August 18, 2012

'Superminds' DVD Release, or: The 'Misfits of Science' Box Covers Rant

I want to be positive about, and generous towards, the new release of 'Superminds' on DVD in France. I really do. Because I think it is SO TOTALLY AWESOME that the entire series of 'Misfits of Science' is getting yet another official release (the first being 'Die Spezialisten Unterwegs' in Germany). I'm happy the French fans are getting a coveted DVD release, for I know there are tons of 'Superminds' fans. I'm even a bit jealous, I'd like MoS to get a US release. But...

When I look at the box cover to the 'Superminds' DVD my brain screams "Abomination!!"

That's because it represents just how misrepresented 'Misfits of Science' always is (except of course by those who insanely adore it to pieces!). And I know for a fact that this isn't something caused by the dust of intervening years obscuring poorly filed away memories - even at the time it aired on television it was misunderstood by those not in the know! And wow, this cover is the mother of all misrepresentations. When I look at it *shudder*, I don't get any sort of vibe that matches with the series itself. So just for fun, let's do a breakdown of each point about it that rankles (it may be the only fun I'll ever get out of it!).

ONE: Billy is firing a lightning bolt.

Billy?!?! You mean the guy in the show whose major character trait is being the guy without superpowers who rallies the Misfits with superpowers. This is a trait that helps to define Billy Hayes - he helps save the day by leading his superpowered friends to use their powers in useful and meaningful ways. He has to ask for them to do the things he can't, the things that require powers to accomplish. In this way, Billy is forced to become the best leader he can in order to get things to work - something that would be obliterated if he himself had powers of any caliber.

But I guess whoever made the cover was worried that we might not realise Billy was the leader of the group if he wasn't shown doing something powerful. That if they just had him being front and center with his teammates flanking him it would be too subtle.

TWO: The lightning bolt isn't bright classic-optical-FX blue.

That's instant failure right there, in my book. (And yes, these entries are listed in the order of how they struck me as I looked upon the cover for the first time.) But, perhaps, since this isn't actually Johnny B's bolt then I guess it's okay for it to be any color. But still, it does not represent what the show looks like. (Not that this is the first cover to get it wrong. Case in point is the UK VHS cover. Yellow? Honestly, have they never seen the show? Oh. Right.)

THREE: Skyscrapers being blown to post-apocalyptic smithereens?!?!

I know the Misfits tend to bring destruction with them wherever they fight crime and defend the underdog, but - come on! - they never revel in such blatant hopeless and bleakness as a crumbling city. Now, the sort of shows this cover is trying to emulate do revel in that, so maybe that's why they made sure to include it. But then, that would be false advertising, wouldn't it?

FOUR: The pictures of the four main characters aren't from the show.

Well, Kevin Peter Hall's picture comes from a promo shot of MoS episode "Grand Elusion", so that one is fine, he looks acceptably like El. Courteney Cox's I can't place, but it could easily be from an MoS photoshoot too and also fine. Either way, she does look like Gloria in the picture. But Billy? When does Hayes ever look/stand/dress like that? And Johnny B? His picture gets an entire Entry of Shame all its own...

FIVE: Why is there no picture of Johnny B on the cover?

There's a horrible monster standing behind Billy's right shoulder, but I see no evidence of Johnny B.

The monster has Johnny B's head grafted (badly, too) onto a body wearing a leather jacket Johnny B probably wouldn't be caught dead in. Wearing a piece of jewelry Johnny B never has. And sporting a modern 'layered look' that isn't his - yaknow, a modern fashion that wasn't from the 80's when the show is from.

Am I being too overboard when it comes to this point? Perhaps, but why can't I be? I don't see why they thought they had to do anything other than use an actual picture of Johnny B. Could they not find one? Were they all too outdated looking for them? Um, the fact that he wore a 50's black leather jacket was a character trait. He wasn't just the guy who was both the hottest and the coolest around (paradoxically ;P), he was also supposed to be a misfit.

With Johnny B you've got a character who is a guitar-toting rock star with a gorgeous smile and perfect hair, the epitome of popular, right? So how on earth does he get to fit in with a group of misfits you ask. Well, aside from the obvious fact that his acquired electrical output had bumped him to "freak" status, he wasn't an eighties rock star. That's right, he represented that shade of outcast that is a fanatic for a bygone era. (A category I now fall into and am classically exhibiting with this post actually, lol).

He's a throwback, a 50's rocker, a guy who does and wears what he wants to regardless of its relative position to the curve.  If you give him a slick modern look, he loses that aspect about his character.

SIX: There's no pink on the cover.

Unlike the glorious neon of the German cover:

I went out of my way to purchase this specific edition, as opposed to the one with an orangey red border, based soley on how thrilled I felt every time I saw those pink bars. For a TV show that displays more colors than you'd think legally permitted, to have a cover that is all shades of drab and misery and brood is inexcusable. I'm almost surprised whoever is responsible didn't also photoshop the Misfits' mouths to not be smiling in order to have a complete package. Maybe they were pressed for time.

SEVEN: Courteney Cox is the only name listed.

Okay, I guess I have to let this one slide since nobody else from the cast got big enough to sell a DVD by their name alone. But adding Kevin Peter Hall's name might bring the notice of all the cult sci-fi fans who know his other work - the type of geeks who are the sort to enjoy this show and want to purchase the DVD set. Or how about Max Wright's name, he'd be known to fans of 'ALF', who also might be the sort to warm to the brand of humor of MoS. Oh well, I'm not completely certain if their names are well-known in France.

EIGHT: "The Series That Inspired 'Misfits'"?!?!

AHEM!! What is it going to take to stop everyone from thinking the TV show from Britain (that airs on channel E4) is connected to MoS?!?! If someone has proof - straight from the mouths of the producers/creators of the E4 show, not speculation - I will sit down and shut up. But until then, the implication of this sentence, prominently displayed on the front of a classic TV show DVD, really irks me.

It smacks of the release being nothing more than an ugly, cheap cash-in on the popularity of a currently-running show by a company that owns the rights to a cult classic show they otherwise don't think they'd have any success releasing on its own merits. a) This insults the fans of the (zany, uplifting, colorful) original cult classic (though these fans may still purchase the set since they have no other good way to get it), and b) it misrepresents the show to the fans of the (bleak, snarky, gray and orange) currently-popular show who the company is hoping will get fooled into being interested in a series that bears no similarity in tone or humor or style to the other. Yes both shows do share the word 'misfits', but that doesn't automatically make one the remake of the other. Is 'Ed' a remake of 'Mister Ed'? Is 'Game of Thrones' a remake of 'Name of the Game'?

Sure the two series also share the premise of a group of people acquiring superpowers, but then (aside from the lack of title similarity) why not purport that the E4 show was inspired by The X-men, or by the 'Mutant X' TV show, or by 'Heroes' (that show by Tim Kring, who btw didn't co-create MoS), or any of the other myriad of 'group of people who are suddenly fighting crime now because they can shoot lasers from their fingers' franchises? If you were to go by the lack of knowledge about, or mainstream popularity of, 'Misfits of Science' that this box cover itself implies, how do we even know if the producers/creators of the E4 show even know of its existence?

NINE: The title font isn't one ever used for 'Superminds' (to my knowledge anyway).

A small nitpick to be sure, but still it's one more thing designed to eradicate any accidentally-allowed-to-remain 80's vibe - this DVD set must be able to sit alongside the other 2012 DVD releases on a store shelf without embarrassment after all.

(Drat, if I could think of one more hideous aspect to the cover, this could be a 'Top Ten' list...)

So anyway, that's my fangirl nerd rage for the time being. I just couldn't sit this one out, I found the whole thing so insulting, and a culmination of everything that ticks me off about how one of my absolute favorite TV series of all time (any maybe even beyond! ^_^) forever seems to get misrepresented, belittled, misunderstood, jeered at, forgotten, or otherwise confused to the point of unrecognition.  I shudder to think of what the back of the box might be... Maybe we'll get really lucky and they'll replace the cover with an appropriate one sometime between now and its release date of September 19th. For now though, I'm just going to end off with a couple of thoughts on the Japanese MoS box cover, or 'Miracle Espers' as it's called there...

This cover might just be the best at representing our Misfits. Johnny B's bolt is blue (See! It's possible to do!). El's ability is included, as well as his and Billy's close teamwork. And even Jane gets to be on this one! The whole scene captures those final moments in the pilot (which is the only episode on this VHS) where it all comes to a head (possibly the best part of the pilot) - it's saying: Watch out for the helicopter! It has the Neutron Beam Cannon on it! Glo, do your stuff! Johnny B, help out with a bolt! Everyone, band together, we're almost there!

Just like in the show. :)


UPDATE: Okay, so it looks like they might have done a better job with the insides of the DVD set. The menu screens at least have actual photos from the show. Though I still dislike that the menu cursor is a yellow bolt!

2nd UPDATE: WTF, there's a cover with Johnny B and Billy switched places? Well, at least that eradicates both the problem of Billy being the one firing lightning and the awful-looking jacket on Johnny B. Small consolation...


  1. Well said!

    Sometimes it feels as if this AWESOME show never existed. What a shame.

    The funny thing about the 'alternate' cover picture with Johnny B firing the lightning bolt is it's the same body Billy's head was grafted onto. Now Billy is still wearing clothes he never had on the show.

    I guess it's a good thing there's another release. Maybe a North American release in in the future??? I hope.

  2. Joanna - I can't tell you how happy this post made me! Love your enthusiasm for the show, and your comments had me rolling with laughter. Loved it!


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