One second you’re painting park benches to fulfill your community service obligations, and the next second, you’re being struck by lightning and acquiring superpowers. Well, maybe not you, specifically. But that’s what happens to the characters in the British teen comedy, Misfits.
Season One of Misfits premiered in the UK in 2009, and starts off following the lives of five young “public offenders” as they begin their community service requirement. There’s Kelly Bailey (Lauren Socha), the brash, outspoken “chav” whom ended up in community service after getting in a fight with another girl from her neighbourhood. Life of the party, and perpetual joker, Nathan Young (Robert Sheehan), is doing service after stealing a bunch of candy from a bowling alley. Gorgeous and sexual promiscuous Alisha Daniels (Antonia Thomas) is done for repeated drunk driving charges. Curtis Donovan (Nathan-Stewart Jarrett) is a famous athlete, but his chance at competing in the 2012 Olympic Games is ruined after he’s caught in possession of cocaine. The last of the bunch is the shy outcast,Simon Bellamy (Iwan Rheon) who is sentenced to community service after he’s caught trying to set a school bully’s house on fire. The five of them make an unlikely team, but they’re forced to serve their time together by doing daily deeds for their community, under the supervision of their social worker, Tony (Danny Sapani).
After being outside during a freak ice storm, and being struck by lightning on the first day of community service, the gang quickly realizes that something strange is going on. Kelly is surprised to realize that she can hear people’s thoughts. Simon is randomly able to turn invisible. Every time Alisha touches a man’s skin, he goes crazy with lust for her. Curtis is sporadically able to go back in time and change the past. And Nathan is peeved to realize he has no discernible power. However, they have little time to ponder all this as they realize that someone else has a power- Tony, their social worker- and his power is super strength, and he’s developed an apparent hatred towards them. Together, they must protect themselves from Tony and figure out how to best handle the new super powers bestowed on them.
If you think the characters in Misfits go on to use their powers for good, or become superheroes, you’re wrong. This is not a British version of Heroes– the main characters don’t do anything particularly heroic or have the noble idea that they need to save the world. In fact, I found that part of the show rather realistic- if most of us discovered that we randomly had a superpower, would we really try and do something big or would we use it just to improve our day to day life? Likely the latter.
Some of the plots are a little less realistic, however. I won’t say Season One is outright silly, but one episode revolves around Nathan having sex with a girl who turns out to be an 82-year-old woman who was also in the storm and had warped back into a younger version of herself. Another episode deals with Curtis trying to dump his ex-girlfriend (whom he ends up dating again after a series of history changing events in another episode), but is unable to do so, because every time he tries, he ends up going back into the past before he tried to start the conversation to dump her. Most of the other episodes from the season revolve around the characters meeting other people who were in the storm, and the tons of silly things that happen when they encounter them. Still, the comedic episodes are nicely juxtaposed with some real sincerity and depth.
The show’s writers, Howard Overman and Jon Brown do an excellent job of making the characters relatable and likeable, despite them being, well…misfits. Even the way their powers correspond to their personalities is brilliant. Curtis, who is hung up on his mistakes from the past, is suddenly able to go back in time and manipulate the past. Kelly, who spends a lot of time pretending not to care what other people think about her, is now able to hear exactly what they think. Simon, who generally feels overlooked and ignored, suddenly becomes invisible. I loved that the powers weren’t just randomly doled out- they were thoughtfully paired with each character’s insecurities and personality traits.
Of course, the show’s actors play a huge role in what makes the characters so enjoyable. Robert Sheehan (Cherrybomb, Love/Hate) is a clear standout as Nathan; he provides almost all of the comic relief in the series and always has a snappy one liner ready for any situation. While it would be easy for Nathan’s ever-present-humour to come off as being annoying after a few episodes, Sheehan manages to make the role work without ever going too over the top. Iwan Rheon (Game of Thrones) is probably the best actor on the show- he plays on the quiet, almost-creepy nuances of Simon perfectly, and you’re never quite sure throughout the season if Simon is someone you want to love or someone you want to be wary of. Lauren Socha (The Unloved) is incredibly convincing as Kelly; in fact, I thought she really didspeak with a cockney accent until seeing her in an interview. Kelly isn’t an instantly likeable character, but Socha manages to inject her portrayal with some much needed heart, and warmth. Meanwhile, both Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (Utopia) and Antonia Thomas (Homefront) are a bit one-dimensional in their characterisations of Curtis and Alisha, but they’re still enjoyable to watch.
Though all the characters are teenagers, this show is definitely aimed at a “mature” audience. There’s a lot of profanity, drug use, nudity and graphic violence in nearly every episode. However, none of it is gratuitous- the violence makes sense in the context of the episode and even the drug use/nudity/profanity makes sense when you consider that the show is about teens serving community service- it kind of goes along with their personalities.
With plenty of action, suspense, lots of British humour and even a little bit of romance, Misfits is a great TV show. All of the episodes are smartly-written, and even if the show is about a bunch of British teenagers, you don’t really have to be the “target age group” to enjoy it. I was instantly hooked from the first episode, and I’ve turned several friends and my boyfriend onto it as well. You can’t fault the show’s writers and directors (Tom Harper and Tom Green– no, not that Tom Green), for they’ve done a stellar job at cultivating a wildly entertaining show.