Chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour) is peak Stranger Things dad. Some will go so far as to say he is daddy. Many even call him zaddy. However, Hopper’s portrayer David Harbour is changing up the daddy conversation with his brand new Netflix comedy special Frankenstein’s Monster’s Monster, Frankenstein, premiering Tuesday, July 16.
This time, Harbour is tackling the intersection of prolonged daddy issues and the narcissism of fame to titillatingly strange effects. Yes, amid all the weirdo gags, over-the-top period costumes, and bafflingly twisted plotting you’ll spot in the trailer, that is what Harbour’s Frankenstein is really and truly about.
The brand-new comedy special’s mechanics need some explaining. At face value, the episode follows the real-life actor “David Harbour III” (Harbour, executive producer of the project) as he investigates the dark past of his father — David Harbour Jr. (also Harbour), son of old-timey thespian/apparent wrestler David Harbour Sr. (you guessed it: Harbour) — and his for-TV play, Frankenstein’s Monster’s Monster, Frankenstein.
David III is desperate to understand his now-dead father, so he interviews David Jr.’s former producer Nancy Erlich (Mary Woronov) and David Jr.’s agent Bobby Fox (Michael Lerner) to get to the truth. Those increasingly aggressive interviews are intercut with David Jr.’s wacky TV play, Frankenstein’s Monster’s Monster. The past is shot through a layer of ‘70s must, while the present appears in brightly-lit HD.
Of course, none of this is real. David Harbour’s father is not an egomaniacal fake thespian named David Harbour Jr. who may or may not be lying about his admission into Juilliard. Instead, as Harbour nodded towards in his “Wired Autocomplete Interview” earlier this month, his parents are Kenneth and Nancy Harbour and they raised him in White Plains, NY (“Westchester County, represent”).
If you fully understand this framework, it’s easy to enjoy Frankenstein’s 32 very odd minutes. The play-within-a-documentary section gets stranger than Stranger Things, unraveling a tale of deceit, a mother in an attic, and a possible case of stolen identity. Although a large chunk of the special is figuring out if Harbour’s Frankenstein is pop culture's most famous scientist, the scientist's monster, or both (the ending suggests the answer is all of the above) there are also many smooches and a fantastic turn by Twitter favorite Kate Berlant. However, if we’re being honest, the story is stolen by Niece — “the little niece” — whose facial expressions were made to meme.
Niece deserves her own spin-off play, or a fake Netflix documentary dedicated to her life as a child star after Frankenstein's Monster.
Somehow, the documentary portion of Frankenstein out-weirds “David Harbour Jr.’s” madness-chasing vintage TV project. Through David III’s interviews with his father’s past colleagues, we’re introduced to a man who may be capable of murder. And, at minimum, David Jr. was prone to collaborating with the mob and some very lukewarm beef Wellingtons. Many bizarre old-school TV spots further prove this chilling fact, as does the appearance of law enforcement.
If you didn’t already know David Harbour is a lovably unapologetic weirdo, here is your proof. Because, in the immortal words of David Harbour Jr., “The finer things in life don’t need to be fancy.” Someone get me some off-brand steak immediately.