Ideal superheroes for the 21st century
"With great power comes great responsibility," a wise man once said. Mind you, he was wearing a red-and-blue body stocking and a silly mask when he said it, which probably wasn't the most responsible wardrobe choice. But still: who could argue with the words of The Amazing Spider-Man?
Well, maybe the unlikely superheroes and heroines of Misfits, E4's cracking new comedy-drama series. They'll argue with anyone. And if there isn't anyone around, they'll argue with their own shadows. They're teenagers, you see, which explains the argumentativeness. And they're on Asbos.
When we first meet the five of them, decked out in garish orange jumpsuits and listlessly painting park benches on their first day of community service, they're arguing with one another and with authority.
"People out there think you're scum," says their earnest probation officer, "this is your opportunity to prove them wrong."
"Yeah, but what if they're right?" pipes up a curly haired Irish smart alec called Nathan (Robert Sheehan), to whom writer Howard Overman has given all the best lines.
And then something bizarre happens: a weird electrical storm strikes, sending hailstones the size of boulders raining down, and the Misfits get zapped.
One by one, they gradually discover they've been given different superpowers.
Curtis (Nathan Stewart Jarrett), a disgraced athlete, can turn back time. Slutty party girl Alisha (Antonia Thomas) can drive men wild with lust when they touch her. Simon (Iwan Rheon), the quiet, shy one who everyone ignores anyway, can become invisible.
Chav Kelly (Lauren Socha) can hear people's thoughts -- even those of her pet bull terrier, who lets her know what he'd been licking before she let him lick her face. Ugh!
Ah, but that's only four. What about Nathan; what can he do? So far, much to his annoyance, nothing. He hasn't got a superpower, or if he has he doesn't know what it is yet.
For this Fantastic Four + One Less Than Fantastic Other, with great power comes great irresponsibility.
By the end of the episode they've caved in the probation officer's head with a can of paint -- the storm turned him into a frothing, homicidal maniac who hacked another Asbo kid to death with an axe, you see -- and dumped the bodies in a hole.
Misfits is brilliant: dark, hilarious, exciting and beautifully produced. The spark comes from Overman's razor-sharp script, yet a lot of credit also has to go to the well-chosen young cast, who are uniformly superb.
If Sheehan, in particular, doesn't end up a star as a result of it, there's simply no justice in the universe. More than any of that, though, it's the most 21st-century piece of television I've seen this 21st century, totally in tune with its audience.
E4 have thrown everything behind it -- virals, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and phone apps -- figuring they could have a massive hit on their hands. I reckon they do.
FOR TOMORROW: Pat will be reviewing Deal or No Deal (TV3) but relaxing with Coronation Street (TV3/ITV)