If you haven’t caught the British television show Misfits, you’ve really been missing out. The series follows a group of teen delinquents serving out community service time who get caught in a freak electrical storm and gain super-powers. It’s a little unfair to say that the show is light on plot, as there are episodes and arcs that are very plot-centric. But overall, this isn’t a plot-driven show; it’s much more focused on character and dialogue. Instead of tying itself to some ludicrous, half-baked mythology that will only fall apart over time as with something like Heroes, most of the time on Misfits is spent with the foul-mouthed group as they while away their community service time and try to make sense of their lives, both as a result of their new-found powers, or simply their ongoing personal struggles that pre-date the storm. The five young actors who play the series leads are all very natural and talented, with Antonia Thomas and Robert Sheehan being the stand-outs. Sheehan in particular is the lifeblood of the show. He’s extremely versatile, and able to switch on a dime from playing very subtle emotional and dramatic moments to hyper-animated, crass humor. We’ve probably all known someone like the character of Nathan, incredibly obnoxious and annoying, but also hilarious and charismatic, with a vulnerability never too far out of reach that keeps him just this side of endearing.
It takes an episode or two for the show’s ensemble to really gel, but once they do it’s a pure joy to watch. The rumor mill has an American version in the works from Josh Schwartz, the creator of The O.C. and Gossip Girl, which is absolutely cringe-inducing news. There’s no way this show could exist on network American television with its signature off-color humor and constant swearing, and any cleaned-up version would negate the whole point of it. There’s a bit of a punk edge to Misfits, and as with a lot of great shows, that mood is perfectly captured by the theme song Echoes from The Rapture in the opening credit sequence. A network golden boy like Schwartz is just going to suck the individuality right out of Misfits as it makes its way across the pond, so let’s hope it dies on the vine and never reaches fruition. Luckily, the British version is currently available for free on Hulu. All three series (or for us Americans, seasons) put together clocks in at a total of 21 episodes, fewer episodes that a single season of most regular U.S. network shows. Perhaps that’s part of the reason that the writing stays so sharp throughout and it’s still finding international audiences.
I could sit here listing off great moments for quite awhile, but why ruin anything for anyone? Okay, okay… episode 3 has a funny little homage to John Turturro in The Big Lebowski. And here’s a quote that best encapsulates the spirit of the show: “She’s got you thinking this is how we’re supposed to be, well it’s not! We’re young, we’re supposed to drink too much! We’re supposed to have bad attitudes and shag each others’ brains out. We are designed to par-ty! This is it. Yeah, so a few of us will overdose, or go mental, but Charles Darwin said ‘You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs,’ and that’s what it’s all about, breakin’ eggs! And by eggs I do mean getting twatted on a cocktail of class ass. If you could just see yourselves, it breaks my heart– you’re wearing cardigans! We had it all. We fucked up bigger and better than any generation that came before us. We were so beautiful! We’re screw-ups. I’m a screw-up. And I plan to be a screw-up until my late 20s, maybe even my early 30s. And I will shag my own mother before I let her, or anyone else, take that away from me!” Enough? Go check it out.
Oh, and yeah, Charles Darwin never said the thing about the eggs. It’s commonly attributed to Joseph Stalin, talking about breaking Russian citizens in pursuit of a more perfect communist Russia. But it’s the perfect kind of mistake for a character like Nathan to make, and particularly to then misattribute to Darwin. In another episode, he gives romantic advice to a friend by unknowingly quoting dialogue from Spider-Man.