starts when you sign up, not necessarily at the beginning of each month.

Consumers can also take advantage of deals for free streaming trials, as Disney and Apple in particular focus on building subscriber bases rather than growing revenue (for the time being, at least). You’re never going to get a better deal than free, and the offers won’t last forever.

Free possibilities aside, when it’s time to decide where your subscription dollars should go, What’s Worth Streaming will be here to help. We will 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 that will help you make your monthly decisions.

Here’s a look at what’s coming to the various streaming services in March 2020, and what’s really worth the monthly subscription fee.

Netflix NFLX, -1.54%  is relying on big names and sheer quantity in March.

After a year-and-a-half hiatus, the super dark (in both tone and lighting) “Ozark,” starring Jason Bateman and Laura Linney, returns for a third season (March 27). It’s reportedly one of Netflix’s most-watched shows, and Season 3 will doubtlessly feature more terrible decisions as the Byrde family adjusts from just trying to stay alive to actively leaning into a life of crime as they run their new casino, all the while trying to stay one step ahead of the law, the casino union, and oh yeah, a murderous drug cartel.

Remember the ’80s Robert Urich private-eye show “Spenser: For Hire”? Well, Netflix is rebooting the classic character from the Robert B. Parker novels with a movie, “Spenser Confidential” (March 6), starring Mark Wahlberg as the former Boston cop/ex-con solving mysteries with his buddy, Hawk (Winston Duke, in the iconic Avery Brooks role). Peter Berg directs, and it looks to be about what you would expect — a pulpy, dumb-but-fun action-comedy. There are a ton of stories in the “Spenser” universe, so if it’s a hit, don’t be surprised if this becomes a recurring movie series.

Amy Ryan and Octavia Spencer are two of Hollywood’s most reliably watchable actresses, and each has a movie in March that will likely be worth watching. Ryan’s “Lost Girls” (March 13) is a based-on-real-events story about a mother whose dogged effort to find her missing daughter helps uncover a string of unsolved murders on Long Island. Spencer stars in “Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker” (March 20), the true story of an African-American woman whose haircare empire made her America’s first female self-made millionaire.

Meanwhile, a ton of foreign-language series are coming (sorry, is that a metric ton then?), including Season 3 of Germany’s “Babylon Berlin,” a lavish mystery set in 1929 Berlin which this column heartily recommended last month, before its release date was pushed back to March 1. Then there’s the German miniseries “Unorthodox” (March 26), about a young Jewish woman exploring her identity and building a new life after fleeing to Berlin to escape an arranged marriage by an ultraorthodox sect. It’s based on a bestselling memoir and directed by Maria Schrader, who did the excellent German spy series “Deutschland 83,” and could be very good. Spain’s “Elite” (March 13) is also back for a third season, with rich kids and poor kids scheming away following a murder at a prestigious private school. It has a good “Gossip Girl”-like balance of trashy teen melodrama and super-addictive twists, and there are certainly worse ways to spend a blustery March weekend than by uncorking a cheap bottle of Spanish Tempranillo and bingeing the new season. Also on the binge-worthy radar of international shows that are fun but won’t test your brain: Turkey’s weird, supernatural thriller “The Protector” (March 6); South Korea’s “Kingdom” (March 13), a zombie thriller set in medieval Korea; and Norway’s horror anthology “Bloodride” (March 13).

Back in the real world, comedian and podcaster Marc Maron has a new stand-up special, “End Times Fun” (March 10), and new seasons of chef David Chang’s food travelogue “Ugly Delicious” (March 6), and “Dirty Money” (March 11), a docuseries about corporate creed and corruption, are on tap.

There’s a lot more too. As mentioned before, “sheer quantity in March.”

Play, pause or stop? Play. Streaming is a volume game, and Netflix continues to have the most volume.

Amazon Prime Video lacks the sheer volume of originals, but the quality is there. March will add four more that should be worthy watches.

The most high-profile offering is “Making the Cut” (March 27), a fashion-design competition from former “Project Runway” icons Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn. It comes on the stylish heels of Netfix’s “Next in Fashion” and just after the conclusion of a new season of “Project Runway” on Bravo, which threatens to saturate the market for viewers. But the big names, bigger budget and sheer talent of its participants could elevate “Making the Cut.” “I would say ‘Project Runway’ is the undergraduate program, ‘Making the Cut’ is the graduate and PHD program,” Gunn said in January at the Television Critics’ Association press tour. Twelve designers will face off to create the next big global fashion brand, with a whopping $1 million prize on the line. Being as it’s Inc. AMZN, -2.65% , the winning designs will also be available to buy immediately after each episode airs (10 episodes, dropping once a week after a two-episode debut). Bottom line: Whether you’re into fashion or not, if you enjoy watching very talented people doing what they do best, you’ll probably enjoy this.

Amazon will also roll out a miniseries adaptation of Agatha Christie’s “The Pale Horse” (March 13), starring the creepy-yet-captivating Rufus Sewell as an ordinary man thrust into a murder investigation after his name is found on a list in a dead woman’s shoe — and everyone else on the list is dead. Mystery ensues. Then there’s “ZeroZeroZero” (March 6), a sprawling crime epic tracing the global cocaine trade, from Mexican cartels to Italian mafiosos to American businessmen — think a blend of “Narcos,” “Gomorrah” (from the same producers) and “Traffic.” There’s a lot to unravel, and the scale of the story seems perhaps too ambitious and dark, since it’s pretty much all bad guys — and you know things won’t end happily. But if pulled off correctly, this could be compelling.

Amazon also has one original movie, the quirky thriller “Blow the Man Down” (March 20), which drew raves at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival. It’s about a pair of sisters on the coast of Maine, a grisly death and their attempt to cover it up, and veers from dark comedy to breathless suspense. While it only has a handful of critics’ reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s also got a 100% Fresh score, which makes one think this could be a hidden gem.

Play, Pause or Stop? Play. There looks to be legitimately good stuff rolling out in every week of March.

Hulu has always been good, but March just might be the month it becomes great.

In the wake of last year’s purchase of Fox Entertainment assets by Walt Disney Co. DIS, -1.00% , which owns a majority of Hulu, March 2 will see the launch of FX on Hulu, as one of cable’s most high-quality channels migrates most of its series, past and present, to their new exclusive streaming home. That includes “The Shield,” “Justified,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “Atlanta,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and much, much more. Hulu viewers will also get new episodes of current FX shows the day after they air on cable.

The deal will also include new series exclusive to Hulu, the first of which is “Devs,”a limited sci-fi series from Alex Garland, director of two of the most brain-popping sci-fi movies of recent years, “Ex Machina” and “Annihilation.” The series stars Sonoya Mizuno as a software engineer in the near-future who suspects the head of a quantum-computing company (Nick Offerman) was behind her boyfriend’s disappearance. As with all things Alex Garland, don’t expect a laid-back story where your mind can stray as you fiddle with your phone — there’s gonna be some trippy, existential, techno-religious stuff coming your way. That’ll turn off some potential viewers, but should be right up the hard-core-nerd crowd’s alley.

Oh, have we not mentioned Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington yet? The two Hollywood heavyweights teamed up to produce and star in “Little Fires Everywhere” (March 18), a limited series based on the bestselling novel by Celeste Ng, about two mothers who must confront issues of race, class and privilege when their lives cross paths. This is pretty much the definition of prestige TV in 2020, and here’s a prediction: You’ll be hearing about it again come Emmy time.

Speaking of Emmy bait, Hulu will also roll out a deep-dive into the life of Hillary Clinton, in the four-episode docuseries“Hillary” (March 6). Reviews have called it messy yet compelling, which sounds about right for a portrait of one of the more divisive public figures of our politically partisan era.

Read: Here’s what’s new on Hulu in March 2020, and what’s going away

Play, Pause or Stop? Play. The addition of most of FX’s library alone makes Hulu worth the price. Add the new offerings, and it’s a no-brainer.

There’s not a lot coming to Disney+ in March, but — spoiler alert — you’ll probably still be willing to pay for it.

The two big original premieres are “Stargirl” (March 13), a romance movie about a pair of teen misfits, and “Be Our Chef” (March 27), a family cooking competition where teams make meals inspired by Disney characters and get judged by Disney chefs. (Hey, did you know you’re watching a Disney production?) It looks like nothing that hasn’t been done already by Food Network (“Family Food Showdown”) and Netflix (”The Big Family Cooking Showdown”).

But Disney+ will also be adding one of the biggest blockbuster movies ever — the superhero smash “Black Panther” — along with 2018’s teen fantasy “A Wrinkle in Time” and kids’ faves “Ice Age” and “Doctor Dolittle 2.”

Play, Pause or Stop? Pause. If you don’t have kids who will revolt, then there’s really no reason to subscribe in March. However, if you do have kids, Disney’s vast vault will likely still make it worth your money.

Apple TV+ is getting there, and in March will add one more big name to its limited lineup.

That would be Steven Spielberg, who acts as executive producer for his “reimagined” anthology series “Amazing Stories” (March 6), which originally ran on NBC from 1985-’87. Not quite sci-fi, the series is billed as “stories of wonder,” five of which will span the 10-episode season, with appearances from Kerry Bishé (“Halt and Catch Fire”), Josh Holloway (“Lost”) and the final acting performance by Robert Forster before his death. Maintaining consistent quality in an anthology series is tough to pull off, but Apple’s done it already with the very good “Little America,” and there’s enough talent (and cough cough, money spent) to make it work here too.

Also on the slate is the long-delayed premiere of “The Banker” (March 20), which at one point was a potential Oscar contender before it got its release pulled after one of the movie’s co-producers — and son of one of the movie’s protagonists, played by Anthony Mackie — was accused of sexual misconduct. “The Banker” is the first movie to be distributed by Apple Inc. AAPL, -2.26% , and stars Samuel L. Jackson and Mackie as real-life pair of African-American entrepreneurs who use a white man to be the public face of their business as they fight for housing integration and equal access to banking in the 1960s. It’ll get a limited theatrical release starting March 6.

Play, Pause or Stop? Stop. There’s still not enough in Apple’s content library to make it worth the admittedly low price, but for consumers who are already getting it for free, there’s finally enough there to make it worth a look (including the satisfying workplace comedy “Mythic Quest,” which launched last month).

“Star Trek: Picard” has reportedly broken streaming records for ViacomCBS’s VIAC, -3.52%  CBS All Access service. And for budget-minded fans who’ve been waiting to binge, now’s the time.

The sci-fi spinoff, starring Patrick Stewart in the iconic role, wraps up its 10-episode first season March 26, and signing up for the streaming service in March should give plenty of time to slow-binge the whole season in time to watch the season finale the day it drops.

For everyone else, though, there’s not much there. The service still has very little original content, though that will likely change later this year, when it expands to add Viacom shows, Paramount movies and potentially Showtime content.

Play, Pause or Stop? Stop. Unless you’re a die-hard “Star Trek” fan, it’s just not worth it.

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