Misfits (Clerkenwell Films, 2009)

I'm cutting to the chase with this one: awesome, awesome, awesome.

When I mention Misfits to my American friends they usually think I'm referring to the punk band or the 1961 John Huston film starring Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe. No. And I don't mean The Kinks album, or the Sara Hickman album either.

I'm talking superhero live-action teen dark comedy drama, British-style. I'm talking unexplained meteorological phenomena causing a massive ice/lightning storm, granting superpowers and supernatural abilities to those caught in its path. I'm talking murder, sex, drugs & booze, and a truly inspired soundtrack and opening credit artwork.

Like many British series, this was put out as a six-part miniseries with a complete-ish story arc. I'm thrilled to report it's been picked up for a second season, though tons of great shows don't make it to round three in this setup. Our story so far: five troublesome teens sentenced to community service for various petty crimes are out in orange jumpsuits painting over graffiti under the supervision of their probation officer. A freak storm arises out of nowhere, and the kids scramble to take cover from enormous chunks of falling ice and crazy lighting. The teens quickly afterward begin exhibiting superpowers: disgraced sports star Curtis can manipulate time; the gorgeous Alisha drives men wild with pheromone hyperdrive; social disaster Simon turns invisible; Kelly the chav hears people's thoughts (okay, a tiny spoiler: most guys are thinking about sex most of the time). Only Nathan doesn't discover a new-found ability right away. It might be he's distracted by family problems; he's run off from home to escape his mom's new boyfriend, and is secretly living in the community center where the five meet each day to perform their court-ordered service.

The teens don't have much time to acclimate. Almost immediately they're attacked by their probation officer, who's been driven into a supernatural rage and is determined to kill them all. They band together to nullify the immediate threat, though it turns out the guy isn't the only one affected by the storm. Babies looking for daddies; octogenarians looking for love; nymphomaniacs seeking redemption -- the five have more than one storm-related challenge waiting for them beyond the community center. Something's definitely up when they find Nathan's mom's boyfriend naked on all fours behind a dumpster, panting like a dog.

Warning: this is not some over-slickly produced bubblegum fluff, wherein everything is pretty to look at and all loose ends miraculously slurp into themselves like oiled spaghetti. I've long had a rebellious streak against over-slickness. I yearn for grit. American television, excellent as it can be, tends to gloss over so many, many things: the acne and the cellulite; the imperfect solutions to family problems; the self-destructive tendencies so integral to teen existence. Not so, here. Appreciation of Dark Humor a must.

[Camille Alexa]

Visit the official Misfits website