In the fall of 1985 NBC premiered a new television show that was to have been another step in the network’s return to success in primetime television that the recently appointed Entertainment President Brandon Tartikoff had overseen.
Tartikoff had turned NBC completely around from a television network with a pitiful and embarrassing crop of shows – having only three shows in the top twenty when he got the job – to being the number one network with a schedule packed with popular shows that would dominate the weekly ratings and many that would become the most beloved of the decade by viewers.
However, there were some misses along the way.
Misfits of Science was meant to capitalize on the juggernaut that was Ghostbusters from the previous year. Having a similar comedic tone with the added spectacle of supernatural elements, the hopes were that Misfits would attract a young audience on Friday nights.
The young, freewheeling scientist Dr. Billy Hayes (Dean Paul Martin) works at the Humanidyne Institute alongside his buddy Dr. Elvin “El” Lincoln (Kevin Peter Hall) where they specialize in human oddities. After some experimenting the seven-foot El gains the ability to shrink down to eleven inches.
When Billy learns his department is going to be shutdown when the power-hungry higher-ups want to focus on making a possible world ending neutron beam he hits upon the idea of forming a team to try to stop them.
He enlists the help of Johnny B. (Mark Thomas Miller), a rock and roll musician who has electrical powers, Gloria Dinallo (the young up-and-comer Courtney Cox) a telekinetic juvenile deliquent, Jane Miller (Jennifer Holmes) Gloria’s probation officer who has eyes for Billy and introduced in the pilot Arnold “Beef” Beifneiter (Mickey Jones), a crogenically frozen man from 1937 who has the power to freeze anything he touches.
After their first adventure this ‘misfit’ team sticks together (except Beef) to go on further weekly adventures. They would be short-lived though. Misfits of Science would last only fifteen episodes (a sixteenth would never reach the air) and limp through NBC’s schedule with weak ratings. The enthusiasm and hopes for the show would be dashed by its Friday night time slot against CBS’ Dallas – the Ewings were a threat that this team could never overcome – and Misfits would never find its audience. Misfits of Science would go the way of Tartikoff’s other superhero show he had high hopes for – Manimal.
I take a look at this short-lived show that a handful of viewers fondly remember from way back and if it deserved to stick around.
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