With an honorable mention to HBO’s riveting The Night Of, the most raved-about show in Hollywood these days, at least according to the numerous ‘So, like, what are you watching?’ questions The Watchman tends to pepper exec producer types with, is Netflix’s mysterious Stranger Things.
“Like everybody, I’m obsessed with it,” says Brad Simpson, executive producer on American Crime Story. “Everyone I know who’s watching it is doing a deep dive on it. I think it’s the best thing on TV right now.”
Peter Lenkov, showrunner on MacGyver, had only seen the pilot when we spoke, but was eager for more. “It’s sort of like those good, old Amblin movies,” he says, including the free-range-kid classics E.T. and The Goonies. “Netflix does everything [based] on analytics, so people must be watching the old movies.”
Of course, showrunners’ TV tastes vary. David E. Kelley, for one, is bingeing on a different summer series that nonetheless matches the surreality—and, to some, the horror—of Stranger Things. “Trump,” deadpanned Kelley, creator of Goliath on Amazon.
And as summer was ambling toward fall, we caught up with Phil Simms, CBS football analyst, to talk TV. Football is all he watches once the season starts. But summer is wide open.
CBS’ NCIS famously does not get much critical love, but Simms is looking to change that. A few years ago, the former Giants quarterback discovered the military-crime drama and quickly binged all 13 seasons. “I get a kick out of Mark Harmon’s character,” Simms says. “He’s an ex-athlete, he has that demeanor—he’s the cool quarterback.”
More recently, Simms crashed through all four seasons of Netflix’s House of Cards in about three weeks. “We’d lie in bed at night, and I’d say, ‘Honey, let’s watch one more episode,” says Simms with a smile.
See, it’s good to include your spouse in your binge viewing. And it just might save your life. Brad Simpson estimates he could have banged out the whole of Stranger Things in a couple days. Instead, he and his missus spent a week and a half on it.
“She would’ve murdered me,” he says, “if I’d watched ahead.”
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.