Ponty’s Pen: Stranger Things Series Review

We’re pro-spooky stuff here at The Portly Politico, and perhaps the greatest example of syncretic spookiness is the Netflix series Stranger Things, an amalgamation of 1980s nostalgia, John Carpenter, Stephen King, and every other significant sci-fi horror franchise of that glorious decade (and beyond).

Talk about a lightning-in-a-bottle cultural phenomenon.  The series is the kind that is profoundly a product of the age of streaming, yet it hearkens back to the horror miniseries of the 1980s and 1990s—rich, multi-episode arcs; tight story construction; and satisfying pay-offs that reward loyal viewing.  I also appreciate that the show doesn’t overstay its welcome with bloated seasons.  The Duffer Brothers tell the story they want to tell without stretching their material thin.

Ponty sent me this epic review of the first four seasons of the show (the fifth and, it seems, final season is coming soon), and it’s surely his reviewing magnum opus.  Audre Myers wrote her own review of the series last year, which overlaps somewhat with Ponty’s, but they both bring different insights into the show.

I don’t have much left to add that Ponty hasn’t said better.  With that, here is Ponty’s series review of Stranger Things:

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Ditch the Cable and Stream Favorite Political Shows for Less

I cut the cord a long time ago, though I was reluctant to do so.  I was—shamefully!—paying $182 a month for cable television (with a DVR and all the other fixin’s) until I began my journey in extreme budget in 2016 (which, thanks to private music lessons and your subscriptions, I don’t have to be quite so extreme about these days).

Back then, it was much simpler—there were only a handful of streaming services, and they tended to offer a pretty broad selection of television series and films.  There were quite a few shows on Fox that I enjoyed watching regularly, so I went with Hulu, as they would stream episodes of shows that had aired the previous night.  Otherwise, the options were pretty much Netflix and YouTube and… I’m not even sure what else.  It was a brave new world for home entertainment—the wild west.

Now there’s a streaming service for every subgenre, and nearly for every intellectual property.  In order to get everything (or nearly everything), you’d end up paying more than my shameful pre-2016 cable bill.

Of course, when we had everything on cable, we didn’t watch but a small fraction of it.  So streaming still offers a far better alternative, as consumers can largely choose the basket of programming they prefer from one or two streaming services, rather than paying a hefty premium for thousands of channels and shows they’ll never watch.

With that here is “Ditch the Cable and Stream Favorite Political Shows for Less”:

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Myersvision: Million Pound Menu

Readers are getting a double dose of Myersvision this week, because had I stuck to the usual schedule of posting our dear Audre‘s pieces on Wednesdays, this plucky little review would have been left until midway through January 2023, and I can’t keep it from you (or Audre) that long.

Audre possesses a love for shows that require people performing at the height of their abilities in stressful situations, often with hard cash on the line.  This show sounds exactly like that, with an added twist:  the hopes and dreams of the would-be restauranteurs involved are also on the line.

Having money to invest is, surely, a wonderful thing, but it comes with the burden of investing it wisely.  We have all heard stories of friends or distant relations who made a good investment that reaped dividends in the long-run.  We’ve also heard the alternatives, where some poor cousin—usually hoping to get rich quick—has blown his savings on a buddy’s llama farm.

What makes this show sound particularly compelling is that the investors are not mega-wealthy, the types that can afford to lose a cool mill or two and not worry about their Ferrari getting repossessed.  These are people that we might call “country comfortable” that have some quid to toss around, but they can’t afford to see it all lost in a failed specialty grilled cheese restaurant in London.

Well, I’ve said too much, and prattled on too long—I think my introduction is now longer than Audre’s piece.  D’oh!

With that, here is Audre’s review of Million Pound Menu:

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Myersvision: Metal Shop Masters

Our dear Audre Myers certainly has a niche—competition shows based on obscure crafts.  This week’s installment of Myersvision is no different.

But the craftsmanship (and craftwomanship) here involves bending heavy metal (the actual material, not the music) to the artists’ wills.  It’s a fiery example of forging life and art from inorganic, heavy matter.

I’d like to say I could forge my own metallic coffee cup from leftover aluminum cans (I think my neighbor can do that), but I possess no such skills.  The ability to smith my own nails with casual disdain is another casualty of our modern age (or, perhaps, my own unwillingness to learn blacksmithing when nails are in ready abundance at the hardware store).

Regardless, it’s always a treat to watch master craftsman at work, and Audre really captures the spirit and beauty of that process in this review.

With that, here is Audre’s review of the Netflix series Metal Shop Masters:

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Myersvision: The Walking Dead

What happens when you consume the same piece of pop culture so many times, you peel back the layers of rotted flesh to discover hidden depths that, on first glance, you missed?

This piece by our dear Audre Myers is a beautiful illustration of that phenomenon.  That said, the series she’s reviewing—yes, as entire, decade-plus-long series—is arguably something more than mere pop culture.  It may represent a work of television art.

The late aughts and early teens of this century saw a golden age of television as an art form.  Outside the confines of a film’s ninety-or-so-minute runtime, television series have the luxury of developing characters across hundreds of hours of screen time and multiple seasons.  Narratives can explore deeper complexity.  Themes can be examined in all their glorious nuance.

I don’t want to give away Audre’s key insight about this show, but I’ll note that I think she is correct.  Let me know what you think in the comments.

With that, here is Audre’s series retrospective of The Walking Dead:

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Myersvision: Last Tango in Halifax

Audre Myers is perhaps my most Anglophilic contributor, probably even more Anglophilic than Ponty, and he’s actually from England!

As such, it was only a matter of time before she graced us with a delightful, tea-and-crumpety BBC dramady about rediscovering lost love in old age.

There’s something befuddlingly adorable and quintessentially English about two stodgy geezers falling in love.  Perhaps it’s the notion that we can always recapture some sliver of our misspent youths when in the throes of being in love.  Nothing quite so takes us back to the possibilities (and follies) of youth quite like tumbling head-over-heels for someone else, especially when they tumble into you, willingly and excitedly.

Two fogies canoodling also gives us some hope that it’s not too late for us after all—gulp!

With that, here is Audre’s review of Last Tango in Halifax:

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Lazy Sunday CLXXII: Myersvision, Part I

Good ol’ Audre Myers—if it weren’t for her and Ponty, I’d have to actually write something now and then!

Audre e-mailed me about a month ago asking if she could could contribute reviews of television (i.e., Netflix) series, not just films.  Naturally, I agreed—enthusiastically!

Since then, she’s been churning out these little gems on the regular, and there are more on the way.  I dubbed the series Myersvision, and this Sunday we’re looking back at the first three installments:

  • Myersvision: The Final Table” – A high-end, international cooking competition with chefs and judges at the peak of their craft?  Sounds like something I’d watch while eating a bowl of Spaghetti-Os.
  • Myersvision: Baking Impossible” – Continuing along the food themed, Audre’s second submission was a baking show that combines baking and engineering.  Might we be driving on gumdrop roads soon enough?
  • Myersvision: Blown Away” – This show sounds like it’s something The History Channel would air, but way classier—and glassier—hey-oh!

Happy Sunday—and Happy Viewing!


Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

Myersvision: Baking Impossible

This time of year seems dedicated to the sweetest of pastimes:  baking.  We all love toothsome sweets, and the triple threat of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas provides an ample casus belli for our bellies to consume large quantities of goodies.

But some take their passion for baking to another level entirely.  For those of us who view baking as popping break-and-bake cookies into the oven and setting a timer, we can’t comprehend how bakers are able to do that with sugar, flour, and water.

Baking combined with engineering is the premise for the show Audre Myers is reviewing this week.  If you want a cake with the structural integrity of an earthquake resistant building, then this series is where you’ll find it.

With that, here is Audre’s review of Baking Impossible:

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Myersvision: Blown Away

Reality television certainly has its low points:  randy twenty-somethings hooking up in the hot tub; grown people humiliating themselves for cash; Sanjaya on American Idol.

Despite the format’s reputation for racing to the bottom, it does work well to highlight higher pursuits.  There are so many unusual and intriguing jobs and skills out there, and there is a deep satisfaction—and profound fascination—that comes from witnessing a master practice his craft.

Such is the case with this week’s edition of Myersvision, in which regular reader and contributor Audre Myers shares with us a show about the intense, difficult, beautiful craft of glass-blowing.

With that, here is Audre Myers’s review of the Netflix series Blown Away:

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