I am generally skeptical of British shows involving supernatural powers or fantasy settings, because to be quite honest the production values and special effects are usually awful. The sort of special effects you would have seen ten-fifteen years ago on American TV. Luckily for me, I gave this show a chance after hearing lots of good things.
The show opens with the first day of community service for Simon, Nathan, Kelly, Alisha, and Curtis–a group of juvenile delinquents with nothing at all in common.
Curtis was an all-star track athlete, headed for the Olympics before he got busted for drugs. He seems the most sane of the group.
He definitely doesn’t think he belongs with the rest of these losers.
Kelly got in a fight over a boy, Simon set a fire, Alisha was caught drunk driving (or drink driving, if you’d prefer the UK vernacular). Nathan is just your typical rebel without a cause, only he’s more of a moron without a cause.
At first, I absolutely hated him, but he was my favorite character by episode two. He is devoid of all shame, all sense of propriety, and possibly any ability to scrutinize his own behavior. He’s the id, incarnate, and he says lots of things we wish we could say in social situations. On the other hand, he says a lot of things we wish we could unhear after they are said. So, fair warning there.
The team is sentenced to work at a community center cleaning up graffiti, picking up garbage, etc. They are out doing just that when a freak lightning storm hits and they all sort of get zapped. This section is a bit ridiculous because well, the special effects just aren’t that good. Still, the show is worth putting up with this sequence.
The long and short of it is that the group get super powers from the crazy lightning strike. Curtis, we soon learn, can rewind time. Nathan’s power takes a while to reveal itself, but he turns out to be immortal. Kelly, the chavviest of all the chavs,
can read people’s minds. She is kind of awesome, despite how trashy she is and how strange her accent sounds to an American ear. She is brave and loyal and has a pretty good moral compass when it comes down to important decisions.
Simon, the shy one who (according to Nathan) looks like a ‘panty sniffer’ has the ability to become invisible.
True to form, I liked Simon the most at first. After all, if there’s someone who is socially awkward and shy, I’m going to empathize with them. That’s obvious. Plus, he’s pale. He might, in fact, be the male version of me.
Over the two seasons, Simon has the biggest transformation. Mostly he transforms from a lonely nerd to a parkour-expert and generally shirtless badass. Still pale though! We, the melanin-challenged, can still be superheroes! Take note, world.
Alisha gets genuinely fucked when it comes to super powers. All of them get super powers that sort of reflect a main facet of their personalities. Curtis is overcome with regret, so he gets the ability to turn back time and make right his big mistakes. Simon is painfully shy and he can turn invisible. Alisha is…promiscuous? What’s a nice way to say her main reason for life seems to be to get as many men to want her as possible?
Well, she gets her wish. Her superpower is that when men (or women) touch her, they try to rape her because they just can’t stop themselves. Sex with her is the only thing they can think about. If a man she doesn’t want or like touches her, she’ll be raped. If she touches a man she does want, she’s basically raping him. Rape either way. So…yay. Worst super power, ever.
If you get confused about their powers, here’s a handy infographic:
Very quickly after the lightning storm, things start to go to shit at the community center. Their probation officer, also affected by the storm, attacks and kills them. Curtis has to turn back time to undo what has happened, and instead they are forced to kill their probation officer and hide his body.
The thing about this show is that it walks a very fine line between comedy and drama. Somehow they allow you to be in the moment when really serious, scary, or emotional things happen, but seconds later you can be laughing hysterically–usually at something Nathan says to defuse the situation. It’s a show that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and that is really helpful when you’re dealing with the supernatural.
Over the course of the first two seasons, they kill at least 2 probation officers, someone has sex with an octogenarian, someone has sex with a gorilla, they all die at least once, there are two separate semi-religious cults, a character called SuperHoodie, people who travel into the future and past, Simon is referred to as ‘the Invisible Cunt’ and Barry, the group is overpowered by a man who can control dairy products, and Jesus rises again during the Christmas special. The show is funny and goofy and really truly enjoyable.
You need a dark sense of humor to appreciate this show, but if you have one then it is excellent. You also need to be able to laugh off incredibly heinous language and slang. And if you watch the Christmas special, please be aware that there is a truly traumatic bit with an ‘afterbirth’. There’s a reason I’m not having kids. Actually, there are 500 reasons, but that is definitely on the list.
I really enjoyed the show, and I especially adored the main theme song. Must. own.
The entire series is up on Hulu or on DVD. The trailer is here.