There is too much good television to watch. I know the line “golden age of television” may be overtread by this point, but it’s undeniably true. There are too many good shows being produced these days and we have no hope of ever catching up. It’s equal parts comforting and maddening, knowing that we never have to sit through another shitty episode of Two Broke Girls unless we deliberately seek out that kind of masochism. Of all the great content providers, Netflix seems to be dominating the race. They’ve stumbled upon some magic formula of throwing money at skilled content creators and signing off on creative control. If it wasn’t crazy enough a notion, paying people to make their visions come to life. It’s unbelievable, but it’s working. I guess they’re raking in enough subscriber fees that they can afford to pump money into endeavours that might not themselves be blockbuster programming in the making. They can afford to cater to niche audiences, because the mass audiences funding it just want to binge watch old TV shows. It’s brilliant and I couldn’t be happier that it’s a resounding success.
Which is a short way of saying, within the past 24 hours I finally watched Stranger Things. I promise this is a spoiler free post.
The show is exactly what people have been saying it is. There are elements of the supernatural/sci-fi set in small town USA. The whole thing evokes a massive sense of 80s throwback culture in everything from production design to directorial mode. You’d be forgiven for thinking it was a Spielberg piece, steeped as it is in his style. There’s a lovable cast of characters, with a truly endearing bunch of little kids. Maybe it’s an element of seeing myself in them, the nerdy misfits/outcasts, but I was instantly gripped and felt a part of the world of the show. If you’re between the ages of 25-40, the mise en scene will pull at something deep inside you. Props, fashion, and general decor, its the 80s come to life. More than that, there’s a sensibility to the characters, dialogue less dripping with the cynicism so endemic to a post 9/11 society.
The music is goddamned incredible. From some almost on the nose pop/rock choices, to the dense synthwave atmos, it’s immaculate. The title music feels perfect and tells you exactly when/where you are. I’m sure there was the temptation to weave this into a dark, drab tale, but colour is everywhere and it’s all for the best. The show vacillates so readily between hope and despair that the moments of levity carry it all. We’re manipulated into falling in love with these characters so quickly that being drawn down into negativity would be the death of a show like this. The kids themselves are stars and we’re so obviously pulled along with that youthful naivité (coupled with the fact that these are really smart kids), that it lifts the show with it. Given that it’s a tightly packed season (eight episodes all an hour or so), there’s very little in the way of wasted space. Almost everything (with only one scene I can think of) propels the narrative or character development.
In short, the show is fun as hell, the production values are outstanding and the casting is perfect. As an overall experience, take a day (or two nights) and have this experience. It’s so worth it.
Or, y’know, be part of the audience that keeps Two Broke Girls on the air.