(Ed's note: Matthew joins us to review 'Misfits' and if his PhD doesn't get in the way, will hopefully be around for a while after that too.)
Words: Matthew Paskins
'Misfits' Series 2: 'Episode 1'
SYNOPSIS: "Misfits follows five outsiders on community service who get struck by a flash storm and lumbered with special powers. Kelly, Curtis, Alisha and Simon are still mourning Nathan’s death, totally unaware that he’s still alive, six feet under. A mysterious man in a mask leads them to Nathan’s grave..." (e4.com)
I want to review 'Misfits' – Channel 4's superb super-powered ASBO teens show - but not tell you anything about what happens in it. This isn't hard to do. The shows's plotting is very good – good enough to want to conceal – but what's amazing is the claustrophobia of its setting and the warmth and vicious vulnerability of its characters. I want to talk about the characters later on in the series, so the rest of this review will be about the setting.
To sum up the show in one sentence: Thamesmead has super-powers. Thamesmead of course is the bit of south-east London where Stanley Kubrick set his version of 'A Clockwork Orange'. But Kubrick's droogs had colonised the place – and got to choose their nasty bowlerhats – whereas the 'Misfits' almost always seem to be alone there. It's not a dystopian future, it's just a place which they can't leave. And yet in the breaks of the action, when they're lounging or smoking next to the Thamesmead water-features (which, according to Michael Collins were imitated from Sweden as ways to calm the residents and reduce youth crime), they are gloriously, immortally, bored.
A couple of years ago, I heard the great fantasy writer Michael Moorcock speak about his youth in London in the aftermath of World War II. He said the ruins were wonderful for a boy because it showed that everything could be destroyed, just like you always hoped it would. And – he didn't say this exactly, but I think this was what he meant – fantasy could fill a place where all kinds of different new world were possible. 'Misfits' is the opposite of that: the congealed hopes of the built environment, its failed future, is the setting for a fantasy where having amazing powers is mainly another way to find out how trapped you are. Mainly. Because, at the same time, something somehow miraculous is going on with the characters, something much more spontaneous and thwarted and kind. But more on this next time.
'Misfits' is on E4 at 10pm on Thursdays. Each programme is available to watch for free on 4od for a month for UK users. The first series is also available in its entirety.