Sep 16 2011
These days I feel as if it’s hard for me to get into a new show. I’ve discovered most of the worthwhile niche programs, and classic shows I’ve missed like Buffy or the X-Files are too daunting a prospect with hundreds of hours of material to get through.
That’s why I’ve been thoroughly excited by my discovery of Misfits, a show recommended to me by some random commenter some time ago. It’s a program that’s currently running in England, and what I love about that country is its propensity to keep its shows short and sweet, usually no more than six episodes a season (or “series” as they call it there).
I’ve discovered loads of good British shows in this format. there’s Spaced, Peep Show, Extras. And did you know that the original UK version of The Office was a mere 12 episodes and a Christmas special? When compared to our version which has 20+ episodes a season, now with 7 seasons and counting, it’s no wonder why the quality may have dipped slightly in 150 episodes.
Everyone knows lightning strikes produce the best powers.
Misfits is a black comedy that so far is only 13 episodes in total, so you could get through it in a weekend if you so chose. It’s about ordinary people who get extraordinary abilities, and the result is a show a hundred times better than our pathetic Heroes ever was.
The show works because it doesn’t play it straight as it tackles the entire concept of acquired powers with a wink and a smile and more often than not, a middle finger. A freak electrical hailstorm strikes a group of five “misfits” who have been sentenced to community service after committing various crimes. When they come to, they find that they each posses a unique, but often troublesome power.
There’s Kelly, an uh, Chav (not sure if that’s the right term) with a thick accent and a new ability to read minds. Simon is a shy lad who can now become invisible. Curtis is a disgraced track star who gets the power to turn back time, and Alicia is a young hottie whose touch now drives men wild with lust. Lastly, class clown Nathan doesn’t seem to have a power, and spends the first season attempting to discover the ability he believes to be dormant. Does he ever figure out what it is? I won’t ruin that surprise.
Yes, because she clearly needs magic powers to get guys to sleep with her.
What’s unique about this concept is that the powers given to the five (and also to a great many others caught in the storm it turns out) correspond with deep desires each person had before the storm. Curtis wishes he could take his one mistake back and save himself from disgrace, so he’s given the power to turn back time. Alicia always wanted to be the object of desire, so she now seduces men with a single touch. Sometimes this concept creates some truly bizarre powers, such as a girl with alopecia who wishes everyone else knew what it felt like to be bald. Therefore now anyone she comes in contact with has their hair fall out.
It’s a cool idea, and makes you think about what your own power might be if you were granted your biggest wish. Personally, despite 20 years of soccer, track and baseball, I always wanted myself to be a bit better at sports, as I didn’t think myself as agile as many of my peers. I think caught in this storm, I would end up with ninja-like reflexes with agility that would rival Spider-man’s. It’s just a funny thought, but one that can be serious if you search your soul and try to unearth your deepest desire and imagine how that might physically manifest itself.
What the show does with the powers it gives its cast is why it stands out in the tired superhero genre. There were so many plotholes in a show like Heroes as they made the abilities too powerful to allow for a coherent plot. Add in things like time travel, and everything gets all screwed up. In Misfits, this is often solved by the fact that the kids can’t always control their powers. For example, Curtis can’t time jump whenever he wants, and though the power saves the day on occasions, is not a be all end all plot breaking mechanic.
Not exactly the JLA.
The powers themselves are used creatively as well. In a season two episode, a kid is discovered to have “lactokinesis” where he can control dairy products with his mind. Everyone laughs him off, but when he’s tired of the ridicule, he starts bringing up people’s yogurt from their stomachs and chokes them to death with it. And so an exceptionally unlikely supervillain was born.
And above all else, the show is damn funny. It’s as black as black comedies get, as the show is filled with helpings of brutal violence, harsh language and simulated sex, which are three things that also give it a leg up on its superpowered competition from most TV shows and movies. Nathan in particular has about a dozen funny lines per episode, and the situations the show creates for itself are both hilarious and intriguing at the same time. Murder coverups, time travel and unlikely romances abound in the thirteen episodes, and by the end, the gang of hooligans will start to feel like family.
The show is coming back for a third season this year, and I highly recommend you check out Misfits if any of what I’ve described sounds good to you. And lastly, before I depart, I’m curious to hear what you think your deep down desire power would be.
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