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Streaming Power Rankings: October 2021

Netflix's Dave Chappelle blunder was HBO Max's gain in our inaugural rankings.
  • (Photos: Netflix, HBO Max and Apple TV+)
    (Photos: Netflix, HBO Max and Apple TV+)

    We live in an age of streamers, and while at any moment some entertainment entity could up and announce they're adding a new standalone service that we'll all have to purchase, for the moment there are eight prominent platforms: Netflix, the venerable old behemoth, Disney+, a younger, more brand-intensive behemoth, HBO Max, Paramount+, Hulu, Peacock, Amazon Prime Video, and Apple TV+. Each month brings new programming from each, and a stream of new project announcements aimed at retaining/gowing their subscriber numbers.

    In any given month, some streamers are up while others are down. We thought we'd try to document the undulating fortunes of these platforms with a new monthly recurring feature: Primetimer's Streamer Power Rankings. Each month we'll be looking at how each streamer performed, based on a few specific criteria: new shows (i.e. shows that premiered, or premiered new seasons), projects that were announced, and bonus points (and/or demerits) that take into account things like high-profile cancellations, awards attention, or significant good/bad buzz.

    We kick off with the rankings for October 2021, which feature some surprising placements…

    1. HBO Max

    Premieres: While it shouldn't count as much since it's not a Max Original, it can't be ignored that the return of HBO juggeranaut Succession is a reason to tune into the streaming platform. In terms of originals, October saw the returns of the drag reality show We're Here and the romantic comedy Love Life, as well as the new animated DC Comics series Aquaman: King of Atlantis. The documentary What Happened, Brittany Murphy? probably should've gotten more attention than it did, and there was also the Halsey "album film" If I Can't Have Love, I Want Power. Overall a strong and varied crop of shows, with Succession bumping it up by half a letter grade. Grade: A-

    Projects Announced: The big news this month was that HBO is in talks with David Chase for a Sopranos prequel series for HBO Max, which would be a huge deal and probably the most anticipated show of whatever year it premieres. The streamer also picked up the EPIX series Pennyworth — the series that asks what was Batman's elderly butler like when he was young and kicking ass — for its third season. Grade: A-

    Bonus Points/Demerits: Gotham Awards nominations for the comedy series Hacks and the queer history miniseries It's a Sin were a feather in Max's cap. Also, even though these rankings are mostly about television, it's hard to separate HBO Max's day-and-date movie strategy with Warner Bros.' films, so it should be mentioned that The Many Saints of Newark and Dune were streamable from home this month, if that's how you prefer to watch movies. Grade: B+

    2. Netflix

    Premieres: Netflix is in the tonnage game when it comes to original programming, so for the purposes of these rankings, we'll be highlighting the very good and the very bad. The good this month: despite a bleak premise, the Margaret Qualley drama Maid got fantastic reviews, You returned for its third season with a good deal of fanfare, Ava DuVernay's Colin Kaepernick documentary Colin in Black and White got good press as well, and we got a new season of The Baby-Sitters Club. The bad: Diana: The Musical was viciously panned, and the streamer's first partnership with WWE, Escape the Undertaker was strange but not necessarily fun. Grade: B

    Projects Announced: Netflix announced it has partnered with David Fincher on a series of video essays celebrating cinema called Voir. On the heels of last month's Midnight Mass, Netflix moved forward with another Mike Flanagan project, this time an adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher. Grade: A-

    Bonus Points/Demerits: This should have been a very strong area for Netflix this month, with strong word of mouth and blockbuster numbers for Squid Game turning it into the streaming sensation of the fall. But then they premiered the new Dave Chappelle stand-up special/screed against trans people, which landed like a lead balloon, and which was followed by weeks of doubling-down by Netflix in Chappelle's defense. It was and continues to be a very bad look. Also, they canceled Dash & Lily, which also: how dare they? Grade: C-

    3. Peacock

    Premieres: One of Us Is Lying is the latest teen drama mystery series that you think looks pretty stupid and then all of a sudden two weeks pass and half of your friends are obsessed with it. Grade: B+

    Projects Announced: Business news is boring and should only count for half, but since we're ranking streaming platforms against each other, it's probably worth noting that Peacock stole Hulu's president. Grade: B

    Bonus Points/Demerits: Gotham Awards nominations for We Are Lady Parts and the show's star Anjana Vasan, as well as Rutherford Falls' Michael Greyeyes help position solidify both of those shows as critical faves, so that's good. Less good is that Halloween Kills, the highly anticipated movie that Universal decided to day-and-date premiere on Peacock was pretty terrible. Grade: B

    4. Hulu

    Premieres: The big premiere on Hulu this month was the limited series Dopesick, about the dawn of the opioid crisis in America, which featured Michael Keaton leading an all-star cast. Reviews were mixed, with Primetimer's own Aaron Barnhart calling it a "hokey, overlong morality play." Grade: C

    Projects Announced: The news that got the most ink was the announcement that Hulu has partnered with comedy legend Mel Brooks on a variety series follow-up to The History of the World, Part I, with producers Wanda Sykes, Nick Kroll, and Ike Barinholtz onboard. But perhaps the most exciting news was that Hulu is producing a new series with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend creators Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh-McKenna. In maybe less exciting news, Jessica Biel replaced Elisabeth Moss in the upcoming Hulu series Candy. Grade: B

    Bonus Points/Demerits: While it premiered a few months ago, it's notable that the comedy series Only Murders in the Building managed to stick the ending to its first season so successfully while also teasing the show's forthcoming second season. Grade: B+

    5. Apple TV+

    Premieres: The reviews for Apple TV+'s big Simon Kinberg sci-fi series Invasion were pretty dismal. On the bright side, there was the Todd Haynes-directed documentary The Velvet Underground, a vivid document of not only the band but also a time and place in American art culture. Grade: B-

    Projects Announced: A new TV series for actor Jason Segel to be produced by Ted Lasso's Bill Lawrence and Brett Goldstein is probably the most exciting news possible for Apple TV+ at this particular moment. Grade: B+

    Bonus Points/Demerits: The Joseph Gordon-Levitt emo-dramedy Mr. Corman was canceled with very little fanfare, a decent-sized face-plant for a series that had a lot of talent behind it. Grade: C

    6. Disney+

    Premieres: This was an uncharacteristically quiet month for Disney+, the calm before what promises to be a very storm-y final two months of the year. Really only Muppets Haunted Mansion made much of an impression in October... and not all that positive of one at that. Grade: B-

    Projects Announced: The project had already been announced, but Hayden Christensen joined the cast of the Rosario Dawson-starring Ahsoka this month. It's a Star Wars universe series, so Christensen will be playing some iteration of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. Whether this is good news or not probably depends a lot on your opinion of Hayden Christensen's performance as Anakin, so… Grade: C+

    Bonus Points/Demerits: The new Hawkeye trailer looks interesting, but that's really more for next month's rankings. Grade: n/a

    7. Amazon Prime Video

    Premieres: The I Know What You Did Last Summer series was the big Amazon premiere this month, and that ended up getting pretty much roundly trounced by critics. It joined new seasons of the football docuseries All or Nothing and the horror anthology Welcome to the Blumhouse. Grade: C

    Projects Announced: Comedian George Lopez is embarking on a drama series with Amazon about a Chicano family in the Los Angeles suburbs called Once Upon a Time in Aztlan. Grade: B

    Bonus Points/Demerits: The Underground Railroad and Small Axe picked up a few Gotham Awards nominations, which is good news that still managed to underline how poorly those shows fared with the Emmys. Grade: B-

    8. Paramount+

    Premieres: The Kate Beckinsale dark comedy series Guilty Party arrived without much fanfare at all. That cannot be said of the Madonna concert film Madame X. Grade: B-

    Projects Announced: It's not a new project, but Michael Gandolfini, fresh off of The Many Saints of Newark, was added to the cast of The Offer, the upcoming series about the making of The Godfather. Grade: C+

    Bonus Points/Demerits: Much like Disney+, Paramount felt like it was taking it easy in October, gearing up for a November that includes new projects from the Star Trek and Real World franchises. Grade: C

    Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: HBO Max, Apple TV+, Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, Paramount+, Peacock, Amazon Studios