Misfits is not forgotten, of course. In the UK, it won the BAFTA award for best drama in its first season, and is currently getting ready for Season 3. In the US, however, it is completely unknown. I stumbled upon it by accident on Hulu and soon came to realize it was one of the greatest TV shows ever. It is clearly the best to feature characters with super powers.
The premise is that a mysterious storm travels through an English urban neighborhood, giving people strange abilities. What makes this different is two things. First, the characters don't automatically become heroes or villains. In many cases, their powers have limited use, anyway, and they have to go about their lives. And second, the powers are tied in with the characters fears and desires. Thus, the nerdy boy who want to be left alone develops the ability to turn invisible. The girl who's always worried about what people think about her can now read minds.
The show focuses on five young men and women in a community service program for minor crimes.
- Simon (Iwon Rehon), a somewhat creepy guy who clearly wants to be left alone. He's also the smartest of the group, though the others dislike him at first.
- Nathan (Robert Sheehan). He's the most outrageous personality, someone for whom the phrase "anything for a laugh" is far too tame. He crosses over the line and then continues. But he gets the funniest lines, and you do get to know the reason for his attitude; it's a strange combination of utter asshole and sweet guy, sometimes all at once.*
- Kelly (Lauren Socha). She has serious anger management issues and speaks in an accent that US viewers might be hard to follow. But ultimately, she is worried about what people think of her.
- Curtis (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett). A near world-class athlete, but whose career was derailed when he was caught with drugs. He's the most decent person of the bunch, though he is filled with regrets.
- Lauren (Antonia Thomas). Party girl supreme, who is not afraid to use her sexuality and good looks to get what she wants. Her power is actually more a curse than anything useful.
They're basically good, but screwed up just a little, unhappy with their lives and lack of direction.
The gang gets into hot water the very first episode, and things start exploding from there. Things get dark and scary for them, not only due to their actions, but as they meet up with others with powers. One of the subplots of the first season is that Nathan seems to have no superpower, though he is sure he must. When it's revealed, it's a scene that manages to be equally hilarious and horrifying.**
No one tries to take over the world. No government agency uses the group for spying and derring-do. This is not that sort of show, and it survives due its plotting and characterization. We see the main characters change over the events, and things that seem to be heading in one direction often veer off into another. All the characters have great depth, their actions and powers working in strange ways that almost always contradict your first impression of them. There are scenes of great sadness and pathos, other scenes that are wildly funny, others that are horrifying. Often at the same time.
So why is the show on Hulu and not some cable network? Part of it is that it's made on a British schedule: six episodes per season; currently only 13*** are available. But I think the bigger issue is the fact that the show is definitely R-rated. The language is explicit and there are some blatant sex scenes and there is no good way to censor them for US audiences without losing most of the point.
If you're looking for something new and different in your TV watching, go to Hulu and start watching Misfits. By episode two, you'll be hooked.
*One of the questions about the third series of the show is due to the fact Sheehan has quit; it is a big role to drop.
**And I don't mean this is a horror comedy. You laugh, but the situation is not played for laughs in the slightest. Overman does this sort of balancing act all the time: things that seem utterly stupid, but also menacing and horrifying.
***12 regular, plus a Christmas episode, though the idea of the show doing a sweetness-and-light Christmas seems surprising.