Making the world a better place, one show at a time.

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I guess you would like to know a little bit about the person making all these proclamations upon good taste and horrid characters. I'm Andrea and when I was 15 I fell in love. An hour after meeting "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" I was forever altered in the way only love can, and I never questioned for one minute afterwards that television offered me an amazing chance to experience lives and moments that I could never imagine. So now, when I'm not getting distracted by my real life, I write about TV. I also read, am finishing a Master's degree in English Literature, travel, am attempting to learn vegan cooking, am the 5th of 6 children, and drive my roommate nuts by constantly cleaning our already clean apartment. Now that we're old friends, time for you to take my opinions as the be all and end all.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Summer Suggestions: Misfits, Series 1& 2

Simon -Maybe we're supposed to be super heroes.
Nathan -In what kind of fucked up universe would that be allowed to happen?

We associate summer with freedom, and not just because of American Independence Day. As the weather gets warmer we show more skin, play hooky with less guilt, and can't help but think that a gin and tonic is the perfect ending to a day.  And so, similarly, is it with TV.  We pack away think-y dramas and sophisticated meta-comedies for fast dialogue, bright locations, and implausible but entertaining stories that leave us feeling like a day in the sun; satisfied and relaxed.  (The USA Network has managed to become quite successful catering to this seasonal need, and boy do I love them for that.)

In a way no one is freer than the delightful little juvenile offenders of Misfits.  In another way no one is less free than them.  But, either way you see it, I am immensely happily spending part of my summer with these crazy kids.

Nathan (Robert Sheehan), Simon (Iwan Rheon), Kelly (Lauren Socha), Alisha (Antonia Thomas) and Curtis (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) have been assigned community service at a local community center as punishment for various misdeeds against society.  On their first day they, and their probation officer, are struck by lightening in a freak storm, and they being to develop unnatural abilities.  Total insanity ensues.

Part of what makes Misfits special, why is stands apart from other teen dramas or super-hero fantasies, is that being endowed with super powers doesn't make them noble or generous.  Their newly bestowed gifts, amplifications of their traits and fears, cause nothing but havoc in their lives and damage to those around them: initially lacking the knowledge of how to control things leading to mortal mayhem, when they do figure out some control, they more easily do things they shouldn't be doing in the first place.  You know, like, stalking.  The easy route (for a show) is the traditional understanding that if one gets superpowers they'll immediately recognize the pull of universal machinations.  The difficult route (for a show) is the unconventional but more realistic concept that one would take the easy route, use their powers in a self-indulgent or trivial way, but to still make the viewer cheer for the characters.

Here is where I think I should throw in a bit of a warning.  Please don't watch this show if you are easily offended.  I mean it.  These 5 offenders are offensive: they are drugging, drinking, promiscuous, foul-mouthed and immensely disaffected.  (Not to trivialize recent and extremely unpleasant events, but I have no doubt that some commentators in Britain made comparisons between these fictional youths and the all too real rioters of the last weeks.)  Objectively, they're kind of shit people, and it is very easy for their antics to grate on moral sensibilities.  I just want you to know.

Despite what could be considered the off-putting qualities, Misfits succeeds in drawing in the audience, in bonding the viewer with people we'd maybe rather not know in real life. Some shows just work perfectly, and it's almost impossible to describe why.  There is a magical combination of character development, plotting, pace, humor, and plain out and out ridiculousness that works so perfectly, even when it shouldn't.  All of that principle actors give fully committed and natural performances.  In particular Robert Sheehan plays Nathan with a fearlessness that makes Nathan's audacious behavior equally palatable and painful.  Much like the other characters, the viewer knows everything Nathan is saying is completely ridiculous, but damn it, he just makes you want to listen to him.  (I promise, you will hide your head in your hands because you can't stop laughing but you're so uncomfortable.)  In pitch perfect contrast is Iwan Rheon, who plays Simon with an almost deranged constraint in a style that strongly reminds me of Michael C. Hall.  (Honestly, I wish he had played young Dexter in the flashback scenes on Dexter.)  While maintaining a very few overarching storylines, the series remains for the most part episodic, and is much stronger for the fact.  By introducing and resolving complications for our heroes within each episode, Misfits keeps the quick pace necessary to retain both viewer attention and the suspension of disbelief.  I'm all for the calculated unfolding of a grand plot (Firefly), but in this particular genera the slow-build is more susceptible  to leaving the viewer bogged down in disconnected threads and unmet expectation (Heroes).  Alternately, in taking the long-view regarding character progression, the surprising shifts in personality are organic and rewarding, especially in the case of Alisha.  She doesn't end at all where it seems like she will when she begins, but she earns who she becomes in a plausible (within the structure of the created universe) and endearing way.

For all the pro/con arguments to be made about it's favors and faults whether or not you want to watch this show is really a matter of taste.  If it's the kind of show that appeals to you then you'll really enjoy it, it's excellent.  If this isn't where your inclinations lie you probably won't be seduced by it's merits.  For my part, Misfits is crack, and I am it's itching, shaking, fiending bitch.

The TV Girl

(This show was a project with Emily the Roommate.  She had seen it all and thought I would like it.  I love having friends with good taste!  In case you don't have an Emily (or a KP, or a Jennie, or a Calah), the series has been added to Hulu over the last couple months, a new episode every Monday.  It should be close to being complete, but I don't know how long the episodes will stay up.  Get on this shit.)

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