I have to say, I’m rather excited by the media buzz surrounding the Netflix original series “Stranger Things,” with the premier of its second season this past Friday. One of the big reasons I’m excited is because it means something is happening that has been getting more and more rare since the advent of streaming platforms and the DVR: A lot of people are watching the same thing at the same time.
Mostly, that just doesn’t happen anymore. You DVR something and watch it days or weeks after it aired. Or if you’re like me, you only watch things on Netflix, or using the cheapo alternative of watching on the network’s apps a week after airing so it’s free. And this watching at separate times means that you’re not sharing in a collective excitement over a TV show with the rest of the country anymore.
Enter “Stranger Things.” I was rather blown away with the realization of just how popular it is when I read the speculation in this Variety article that its premier actually pulled people away from the theater and contributed to dismal box office numbers for the weekend. That sounds like quite a feat for a streaming TV show.
It’s technically in the horror genre, but that’s not what comes to mind when I first think about it. It’s a show about a pre-teen boy being abducted, his three devoted friends and mother searching for him, and the discovery of a sinister supernatural world.
Oh, and it’s also flawlessly set in the 80s. Except for the fact that it’s not outlandishly (or even a little) cheesy like most things that were actually made in the 80s, you’d never know it was made this century.
Why It’s So Popular
In addition to being extremely well-done, this show has a little something for everyone.
First of all, it has this group of pre-teen boys who are fun and devoted in a very Stand By Me type of way, giving the show a young coming-of-age angle.
There’s also a side plot with a teenage girl whose best friend goes missing, and she gets involved with the missing boy’s older brother’s search attempts. There’s a bit of a romance-aspect to this, but she’s way out of his league and likes a different guy…
There’s the mother searching for son aspect, which is desperately and primally compelling. Also, she gets help from the local sheriff who is struggling with his own past demons.
And then there’s a mysterious pre-teen girl with strange powers who’s on the run, and a big mystery surrounding her.
I think what really works for this show is that it’s very sci-fi/mysterious/thrilling but also has very strong, compelling character development and relationships. So even people like me who are less interested in the monsters and scary stuff plot elements still have plenty of reason to watch.
It’s rated TV-14 and that feels about right.
There is plenty of scary, intense, occasionally violent content, but in a TV-14 worthy manner. Though, disclaimer, I’m only partially through season two right now and have heard that it’s a bit more intense than the first.
There’s also some language, but no F-words. The one bigger issue with the language is that a lot of it is from the boys. Really they’re like twelve or so, so I imagine their language is fairly accurate to the way a lot of twelve-year-old boys talk, but at times it feels like a little much.
As for sexual issues, there is a bit but it’s nothing frequent. The worst of it is a teenage couple whom we see heavily making out on a bed while partially clothed, and when we see them again later it’s implied they had sex. Apart from that, there’s just some occasional non-graphic sexual references and implied past relationships.
I’m Happy It’s Popular
Over all, this show is good. Not just well-done, but very positive in its themes of family and friendship, without any huge moral problems to taint it. So my feeling is, if there was going to be a streaming show that took the country by storm, I’m glad it was this one.