When I found out about Stranger Things’ return in 2017 for another season yesterday, I was thrilled. After all, I binged the show on my own in the span of a few days back in July right after its release, then talked my two tweens into binging it, which they in turn did in around 12 hours. I found the show incredibly addictive and I was definitely one of its early discoverers.
The first season of the program is only eight episodes (they’ve promised nine in season two), so it’s not a huge commitment, and it’s a homage to so many of the films and music I loved back in the 1980s, from E.T. to Close Encountres of the Third Kind to Stand By Me to Dungeons and Dragons to Star Wars to to Alien to The Goonies. Seeing and thinking of the movies I watched as a kid brought back a lot of memories, but more than anything, the show held my interest and made me keep coming back for more, no matter how creepy or strange its plot got. I held on, and here are five reasons why.
It’s an Ode to Pop Culture
As already mentioned, Stranger Things is an ode to not only the pop culture I grew up with, but its special effects are totally up to date. Its creators are two 30-something dudes called the Duffer Brothers, who also write several episodes. They clearly have a lot of respect for Steven Spielberg, as well as Stephen King and John Carpenter. Vulture recently ran this list of films the show salutes, and you must check it out. For an 1980s child, this show is just sheer heaven.
The music supervisor must have a ball working on this show. From the Clash to Peter Gabriel to David Bowie to Toto to so many artists I loved listening to as a child to the show’s theme song. Composed by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein of the band Survive, the show’s synthesized score is compelling, memorable and kind of gets into your skin.
The casting director must also love his/her job. First you have the kids. Finn Wolfhard (Mike), Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven), Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin), Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas), and Will (Noah Schnapp) are all made for this show. And they’re even cuter in real life – check this Time piece out.
Then you have Winona Ryder and Matthew Modine, to stand outs from my youth. I watched her Beetlejuice and Heathers and grew up watching her real life shenanigans. She hasn’t done much over the past 20 years, and I think it’s because she was saving this character for us. Playing Joyce Byers is her greatest achievement to date. She may not have kids in real life, but man, she can channel the pain and angst of a mother looking for her son. And him – I haven’t thought of him in many years, but remember him fondly from the 80s in films like Married to the Mob. I don’t think I’ve seen him as a villain, or with such white hair, which admittedly makes me feel old. I hope he has more screen time in season two.
The character of Barb reminded me of myself in the 1980s – awkward, nerdy. She doesn’t get much screen time, and we probably won’t see her in season two but her character definitely hit a nerve for so many of us. The glasses-wearing Barb reminds all of us of someone we either knew or know now. Since the show started, her character has had videos made about her, a social media storm has erupted about her and she has been saluted on Buzzfeed. She even got her own Reddit thread. And now this: spoofed on Jimmy Fallon. If the producers can think of a way to bring her back to life, I have a feeling they will.
I loved the 1980s. I loved my childhood. You can’t really get better than this. All these homages and tributes – it’s a driving force and something no other TV creator has mastered on this level.
If you haven’t watched Stranger Things on Netflix, sounds like you have some work to do.
Disclosure: I’m a member of Netflix’s Stream Team but all opinions are my own.