Modern television has become something of a minefield for creators, due to the way in which audiences have evolved. With advances in technology, and greater opportunities for writers due to the rise of alternative networks and streaming platforms, viewers have come to expect a great deal more from small-screen series than perhaps they once did. The prevalence of social media – while advantageous to new TV ventures in terms of marketing – is also a double-edged sword, because voices of dissent are amplified just as loudly as voices of appreciation. This, inevitably, makes second seasons of shows such as Stranger Things deeply challenging.
When a show strikes a chord with its audience, it can be an astonishing thing to watch, as it is embraced by millions upon millions of people. Fans become devotees, because the relationship between a TV show and its viewer is a highly intimate one. These characters share our time, in our homes, and inspire emotional reactions in us that perhaps we were not expecting. This is why people feel compelled to start petitions when series are cancelled.
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But for those series that are renewed, like Stranger Things, the potential for creatively stumbling is vastly increased. With season one, the Duffer Brothers had the element of surprise – but now, having done such an impressive job of creating this very particular world in which to set their story, scrutiny is much higher and, in many ways, more limiting.
Stranger Things producer and director, Shawn Levy, recently spoke to Southern California Public Radio, and explained the very unique pressure that comes with delivering a second season of a TV show that has been embraced by audiences.
“Yes, the pressure is on. It would be so blatantly disingenuous of me to say differently. It’s scary to have people love something this much. It becomes impossible to banish all thoughts of not wanting to disappoint. This has been the challenge of it: on the one hand as we’ve see in the movie world, to do a follow-up that feels like the same thing is disappointing to an audience; to abandon things or change things [from the original], that disappoints the audience. A lot of Season 2 is next-level, some crazy stuff, but we must service these characters who are now beloved, who are known to the audience.”
That certainly is a fine line to walk, but if the principle is that the foundations of the Stranger Things world and characters were laid so firmly in season one, then hopefully audiences will be willing to accept the “next-level, crazy stuff” promised for season two just as enthusiastically. With shooting beginning shortly, it won’t be too long before we find out.