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Stranger Things: A Gem From A Different Era
Television shows are hit and miss. There has never been and never will be an exact science to what makes a great TV show. A lot of things have to come together perfectly in order for a show to really come off. But every now and then, a show comes out that is the model of TV greatness. One of those rare gems is the Netflix original series “Stranger Things”. No one recommended the show to me, I saw no previews or posters leading up to the show, I just sorta stumbled upon it one day while looking for something to watch on Netflix.
And after I finished the 8 episode first-season, I knew I had just witnessed an American television classic. Matt and Ross Duffer, the geniuses behind this amazing show, have gifted us with something I think we TV lovers have been waiting for; a fun drama that just captivates your heart and mind for every second it is on. And they could not have given us a greater product.
Steven Spielberg’s Imprint….
Everything about Stranger Things had Spielberg’s influence in it, to me at least. This was a heartfelt family drama that had an “E.T.” feel to it. Spielberg has always managed to capture our imaginations while giving his outer worldly films a human element. The Duffer brothers captured this perfectly with the dynamic of the families involved in this show, as well as one of the young stars “Eleven” portrayed by Millie Bobby Brown. Another element that was wonderfully tapped into by the Duffer brothers was that of the old-school kick-ass leading man with a heart of gold.
Spielberg gave us Harrison Ford’s classic character Indiana Jones from the classic Indiana Jones film series. Indy, as he is affectionately called throughout the series, is a tough macho man adventurer who fights hard but loves harder. He loves women and adventure, but he has a huge heart and adores his loved one.
The producers and directors channeled this through leading man David Harbour who plays police Chief Jim Hopper. Hopper is a big tough guy who backs down to nobody but the writers and directors show that he is not just a brute, but a caring and intelligent person whose main purpose is to do right by the people in his life. Keep in mind that Spielberg also co-wrote and executive produced The Goonies as well.
Although Stephen King is the man who the Duffer brothers give the credit to for their thinking behind this series, Stephen Spielberg’s influence and knack for making larger than films with ordinary characters cannot go unnoticed in Stranger Things, and it makes the show all the more enjoyable.
The Leading Lady and Her Male Counterpart Were Outstanding…
I know I am getting old because Winona Ryder is now playing mother roles. Feels like yesterday I was watching her in Beetlejuice and Edward Scissor Hands. I loved her in both those films, and countless others, but her work as the frightened and strong mother in Stranger Things is her best performance to date.
The way she will do whatever it takes so save her son Will just makes you want nothing more than for her to find her 12-year-old son. Ryder is so convincing that you find yourself mesmerized by her performance. You can see the pain in her face and hear it in her voice.
Her acting is what I would imagine any mother who loved her child would go through in this similar situation (however unlikely this situation would be). She absolutely nailed every single scene she was in. And the same goes for her aforementioned co-star David Harbour.
As I said earlier, Harbour is a throwback to a leading man I thought Hollywood had done away with. The Duffer brothers brought back the cool action junkie tough guy that I grew up loving. Ryder’s and Harbour’s chemistry together was great, and no matter what scene they were in, either together or apart, Ryder and Harbour brought their A-games the entire season. That ladies and gentleman, is how you anchor a drama. Bravo to them.
The Youngsters Stole the Show…
The adults on Stranger Things give the show that grown up steady feel, but the backbone and lifeblood of the initial season stems from the kids. The middle school and high school hijinks of the younger cast members gives Stranger Things its heartfelt fun feeling. The four musketeers (Will, Mike, Lucas and Dustin) remind you of Corey Feldman & crew from The Goonies.
A group of young, smart, wise-ass kids who are up for anything and are never scared to chase adventure. Then when you add in the awesome Eleven or “El” into the mix and you watch as all these kids deal with puppy love, strife, loss, happiness and other emotions, it makes you reflect on your own childhood experiences.
The high school dynamic with the cool guy (Steve) in the cool clique falling for the smart nerdy girl (Nancy) was a tad-bit cliché, but it worked. It all worked. Even the mini love-triangle with Steve, Nancy and Jonathan was fun.
The boys and El looking for Will while trying to escape the creature mixed in perfectly with Nancy and Jonathan going off on their own to kill the monster themselves. All the dynamics came together one element at a time to create the perfect picture. The younger characters made the show fun and stressful at the same time because watching older characters go through things is normal, watching children go through things will always pull at heartstrings. And the creators worked those angles perfectly.
I’m not quite sure how, but Netflix has managed to do it again. They’ve created another original series that has spawned a great show. Selfishly, part of me wishes that Stranger Things were a 1-off. No season two. Just an 8-episode master-class of writing, directing and acting, and that’s that. I know that’ll never happen, but until we officially have a season two, I implore everyone to watch and enjoy this new American Classic.
Stranger Things is a time capsule to a bygone era of television where things were just so much simpler but so amazing. Luckily Netflix gives its productions the freedom and green light to be a bit more risqué than networks like ABC, NBC or another family friendly network. This show wouldn’t have had the same feel on another platform.
It was made for Netflix brand programming. Stranger Things is television at its finest, and it makes you feel the way shows are supposed to make you feel after watching them; fulfilled with joy. And there’s nothing strange about that. Long Live Nerds.