In the UK: Thursdays, 10pm, E4. Starts November 12
Stick around lads and lasses because this is a very special preview. Not only is there going to be a competition at the end of this, there’s also going to be the very first “not great quality” The Medium is Not Enough podcast involving me (and my not very dulcet tones), some other journalists and the creator of E4’s Misfits Howard Overman.
Anyway, there are two things British TV traditionally does very badly. One is youth shows. Usually, they’re embarrassing – witness more or less anything on BBC1, BBC2 and, ironically enough, especially BBC3 that’s aimed at “young people”. Okay, there’s E4’s Skins, but that’s a rare diamond in the rough of British TV.
The second is superhero shows. No Heroics, Phoo Action, My Hero: oh dear, oh dear, and can I just add, oh dear?
What’s this though? Light at the end of the tunnel?
Now, from E4, comes Misfits, in which ASBO kids on community service get struck by lightning and end up with super powers. It’s funny, clever and far more adult than a whole load of shows I could mention. Trailers now, review, competition and podcast after the jump.
Misfits follows five outsiders on community service who get struck by a flash storm and lumbered with special powers.
Hard as nails Kelly (Lauren Socha) can suddenly hear people’s thoughts, shamed sporting hero Curtis (Nathan Stewart Jarrett) discovers he has the ability to turn back time when he regrets something, and party girl Alisha (Antonia Thomas) can send people into a sexual frenzy when they touch her skin. Even painfully shy Simon (Iwan Rheon) can make himself invisible when he feels he’s being ignored, which makes it all the more hard to swallow for smart aleck Nathan (Robert Sheehan), who seems to have been unaffected, much to his dismay.
Unlike their more conventional counterparts, our misfits don’t swap their ankle tags and mobile phones for capes and tights. Instead, they discover what a pain in the arse life can be when you’re stuck with a super power you didn’t want.
Is it any good?
It is actually very good. It doesn’t quite have the depth of Heroes at its best, but it is actually more adult than Heroes at the same time. Go figure.
The first episode is an origins story in which the five ‘heroes’ meet, grow to hate each other, get superpowers, then have to club together to fight an ‘evil’ villain with his own superpowers. It’s a slow-burn, zero budget piece that uses what money it does have to good effect, most notably in Curtis’s power. But most of the fizz is in the dialogue and the characters.
Nathan, played by Robert Sheehan as though he’s been possessed by Chris O’Dowd from The IT Crowd, is a pain-in-the-arse who doesn’t know when to stop being a pain-in-the-arse. He alternates between being funny and irritating, veering mostly towards irritating.
Kelly is a chav with issues, complete with Croydon facelift. She’s looked down on by everyone. Alisha is a sex-obsessed party girl, while Matthew Horne-alike Simon is probably going to grow into a sex offender or serial killer one day. Curtis is a sporting hero who regrets taking drugs.
And each gets special powers to match. Except for Nathan. Who knows what powers he has, or whether he’s going to be the irritating sidekick?
What’s good about all of these characters is that they feel like real people. They act like people you might know and not the TV versions. Curtis took coke, not some herbal alternative and he wasn’t fitted up. Kelly is sharp-tempered and as foul-mouthed as it’s possible to get (she’s get the most memorable and funniest line of the show, and it’ll probably traumatise you for life when you hear it). Alisha isn’t afraid of simulating oral sex on a bottle in front of a group of guys, and her power when it manifests gets the absolute disgusting and even frightening worst out of men. Simon really is messed up and doesn’t look like he’s going to use his power for good.
The show also follows through on the fact this is real life, and heroes, particularly ones on ASBOs that have to defeat ‘evil villains’, are going to have problems dealing with the issues they encounter. The powers they have aren’t necessarily blessings, particularly Alisha’s and Kelly’s, and our heroes aren’t exactly sure how they work. And they aren’t necessarily going to use them for the public good.
The first episode
The first episode is well directed, with head nods towards The Shining, Jacob’s Ladder and comics themselves. It’s all well acted and it does have some very funny as well as some quite horrifying moments – there’s enough blood and carnage that would make Heroes‘ Sylar have a touch of the vapours if he ever saw it.
Where it falls down a little is in the depth of relationships. While the show acknowledges that these ASBO kids are going to have to grow up and learn some responsibility fast – and that these powers might well have blighted their lives horribly – relationships outside the core five are a little superficial. Genteel mothers change the locks on houses and put their sons out on the streets because they might piss of their new boyfriends. Boyfriends split up from their fiancées on a whim. ‘Villains’ are a teensy bit silly.
Nevertheless, this is good, powerful stuff and I have every faith that future episodes will be at least as good. We have, as of yet, to see how the world and the characters’ families will now look on these new ‘heroes’, but I’m guessing it’s not going to be easy. Series creator Howard Overman also promises others with powers, both good and bad, will appear in later episodes, and the finale sounds interesting to say the least.
Definitely one to try.
Yes, I went to Channel 4 for a screening of the first episode, which was followed by a Q&A between the series creator Howard Overman and us assembled journos – with just a little bit of extra input from PR people and executive producer Murray Ferguson. I recorded the whole thing, you lucky people, and here’s all 20 minutes of it as a podcast which you can also play using the player below.
We touched on a whole lot of things, including the show’s conception, the commissioning process, the mass of additional online content created for the show (there are YouTube channels, Twitter feeds, a game, and more), how the show was made and whether they were worried about getting all that swearing past the censors. I ask the best questions, don’t I?
Slight warning: it’s a little quiet to start with at least, because the further away the questioner was from me, the quieter they were and it’s not like I had a boom microphone. You’ll probably be able to guess which questioner was me (clue: I’m the loudest and most irritating).
I came back with a mass of Misfits goodies, including an orange ABSO uniform T-shirt, a DVD of the first episode and a special comic version of the first episode. Anyone who wants to enter the competition (and who lives in the UK), simply email me or leave a comment on the blog below and come Monday 16th, I’ll randomly pluck a name out of the virtual hat and send the lucky winner the goodies. Fingers crossed, the Royal Mail will turn out to be superheroes too. Good luck!