Sunday, February 6, 2011

Film on TV - Misfits

British television shows tend to suck. The main reason behind this suckiness has got nothing to do with the talent involved - the British talent export more than often outshine the competition. So much so that the lines tend to get blurred, especially in North America.

The material is also not an issue - on more than one occasion British shows were remade elsewhere in the world, with varying success. Even if the material is not adapted to the local market, on their own some British television shows will compete and kick others' backsides, hands down.

This is especially true when it comes to comedy: "Fawlty Towers", "Only Fools and Horses", "Spaced", "Father Ted" ... the list goes on.

But the aforementioned classics are just drops in a massive ocean of unwatchable dung.

The problem in most cases is not the material, but the moolah.

See, the difference between television and film is that just the story will carry a film, regardless of its budget. Somehow this low-budget but quality story scenario does not transfer well onto the small screen. Now that our television-watching habits are changing rapidly, the line between cinema and small screen releases is blurring by the minute. Yet, there is still an undeniable distinction between the two media.

A little background on how British television works: what's called as networks in the US only works to a small extent here in the UK. The main reason being the Great Britain island is a little bigger than Florida, so it would be stupid to have a million local channels to cater everyone. So, the local variations are small (only for local news) and that's about it. There are three major 'networks': BBC (funded by the taxpayers' money and government funds, more of which later), ITV (literally Independent Television), and Sky (soon to be overtaken by fascists). Each have their own sub-channels (1,2,3 eetc, as well as specialty channels). In addition to the Big 3, if you like,  you have Channel 4 (and its own little network) and Channel 5, which nobody watches.

Now because BBC is funded by taxpayers and the government, it has no advertisements. Which automatically makes it the greatest television channel in the world. Ever. Its overall strategy is controlled by an independent organisation (BBC Trust), which decides whether the money is spent wisely. Since we're paying for it, it has to cater all tastes (inimitable documentaries that are the envy of the world all the way down to Strictly Come Dancing, which became Dancing with the Stars ... yes, I apologise on behalf of everyone for that debacle). Which means, BBC cannot really spend too much on shows - it has the talent pool, but not the means to do much with it. That's why Doctor Who looks like it's been put together in 15 minutes by 3 teenagers high on Lucozade.

Yet, still BBC has the biggest budget to play with whatever they want and the shows produced by BBC may lack money, but they are high on content (unlike ITV and Channel 5, which are just plain shit). Sky has the backing of News Corp, so what they do is import HBO shows to up their quality, which is only teeny bit below Jersey Shore and the like. And like HBO, you need to pay to access Sky channels (they also have the rights to show the majority of Premiership games, so the British public are forced to pay to promote wars elsehwere on the planet to watch Wigan play Blackpool).

But I digress.

Back to the matter at hand. Yes, British shows suck because they don't have the money to actually make them look good (or spend enough time to make them look good). Needless to say, I have a bleak and dreary opinion on British comedy and drama shows in general (the aforementioned titles excepted). So, when E4 (Channel 4's off-shoot for teenagers on Lucozade) comes up with a show about 5 ASBO kids with super powers, I get a little skeptical.

And I was wrong to be.

Misfits is (wait for it) the best show on British television since "Spaced". In fact, it may even be better than "Spaced".  But why? How come?

Here's why. It is actually quite well done for a show produced for the 4th most popular network's demographic-specific off-shoot. It stars unknowns and it pretty much mixes "Skins" (shit show) and "Heroes" (fail). The end result is a sharply-written, brilliantly-acted, hilarious, scathing, touching and an incredibly clever show. It is a screenwriting's heaven - the stupid premise is given life through memorable characters, with a plot that weaves its way around what looks like digressions, which are in fact little plants tht pay off beautifully. Nothing is random, which is weird, considering the nature and the feel of the show.

This may have already piqued some interest from producers on the Right Side of the Pond (it won the BAFTA Best Drama Series in 2010). Not sure how it will translate to the US (as far as I know the ASBO system does not exist over there), but if someone thought "Life on Mars" was worth remaking, then this should definitely get so lucky,

Will I like it? Not sure. Because the low-budget nature of the show is one of the things that keeps it all together. These people exist in their own magical realist world and more context and external characters may kill it.

So, Bru, what happens on the show? On the first day of their community service, 5 yoofs are stuck in a bizarro storm and develop super powers. Well, they are not really super-powers. Think of it this way: if they are White Swans, then their powers represent their Black Swans. And hilarity ensues.

If it's available where you are in whatever form, watch it. Trust me. You will lesbian this more than you've lesbianed anything in a long time.

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