The surprising joy of "Stranger Things"

But when it comes to battling the forces of evil, Stranger Things is never dark, angry, or bitter. Refreshingly, it plays things straight, with heart — and whether it’s dealing with a heated Dungeons and Dragons face-off or tracking the slimy beast known as the Demogorgon, it also carries more than a hint of joy. “It’s not nasty or mean or condescending or ironic or any of those things,” Matt Duffer told Time, “which a lot of content can be right now.”

He’s right: These days, a good, non-angry, non-political TV show is hard to find. Let’s hope Stranger Things can keep it up: Rumor has it that the show is booked for at least two more seasons. “It’s definitely daunting,” the show’s director, Shawn Levy, told Entertainment Weekly. “The love for this show is so rabid.”

But when it comes to the show’s popularity, perhaps the formula is actually quite simple. Take 2017, add a sense of mystery, toss in a hint of nostalgia, and subtract a boatload of hand-wringing and angst. Take Dustin’s seemingly out-of-nowhere Saturday-night call to his bewildered science teacher, Mr. Clarke, in the middle of the show’s first season: “Do you know anything about sensory-deprivation tanks?”