By Phillip Guy Ellis (Northampton, England)
Star – Mathew Modine & Winona Ryder
Genre – Sci–Fi > Comedy > Drama
Season 1 – 8 x 50 minutes
Certificate – PG13
Country – U.S.A
Awards – 29 Wins & 114 Nominations
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So Stranger Things, the big TV show everyone is talking about but no one can actually see, stuck out in the sticks on Netflix where very few people can afford it. There is no planned DVD release on the high street and no sign of either of the first two series on Amazon etc. You either sign up to Netflix for £15 a month and watch it through your smart TV or you lift it off the internet. There is an element of financial risk not having a DVD release, let me tell you Netflix.
Creators Matt and Ross Duffer knew they had something with this rather retro Sci-Fi dramedy and Netflix backed them to the tune of $6m dollars per episode in total agreement, Game of Thrones/Boardwalk Empire money. Needless to say the critics – public and professional – loved it and currently nudging a nine rating on IMDB, Breaking Bad numbers.
Season one is set in the 1980s and season two set in the 1990s. Season three is in production. It’s one of those shows that got great word of mouth and I’m now playing my part in that.
Winona Ryder … Joyce Byers 25 episodes, 2016-2019
David Harbour … Jim Hopper 25 episodes, 2016-2019
Finn Wolfhard … Mike Wheeler 25 episodes, 2016-2019
Millie Bobby Brown … Eleven 25 episodes, 2016-2019
Gaten Matarazzo … Dustin Henderson 25 episodes, 2016-2019
Caleb McLaughlin … Lucas Sinclair 25 episodes, 2016-2019
Natalia Dyer … Nancy Wheeler 25 episodes, 2016-2019
Charlie Heaton … Jonathan Byers 25 episodes, 2016-2019
Cara Buono … Karen Wheeler 25 episodes, 2016-2019
Joe Keery … Steve Harrington 25 episodes, 2016-2019
Noah Schnapp … Will Byers 24 episodes, 2016-2019
Sadie Sink … Max Mayfield 17 episodes, 2017-2019
Dacre Montgomery … Billy Hargrove 17 episodes, 2017-2019
Joe Chrest … Ted Wheeler 12 episodes, 2016-2017
Matthew Modine … Dr. Martin Brenner 12 episodes, 2016-2017
Priah Ferguson … Erica Sinclair
4 BMX loving school age boys, Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Will (Noah Schnapp), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) spend their days being bullied at junior high and being adventurous with the freedom of weekends, big into stuff like Dungeons and Dragons and ham radio.
Things go pear shaped for the small town of Hawkins, Indiana where they all live when little Will goes missing, appearing to be abducted in the woods, local boozy Sherriff Jim Hopper (David Harbour) beginning a half – hearted search when the kid doesn’t return overnight. But things crank up some when the abduction signs look more serious and the town’s folk get involved in the search and mum Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) frantic with worry, as you would expect.
Will’s high school age older brother Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) has the duel tasks of trying to keep mum calm and looking for his little brother, and the pressures of being the schools shoe gazing loner. But things get stranger with the arrival of a frightened young shaven headed girl who doesn’t say much and appears to be some sort of runaway and her only ID is the number eleven tattooed on her wrist. The boys discover ‘Eleven’ in the woods whilst looking for Will and hide her away in the basement of Lucas parents home as she is clearly running from something bad and appears to have information where their friend maybe, and special abilities.
When a second kid goes missing in the town Sherriff Hopper goes into overdrive to find out what’s going on, all roads and lines of investigation leading to the secluded nearby Hawkins National Laboratory hidden menacingly in those same local woods behind high security fencing. On the outside it claims to perform scientific research for the United States Department of Energy, but secretly does experiments into the paranormal and supernatural, including those that involve human test subjects, headed by Dr. Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine). It appears our little girl may have escaped from there and poor little Will may have wandered too close to the facility to encounter its unspeakable horrors. But mom won’t give up on her little boy, even when a body is found, and when she has some sort of paranormal connection to him through some Christmas lights she is empowered some more, wherever that place he may be trapped in, clearly out of this world.
It’s good but not anything super special. I enjoyed it and will watch season two but not quite must see TV for me. I suppose it was a long shot to hope to get something up there in the box set hall of fame like The Wire, Boardwalk and The Sopranos but you have to look. At least there are no werewolves or vampires in it and silly teen girls in love with them. Maybe there is in season two. Who knows?
Its appeal is its simplicity retro feel and obvious homage to stuff like Stephen King’s peak book writing period and Spielberg movies like E.T., Poltergeist and Super 8 – and the X-Files. Its mystery supernatural Sci-Fi stuff at its most innocent but edgy and not a TV show trying to over complicate things to draw an older more Intelligent demographic to sell TV advertising space to more likewise affluent consumers. Netflix don’t do adverts so they don’t have to write TV shows around their sponsors. You would be surprised to learn just how many shows put subliminal advertising in their shows to marry with the commercial breaks. None of that cynical product placement here, guys and girls.
Stranger Things is the sort of show that has little Johnny hiding behind the sofa from the monsters and mum and dad enthralled in the intriguing mystery, a bit like Dr Who. It’s thrilling throughout and doesn’t let up, as does the cool soundtrack, every element of this spreadsheet tested to work. In fact the theme tune is one of the highlights. But it’s that mix of teen romance, kids being naughty and a mother losing her son has the audience by the goonies, intriguing and addictive.
It’s definitely worth a look if you are using Netflix and if you are not then maybe time to get into Netflix. Smart cable TV is the future and it will give you an opportunity to see more cool Netflix shows. Now is the time to make the switch.
IMDb.com – 8.9/10.0 (460,234vote)
Rottentomatos.com – 94% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – 76% critic’s approval
San Francisco Chronicle – ‘Stranger Things reminds us of a time marked by a kind of no-strings escapism. And as it does so, we find ourselves yearning for it because the Duffers have made it so irresistibly appealing. There may be other equally great shows to watch this summer, but I guarantee you won’t have more fun watching any of them than you will watching Stranger Things‘.
The Melbourne Age – ‘Balancing style and substance is always challenging for a series like Stranger Things, but the show is perfectly calibrated. It feels like watching a show produced during the era in which it’s set, but with the craft of today’s prestige television’.
The Paris Chronicle – ‘Flawless pops into my mind every time I think about Stranger Things. The story, art direction, music and acting are all amazing. Don’t miss out on this gem!’
We Got This Covered – ‘Thanks to Ryder and her ability to make you tear up over rainbow Christmas lights, the show’s ultimate resolution resonates far more emotionally than it does cerebrally’.
New Yorker- ‘This is astoundingly efficient storytelling, eight hours that pass in a blink, with even minor characters getting sharp dialogue, dark humor, or moments of pathos’.