The QT

Tuesday 23 July 2024

Boxing Clever – Stranger Things

Every week, Michael Telfer – aka Mike TV – recommends a box set to crack open. This week’s pick is a literal literary giant.
Stranger Things
Stranger Things
Even the Stranger Things artwork has a strong 80s vibe

There aren’t many things that could unite my family around the TV these days without the additional lure of hot food.

If England can find a midfield in the next fortnight and make it through to the final of the Euros then that might have an outside chance. At a stretch a Mars landing could possibly draw our collective attention, but realistically only if the crew were then involved in some sort of Taskmaster style competition on the new planet.

The fifth and final season of Stranger Things is a stone cold banker though, when it finally lands sometime in 2025.

Stranger Things is a Netflix science fiction horror mash up set in the 1980s, which pits a group of children against all manner of evils that are trying to invade their home town of Hawkins, and destroy the world.

It’s an incredible show, with characters that are ridiculously easy to root for and elaborate, myriad plotlines that crash together towards the end of each season like some sort of synth based, leg warmer wearing jazz.

The show wears its eighties influences on its brightly coloured sleeve, in everything from sets, props and costumes to the plots themselves, which borrow judiciously from classic films of the decade such as A Nightmare on Elm Street, E.T., The Goonies, The Thing, Stand By Me and even Fletch to name just a few.

Stranger Things
Mike and Eleven rock some cutting edge 80s hardware (Netflix)

Season 1 starts with the disappearance of 12 year old Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) on his way home after a mammoth Dungeons & Dragons session with his friends Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin).

Will’s friends and his mother Joyce (played by 80s Winona Ryder) all refuse to believe Will has run away and when his disappearance coincides with the discovery of a mysterious girl called Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) it becomes clear to them that something is very much up in sleepy Hawkins.

Stranger Things
Stranger Things could almost be a period drama, given the effort taken to recreate 80s style

With the help of Hawkins’ boorish, borderline alcoholic Police Chief Hopper (David Harbour), Mike’s older sister Nancy (Naatalia Dyer) and her ludicrously coiffed boyfriend Steve (Joe Keery) they uncover a conspiracy that leads them to a shadowy and heavily guarded government lab run by Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine), and all hell quickly unravels.

Over the following seasons new characters such as Max (Sadie Sink) and Robin (Maya Hawke) seamlessly join the core group and several more join the ensemble cast, although not always for as long as we might like. The battle against evil isn’t without casualties.

Stranger Things
With each season the gang face successively greater perils

Stranger Things has everything. Humour, romance, bromance, drama, horror and above all storylines that drag you to the edge of your seat and then dump you onto the carpet.

My 12 year old daughter only recently decided she was ready to give the show a go, and rewatching it all with her has been an unmitigated joy. Seeing her laugh, cry, gasp, hide behind cushions and then laugh some more was almost as much fun as enjoying it for the first time.

She rattled through all four seasons and then watched them all again straight away. I’m not sure how many times she’ll watch them all again before the finale arrives next year, but I do know that if I’m ever passing her room and hear the soundtrack it’s a knocking bet I’ll join her for an episode. Or two.

What next?

If you enjoyed Stranger Things you should try out the following box sets:

Jack Ryan (Amazon Prime)

Amazon Prime have another hugely successful literary adaptation (and another Jack) available to stream with Jack Ryan, based on the Tom Clancy character.

Fans of 90s cinema will be aware that Ryan’s film ventures were more successful than Reacher’s, with The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games and Clear And Present Danger all being big box office hits.

The TV series focuses more on Jack Ryan’s earlier years as a young CIA analyst who frequently finds himself closer to the action than he would like. John Krasinski is excellent in the lead role.

The Old Man (Disney Plus)

The Old Man is yet another brilliant book adaptation. It follows Dan Chase (Jeff Bridges), a former CIA operative and war veteran living off-the-grid in hiding with only his dogs for company.

His new life implodes when he kills a home intruder and a thrilling game of cat and mouse ensues with FBI Assistant Director Harold Harper (John Lithgow), with whom Chase shares a dubious past.

As you might imagine, The Old Man is slightly more contemplative and measured than Reacher, but when Chase is cornered he comes out fighting and he is definitely not somebody you want to be on the wrong side of.

24 (Disney Plus)

When 24 was released in 2001 it broke the mould for action television. Each episode followed an hour in the life of Jack (yep, another one) Bauer (played memorably by Kiefer Sutherland) as he battled to save the lives of the President, his team, his family and probably most of the US.

24 was addictive, especially in the days when you actually had to wait for each episode to come round, and each hour finished on a cliff hanger finale that would keep you guessing all week.

After 201 episodes and nine seasons the plots do lose some credibility, and the famous tension wanes slightly, but at it’s best there was nothing like 24.

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