Science Fiction TV Series Review – Stranger Things – First Season

Full disclosure, I am the only one I know who still uses Netflix for DVDs and doesn’t stream.  Oh, the shame of it all!  So last month the first season of Stranger Things became available to rent on Netflix (or as it’s now known DVD.com) and they sent me the two discs.  I was busy with life and the holidays so I watched it after the Christmas during some time off from work.  For anyone who hasn’t seen it but is interested or for anyone who wants my opinion here are my thoughts.

Let me start with the strongest impression the show left.  Almost everyone in the show is not particularly likeable.  Let me expand.  Many of the characters are annoying or worse.  In particular, the character who should most attract our sympathy, the mother of the missing boy, played by Winona Ryder, is hands down in the top three of the most annoying characters I’ve ever seen in a movie or tv.  Several times I was hoping the town sheriff would pull out his gun and shoot her or at least pistol whip her to make her shut up.  There was one character I liked.  He was a strong, caring, humorous, warm, responsible, regular guy who used good judgement and compassion to help a troubled runaway pre-teen.  He was shot in the head about six minutes after his first screen appearance.  After that it was annoying nerds, arrogant jocks, clueless suburban parents, alcoholic lawmen and nefarious government officials all the way down.  Eventually the hell-spawned creature makes some appearances, and interestingly, I found myself kind of rooting for him.  At least he didn’t blather on.

The season is eight episodes long and I finished them.  After reading what I just wrote, you may be wondering why I did finish them.  Well, surprisingly, I found myself sucked into the story.  Maybe this was an artifact of having all the episodes in front of me, time available to watch them and post-Christmas-Feast stupefaction.  But for some reason, at the end of each episode I wanted to see the next one.  And even after I knew how it would go I wanted to see it through to the end.

So, what’s my recommendation?  Well, guarded at best.  The plot is some kind of bastard spawn of Stephen King, Steven Spielberg and the X-Files.  The tropes are hackneyed and the characters, as mentioned, are mostly stereotypes and annoying ones at that.  Two episodes in you know how it will go and who will do what.  Honestly if someone had told me this ahead of time, there is no way I would have watched it.  But now that I have watched it I’m wondering if I should wait the year and watch Season 2.  My gut tells me that there is no way to make the next season even as mildly interesting as this first season.  And the thought of listening to Winona Ryder screeching at her unfortunate neighbors again is hard to justify.

I was starting to like how the sheriff usually settled difficult negotiations by punching people in the face.  His timing was really good.  The sheriff, played by an actor named David Harbour, is a big guy who drinks too much and sleeps around with the various lonelier ladies of the small midwestern town where the story takes place.  I found him the only character that I actually believed might exist in the real world.  But is seeing Sheriff Hopper pummel various “men in black” enough of a reason to sit through this thing again?  I doubt it, but it’ll be a whole year before I have to make that decision and pickings are so slim, so who knows.  Anyway, consider yourself warned, if a review that’s a year behind the times can be considered a warning.

4 thoughts on “Science Fiction TV Series Review – Stranger Things – First Season

  • January 7, 2018 at 7:38 am
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    It is true that the show doesn’t hit its stride until season 2, so I would advise giving it a try, Also, I can think of 3 likable characters that are introduced. I have to say that WR is annoying but I think its partially the fact that I have always found WR annoying. A great thing about the show is that whatever sensibilities are “retrojected” into the circa 1984 time period are harmless, so there are no transgender, gluten-free, microagressions visible.

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  • January 7, 2018 at 7:58 am
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    Darn it! Now I’ll have to watch it just to know. As far as transgender anachronisms, I was very suspicious of that girl with the shaved head. I may demand a chromosome map before going forward.

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  • January 8, 2018 at 11:49 am
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    First of all, you are not the last person subscribing to Netflix for DVDs only. Those of us with really poor internet and no cable wire do it as well. Plus, I only have time to watch about 2 movies a week.
    Secondly, thank you for the review – I’ll pass on Stranger Things. Your comment about rooting for the creature reminded me of my own comments on War of the Worlds with Tom Cruise. About half way through, I was rooting for the Martians to kill him and his entire whiney family. So, yes – I’ll pass.
    BTW, when did whining and bickering become the defacto standard for film and TV dialog?
    Some people say it started with Moonlighting (another show I did not watch).
    Bickering is lazy writing. Dialog like Hitchcock wrote or the movie Charade with Cary Grant – that is good stuff.

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  • January 8, 2018 at 12:15 pm
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    “BTW, when did whining and bickering become the defacto standard for film and TV dialog?”

    That’s a fair question. I find that unless the bickering is comical like a W.C. Fields movie it just makes the characters unlikeable and annoying. I guess it’s supposed to make it more realistic. Maybe it appeals to women. They do like to argue.

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