Misfits of Science

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This article is about the television series. For the New Zealand hip hop group, see Misfits of Science (group).
Misfits of Science
Misfits of Science.jpg
Genre Serial drama
Science-fiction
Created by James D. Parriott
Starring Dean Paul Martin
Kevin Peter Hall
Mark Thomas Miller
Courteney Cox
Jennifer Holmes
Max Wright
Mickey Jones
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 16 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) James D. Parriott
Running time 60 minutes
Production company(s) Universal Television
James D. Patriot Productions
Distributor NBCUniversal Television Distribution
Broadcast
Original channel NBC
Original run October 4, 1985 (1985-10-04)  – February 21, 1986 (1986-02-21)

Misfits of Science is an American superhero fantasy television series that aired on NBC from October 1985 to February 1986. It features super-powered humans and their madcap adventures. A double-length pilot and 15 additional episodes were created; however one episode did not air before the show was cancelled due to low ratings (due to competition from CBS's Top 10 hit Dallas).[citation needed]

In France, the series was known as Superminds, and in Germany as Die Spezialisten unterwegs (The Specialists on the way).

The name 'Misfits of Science' (and other conceptual ideas) was the brainchild of the then president of NBC Entertainment, Brandon Tartikoff.[1] Notably, episode 9 was the first paid writing job for Tim Kring who later originated and produced the thematically similar Heroes in 2006.

Cast and characters[edit]

  • Dean Paul Martin as Dr. Billy Hayes – the non-powered yet undisputed leader of this misfit team. Billy is a young research scientist at the Humanidyne Institute who specializes in "human anomalies" and a fast-talking but good-hearted schemer full of boyish enthusiasm who often gets the team into as much trouble as he gets them out of. Although easily distracted whenever an attractive woman walks by, he is honestly interested in getting involved in a serious relationship with Jane Miller even after she showed up pregnant by another man.
  • Kevin Peter Hall as Dr. Elvin "El" Lincoln – Billy's colleague and close friend. El is a towering man who gives himself the ability to shrink for minutes at a time from his height of seven-foot-four to eleven inches via hormonal treatments which he activates by pressing a nerve on the back of his neck. A recurring joke after such transformations is that he always has to put on the tiny change of clothes he carries with him for his small size. The character is shy and struggles socially, and despite being so tall he is a poor basketball player.
  • Mark Thomas Miller as Johnny "Johnny B" Bukowski – a rock-and-roll musician who was electrocuted on stage, thus giving him formidable electrical powers. Johnny continually drains any electrically charged items in his surroundings, forcing him to live in isolation. He wears sunglasses because his eyes glow when he is fully charged, he can hurl lightning bolts and run at superhuman speed, easily outracing in one episode a parody of the Six Million Dollar Man, but he is vulnerable to water which short circuits him and burns his flesh. He is a big Chuck Berry fan, in the pilot singing "Johnny B. Goode" when he goes into battle.
  • Courteney Cox as Gloria Dinallo – a troubled telekinetic teen with a history of juvenile delinquency and a mother in a mental institution who claims Gloria's father is from outer space. She has a crush on Johnny. Gloria can only use her telekinesis on things that she can see: using a blindfold on her renders her powerless.
  • Diane Civita as Miss Nance – the scientists' secretary who, although she usually seems more interested in doing her nails, going on her coffee break, and watching her soap operas, is actually the one who keeps their department running and is always there at the end of the show to turn off the lights and say good-night to the bunnies in their cages.
  • Jennifer Holmes as Jane Miller – Gloria's probation officer. Although attracted to Billy, she is often put off by his eccentric behavior. Her character appears only in the earlier episodes.
  • Max Wright as Dick Stetmeyer – the uptight director of the Humanidyne Institute. Unlike the other cast members, he is not actually considered to be one of the Misfits.
  • Mickey Jones as Arnold "Beef"/"Ice Man" Beifneiter – got his power to freeze anything he touches from placing himself in an experimental cryogenic suspended animation unit back in 1937 due to grief caused by the loss of his beloved Amelia Earhart. The team drives around in an ice-cream truck because the lumbering and now rather simple-minded Ice Man dies if he gets too warm, so they keep him in the freezer. Beef only appears in the pilot episode due to legal objections from Marvel Comics who published a similar character in X-Men, but the characters continue to use the ice-cream truck.

Similarities to the "Ghostbusters" film[edit]

With the film Ghostbusters having been a massive hit the previous year, NBC's chief of programming Tartikoff set about making something with a similar tone, but with fantastical scientific phenomenon replacing the Ghostbuster's supernatural theme. Misfits of Science also shared a similar comedic style, particularly with the Misfit's de-facto leader Dr. Billy Hayes who had a similar penchant for off-the-cuff gags like Bill Murray's Dr. Peter Venkman in Ghostbusters. The Misfits had a Jewish secretary that could be comparable in demeanor and dialogue to the Ghostbuster's character Janine Melnitz. Similarly the Misfits are seen as outsiders, thwarted by authority figures, and under constant financial strain. "We’ll rely on the National Enquirer for story ideas. It’s loosely inspired by the dynamics we saw in Ghostbusters... sort of a kick-back, Friday type of show" said Tartikoff.[1]

Title sequence[edit]

The main title sequence, or theme song, was not the usual for TV shows of the era. Donald Todd, head writer and story editor, has described it as the following:

"The main titles are fun. It's still kind of... it's really forward-looking. Jim [Parriott] was forward-looking in many ways, and we fought a lot about that, but it starts off with Bobby Short doing the theme, and then there's the kicking over of the TV and into the more contemporary version of the theme. He was trying to say, "We're not doing that show, we're doing this show, and it's more hip." And I remember the people at Universal going, "Why don't you do it without the TV? We don't like the TV!" And I don't think they gave him the budget for it. I think we had to find it ourselves. It's a really cheap thing, it's just a guy playing piano and then a foot kicking over a TV, but it was really controversial, because back then nobody did anything interesting with the main titles. You just showed the characters sliding into frame. But I remember that was pretty cool. And Jim wrote it." -- Excerpt from "Misfits of Science, An Oral History" by Will Harris

[2]

Episodes[edit]

# Title Directed by Written by Original air date Production
code
1 "Deep Freeze" James D. Parriott James D. Parriott October 4, 1985 (1985-10-04) 83516
90 minutes series pilot: Billy and El, scientists for the Human Investigation Team, put together a team of super-powered individuals to deal with a secret government project to create a neutron beam cannon. Larry Linville and Edward Winter guest star.
2 "Your Place or Mayan?" Alan J. Levi Donald Todd October 18, 1985 (1985-10-18) 60803
On behalf of a dead friend of Billy's, an archaeologist, the Misfits set out to prove the existence of buried Mayan treasure beneath Beverly Hills.
3 "Guess What's Coming to Dinner?" Burt Brinckerhoff Morrie Ruvinsky October 25, 1985 (1985-10-25) 60802
A friend of the Misfits claims to have made contact with aliens from Mars. Problems arise when the authorities try to prevent him from continuing his contact.
4 "Lost Link" Christopher Leitch Mark Jones November 1, 1985 (1985-11-01) 60806
A primitive in a loin cloth comes ashore at Venice Beach and no one knows who he is — in fact it's believed he may be a caveman. It turns out that the man, "Link," is in fact an Aborigine from a lost tribe in New Guinea and the Misfits help him to set free the soul of his deceased child by placing a small totem aboard the space shuttle.
5 "Sort of Looking for Gina" Jeffrey Hayden Michael Cassutt November 8, 1985 (1985-11-08) 60804
Johnny's efforts to get a date with an attractive woman, Gina, go amiss when it turns out she's involved with crooks and the Misfits have to mastermind a bank robbery to help her out.
6 "Sonar… and Yet So Far" Burt Brinckerhoff Donald Todd November 15, 1985 (1985-11-15) 60807
A marine biologist and friend of Billy's who works with dolphins believes they can talk, making him the target of drug smugglers who need the help of his dolphin friends to recover a sunken cache of cocaine.
7 "Steer Crazy" John Tracy James D. Parriott November 29, 1985 (1985-11-29) 60801
Three senior citizens end up with super-powers from irradiated hamburgers, and the Misfits have to both help them out and restrain them from injuring themselves.
8 "Fumble on the One" Bob Sweeney Blaze Forrester December 6, 1985 (1985-12-06) 60811
The Misfits assist Brick Tyler, a part-bionic CIA agent (and Billy's college friend) who has managed to lose the "football" — the briefcase that the President carries that can activate nuclear war.
9 "Twin Engines" Burt Brinckerhoff Story by: R. Timothy Kring
Teleplay by: Donald Todd
December 13, 1985 (1985-12-13) 60808
Johnny's friend Lonnie begins having premonitions of danger, but it turns out in fact he's linked to his previously unknown twin Dwayne, a motorcycle racer, and the Misfits have to help them both out.
10 "Grand Theft Bunny" Michael Switzer Pamela Norris December 27, 1985 (1985-12-27) 60810
Bad guys manipulate the Misfits into helping them unleash a plague on Los Angeles with the aid of a contaminated bunny rabbit.
11 "Grand Elusion" Bernard McEveety Morrie Ruvinsky January 10, 1986 (1986-01-10) 60812
Billy recruits the gang to help a fellow scientist's daughter defect when she and her father tour America as part of a Russian girl's gymnast team. The gang takes the place of the magician hired to perform for the tour thanks to a judicious use of super powers, but the daughter refuses to leave without her father. Complicating matters, the KGB minder Galenkov has sworn to make sure the scientist Nikolai never gets away. The Misfits have to pull off an elaborate bait-and-switch to make sure that both Nikolai and Tatyana manage to escape.
12 "Once Upon a Night" Barbara Peeters Linda Campanelli & M.M. Shelly Moore January 17, 1986 (1986-01-17) 60813
Gloria's pen pal Jaye is the object of a hunt by unknown assailants. Glo is kidnapped,
13 "Center of Attention" Burt Brinckerhoff Sara Parriott January 31, 1986 (1986-01-31) 60817
El goes undercover as an incredibly talented basketball player (with some help from Gloria) to expose a crooked owner who is having his players throw their games.
14 "Against All Oz" Michael Switzer Morrie Ruvinsky February 7, 1986 (1986-02-07) 60819
Suffering exhaustion, Billy takes a nap and wakes up in an alternate reality, believing his adventures with the Misfits were a dream. Clips from prior episodes are shown as he tells his co-workers at a nuclear project of their counterparts in the dream.
15 "The Avenging Angel" Bernard McEveety Dan Distefano February 21, 1986 (1986-02-21) 60816
Gloria helps out an aspiring pro wrestler with the use of her telekinetic powers without telling him; the wrestler, Milt, soon decides he does have super powers and Gloria needs to keep helping him out when he decides to go after crooks trying to sell him protection.
16 "Three Days of the Blender" Michael Switzer Donald Todd N/A 60814
When a blender is accidentally delivered to Billy, he ends up getting arrested as a spy and Stetmeyer gets targeted by the FBI.

DVD releases[edit]

On January 25, 2008, the series was released in Germany as a five-disc DVD box set (Region 2) with all episodes (including the final episode, which was originally unaired on NBC but broadcast in Germany) with both English and German soundtracks and German subtitles.

On September 19, 2012, the series was released on DVD in France as Superminds, the title it's known as in France.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]