Now I’m not a big TV fan really. There isn’t a lot of British Telly that will make me remember to set aside an hour every week, I don’t really feel like any of it is aimed at me. If I really feel the need to watch something that looks really important I’ll have to find it on the internet because it’s American. The US just gets TV in a way that we don’t which is why I’ll spend hours tracking down Mad Men in a good enough quality to meet my demands and I will still sit my arse down at 18.00 every week day for The Simpsons (unless it’s one of the new ones) at the same time as derisively spitting in the direction of home-grown dramas that will I assume involve corsets, bonnets and people getting out of carriages in front of the same two or three stately homes used for this type of thing.
We can either chase the audiences that fantasise about the bonnets and arrogant attractively aloof douchebags on horses or we go catastrophically off the deep end of the other direction and make shows that belong underneath the mulch at the bottom of the cultural gutter like the god-awful Skins. Caution: All teenagers are having drug ‘n’ sex parties all the time! I’m convinced that show is written by reactionary old men trying to justify the creation of nationwide curfews and muzzles for anyone below the age of 20.
Which is not to say that America always gets it right. I mean look at Heroes. The series that showed a great deal of promise indeed during its first season and then catapulted gleefully into nonsense from there on in as the writers sit atop the whole mess, flying through the abyss shooting looks of panicked terror at each other. That show is such a mess that the best thing they could do with it is to collect all the characters together in the middle of a desert somewhere and nuke them all into oblivion, starting afresh. I wouldn’t bet against that being a back up plan of some description, it’s just the sort of plot contrivance they love.
So why, why is it gods of TV, why is the first British TV show to capture my interest for longer than two minutes a bizarre combination of the two shows I just crapped on? E4’s Misfits would be what happened if Heroes and Skins had a hilarious, sweary, filthy baby in a parallel universe where that could be considered a good idea. The show’s premise takes the idea of the cultural impact of comic book style super-powers that fiction has been examining for the last twenty years to a logical and very British conclusion. Why should crazy-awesome super powers only find their way to lantern-jawed, morally strong, John Everyman and not to a bunch of dirty kids with ASBOs doing community service? All the way up to the end of the first episode I still wasn’t sure whether it was genius or eye-rollingly lame. I seriously doubt it’s a work of genius but it certainly is a hell of a lot of fun. If you like the idea of serious written actors, acting seriously inside a silly plot with some even sillier moments thrown in for laughs then you should definitely be watching this. Warning: If you are planning on doing so you may want to read this after you’ve watched the available episodes. I’ll try not to spoil anything but I may do so you know, get on YouTube.
So the cast of broken, almost morally bankrupt criminals get zapped by a deus ex machina in the form of a mysterious electrical storm and get mental super powers that they do not decide to utilise by banding together and saving the world. They don’t even like each other. You’ve got the rotten chav (complete with hilarious ‘what were you aiming for’ all-purpose chav accent) suddenly becoming telepathic, the promising athlete with his bright future shattered by a drugs bust somehow gaining future sight, a possible sociopath mental kid predictably being gifted with invisibility (but only when no one is looking. Seriously. I have that super-power at bars) as well as an amoral party girl that men absolutely MUST have sex with when they touch her as played by Antonia Thomas who is so pretty she actually makes me profoundly sad.
But these guys pale in comparison to the show’s greatest asset and only member of the main cast who seemingly didn’t gain any powers from the storm, Nathan played by the fantastic Robert Sheehan (last seen in the last Channel 4 show to leave me gobsmacked and official best thing on TV since Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, Red Riding in which he played troubled cross-dressing rentboy B.J.) Nathan is one of those roles that young actors must be willing to kill for. He’s allowed to behave outrageously and is constantly blessed with the every episode’s funniest line, delivering them with obvious glee. Through characters like Nathan, shows like these waste no time letting you know what you’re in for. The C Word is sprinkled liberally throughout but never feels too gratuitous, let’s be honest here, if all the people I regularly hung around with all got super-powers and I didn’t I think I’d be shouting the C Word a lot too.
Misfits serves out its subject matter with equal parts respect and mockery. Every deadly serious scene or plot is littered with ridiculous, smirk-inducing moments. Kelly’s telepathy reveals things she doesn’t want to know, leading her to find out exactly what everyone thinks of her and to break up with her grubby boyfriend in the same scene as she hears her dog’s mind muttering about going next door to ‘shag that poodle, she’s proper dirty’. In the fourth episode Curtis is tragically forced to repeat the moment that ruined his life for the greater good and we find out Simon is more fucked up than we already thought all against the back drop of a super trendy rave-type thing with all the popular electro hits of the day! Anyone who saw this episode gets bonus points if they can tell me what in god’s name a ‘rolex sweep’ is. Nathan gets to engage in the most hysterical bout of foreplay before a shocking revelation is made. See where we’re going here? No plot point is treated with utmost reverence or flippancy. A healthy balance is maintained never allowing the viewer to take it too seriously or to lose interest.
I haven’t managed to track down the fifth episode yet so forgive me if I’m a little out of date here (but you know, I am on the other side of the world, cut me some slack) but I already know this is very much a guilty pleasure I will devour as quickly as I can get my hands on it. Very few shows have the power to make me laugh out loud on my own after all. I have to think if a programme achieves that you have to stick with it. Also if you’re into that kind of thing they apparently have Twitter updates from the actual characters during the beginning parts of the episodes that will help clue the audience in on the identity of a mysterious figure to be revealed in the final episode which is just delightfully NOW but I wouldn’t know about that seeing as I refuse to venture into those murky depths. I may be watching what equates to Skin-roes but I’m not doing Twitter! I can take solace in that.
As of the time of writing the first four episodes are all up in very good quality on YouTube so go do yourself a favour and have a bit of fun if you’re not watching already. And if you are watching it already: Oh-mah-gaw right? I know! How crazy was that last one!??!??!?!!! and all that business.