“Misfits” is British TV Americans should watch

In my never-ending quest to find a TV show that can help bridge the gap between Skins series, I have watched several British teen shows that have just made me miss Skins more.

Not so with Misfits.

Misfits, an E4 original program, is about to start Series 4 in the UK, so the excellence of this show certainly is not news to our British readers. But since Series 3 just started streaming on Hulu for American viewers, with a new episode every Monday, this is a good time to start watching. Because once you see the first episode of S1, you won’t want to stop.

Before anyone gets bent out of shape, let me quickly say that Misfits bears little resemblance to Skins beyond the fact that it’s a teen ensemble drama with a similar snarky tone and penchant for the “strong language and sexual situations” that require a promise that you’re old enough to watch before Hulu will give you access.

In Misfits, the teens are thrown together not by friendship or attending the same school, but community service (in the same kind of fine orange jumpsuits that our Pretty Little Liars wore for theirs). A freak electrical storm gives the misfits super powers — Kelly (Lauren Socha) can hear people’s thoughts; Curtis (Nathan Steward Jarrett) can turn back time; Alisha (Antonia Thomas) sends people into a sexual frenzy when they touch her; Simon (Iwan Rheon) can turn invisible when he feels ignored. Nathan (Robert Sheehan) can’t find his power — and he’s not happy about it. (For a very funny, but very NSFW video of Nathan trying out different superpowers, go here.)

Here’s the S1 trailer:

 

What I love about the premise is that the kids don’t suddenly become heroes. In fact, they consider their new powers as much a pain as anything, since the powers reflect their own insecurities. They also seem to accidentally murder more people than they save. That kind of twist keeps Misfits from being the usual morality play in which society’s most misunderstood people are really the most noble. It’s a relief, actually.

The characters are strong enough, though, that we root for them despite their flaws. I especially love Kelly — at least I did once I got used to her Derby accent. She’s described as a “chav,” which I don’t quite understand even after looking it up.

The chemistry among the team is strong, which makes me worry a bit about S3 (I just started watching). In what the producers call a “reboot,” Nathan has been replaced by Rudy (Joe Gilgun) and the other misfits have new powers. I like Rudy well enough, but can’t imagine the lot without Nathan. Whether or not it works remains to be seen.

One thing that most definitely does still work is Alisha in a tank top.

S3 does promise to address gender issues; Curtis’ new power is the ability to change into a woman. In the second episode of the season, Curtis transforms so he can join a women’s run at the local community center — and ends up in a rather awkward situation with a woman named Emma.

Emma comes into the bar where Curtis works later — and they end up shagging. Curtis is quite proud of his performance until Emma tells Curtis-as-Melissa that the sex was the worst she’s had. Later, as Melissa, he seduces Emma again.

Predictably, a comedy of errors ensues, but not-so-predictably, the episode’s body-swap humor is neither homophobic nor offensive. It’s raunchy to be sure, but also funny and insightful.

Not surprisingly, since Misfits is a hit, a U.S. version is in the works with Gossip Girl creator Josh Schwartz leading the charge. But with the bad taste of U.S. Skins still fresh, I’m just going to enjoy the original Misfits for now. Who wants to watch with me?

Any Misfits fans among us? Let us know what you think. Please avoid spoilers in the subject lines and clearly label any spoiler comments. We want to enjoy the unfolding.

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