The Underrated: Misfits
Own up- who actually watched this when it was on? I didn’t, and still wouldn’t have if I hadn’t accidentally blundered into a repeat of it the other night, but am I ever glad I did. Misfits is one of the most amusing new series that I’ve seen in a long time, a raucous referential take on comic books and the problems of having powers.
Basically, Misfits ran over 6 episodes and this is the gist of it. 5 scrotes on Community Service for various petty crimes (smart-arsed prick Nathan, uber-chav Kelly, slutty Alisha, introverted and bullied Simon and star athlete who’s fucked things badly Curtis) are struck by lightning and notice that something funny has happened to them. It isn’t just them, however, their Probation worker (amongst others who are noticing effects of the storm) has also been transformed into a raging maniac. While fending him off they happen to kill him, and the series deals with them coming to terms with their powers, and the consequences of the murder.
So far so humdrum, this could be any origin story made for TV or film of the last 10 over-saturated years. However what Misfits really is, is a superbly written and darkly funny comedy-drama. The second episode in particular was 45 minutes of the funniest TV produced by Britain in a hell of a long time. It’s gross, irreverent, cheeky, and downright side-splitting on occasion. I don’t want to go into it for fear of spoiling it, because it really has to be seen to be believed, but take my word for it, I was howling with laughter.
The writing by Howard Overman, particularly the dialogue he gives to Nathan, is simply superb. Take, for example, when Nathan smashes Sally’s (their new Probation worker) windscreen. She’s somewhat irate (and believe it or not, he has got a legitimate reason for smashing it) and screams at him “are you fucking retarded?” to which he replies, brilliantly, “No, if I was mentally deficient, I’d have missed.” Or alternatively his big final speech “We’ve fucked up more than any generation in history, and I intend to keep fucking up until my late twenties, maybe even early thirties”. This isn’t as funny out of context, but when you see it (and he’s trying to foil the Supervillain of the series in his own inimitably inept fashion) you’ll laugh out loud.
It isn’t just the dialogue that’s superb- the powers are also extremely well thought out, with each being an enhancement of abilities that the characters already had. Simon, for example, feels invisible and is endlessly bullied so his power is actual invisibility. With the possible exception of Simon, all the actual powers are almost completely useless- and the fun of the series is watching them coming to terms with their abilities. Aside from Nathan, actually, who is convinced he must have a power (despite all appearances to the contrary) so hilariously keeps trying to find out what it is- the jedi mind sequence in particular is sheer genius. The empowered minor characters in the series have equally crappy powers (one of them has the power of Alopecia), but each power usually has comic consequences- the exception being the villain in the finale.
All this would be for nought, however, were the acting not up to scratch- and it’s good. Robert Sheehan is fucking superb as Nathan, Iwan Rheon is chilling and kind of pathetic as Simon, Newton Stewart-Jarret (also seen in Money) is smooth and assured as Curtis. The two main female characters Lauren Socha and Antonia Thomas are also first rate- watching the latter, in particular, simulating oral sex on a bottle (demonstrating why she was arrested) is positively boner inducing stuff.
It is also, as I briefly mentioned, superbly referential. Curtis quotes Spiderman (by accident, because Nathan set him up), there’s a bowling scene straight out of the Big Lebowski, the body in the Freezer is straight from Rabid and so forth. It’s great fun spotting these references and there are so many of them that it must have been deliberate.
I’m going to be unfair now and compare it to Heroes. Misfits, without any qualification at all, pisses all over the bloated American mess. The characters are believable and don’t act stupidly to drive the narrative, the writing is tight- being on occasion tense as well as highly amusing, the acting is so far superior to Heroes it isn’t even funny, but the big difference is that Misfits understands that for an Origin to work successfully the scope has to be small. Heroes attempted this ludicrous global apocalypse story (in the fucking first series) and played with big themes such as causality (Misfits handles causality far better) and botched both storylines. Misfits keeps the story small- it’s about the murder and even when introducing a major villain (this is brilliantly subversive- Mrs. Jarv kept commenting that perhaps the world would be a better place if the villain was successful)kept the storyline personal as opposed to global.
Overall, I have to say that I haven’t enjoyed a “new” British series as much as Misfits in a long time. It’s worth tracking down and when the new series starts in November it is going to be required watching at Casa del Jarv. Sometimes British telly can do things well- more of this please, Channel 4, and less buying any old American pish like How I Met Your Mother.
Until next time,