Another day, another new streaming service attempting to wrest your hard-earned cash from your grasp for a chance to watch your favorite programs on-demand. If the streaming market seems oversaturated as we head into 2021, that is because it is. But that does not necessarily mean you can, or even should, dismiss the latest service to hit that market, discovery+, without consideration.
Discovery+ brings together more than 55,000 episodes from your favorite networks that specialize in non-fiction programming, including HGTV, the Food Network, the Cooking Channel, Investigation Discovery (ID), TLC, the Travel Channel, OWN, A&E, Lifetime, and Animal Planet, among others. With everything available in one place and accessible through a relatively simple interface, it’s never been easier to lose yourself in an all-day Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives marathon or to escape to picturesque locales around the country as people buy, build, and renovate homes in Maine (Maine Cabin Masters), Alaska (Buying Alaska), and everywhere in between (Buying the Bayou). And that’s the real beauty of a streaming service like discovery+; it offers thousands of hours of programming that is tailor-made for a day spent lounging on the couch, and unlike scripted TV, it rarely requires your full attention to appreciate it.
But why should you subscribe to discovery+ when other popular streaming services already offer similar content? After all, Netflix has been producing true-crime dramas, culinary-themed programs, and competition shows for a while now, while Hulu has jumped on board with its own original non-fiction series too. What sets discovery+ apart is the scope of its library, which has been built over 30 years and across numerous brands and networks. It features well-known series and franchises, so while other services might be producing similar content, discovery+ features the content you already know and love. Sure, not all of these programs are built for rewatching—a staple of the streaming era—but with so many seasons of so many series readily available, there is bound to be something you’ve yet to discover. And discovery+ makes it relatively easy to do so; you can browse by network, category/genre, or what’s trending to quickly find something to watch. Whether you are looking for a true-crime series about murderers hiding in plain sight, a cutthroat cooking competition show, a paranormal investigation series, or a nature documentary about adorable baby animals, there is truly something for everyone on discovery+.
Cost: $4.99/mo for ad-supported viewing or $6.99/mo for ad-free, with a 7-day free introductory trial for new subscribers. Select Verizon users are also eligible for a special offer, which allows them to subscribe ad-free for 12 months. Find more information at Verizon.
Available on: Roku, Amazon Fire TV devices, Android TV devices, Apple TV, Chromecast, Samsung Smart TVs (2017 or newer), iPhone and iPad, Android phones and tablets, Mac and PC browsers via discoveryplus.com, and various Xbox consoles, including Xbox One, Xbox Series S, and Xbox Series X. It will eventually be available as a subscription channel on Amazon Prime Video Channels. (It is not yet available on PlayStation 4 or 5.)
What Makes It Unique: Most streaming services produce scripted content with only a meager side helping of non-fiction programming, but the vast library of discovery+ features nothing but these programs. It’s the on-demand equivalent of a day spent marathoning a new series you’ve never heard of after randomly stumbling upon it while channel surfing. And making this considerably easier to do is the existence of discovery+ channels. While not available at launch, these channels will debut on the service Jan. 29 and allow subscribers to tune in 24/7 to non-stop steams of their favorite series, including 90 Day Fiancé, Fixer Upper, Chopped, and more. Additionally, various well-known personalities from the Discovery family, including Joe Kenda, Randy Fenoli, and Ben and Erin Napier, are curating custom collections that will feature their favorite discovery+ shows and personal stories.
What You’ll Find on This List: discovery+ features many series you’ve already heard of, if not watched, but there are new series in the works that are coming exclusively to the service later this year, with 50 original programs available now (see the full list) and 1,000 hours of original programming set to debut within the first year of operation. The recommended viewing options below mix worthwhile existing series with these new properties, but the list barely begins to scratch the surface of what’s available. It’s a good place to start, though, especially if you’re someone who hasn’t ever lost an entire weekend to Beat Bobby Flay.
Category: Nature, natural history, environment and conservation
While streaming services like Netflix have experimented with nature and environmental programming in an attempt to provide educational series akin to those the BBC Natural History Unit has become known for producing over the years, there’s nothing quite like the original, groundbreaking Planet Earth and Blue Planet series or the various travel shows (like those starring Simon Reeve), that are now exclusively available on discovery+. Filmed around the world and featuring some of the most breathtaking sequences to air on television, many of the programs are focused on the beauty of the natural world and frequently inspire awe as they take viewers places very few humans have been or will ever go. Yet many more, like the powerful series Dynasties, reveal the challenges the animal kingdom faces every day as a result of human contact or humanity’s increasing presence in their lands.
If you’re new to nature docs and looking for a place to start, the new five-part docuseries A Perfect Planet is from the award-winning team behind the original Planet Earth and narrated by renowned natural historian Sir David Attenborough. Featuring stunning visuals, the series digs into our unique planet and how it operates, revealing how various forces of nature, like weather systems, volcanoes, ocean currents, and solar energy ultimately lead to and drive Earth’s ability to sustain diverse lifeforms. Like much of Attenborough’s recent programs, the severe cost of humanity’s impact on the environment is threaded throughout the series, with a final episode dedicated to it, making the series educational but also a warning to us all.
Category: Food and travel
Access to the late Anthony Bourdain’s Emmy-winning travel and food series No Reservations, which ran for eight seasons on the Travel Channel, is reason enough to check out discovery+. In the series, the influential chef and journalist traveled the world, often dining with famous guests, to explore local cultures and cuisines and the myriad ways in which food brings people together. Many travel series like this now exist, and many are even quite good and fairly educational, but Bourdain was exceptionally gifted at what he did, and his series, including CNN’s Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, remain the cream of the crop.
Category: Love and relationships
One of the biggest draws of a discovery+ subscription is the seemingly endless supply of 90 Day Fiancé content. TLC’s ever-expanding reality series follows Americans who have fallen in love with someone from another country and applied for K-1 visas, which give the couples 90 days to marry once they’re back in the country. The show has become a cultural phenomenon, spawning spin-offs and specials every time we turn around. Luckily, discovery+ features several of these popular spin-offs, including 90 Day Fiancé: Happily Ever After? and 90 Day Fiancé: Before the 90 Days, as well as exclusive original programs. These include 90 Days Bares All, a companion series featuring everything TLC couldn’t show on TV, and 90 Day Diaries, an intimate look into the everyday lives of the couples as filmed by themselves during the pandemic.
Category: True crime
With the inclusion of Investigation Discovery’s vast catalog of programs, discovery+ features if not the deepest, then at least one of the deepest true crime libraries in all of streaming. Alongside several seasons of shows like American Monster and Disappeared are new programs like American Detective with Lt. Joe Kenda. After diving into his own cases for nine seasons on ID’s Homicide Hunter (soon to be available via a 24/7 streaming channel on discovery+), retired homicide detective and true crime icon Joe Kenda is now taking on the rest of the country in this new series, digging into some of the nation’s most disturbing cases while guiding viewers through their various twists and turns.
Category: Home renovation, food, lifestyle
Chip and Joanna Gaines have revived Fixer Upper, the beloved home renovation series that first put them on the map and allowed them to create an empire in the heart of Texas, for Magnolia Network, their newest business endeavor. Known as Fixer Upper: Welcome Home, the series will debut on discovery+ ahead of its network debut, with the first four episodes launching Friday, Jan. 29. Subsequent episodes will roll out weekly through Feb. 19.
But that’s not all the Gaineses have to offer on discovery+; the streaming service is home to several forthcoming Magnolia Network programs. At launch, subscribers can preview new series like Magnolia Table with Joanna Gaines, in which Joanna shares her favorite recipes in a relaxed format; Homegrown, in which Jamila Norman helps families turn their backyards into farms; and Family Dinner, a new travel and food show that sees chef and host Andrew Zimmern traveling the country and visiting families to explore how the cultural, regional, and historical aspects of who we are inform how and what we eat. The programs will be exclusive to discovery+ until Magnolia Network launches at a to-be-determined date later this year, at which time it will replace the DIY Network in your cable package.
Category: Science and technology
First debuting in 2001, How It’s Made is an addictive watch for those among us who crave random knowledge that will likely not be useful outside of super-specific trivia nights, and probably not even then. For instance, in any given episode the Science Channel series might explain, in an easy-to-understand but extremely detailed fashion, how a motorcycle engine is built, the process of making a hand-carved wooden fishing lure, or the work that goes into crafting the ladders used on fire engines. If you can think of it, the series has probably already explained how it was made, and if it hasn’t, the item is probably on a list somewhere. This is a fascinating show dedicated to impressive feats of human ingenuity and complex engineering, and you might think it all sounds terribly dull, but it’s shockingly easy to lose yourself in the 30-minute episodes, which have remained relatively unchanged over the years.
Part instructional cooking program, part science series, Good Eats is as educational as it is entertaining. Created and hosted by Alton Brown, and undeniably one of the best and most informational culinary programs out there, the series blends history and the science of food with easy-to-follow cooking instruction in an attempt to inform viewers not just how to cook various dishes, but the science that occurs when they do (I actually understand gluten after watching this show!). Delivering this information through purposefully ridiculous skits and new filming techniques that reveal exactly what he’s doing in the kitchen, Brown has created a culinary series that stands out in a way that others do not.
Category: Science and technology
Any list featuring the best of discovery+ would be incomplete without the long-running series MythBusters, an innovative and groundbreaking show hosted by special effects experts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman that merged science and entertainment to test theories, urban legends, TV/film scenes, and more wild experiments to determine their validity. You’ve probably seen the episode in which the crew tested the acid-in-the-bathtub scene from Breaking Bad, but there was much more to the series, which grew to include a second team known as the Build Team, which featured the late Grant Imahara, Tory Belleci, and Kari Byron performing their own experiments. If you like watching things blow up, are mesmerized by people dreaming up robots and then building them like it’s not a big deal, or other fascinating aspects of conducting scientific experiments, this is must-see TV.
Kaitlin Thomas is an entertainment journalist and TV critic. Her work has appeared in TV Guide, Salon, and TV.com, among other places. You can find her tweets about TV, sports, and Walton Goggins @thekaitling or read more of her work at kaitlinthomas.com.
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