'Stranger Things' or 'Obi-Wan Kenobi': Which Will You Watch?
Netflix and Disney Plus stream their big hitters May 27. CNET staffers make the case for Stranger Things or Star Wars. Are you Team Hawkins or Team Tatooine?
Richard TrenholmFormer Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
The next Star Wars TV show pits Obi-Wan Kenobi against his darkest enemy, Darth Vader. But that isn't the only clash of titans on your screens right now. Rival streaming services Disney Plus and Netflix go head to head as the Obi-Wan Kenobi showandStranger Things season 4 premiere on the very same day -- today, Friday May 27.
Disney Plus hadn't even debuted when Stranger Things launched on Netflix in July 2016. We've watched the kids from Hawkins, Indiana, tackle teen angst and Upside Down monsters in this '80s-influenced monster hit. By contrast, Obi-Wan Kenobi sees Star Wars star Ewan McGregor pick up his lightsaber for the first time in 17 years. And it turns out both are pretty good -- CNET's Richard Trenholm calls Obi-Wan "assured, pacey and ... most importantly, character-driven", while CNET's Gael Cooper says season 4 of Stranger Things is "the best one yet." Decisions, decisions!
We asked CNET's staffers which of these two sci-fi epics they're most psyched to see. Which will you choose?
Much as I love spending time in the neon glow of Stranger Things, I'm extremely eager to follow old Obi-Wan Kenobi on some damned-fool idealistic crusade. Star Wars is irresistible, McGregor has only gotten better in the years since Revenge of the Sith, and director Deborah Chow helmed some of The Mandalorian's finestepisodes.
I'd happily watch Obi-Wan just wander around Tatooine for six episodes, but it sure looks like he'll have to show some Imperials who's boss. It's going to be epic.
-- Sean Keane
Turn me upside down… again
I love Star Wars, but I'm more excited about Stranger Things. And before you boo me, let me explain. We know Obi-Wan will be fine. There's no tension, danger or mystery about what's going to happen to him. We already know he falls to Darth Vader aboard the Death Star so Luke and the crew can escape. Any tension or sense of danger within Obi-Wan's show is undercut by the fact that we know how his story plays out.
The story of Eleven and the rest of our Hawkins gang, on the other hand, is a mystery. We can guess and speculate, but we don't know. I want to be at least a little surprised about what happens. That's what's pulling me to Stranger Things.
-- Zach McAuliffe
A tough choice
That's a tough choice. Both appeal to my Gen-X DNA. Modern Star Wars products feel so overwarmed and designed-by-committee that I can't imagine anything surprising. From the trailers, Obi-Wan (the show) looks like The Book of Boba Fett, which looked like The Mandalorian, etc. Apparently space is… mostly desert.
Stranger Things does feel like it ran out of ideas after the first two seasons. Sometimes it's OK to say: "We've done enough, we've told our story, let's go out on top."
I did go to the in-person Stranger Things Experience in NYC a few weeks ago, however, so maybe I'm all talk. Complaining and overanalyzing is a pivotal part of fandom, so that's just my way of saying I'll be watching both.
-- Dan Ackerman
I am really excited to watch both of these shows at some point, but Obi-Wan will absolutely be coming first, and really for me it comes down to timing. Stranger Things was one of the first horror-adjacent things I could watch with my kids, one of which is now deeply happy to sit and enjoy anything spooky. And the recent teases that this next season is going to lean darker really has me curious. But as I write this, I'm double-checking the pieces of my Jedi robes I've spent the last month assembling for the Star Wars Celebration convention happening on the same day as the release of Obi-Wan. So, obviously, that's going to be something I'll need to watch first to avoid any spoilers at the con.
-- Russell Holly
Help me, Obi-Wan
This is probably sacrilege, but Stranger Things has never really done anything for me. Right from the start, I didn't have much emotional connection to those 1980s retro touchstones like The Goonies or Dungeons & Dragons. Maybe I'm missing out, but I haven't watched it since the first season.
But Ewan McGregor with a lightsaber? That is extremely my jam. Star Wars TV shows have been a mix after the excellent Mandalorian and the plodding Book of Boba Fett, but Obi-Wan is a character who just exudes that big-screen Star Wars magic. In my mind, the franchise is crying out for some of that energy. And if the first episodes aren't so great? Top Gun: Maverick is in theaters this weekend, and that's a lot of fun.
-- Richard Trenholm
It's pulling us in!
Given the history, I am 100% sure that Stranger Things will be a better season of television. Besides a few dud episodes, the Duffer brothers have barely put a foot wrong with what has ultimately become one of the most influential TV shows in the short history of streaming television. I've loved Stranger Things with every fiber of my being.
But unfortunately, Star Wars is Star Wars. Like a decaying draugr, ambling awkwardly in the direction of brains, fate has decreed I must flay myself once more at the altar of George Lucas. Like most long-term Star Wars obsessives, I'm duty bound to watch this show the second it drops. Also like most Star Wars fans, I'm duty bound to complain about it online.
I fully expect that Obi-Wan will be disappointing and underwhelming, but I will be there from day one, desperately hoping to be "whelmed."
-- Mark Serrels
'Stranger Things' Stars Then and Now: Wow, They've Really Grown Up
I'm too traumatized by the sight of Disney cannibalizing an actual cultural artifact that I once loved, so the nostalgia-lite alternative of Stranger Things seems like just the right fix. Think about it. You get the best of both worlds: the feeling of familiarity in a precision-tailored '80s period piece, without actually seeing something you loved from that time turned into a belabored cash cow that can only wheeze "end me" with a look of desperation in its eyes. Stoked, y'all. Just stoked.
-- Rae Hodge
The truth is often what we make of it
I don't think there's a bad choice here, because both of these shows look like they'll be a great time. That said, I'm so pumped about Obi-Wan, it kind of scares me. Star Wars stuff has been hit-or-miss lately, and this show is gambling on one of the absolute best and most iconic characters in the franchise. And yet I can't help but be excited. Ewan McGregor was the only lively, entertaining part of the prequels -- imagine what he can do with a better script and direction. Sure, I could worry about whether Disney is just making this show to cash in on two generations of nostalgia, or whether the Star Wars franchise is on the way out. But I love Obi-Wan because he chooses to see the potential in people, and that's exactly what I'm doing with this show.
-- Adam Benjamin
It's all about strategy
I'm more of a Stranger Things person (sadly didn't watch the Star Wars movies growing up), but I plan to watch Obi-Wan first. Why? It's all about strategy. Obi-Wan only premieres two episodes on Friday. I'll binge those, then head straight to Stranger Things land. Yes, I watch way too much TV.
-- Jennifer Bisset
I'll be watching Kick Like Tayla, thank you very much. Amazon Prime in Australia delivered the best sports documentary you probably haven't seen last year, called Making Their Mark. It followed Aussie-rules footy clubs during the pandemic year in 2020, and it was a revelation for a league typically quite reserved about what goes on behind closed doors. It showed the unfiltered and raw emotion of playing at the highest level, going behind the scenes at both the struggling clubs and the eventual champions. Oh… and there was a ton of fair dinkum Aussie swearing at everything.