How The Duffer Brothers Got Us To Binge-Watch “Stranger Things” By Keeping A Super Tight Focus On The Main Storyline
It’s Refreshing To See a Mainstream TV Show Having Such a Ultra-Focused Storyline As Netflix’s “Stranger Things”
Storytelling in a TV show format is a different thing than storytelling in a movie. You have to fill hour after hour of entertaining narrative to and keep the viewers glued to the screen season after season. So the storytellers in TV often fill out the time with side stories and/or plot twists that keep the hours ticking away. Sometimes we notice the filler stories. Sometimes we don’t.
No Filler Episodes
And that’s what is so interesting about Netflix’s “Stranger Things”. All the side stories are about the main story. There are no filler episodes. No long side storylines that end up going nowhere (I’m looking at you Season 3 of Homeland).
Other series sorts of thrive on the number of side stories. Examples are “Game of Thrones” where half a season sometimes goes off on a side story, just to later return to the main story with little to show for it.
Or the second season of “True Detective”. Phew, that one had a story that was all over the place. It was hard to watch because it was hard to keep all the different storylines together. At least without taking notes. When the tons of side stories finally do come together, they come from such different origins that they seem like a family reunion where everyone was looking for the exit.
Moving The Story Forward
With “Stranger Things”, there are almost no side stories. The ones that are in there, all serve to move the main story forward. I can only come up with one side story at the top of my head that was not needed. The story about Joyce’s ex-husband and his attempt to gain some money from the missing child story could have taken out altogether. And even that was resolved quickly without slowing down the momentum of the main story.
Everything is moving the story forward.
Doctor Brenner had a history with some dodgy CIA experiments? Quickly mentioned in a couple of scenes. Even the tragic loss of police chief Hopper’s own daughter is only mentioned in passing. They are included in the story because they are relevant as background, but never dwelled upon for too long.
The love interest of the sister? He’s in the story, so that the sister’s girlfriend Barb can be put in line for the monster to grab her. At the same time Will’s brother Jonathan to be at the wrong place and the right time (or the right place and the right time?)
And that is refreshing to have a mainstream TV show that is so devoid of detours that you can just sit back and revel in the 80s nostalgia that it nails to well.
I am looking forward to Season 2 of “Stranger Things”. The Duffer Brothers have stated in interviews that they are not going to do an anthology series. Instead they will bring back most, if not all, of the cast to continue the story of season one.
Let’s hope they can keep this story focused as they have done with season 1.
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In the 90s, Simon Lund Larsen was a production runner on a couple of movies, a sound engineer on others and a producer of some. Now he works Product Manager at a large toy maker in Denmark in the daytime and writes short stories, screenplays and posts like these in his spare time. You can find him here on Medium as Simon Lund Larsen or on Twitter with the same handle@SimonLundLarsen.