“Stranger Things” debuted on Netflix in July of this year to relatively little fanfare and hype. Was this strange little show about kids in the eighties fighting monsters and sinister government laboratories more than just a guilty-pleasure trifle to devour over the summer? The answer to that question was a resounding yes, it was much more than that.
Within days of its release, “Stranger Things” became a sensation. Strong word of mouth saw it explode on social media like few other shows have done this year. I greedily binged the entire series in a weekend, and am now head over heels for this wonderful nostalgic sci-fi/horror throwback. And even more exciting is that it could be a real TV awards contender, joining Netflix stablemates “House of Cards,” “Orange is the New Black” and “Master of None” when nominations are announced in December for the Critics’ Choice Awards and Golden Globes.
“Stranger Things” is a lovingly-rendered homage to classic 1980s coming of age genre classics, a dazzling and endearing retro sci-fi/horror/fantasy hybrid that perfectly captures the essence of the period that it affectionately portrays. Created by the Duffer Brothers (Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer), it follows a group of small-town nerdy middle school boys (Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo and Caleb McLaughlin) and high school teenagers (Natalia Dyer and Charlie Heaton) in search of Will Byers (Noah Schnapp). The boy mysteriously goes missing one night after encountering a terrifying monster from a dark and dangerous alternate reality, the Upside Down. The show stars Winona Ryder as the mother of the missing boy, David Harbour as the police chief, Matthew Modine as a sinister government scientist, and Millie Bobby Brown in a breakthrough role as Eleven, an enigmatic girl who can harness extraordinary powers through her mind.
Among the many rave reviews for the show were these from some of the nation’s leading TV critics:
David Wiegand (San Francisco Chronicle): “‘Stranger Things’ reminds us of a time marked by a kind of no-strings escapism. And as it does so, we find ourselves yearning for it because the Duffers have made it so irresistibly appealing.”
Emily Nussbaum (The New Yorker): “This is astoundingly efficient storytelling, eight hours that pass in a blink, with even minor characters getting sharp dialogue, dark humor, or moments of pathos.”
Mary McNamara (Los Angeles Times): “For the most part, and in absolute defiance of the odds, Stranger Things honors its source material in the best way possible: By telling a sweet ’n’ scary story in which monsters are real but so are the transformative powers of love and fealty.”
Glenn Garvin (Reason.com): “The real star is Brown, who brings the enigmatic and ill-used Eleven to heart-wrenching life almost without benefit of dialogue. Her face flickers with wonder, woe and menace, often in the same scene, in a way that even cynics who make a point of rooting for horror-movie monsters will not be able to resist.”
With such glowing notices under its eighties-inspired belt, the show should be a shoo-in to reap bids at the Critics’ Choice TV Awards. These kudos, bestowed by the Broadcast Television Journalist Assn. have been kind to edgier fare in recent years, including the similarly nostalgic genre hit, “Mr. Robot,” which won Best Drama Series, Best Drama Actor (Rami Malek) and Best Drama Supporting Actor (Christian Slater) last year after equally gushing raves.
A Best Drama Series nomination is a real possibility. Ryder, the biggest name on the call sheet, seems a safe bet too. It is too early to know for sure whether she’ll be submitted as a lead or a supporting player, so watch this space. While Harbour and Modine each has a shot at a nomination, it is the kids in this show that have become the true breakout stars, so don’t be too surprised if we see the likes of Brown, Wolfhard, Matarazzo, McLaughlin, Dyer or Heaton land a bid.
As for the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., which hands out the Golden Globes, the golden rule is that they love to embrace new shows. With that in mind, “Stranger Things” looks like a sure bet in the Best TV Drama Series race, along with a nod for HFPA fave Ryder (a Globe winner way back in 1993 for “The Age of Innocence”).
It might be more of an uphill battle for a new show like “Stranger Things” to make an impact with SAG voters though. They tend to take comfort in honoring the same shows year in year out, much like their Emmy brethren.
Make your early Golden Globes TV Awards picks now and tell industry insiders which shows and performers you have out front to win on January 8. You can keep changing them until just before nominations are announced on December 12 at 5 am PT/8 am ET. But it is important to register your initial predictions now both to lock in those all-important starter odds and let Hollywood know who has the inside track for these kudos. Be sure to make your predictions right here. You’ll compete for a place of honor on our leaderboard and a starring role in next year’s Top 24 Users (the two dozen folks who do the best predicting this year’s nominees). Be sure to read our contest rules.