Like most people that breathe, I've recently finished the latest season of Stranger Things — a show that thrives on 1980s' nostalgia. While it's a wonderful show and makes this '90s child gleefully happy with each homage or reference, it's not the first to take us on a road down memory lane. It seems like each decade produces at least one standout show that takes current adults back to their childhoods. The 2010s just so happen to be harkening back to this particular era. Here are a few other good watches if you want to yell "Hey, I remember that!" at your TV or computer.
Between 1988 and 1993 The Wonder Years took up this mantle. Only Fred Savage's Kevin Arnold (or actually his adult voiceover actor Daniel Stern) was calling back to the late 1960s and early 1970s and the childhood of baby boomers. It's a coming-of-age story in a time when a lot of chaos is happening in the world. However, this show seems mostly to be separate from The Vietnam War and Civil Rights progression; whereas, Stranger Things is heavily immersed in Russian-American conflicts — even if its more from a supernatural point of view.
The Wonder Years is also a much subtler tribute to this point in time. So subtle in fact, that many people — including me until I looked it up — believe its set in the 1950s, not the 1960s. There aren't regular name drops of movies, music, or pop culture in general, which can be found everywhere in Stranger Things — most notably the New Coke ad in season three that also manages to throw in The Thing. It's 100 percent clear this show takes place in the 1980s. The most its come to subtle was the fashion, but that has been slowly chipped away at each season. If the addition of mall life and urban sprawl didn't tell you, then Eleven's latest makeover completely with neon geometric shapes and a permed coif certainly made this statement.
For an earlier callback to the '80s, you have to watch Freaks and Geeks. There's only one season, but it does a wonderful job of making it feel like this was exactly what it would have been to grow up during this time. In most ways it's very subtle about the time and much more focused around the characters, but there's no denying the underlying presence of this transition period into the 1980s.
Most likely, it feels so real because most of what's portrayed did happen to creator Paul Feig or one of the other writers on the show. These were real high school experiences. That's the music they listend to and clothing styles they wore. Let's face it: teen angst is universal.
There's something magical about That '70s Show that causes me to rewatch it almost every year. In fact, I've been byspassing it on Netflix recently with more and more hesitation. I have no reference for what Wisconsin and Midwestern America was like during this time, but I hope there's some similarity found here. Maybe, it's because this show brings to mind nostalgia of my own as it was a big part of my pre-teen and teenage years.
However, I feel it does a good job of showing love for the era and shows made during this time. It's much less subtle than the other two mentioned and is more like Stranger Things with its regular pop culture references and guest stars well-known from shows from the decade. However, it does make a point — especially early on — to highlight issues of the time like changing gender roles and the 1970s recession. Although in some other ways, you could say the show is less realistic than all of these considering there are five Christmases in a three-and-a-half year time span.