Netflix is doing a lot. At this point it seems like the streaming giant is releasing new original content on a weekly basis, so it can be hard to keep up with everything you should be watching. But let me make this clear; you should be watching Stranger Things. The eight episode season debuted on July 15th and has been generating a lot of buzz from everyone who jumped on board immediately. TheVerge.com described Stranger Things as, “. . . the show Steven Speilberg and Stephen King never made,”. After tackling the first two episodes last night I’m having a tough time coming up with a better comparison. The body of the show is an alien/sci-fi mystery thriller. But it’s soul is an 80’s style, nostalgia filled, throwback to movies like E.T. , Alien, and The Poltergeist.
Set in a small town in Indiana (it could really be set anywhere that you would consider Smalltown, USA) the show wraps us up in the lives of normal people, who are trying to live their normal 1980’s lives but are thrust into the middle of a supernatural situation. Obviously the suspense and plot movement are generated by the supernatural element of the story, which through two episodes has been very enjoyably spooky and surprising, but some of the best pieces of the show thus far have been when the characters are just living their day to day lives. Whether it’s the daughter Nancy (Natalia Dyer) sneaking around her parents to meet up with her boyfriend, the Sheriff (David Harbour) putting off a missing persons’ report until after he’s had his coffee, or the four young friends hanging out in a basement, all of the interactions feel so authentic that it’s hard not to think back to a time when you yourself did something very similar. I think it’s the sense of “that could be me” that makes the show so enjoyable. We may have never lived in a town in the grips of a supernatural phenomenon but everyone of us has lied to our parents about where we were going to be so we could go to a party, and that realism is to me what makes the entire story believable.
The directing of the little known Duffer brothers is fantastic, the performances by a lot of the young actors in the series have been incredibly believable thus far, and you even get Winona Ryder swinging for the fences and taking the series to another level. All in all this is a great summer show and incredibly binge-able. HBO’s The Night Of is getting a lot of pub but to me that show is the back end of the “true crime” trend that we’ve been getting across all media the past few years (Serial, Making a Murderer, The Jynx). It’s a story that we’ve already seen be very thoroughly fleshed out. We get it, the criminal justice system is a mother fucker. If you are tired of having that fact rammed into your head over and over again, and just want to have some fun watching TV, I seriously urge you to jump on Stranger Things.