Across the Pond: Misfits

In across the pond I look at television from the U.K. that stands out as amazing programming.

Misfits Series 1 (6 episodes)

One American television series that completely disappointed me was Heroes. The first season was a slow burn, but once it got where it was going it was incredibly good. After its first season though it started a downward spiral that ended with NBC put a bullet in its head halfway through the fourth season. The idea of a television series that works with the superhero concept is one I can get behind completely. When this BBC drama came around I heard about it, but didn’t really rush to watch it. Recently though, I sat down and tore through the six episodes in two days and it has jumped to being one of my favorite shows. It’s a bit teen drama (and British teen dramas are infinitely more racey than American ones) and a bit super hero series. The mix is a wonderful series that can be deathly serious and absolutely hilarious.

Five juvenile delinquents gather at a community center to perform their court-required service hours. While cleaning up trash along the Thames, they see a strange storm quickly gather over the city and begin to rain down massive chunks of ice. A bolt of energy strikes and moments later they appear to be fine. However, they have each gained a special ability they is tied to an aspect of their personality. Kelly, a chav girl from the estates, can read people’s minds (she’s concerned about what people say about her). Simon, a introverted and awkward boy, turns invisible as long as no one is looking at him. Curtis, a former high school track star caught with cocaine, can send his consciousness back in time. Alisha, a coquettish minx, drives any man who touches her bare skin into becoming compelled to have sex with her. And poor Nathan, the mouth of the group appears to have no powers.

These kids wouldn’t ever hang out with each other so the conceit of the community service hours is a perfect way to have a makeshift team. They even have uniforms, bright orange jumpsuits, which they change into when they meet up. Villains come in the form of other Londoners affected by the mysterious storm. Their first enemy is their probation officer, who is transformed into a Hulk-like agent of rage. From there they run into a man who believes he is a dog during a full moon, a girl who cause others’ hair to fall out, and a former nymphet turned svengali of purity. The show definitely mixes humor in, and is able to joke about what is going while still keeping a sense of urgency. The highlight of the season by far was the episode spotlighting Curtis, the time traveler. He is able to go back to the night the police caught him with drugs and tries to change things. Of course he is forced to deal with the large reaching ramifications of his trip back and is forced to make subsequent trips. The way backstory about all the characters is relayed in this episode is amazing, and puts a lot of the time travel storytelling in Heroes to shame.

My favorite character of them all is Nathan, the seemingly powerless member of the bunch. Every episode he attempts to manifest a different power but ultimately fails. There’s even clues early on as to what it will be and its not till the final episode of the season that we discover what that is. Also, in that final episode, Nathan delivers what is possibly one of the funniest rallying speeches I’ve ever heard. In his effort to convince his friends to shake off the mind controlling influences they are under, he champions teenage irresponsibility, claiming that they’re supposed to be getting drunk and shagging all the time. He plans to do so throughout his twenties, and possibly his early thirties. Its a interesting mix of that aforementioned urgency and comedy. If you have the chance, and this sounds even the smallest bit interesting to you, seek it out. It’s one of the most enjoyable comedy-dramas I’ve seen on television in a long time. Series two is scheduled for the end of 2010, with a Christmas special to precede it.

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