There are too many TV shows to count and because of that it’s hard to settle on one that you can really sink your teeth into. Either the show gets cancelled because not enough people watch it or you don’t like it, rarely does a show catch on and become a hit as well as something you wanted to actually watch. One way I like to narrow my list is to look at networks; FX, Netflix, ABC, HBO, Showtime, etc. I find a show that’s a hit and branch off from that.
Netflix has had a quite a lot of success in their original series. The only ones I’ve seen are Orange is the New Black and Narcos. Both are great in their own way, but they’re not the kind of shows I’m itching at the bone to see the next season. Then along came Stranger Things, a show that knows what its doing, who it’s for and what makes it great.
Growing up my life was surrounded by Spielberg, Stephen King and George Lucas, all had stories and films about wonder and imagination and things that are fantastic and filled with disbelief. After the 80's our entertainment went from awe and wonder to explosions and intensity. Compare 80's Indiana Jones to 2000's Indiana Jones, the sense of wonder is completely gone and it’s just an action flick. Stranger Things not only manages to capture a fantastic story to tell, but it encapsulates everything that was awe inspiring and great from 80's entertainment.
In a nutshell, Stranger Things is about a group of kids who find themselves in the middle of a possible supernatural occurrence wherein which one of their friends goes missing. The story is about the missing child and the town’s attempt to find him, we focus on a little girl named Eleven, who the boys befriend and keep secret from their parents, the town sheriff and the mother of the missing boy. As the episodes progress, you’ll find yourself getting caught up in the mystery as the questions grow more and more complicated yet at no point are you overwhelmed or confused as to where the story is guiding you.
The four kids that are the centerpiece of the action stand as the source of the strange happenings while the missing kids’ teenage brother befriends the sister of one of the four kids. On top of all this are the adults – so there are three levels of characters who all share different bits of information who need to ultimately come together to understand what is happening. What makes this great is that we know all of the information, yet there are still questions to be answered, and when the season comes to a close we’re emotionally spent, satisfied with the outcome and excited to see more. That’s the perfect way you should feel after completing a first season.
It’s been green-lit that a second season is on the way and it’s going to be a continuation – not a new story with new characters such as True Detective and Fargo. It’ll be continuing with the characters we’ve grown to know. There’s not much else to say about Stranger Things if you haven’t watched it, if you’re a fan of The Goonies, ET the Extra-terrestrial, Firestarter, Dreamcatcher, Stephen King’s IT, The Thing, Super 8, Stand by Me, Alien or anything else that could fall in that list of genre defining entertainment, then do yourself a favor and watch this already. It’s phenomenal. As far as television series go, and with the amount of garbage TV produces, this seriously cannot be missed.
Below are some key aspects that need breaking down,
Vision: The only issue I have about the Duffer Brother’s vision is; you can get ideas from other mediums of entertainment, other films and other stories, but there’s a thin line where your story suddenly feels like a complete rehash of other movies. There is a scene where the kids are riding a bike, almost straight out of ET (minus the scene with the moon in the background), and a handful of other happenings that are taken directly out of other stories. The good thing is that it doesn’t ruin anything within the realm of Stranger Things, but the bad thing is that you can’t help but think of the movie that inspired this scene and whether the only reason this is good is because that other movie came out first. Or is that just me? Could just be me.
Atmosphere: Terrific. As I said, Stranger Things perfectly captures the feel of an 80s film, but to top it off it has one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard in a TV show in years. Original soundtrack is outstanding (the intro theme plays in my head all of the time) and the licensed soundtrack is beyond fantastic. This is definitely a soundtrack I can listen to outside of the TV show.
Acting: The three standout actors in the first season are Winona Ryder as the mother of the missing boy, David Harbour as the sheriff and Millie Bobby Brown, a breakout role as “Eleven,” they’re all terrific, but especially Millie. I think, by far, the best acting in this series is by the kids. Too often I hear kids dialogue in film and TV shows and just groan because it’s so poorly written by adults. The Walking Dead had a kid character in season 4, I think, and he kept asking Carol for cookies. Fucking cookies… this kid was supposed to be around 11 and he just kept asking for cookies. In a zombie apocalypse with an alcoholic dad he kept asking for cookies like a 3-year-old. I’m over it. Stranger Things doesn’t do that, the kids talk like they’re kids and it’s great.
Writing: There’s only one thing that happens in this whole season that makes me upset, as far as writing goes, but it contains spoilers, so I’ll explain it as vague as possible. The sheriff decides to enter a place he’d been to before and got caught, but this time brings someone with him – so he’s basically guaranteed he’ll be caught. He has absolutely no way of controlling the outcome of this situation but does it anyway in attempt to save the day. Maybe I missed something, but it didn’t make sense. Basically everything else in the series is great, there are a couple of scenes here and there that don’t last as long as I think they could have – specifically a scene with the teenage brother and the girl he befriended out in the woods – but for the most part characters don’t hesitate and hide information from other characters and make you kick your head in frustration. When events happen and certain characters don’t believe them, it’s of reasonable disbelief, not because the characters don’t know how to communicate.
Kudos: Stranger Things has already made its way on my top 10 favorite TV series list alongside The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, The Leftovers and Lost – and it doesn’t need gratuitous violence or nudity to do it. Just open your Netflix, go down to Stranger Things, hit play and binge that shit because when season 2 comes around you won’t want to be out of the loop.
There’s not much else to say about Stranger Things if you haven’t watched it, if you’re a fan of The Goonies, ET the Extra-terrestrial, Firestarter, Dreamcatcher, Stephen King’s IT, The Thing, Super 8, Stand by Me, Alien or anything else that could fall in that list of genre defining entertainment, then do yourself a favor and watch this already. It’s phenomenal. As far as television series go, and with the amount of garbage TV produces, this seriously cannot be missed.