Over at The A.V. Club, I’m covering Stranger Things, Netflix’s nostalgic summer series full of thrills and throwbacks. Look for my episodic reviews every 48 hours (“Chapter Five: The Flea And The Acrobat” goes up today!) until I’ve covered the entire series, which is all available for streaming at Netflix right now.
Not sure where to start? This sci-fi/horror bonanza needs to be watched in order. Start with “Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers”:
From its opening sequence in the corridors under Hawkins National Laboratory, Stranger Things is dark, and not just visually. The most obvious influence on the Duffer brothers’ ’80s-inspired series is E.T.: The Extraterrestrial, but under that layer of comfortable fun lurk more ominous allusions, from Tolkien to King to Carpenter.
My affection and respect for this reference-rich, gratifyingly taut story grows with each episode. In my review of “Chapter Three: Holly, Jolly” (remember, all these reviews contain spoilers for their respective episodes), I discuss how Stranger Things manages to make a virtue out of most of its lapses:
The show is occasionally clunky or trite, but its failing are weirdly appropriate, even endearing. It’s hard to distinguish between flaws that arise from Stranger Things’ writing […] and those inherent in its source material—the pulpy, sometimes hackneyed genre films, novels, and shows it so deftly recombines.
Maria Bamford (Photo: Saeed Adyani/Netflix)
Kate Kulzick and Noel Kirkpatrick invited me back to The Televerse to talk about Lady Dynamite, Maria Bamford, and a weirdly reassuring comedy about mental-health troubles. You can also read my episodic reviews of Lady Dynamite at The A.V. Club — and I hope you will! The show is enormously entertaining, smart, and thoughtful. Reviewing it was a pleasure and an honor.
There has to be a middle ground between Maria’s frantic tendency to overextend, her sluggardly loafing, and her resentful lashing out at people who drive her to achieve. But tryin’ is for chumps, so in “Loaf Coach,” she learns the art of doing nothing. Read my full review at The A.V. Club.
“I stop with my hands! Which means I’m on an adventure!” Maria warns the
coffeehouse crowd early in “I Love You.” Maria’s wheeling out of
control, and not just because she’s on rollerblades. This episode’s is all about establishing and respecting boundaries, but almost no one in it knows how. Read my full review of “I Love You” at The A.V. Club.
This week’s Inside Amy Schumer focuses on fame because it’s so down-to-earth. Wait… what? Read my full review at The A.V. Club.
With a collection of wacky misunderstandings and a nod to Three’s Company, “Jack and Diane,” the fourth episode of Lady Dynamite, marries classic sitcom conventions with its distinctively capricious, enormously pleasing voice. Read my full review of “Jack and Diane” at The A.V. Club.
“White Trash,” the third episode of Lady Dynamite, shows the many ways well-intentioned people do harm. Grappling consciously with her own unconscious racism, Maria manages to perpetuate racism instead, in an episode as layered and complex as Mira Sorvino’s multi-level guest appearance. Read my full review of “White Trash” at The A.V. Club.