Netflix’s Stranger Things has been hailed by many as the surprise TV hit of summer 2016, but the show almost never even got made. Series creators Matt and Ross Duffer — known professionally as “the Duffer Brothers” — say the show was rejected a staggering 15 or 20 times by various studios, but the siblings were indefatigable and eventually got a green light from Netflix.
So what was the big problem keeping the show from making it onto the airwaves? At least some TV executives couldn’t reconcile the fact that the show starred four children with the fact that it was not a show for, well, children. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, the brothers recounted how one exec told them they had to “either gotta make it into a kids show or make it about this Hopper [detective] character investigating paranormal activity around town.”
Matt’s response was that they would “lose everything interesting about the show” if they gave in to either suggestion. Thankfully for the brothers and fans of great TV, some industry contacts they had better understood their vision and eventually hooked them up with Netflix — but the process wasn’t without its scares. “There was a week where we were like, ‘This isn’t going to work because people don’t get it,'” Matt added.
The Duffer Brothers originally viewed Netflix as out of their reach, thinking it was only a home for shows from well-established directors with an impressive catalog of hits. Matt and Ross had only just graduated from college in 2011 and had little on their resumes, though they had previously been afforded the opportunity to work with M. Night Shymalan on some episodes of Wayward Pines.
“That became our training ground, and M. Night Shyamalan became a great mentor to us,” recounted Ross. By the time we came out of that show, we were like, ‘OK, we know how to put together a show.’ And that’s when we wrote Stranger Things.”