In defense of Stranger Things and the epic episode runtime

Rtime is relative. Turkish soap operas routinely air two-hour episodes several times a week. The police procedure CID once a single shot was fired that lasted 111 minutes – a feat memorized in the Guinness Book of World Records. The series finale of MASH, perhaps the most beloved TV show of all time, lasts 121 minutes. So the fact that the average length of a Stranger Things season four episode is 78 minutes is hardly unprecedented. But it is a gift.

Since the new season fell late last month, the more grumpy corners of the internet have erupted during “ridiculous” runtime. For comparison, the final season of the science fiction show averaged episode durations of just under an hour, which means that a single recent episode costs viewers about 20 extra minutes of their precious lives.

Does each series guarantee episodes the length of a short feature film? Obviously not. That Stranger Things can dominate so much of his audience’s attention is a reflection of how central television has become to the summer calendar. Currently, you can watch a superhero movie at any time of the year. In fact, one can see one almost every time of the year. But Stranger Things has not dropped any new episodes since 2019! Bold runtimes, like the series’ wild $ 30 million (£ 24 million) for an episode budget, only solidify its status as a bona fide summer hit.

From the beginning, Stranger Things vibrated on a wavelength once reserved for popcorn movies. It is the anticipation accumulation fueled by the slow leak of teasers and trailers. The seasons premiered on dates you would expect big, fun, scary shows to hit theaters, from Halloween weekend to Independence Day. The last drop was tied to Remembrance Day in the United States, the same day Top Gun sequel made its way into the world. That is Stranger Things has always been an occasion. Considering episode one lasts 78 minutes, finding the perfect mood lighting and the right set of snacks is also their own appropriately dizzying event.

It should be noted that the more traditional structures – the 30-minute sitcom, the 60-minute drama – do not represent any platonic ideal of episodic television. The regulated blocks made it easier for networks to build their alignment. But even before streaming overturned the equation, the best television often struggled against its limits. Were there words in a terrestrial broadcast more exciting than “extra special double episode”? This rule-breaking concept has given us a “Fun Run” – a classic from the United States Office canon. He gave us the London wedding of Ross and Emily Friends. Could Meredith have removed the bomb from that man’s chest cavity in an hour? Grey’s Anatomy? Sure, but I’m not crazy, it lasted twice as long.

Of course, the double episode is the final form that many of the most enduringly popular shows have ended up taking. The finals of MASH, Friends and the United States Office, yes. But also ER, Seinfeld, Battlestar Galactica (triple episode, technically), the two-and-a-half hour finish of Lost. It’s not just that some stories take longer to tell, but that tells them longer reflects what they mean to people.

What would be cut into a slimmer “Stranger Things”?

(Courtesy of Netflix)

So what gets cut in a slimmer, worse version of Stranger Things? By season four, the world of show business has grown with lovable characters, and they all need something to do. It will always deviate in the direction of the awkward, but by no means Joyce’s vile, heroic bid to save Hopper’s life – probably the craziest plot of the season – ends up on the cutting floor. The Duffer Brothers will not only let Will and Mike soak in Lenora Hills split-level for seven episodes. What do you lose when you cut out an intriguing show like Stranger Things are the moments that make it so charming: the Easter eggs and sun mounts, the long-distance ramps through the Upside Down and the long shots of kids bikes after a curfew like something outside. ET.

But those images, crippled by cinematic references that go from Sixteen Candles al Nightmare on Elm Streetare essential to Stranger Things‘bigger than telealog. It has always strived to be a TV series in the key of the most cheesy “they don’t do them like they used to” Hollywood breaks. And now the episodes have a scale to match. The final episode of season four, which falls on time for the July 4 fireworks display, is reportedly two-and-a-half hours long – the same as a Marvel movie or episode of Lost. You won’t hear me complain.

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