‘When the Streetlights Go On’ 1×01 Review: Welcome to the Summer of ’95

With my self-quarantine in full effect, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the launch of Quibi, which brings a slew of shows on the daily with episodes no longer than 10 minutes. The idea of airing daily episodes — like chapters in a book, or TV show or movie, in this case — is so fascinating, and it’s something that I was eager to experience.

Sometimes, when you watch episodes of television, there are some that feel like they fly by in a blink of an eye. But others, they feel like they drag on for an eternity. The beauty with Quibi is that each episode is a quick digestible bite where you’re never saying to yourself, “Is this over yet?”

In fact, it was the opposite for me. I found myself saying, “IT’S OVER ALREADY?!” And I think that’s the point. To give you just enough to get you hooked and keep you coming back for more. Luckily for me, I had two more screeners waiting for me after this review.

I kind of feel like a pioneer, in a way, because this is the first review of its kind — a review covering an episode that’s no longer than 10 minutes in length. And considering I’m someone that can write A LOT when given a little, this should be quite the experience. (I mean, just look at my introduction.)

So let’s get right to it…

When the Streetlights Go On follows the town of Colfax, Illinois, through what’s been a particularly dark summer in 1995. We meet our narrator Charlie, who talks about the year thus far in 1995, including the top song of the year (Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose”), the top Hollywood actor (Jim Carrey) and Michael Jordan’s return to the Bulls.

Cue the ’90s soundtrack that features everything from Nirvana to Bush to Natalie Merchant and it’s everything of my ’90s music dreams! If you’ve read my Roswell, New Mexico reviews, you know that I wear my love for ’90s music — rock, especially — loud and proud.

Considering I had no knowledge that we were getting this show set in the ’90s, I’m even more onboard than before. There’s an allure that comes with a show being set in the past. When you experience a show that’s happening in your present, it feels more in your control. But with a show like this, that’s happening some 25 years ago, the past is in stone and there’s no changing it.

While we briefly got to meet our narrator Charlie, this pilot episode was all about establishing what will drive this show from here on out: The murder of Chrissy Monroe and her teacher boyfriend, Mr. Carpenter, and how it affects everyone in the town of Colfax.

First, let’s meet Chrissy, who seems like your typical popular girl that has it all — cheerleader, perfect boyfriend, trusting parents and appears shielded from the darkness of the world. She’s getting ready for something — a date with the BF? — when she gets a freaky call reminiscent of horror movies. Heavy breathing, silence, more heavy breathing, followed by a muffled sorry. It’s at that point when you know something’s going down. It’s just a matter of when it’s happening.

We get a brief glimpse at Chrissy’s sister Becky when Chrissy barges into her room to take back her CK One, setting up the fact that these two sisters couldn’t be more different from each other. Chrissy is proper, the popular one, while Becky goes against the grain and embraces grunge. There’s not exactly a love you feel between the two sisters, but what else do you expect during your teenage years?

Chrissy tells her parents she’s going to the library to study with her actual boyfriend, and we know immediately it’s a lie. Her parents might know, too, but they don’t exactly do anything about it. My, oh my, how times have changed.

It doesn’t take us long to figure out why Chrissy’s sneaking around, as she hops into a car with an older gentleman who we learn is her teacher. Because we need a reminder that there are some fucked up people in the world, including those adults that pray on their young students.

We also learn a little about the creep, Mr. Carpenter, who is that adult that wants to be the big man on campus. He’s the cool teacher. The cool high school English teacher that lets students talk about movies, philosophy, you know, the kind of things not on the syllabus. As Charlie noted, Mr. Carpenter once played Nirvana’s “Nevermind” album on repeat the day after Kurt Cobain died in 1994.

Mr. Carpenter was the guy that all the male students wanted to be and the one that all the female students wanted to be with. Which immediately placed a target on his back, especially if someone found out he was sneaking around with Chrissy.

After Carpenter gets through with telling Chrissy he’s going to leave his wife for her — SERIOUSLY, dude? — the two make out before a masked stranger with a gun aimed at Carpenter’s head jumps into the backseat. He tells Carpenter to drive — basically into the woods where no one would find them — and instructs them to get out of the car, take each other’s clothes off and kiss each other. It’s 50 kinds of creepy, and there was never a moment in this thing that I thought the masked guy was going to let them go.

When Carpenter refuses to touch Chrissy, the masked guy shoots him in the head, then shoots Chrissy in the neck, before delivering the death blow to the head.

And there we have it folks, the tragedy that this entire show will center around. And there’s more than the mystery of “who” the killer is. Also, the motivation. Was it Chrissy’s boyfriend, who found out she was hooking up with Carpenter and killed them both in a jealous rage? One thing is for sure, I don’t think it was random.

Interestingly enough, Charlie points out that the summer started with a heat wave and didn’t end until the Monroe sisters were dead. That indicates that it’s not just Chrissy that dies but her sister Becky, as well. Is it connected to the masked assailant? Or it something else entirely?

Whatever the answer is, you bet your ass I’m going to stick around to find out.

You can catch new episodes of When The Streetlights Go On daily on Quibi.

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