Prepare Yourself for Binge-watching “Stranger Things”
The other night, I finished watching “Stranger Things”, a new original Netflix series. This isn’t particularly notable save for the aspect of having begun watching it only the night before. This isn’t typical for me. While I had been pushing off watching “Stranger Things” for a week or two after hearing many people recommending it to me, I decided to watch it on Sunday night. While the first episode was good, it wasn’t spectacular, but my interest was piqued enough to watch a little more. When my wife rolled over in bed that night and asked me why I wasn’t asleep yet, I knew that I had been hooked, considering I was already almost finished with the fourth episode and didn’t want to stop.
This vignette should give one pause. I am not typically given over to binge-watching (I’m also not not given over to binge-watching), but for someone who plans on watching it and has not yet watched “Stranger Things”, you should set aside time to watch all eight episodes [of the first season] all at one watching session.
What initially strikes the viewer is the overwhelming 1980s-ness of the show. Whether it’s the clothes, the cars, the visuals, or the music, it’s an undeniable part of the warp and woof of the show. While film/TV experts can tell me there are a bunch of them, it doesn’t seem like the 1980s period piece is a common time period upon which to look back, so this element stands out. This period piece, though, is not an inherently endearing facet of the show.
As someone who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, I don’t particularly care for the cinema of the 1980s. This show reminds me of beer – there are styles of beer I do not enjoy, but I can appreciate that a beer is good for its style (e.g. nut brown ales). The same is true of this show: I think that it does a great job pulling off being a period piece, although I don’t care for the period. I would say that it’s a great show despite the period.
One of the advantageous elements of setting this story then rather than now is that the Internet is not used by any of the characters. This allows the main young protagonists to involve themselves with the story without the intermediation of computers, as one would expect a contemporary story to have. And this is especially so for these young boys, in both their gathering of information and communicating with each other. This technological setting is not unimportant for the story, to see how these boys communicate with each other.
There is something to be said for the show’s genre. While I think people recommend this series to me because it is in the SciFi/fantasy category, I think this show’s genre is strong because of a different categorization. Yes, it is a suspense/drama, as well, but what makes this show the most binge-inducing is not only the suspense, but that it fits into a very popular television category – detective fiction. The draw of sleuthing a crime that has become quite popular, whether the police procedural or something more simply a detective story, and “Stranger Things” is certainly well within the interest range of many viewers.
It is this combination of drama, suspense, and detective story that greatly drew me in to this series, as I would imagine it does for many people. The need to find out how and why pulls greatly on the viewer. But there are still two further aspects of this series that make it excellent.
The first of these is the realistic characters that are brought to life by the excellent acting. The first-rate acting creates a reality that a viewer cannot deny. Furthermore, inasmuch as there are antagonists who are not atypical for a SciFi/Fantasy show (whether The Monster or even Dr. Brenner), there are also common antagonists, such as mean kids at school, who provide their own antagonism.
The second is the incredible music. The music, in my opinion, takes the show from being very good to unquestionably great. The slowly haunting sounds drive the suspense of the story, especially with their rich feeling of sounding deeply 1980s-ish. The quality of the dimension that the music adds and elevates to this show cannot be overstated.
If you haven’t seen “Stranger Things” yet, I doubt you will be disappointed – I greatly enjoyed it. Oh, and expect to watch all eight episodes of this first season consecutively. (Yes, it would be a massively missed opportunity for them to not produce further seasons.)