What would "Stranger Things" look like if it took place in the '90s, replaced its sci-fi plot line with a love story and employed a more forgettable cast?
It would likely resemble the new teen drama that Netflix has prophetically titled "Everything Sucks!"
If the 10-episode, half-hour series was meant to fill the gap between seasons of "Stranger Things," it does but probably not in the way the network or the show's creators intended.
With its lackluster storyline and clumsy reliance on coming-of-age clichés and era-specific nostalgia, "Everything Sucks" illuminates how good we had it with "Stranger Things."
You've seen it before: Popular kids traumatize the nerds. Nerds marvel at the world of dating. The AV Club.
Here, those tropes are dressed up in '90s regalia, from scrunchies to Tori Amos T-shirts.
The "remember that?" perspective and lead Jahi Di'Allo Winston's performance as high school freshman Luke are about the only draw in the first four episodes. Otherwise, this drama based in Boring, Ore., at Boring High is, well, boring.
Luke, one of the aforementioned nerds, falls in love with the principal's introverted daughter, Kate (Peyton Kennedy). But she may or may not be gay and grapples with that very question as she explores her own sexuality. In the meantime, Luke simply wonders what it would feel like to kiss a girl.
"Next time you see her, it's gonna be tongue city, population Luke," advise his buddies (played by Rio Mangini and Quinn Liebling). But their wire-rim glasses, frizzy mops and science jargon ensure it will most likely be another few years before they even talk to a girl.
The obnoxiously hot, popular students here are, weirdly enough, thespians from the drama club. They engage in bizarre theatrical readings in the middle of the school cafeteria and quad. Gwen Stefani wannabe Emaline (Sydney Sweeney) and her boyfriend, Oliver (Elijah Stevenson) end up targeting Luke for a crime he did not commit.
"Freshman, I'm gonna make your life hell!" whispers Emaline in Luke's ear while viewers may be asking if they really want to put themselves through high school hell again when there's little to no payoff here.
The series, created by writer Ben York Jones ("Like Crazy") and Michael Mohan ("Save The Date"), leans heavily on Clinton-era nostalgia to fill in the gaps, but mentions of the Columbia House record club and the flawed premise of Alanis Morissette's "Ironic" only go so far.
The adults, such as Kate's dad (Patch Darragh), are befuddled by the kids' new language. What the heck does "da bomb," "all that and a bag of chips," and "oh, snap!" mean?
Not a whole lot when they're part of a story that's hardly the shizzle.
Even the musical choices here are dull: Dave Matthews, the Spin Doctors, third-wave emo rock by bands whose names we didn't even know back then. It's a crime, given that the era produced some of the best music of the last three decades. Yet the kids at Boring High listen to Eagle-Eye Cherry.
"Everything Sucks" is "Stranger Things" with everything unique sucked out of it. And with everything there is to watch now, why bother going back to the dullest days of high school?
When: Now streaming
Rating: TV-14 (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14)