Misfits defined the teen lives of today’s 20-somethings
When you think of shows which defined teen culture in the 2000s and 2010s, you’ll jump on the obvious answers: Skins, One Tree Hill, The Inbetweeners. And all too often, we forget Misfits: the unsung hero of British teen TV which influenced the mindset of a generation.
The concept itself sounds bizarre- how could the story of five teenage delinquents who somehow obtain personality-related superpowers in an unconvincing CGI storm over London ever sell? But somehow, it worked. The show first aired in 2009 on E4, and came to an end in 2013 after most of the original cast left, but continues to pull an impressive rating of 8.3 on IMDB and 84 per cent on the notoriously harsh RottenTomatoes.
Misfits was a celebration of risky genre-mixing, encompassing drama, sci-fi, romance, comedy and action. This meant that no matter what you were ususally into, Misfits was always massively watchable. More than that, you could watch alone or with a romantic partner or mates, so long as your parents weren’t watching. This is a huge part of what makes the show so great; you can share it with anyone your own age and it’s guaranteed to go down a treat, but it’s always belonged to and spoken to our generation exclusively. In this way, it’s something shared, yet private.
The characters were another massive part of the appeal. When you’re watching, you’re bound to relate to at least one of the main five characters, because part of being a teen is inevitably feeling like a misfit at times. Where lots of books and shows offer one perspective, or give one character all of the screentime, Misfits balances five protagonists. We’ve all said the wrong thing at the wrong time like Nathan, got overly defensive like Kelly, or been set back from achieving our goals like Curtis. Not to mention the number of teens who were as painfully shy as Simon, or relied on their sexuality to get by like Alisha.
The characters get group and individual storylines so you’re never bored of anyone, and you only appreciate the characters more as you find out more about them, discovering that Nathan is homeless and that Alisha has trouble finding genuine connections. Despite this, the characters never felt like they were written to be kooky, or pander to our needs, or to be sob stories – probably due the show’s comedic faculties. “Save me, Barry!” became an iconic line, immortal as Nathan himself, and “look at you! You’re wearing cardigans!” has reached the US.
Moreover, Misfits knew how to deal with our real-life concerns with respect, depicting not one but five frank portrayals of life in London for British youth. Where Skins was dark, broody, dramatic, and often unrealistic, Misfits was fast-paced, comedy-packed, and down to earth. Where Skins romanticised mental illnesses, Misfits explored the issues of mental health, family issues, abuse, sex, and even death, in a funny yet sensitive and honest way.
This is all before you even consider the aesthetic of the show; the nondescript, derelict council estate and community centre over a calm, man-made lake could be anywhere, including in your own town. The hideous orange jumpsuits and even more hideous fashion choices of the squad (helloooo Kelly’s baby-pink baseball cap), mixed with future Simon’s suave super-suit and secret apartment, ensured that the show felt true-to-life yet great to look at.
Misfits truly was the television moment for our generation. It spoke to us, and for us, about our fears of growing old, about how being young means fucking up, and about making sure you find out you’re immortal before impaling yourself on a railing.