Contrary to popular belief, the 1980’s were a blast. If you overlook the fashion, and the politics, and certain musical releases, the decade provided a much needed breath of fresh air in a lot of areas. While there was a strong surge of traditional science-fiction offerings to be found in the ‘80’s, the decade, in this context, can be best appreciated for giving us the new genre of the sci-fi/comedy. Ghostbusters and Back to the Future are just the most popular contributions to this new genre, but even Honey, I shrunk the Kids and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure were movies that would not have been made before the 1980’s and the rise of the science-fiction/comedy genre.
The popularity of this newly created genre was not strictly a property of the big screen, however, and while there had been straight-up comedy shows with sci-fi elements for years, including the ‘60’s My Favorite Martian and Lost in Space, all the through to the 1980’s, with examples like Alf, Mork and Mindy, Small Wonder and The Jetsons coming to mind, all of these shows stressed the “sitcom” aspect, with the “science-fiction” part playing second fiddle. All that changed with the 1985 series The Misfits of Science.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of room for discussion about to what degree ANY comedy/science-fiction show treated their particular balance of genre, and moving overseas makes the case much easier, but it’s hard to argue against The Misfits of Science being the first show to do it up proper here in the states. NBC put the show right up against CBS’s powerhouse Dallas, showing mad confidence in a show like this, and the focus was on the science-fiction, not on the comedy. Oh, there was comedy there, but it wasn’t the priority. More than likely it was a combination of this competition with one of the highest rated shows of all time, and the way the show so strongly embraced the geek, that caused its early demise, but I was only 8 years old when the show originally dropped and it left a lasting impression.
Fun characters thrived. A shrinking tall guy; “electrified” rock n’ roller; and one of the earliest appearances of a telekinetic Courteney Cox; plus a ton of extras filling out the cast. Also worth note is writer Tim Kring of the hit show Heroes had his first paid gig for the show, and there are numerous efforts for an upgraded remake to be produced. Misfits of Science is worth a watch simply to see what all the excitement is about.