No spoilers – unless you are unaware of the 1980s taste in peach bathrooms.
It’s hard to remember a more eagerly anticipated TV series than Stranger Things 2. Even the NME has jumped the bandwagon, where once it would have sneered from the touchline.
There were some new episodes of Peppa Pig recently, but even that pales against ST2, which it isn’t called as it sounds closer to STD than is comfortable. There is always Dr Who of course, the anticipation of which invariably outstrips the actual experience of watching it; viewers are generally lobotomised by incomprehension twenty minutes in. Dr. Who takes its incomprehensibility seriously. If at least one person doesn’t abandon it screaming with frustration at tattered memories of having been once able to coherently understand TV programmes then it’s not doing its job.
With its immaculately 80s synths soundtrack Stranger Things is the Ryan Gosling neo-noir movie Drive, but with a small town Americana back drop, and aliens, well, monsters, or at least strange things. Actually it’s nothing like Drive, but is snap shots of an 80s films fancy dress party. It’s Gremlins, the Goonies (not that I’ve never actually seen it), and Stand by me, which I can’t recall much about beyond train tracks and Ben E King’s song that may not even be on the soundtrack. There was an invasion of the 60s half way through the 80s, as though it lacked the confidence in being itself. Levis adverts put Ben E King, the Commodores and Marvin Gaye back in the charts so frequently that it would have confused any strange visitors what decade it was. We even had quiffs. Some of us still do. Anyway, the fact is Stranger Things has this familiar feel of how you remember films, as opposed to what they were actually like.
It’s Netflix own show, as opposed to buying it in, and they’ve helpfully given it a five star rating, which feels like them completing their own customer feedback forms. It starts with a car chase, and is basically an exercise in spotting the 80s references – Patrick Swayze’s Red Dawn – tick. Rob Lowe lookalike, tick. E.T. check. Cool hand Luke – tick. It’s unsurprising that the Duffer brothers who wrote and direct the series sought advice of Steven Spielberg because otherwise they’d be meeting him on a less voluntary basis in court.
The budget has quadrupled, most of which appears to have been spent on sound effects and dramatic red skies. The lack of mobile phones is addressed by walkie-talkies, a must-have of the 80s, alongside soda-stream and the Rayleigh gold Burner. The tension’s as taut as before; complete with all kinds of terrifying moments, such as them watching the best-forgotten 1983 film Mr. Mom, eating home delivered KFC and a peach bathroom.
There will already be plenty of people who have binged the entire season in less time than it took the crew to eat their early call breakfast, which feels wrong. Instead I’l be watching daily like I once viewed the creaky Australian soap Neighbours, when the 80s references were harsh reality and not nostalgic .
My debut novel, The Life Assistance Agency – selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 – is available here – http://myBook.to/lifeassistance . It features a great deal of music.
and on ebook here –