Thursday 24 February 2011

Misfits of Science (the forgotton Heroes)

Welcome to another Movie and TV Mistress review.

This weeks review is of the rare and often forgotten super powered show of the 80's Misfits of Science, like many shows about super powers, before and since, it had a short 1 season run. Here's a bit of trivia, a co writer on the show would later go on to create Heroes, yes folks Tim Kring, but that’s not to say he created this and besides his writing credits also include Teen Wolf Too, but I'll review that film another time.

As I child living in Germany in the 80's we only had one British TV channel called SSVC which showed a mix of ITV and BBC programmes, and somehow I got to watch a pilot movie called the Misfits of Science which I really enjoyed as just a movie. However, it wasn't till years later that I found out there was an actual TV series after the film; it didn't last very long only 16 episodes, the 16th episode was never actually aired in America, but thanks to those great Germans it was released on DVD and the UK Sci Fi channel aired all the episodes.

The Misfits of Science are similar to the A-Team and Magnum PI, in this show they help people for free while using some special powers, because we all know the A-Team never really took any money. The team are basically a team of four people, with a couple of unofficial members, it is made of two doctors a rock star and a juvenile delinquent. I know I could quote the breakfast club but I won't.

Dean Paul Martin son of Dean Martin plays Dr Billy Hays who is the leader of the group, a ladies man, who is sometime a little over confident, he has a big heart and usually comes round to helping people, he does whine a lot when he gets captured in episodes and he is the only member without a power.

Dr Elvin Lincoln is played by Kevin Peter Hall who is 7'2.5 Tall he was the Predator in the original movies and also Harry from Big foot and the Hendersons Movie and TV series. Dr Elvin hates being tall and so became a scientist and developed a glandular growth potion which he takes to make himself small which works when he presses a spot on the back of his neck, he shrinks to the size of a Ken doll. He can only be small once an hour and it only last for 14 minutes, the effects work quite well considering the time and budget of a TV show.

Mark Thomas Miller an actor musician plays John Bukowski (Johnny B) who is electrical, can run really fast, he shoots electricity from his hands, if he has too much electricity his eyes glow so he wears sunglasses and he can charge up from the static electricity in the air. He is allergic to water as it cooks him and he tends to be the weapon of the team but he can also weld metal with his power.

Gloria Dinallo played by Courtney Cox from Friends is telekinetic, she kind of reminds me of Jubilee from the X men cartoon or what I think Jubilee should be like in that show. She has a probation officer called Jane and at least she doesn't kill her probation officer like the British Misfits.

Pilot movie is called Deep Freeze and aired in October 1985

The pilot starts with your classic horror opening, lighting and a creepy basement or warehouse, it kind of reminds me of a dusty and rat infested version of Warehouse 13 or area 51 from Indiana Jones. So we are following two guys who are looking for what is draining all the electricity in the building and they find a coffin shaped refrigerator that is open, of course a large frozen man is behind them and shouts Amelia, wonder if he's connected to Amelia Earhart this is all he seems to say thought out this pilot, and they do say he must be upset about the loss of Amelia Earhart. The film then cuts to classic cheesy 80's opening with flash cuts in time to the 80's song Science. But I have to say I do love this song it just makes me smile.

So the intro leads us right to Humanidyne – Science to help the Human condition and taken towards the janitorial department which is where the human investigation team Dr Billy and Dr Elvin are located. The Frozen man has been rushed here in an ambulance and he is making everything freeze we pass a sign saying weird r us and we find out that the refrigerator coffin was built for Howard Hubert in 1935 but they had trouble getting it to work for the billionaire, but Arnold Beifneiter went into it for 50 years and it has given him the power to freeze whatever he touches, he only appears in the pilot because Marvel comics objected to the character as they claimed he was too similar to Bobby Iceman from the X-Men. One Beef as they call him is frozen and if he gets to hot he will die, he has no control over his power, he is closer to Mr freeze from DC.  Bobby the Iceman can freeze water particles in the air and makes his own ice path and can make himself ice but he doesn't die at normal temperature, if anything Marvel should have objected to the Incredibles character Frozone voiced by Samuel L Jackson but since they are now both owned by Disney that would be pointless, OK end of rant.

The film is similar to Ghostbusters in some ways as we have two scientists who the company/collage disapprove of and so they are fired, they even have their own Janine type receptionist who reads out comedy messages throughout the series. The plot is that Humanidyne is working with the military, who in science fiction programmes always seem to be the embodiment of evil. So Humanidyne have made plans for a neutron beam for the military which will bring the cold war to the end by disintegrating whatever it's fired at, so the senators believe it is in the planning stages and that a impenetrable base for it to be kept in is being built but... oh no it's already built and being tested, the doctor who worked on it is now against the device and claims it's dangerous, so Humanidyne put him in a room with Beef and do tests on them both. He somehow gets to a phone in the room and calls Billy to help him so he and Elvin create the Misfits of Science. Johnny B and Gloria don't like Billy after how he treated them when he did tests on them and so don't want to help, but that is quickly brushed under the carpet when they see Elvin's power; because Gloria is a juvenile and on probation her probation officer Jane joins them, she is also Billy's love interest.

So the Misfits of Science are called that because Billy has Basketball uniforms with that team name, so they break into Humanidyne with an ice cream van to rescue the doctor and Beef, they escape and the doctor tells them where the base with the neutron beam is and they go to break in the supposedly impenetrable base. The final battle reminds me of a boss battle from one of those classic commodore 64 games I used to play; you see the team have to get past a swirling tunnel of water which beef freezes Johnny is out of juice so he tries to fake out the soldiers so Gloria has to use her powers to get rid of the soldiers, they send the neutron beam to the top of the mountain the bad guys get to the beam first, put in in a helicopter and use it against the Misfits.  Johnny is getting some juice but not enough for him and Gloria to bring the helicopter down, so it is thanks to Billy's basketball skills with a helmet hitting the helicopter blades that saves the day.

This was a cheesy 80's sci fi film, to me it was like Biggles, this is what I think the film Evolution should have been like, which is funny since both were obviously influenced by The Ghostbusters.

Oh I must point out that Billy and Elvin got their old jobs back by the start of the second episode and they live together in a house on Venice beach and though Beef never returns they still drive the ice cream van and their boss is now played by the dad from ALF

The second episode is called Your Place or Mayan? And starts with the two docs watching a Indiana Jones style TV show while there are cuts to an old guy doing the same sort of thing near Venice beach he gets to them and dies we go back to the TV and the Indiana Jones character is dead. OK I would like to point out that if that guy was the main hero of that movie/serial he would not be dead.

We then get opening theme tune, first we have a guy singing a song about the misfits of science in jazz and a person trying to change the channel then kicking the TV off the stand, a bit like how some episodes of Moonlighting started and then we get the main intro with another theme tune, this is only the second episode and we have had 3 theme tunes. Actually the second two songs are actually the theme for the rest of the series, and it does grow on you.

So episode 2 has Dean Devlin the writer and co creator of Stargate, Independence Day and Godzilla, he has genetic memory of Mayan language and helps the team find the lost Mayan treasure because the Mayans went from Mexico to Santa Monica, I'm kind of surprised that Dean Devlin didn't write this episode, or did he just use some of the ideas for Stargate...I wonder. It's not a great second episode to the series, it made me not want to go on with the rest but I did.

Episode 3 called Guess What's Coming to Dinner, In this episode we find out Jane Gloria's probation officer is heavily pregnant but Billy is oblivious and keeps calling her fat. The episode has the team investigating possible alien contact with a guy who Billy and Elvin laugh about at Humanidyne, the guy is like the dads in Gremlins and Honey I Shrunk The Kids, you know the type the guy that makes things which should help people but they don't work and his kids are embarrassed about him. This actually is one of the few good episodes of the series, we have Gloria getting Billy and Elvin to listen to him and they actually believe he has contacted aliens, but it turns out he has been speaking to a computer which is the targeting of a military bomb. I do think a lot of the plots of the episodes have been made into films, this could be Wargames.

Episode 4 is called Lost Link, it is about the misfits helping a primitive from a lost tribe in new guinea send his dead son's soul into heaven on a space shuttle. Coincidently the shuttle is delivering 2 Star Wars satellites into space with the idol of the primitive son and the Russians feel this is Americans using voodoo. No amount of voodoo would ever make the Star Wars project that Ronald Regan started work but that was him, he believe what he saw in the movies was true, does that mean that he believed ET was a true story?

Episode 5 is called Sort of Looking for Gina. Johnny B is playing with his band even though he said he wouldn't in the pilot, and he follows a girl who live in the sewers around.  While Billy is competing with the Miss Nance the Janine type receptionist character on selling tickets to the company picnic, the thing that dates this is Billy saying 83 friends I don't know 83 people, now today people still don't know that many people very well but we do generally have over 83 people as friends on facebook and twitter. This is the last time we see Jane Gloria's probation officer, probably because she had to give birth, they never mention her again.

Episode 6 is called Sonar...and yet so Far. It has dolphins that speak sadly they don't sing but it has seen some drug dealers sunken cocaine. Gloria wants to learn more about her powers but doesn't get any help from Billy or Elvin and learns nothing new. This episode also spoofs Miami Vice, I guess Miami Vice is like CSI: Miami today, hmm Miami is comedy gold for cop shows.

Episode 7 called Steer Crazy. Has 3 old people eat some glowing green burgers affected by a meteor. The episode also deals with the 80's fear of Nuclear power planets which was understandable then considering the Chernobyl disaster. Funniest stuff in this episode is Billy and Elvin dealing with a mouse that has the same powers as the old people and becomes angry and breaks out of her cage and they deliver some great slapstick. The plot with the old people reminds me of Cocoon oh and Courtney Cox played a doctor in Cocoon 2.

Episode 8 = Fumble on the One. Starts like a bond/noir detective story and then it is like the six million dollar man, well actually 11.4 million dollars apparently. So we have a narrator who kind of sounds like that guy from Hart to Hart. And the team try to help the 11.4 million dollar guy get back the presidential football from the bad guys and we find out more about Billy and Johnny B, Johnny apparently hung out in the desert for 3 years cause he couldn't handle his weirdness, hmm bit like Jesus, maybe that’s why Jesus disappeared to the desert for a while cause he needed to handle his weirdness

Episode 9 called Twin Engines. The story used in the episode was written by Tim Kring the same guy who created Heroes and this is not a very interesting story a bit like how after series 1 of Heroes the show was no longer interesting. It is about a mechanic friend of Johnny B who has premonitions but turns out he is just connected to a long lost twin, his twin is a successful bike racer who is on the wrong side of the mob. Meanwhile Gloria is preparing for her driving test. Is using her power to move a boy out of her way cheating on her test?

Episode 10 called Grand Theft Bunny. Is about animal testing and a woman called Sarah who is a temp that feels sorry for the animals being tested on and takes a cat that scratches her. Johnny B is becoming an electromagnet because of his power and his bodies trace metallic elements. Of course Sarah is friends with Billy, but Billy doesn't want to help her cause he went to jail a lot for protesting at collage cause she got him involved. But he goes to jail quite a lot throughout this series so blaming Sarah is just silly. So the animals have the andromada strain and bubonic plague rolled into one and are going to be used for germ warfare, one rabbit has the cure. The guy who fired the Ghostbusters from Columbia university is in this episode again playing a bad guy arsehole. Sarah and Johnny B get infected and its a race to get the animals back to save them and thanks to Johnny's electromagnetism the bunny flies to him because of it's metal collar.

Episode 11 is Grand Elusion. It starts in Russia in 1973 as they say it is 10 years since JFK died then a guy the KGB are after takes part in an illusion and disappears before John Schuck (Herman Muster) playing a KGB agent. Next it's January 1986, ah the Cold war was still big then, and Herman Munster is still looking for that guy who disappeared 13 years ago. So the rest of the episode is about bring father and daughter together while the KGB want to take back the guy, you know your typical 80's Russian wants to defect to America story. It's a nice sweet story and uses Gloria and Johnny's powers really well.

Episode 12 = Once Upon a Night. Is about a princess who is tricked into stealing her own bracelet to save her fiancé but he's fine it's just her father's employee who wants her for himself. Johnny B falls for the Princess. It's probably the worst episode of the series and is like Aladdin but Aladdin is way better.

Episode 13 called Center of Attention. Max (ALF Dad) is asked by the Humanidyne Board who the Misfits of Science are and we get a explanation of every character with cartoon images of them and he is then asked what do they do and he can't even answer. Meanwhile El's friend a basketball star called the fly is apparently jinxed, El finally plays basketball with the help of Gloria so he can get on his friends team and see if they are blowing the games on purpose or if the fly is actually a jinx. The Max Boardroom stuff ends with Max walking out and saying to camera they didn't get it, it is like a wink saying they knew that NBC execs didn't get the show and it was going to get cancelled, only two more episodes were ever shown.

Episode 14 is called Against all Oz. This is my second favourite episode after the pilot. The plot is Billy stays awake for 2 days and ends up in an alternate reality where he is a nerd, El is telling him off and acting a bit like Biff, Nerd Billy keeps having flashes of previous episodes, he even says the experiments they did were stupid. Though this is your basic memory episode it is using the what if story which I actually like. Max is the janitor for the big lab and he looks and acts a bit like bob Hoskins Mario Mario. The secretary is in charge in the other reality and we find out what they are working on, which is the most powerful nuclear bomb, while we are shown all her bad superpower jokes. And Johnny B is also a nerd with asthma and Max is a pervert, Johnny B is brilliant as a terrified nerd with a George McFly laugh, Billy tells everybody about his “Dream” Gloria is a security guard and is acting a bit like G W Bailey's Felix Maxwell in Mannequin. There is about to be a nuclear explosion as Max dropped a spoon into the bomb and Billy says he is the leader and that if they work together they can fix anything, they do and Billy wakes up from his 2 minute nap then everybody helps him give Max the research he wants and the bomb from the alternate reality is smaller and is actually a vacuum cleaner. I think this should have been the last episode.

Episode 15 is called The Avenging Angel. The episode is about Gloria helps an aspiring wrestler with her powers by accident and decides to keep helping him because it's the first time he has been happy for a while. However the Mob are after him and want him killed. Gloria and Billy are captured and chained into cinema seats and Billy has a crazy nightmare about being a wrestler and being decapitated. When he and Gloria are escaping he kick in the back of her seat to get her free and he removes the tape from her eyes so she can use her power, but before he removes the tape we get the following conversations “hay Gloria you smell nice.” “Billy I'm under age” “alright how bad can the wrap be for statutory smell.” funniest line in the series. This is the last episode that was aired in America on NBC. However episode 16 was aired and is available on DVD in Germany.

Episode 16 is called Three Days of the Blender. It starts like an episode of Hill Street Blues with a police meeting and assignment. Then we have a Jail and a priest is asking Billy to explain what happened. Billy was arrested for spying. The start of the episode is played as a serious news item looking at what Billy did. Billy got a blender from his mum which was posted to him 3 years ago. Billy tries to take the Blender home but apparently it is government owned as it has a warhead chip in it. Billy wants his Blender back but it's top secret. Max had the blender and was going to give it to the government, but Billy turned up and garbed the blender and was arrested for selling secrets. Hope your with me so far.

He won't talk to the rest of the Misfits and so is on his own playing blues on guitar. The bad guys claim to have voice print of who stole the blender and he doesn't agree to help them and starts singing hit the road jack he has a great voice, but then he is the son of Dean Martin and was in a band with Desi Arnez Jr. Billy is protecting Max by staying in jailing saying he is the spy. Turns out the blender was sent to the wrong office. The episode ends with the charges being dropped against Billy after another government agent is arrested and we see two men eating and talking about the events, who sound like Regan and Gorbachev then during the credits we see the misfits have a picnic and chocolate cake. This was the last ever episode, it was another great episode which should have been aired in America and works well as an end of the series but I do still feel that episode 14 would have been a good ending too.

Billy's character was the heart of the show and he kept me wanting to see how they would fix the problems he and Elvin are like Al and Sam Beckett.  This was Courtney Cox's first major role in a TV series, you can see she has talent, though the character of Gloria can be annoying at times, whining like a teenager; when she has serious issues she really shines.  Johnny B is great and funny with his singing when firing off electricity, his high sounding speech when he has too much juice and his amazing asthmatic nerd in the alternative reality. Courtney is the only Misfit still acting, because, Mark Thomas Miller retired from acting after losing patience with the business and is now a rescue diver and working for a product engineering and development company, but sadly Dean Paul Martin died in 1987 aged 35 flying a F-4 Phantom Jet for the national guard and crashing into San Bernardino Mountains, Kevin Peter Hall contacted HIV though infected blood transfusion and died in 1991 aged 35.

The series has some great moments but it is another show like Moonlighting that tried to do something different with each episode and occasionally it worked but mostly it didn't work, sometimes it is like watching random streams of consciousness and I understand why it did not get picked up. I do have to say the actors were really good and seemed to handle the different styles really well, not many shows can change style every week and succeed, apart from Quantum Leap; Moonlighting doesn't count as there were too many breaks between episodes.

I would like to Thank to thedon817 for uploading all episodes onto youtube, here are a couple of Miss Nance jokes from the pilot:

1. Mrs Krantz from Wisconsin called her son Randy has been breathing fire and she is scared about loosing the house
2. The invisible man called again he says he's been in to see you 6 times and you treat him like he isn't even here.
3. A man keeps sprouting fish scales whenever he goes swimming.
Not the best jokes in the world and they didn't get much better.

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