Blightyvision: “Being Human”
I didn’t want to watch this. I really, honestly didn’t. I walked into a Barnes & Noble one day and there was a section of the store devoted to “Teen Paranormal Romance.” I’ve had it with werewolves and vampires and I have a very hard time with angst gratis angstia, which all such genre stuff seems to offer. So despite being an Anglophile, I avoided this as long as I could and as diligently as I could.
I think what finally broke me was twofold: one, I’d seen some of the cast in other shows and liked them very much; and two, I had a lot of people demanding my Anglo card if I didn’t just buckle under and watch. And you know, it’s a bit all right.
You’ve probably heard the format by now, and it really does sound like it was tailor-made to ride some Twilight coattails (especially considering the 2008 vintage). Mitchell (Turner), a vampire, shares a house with George (Tovey), a werewolf — and both find themselves sharing living space with Annie (Crichlow), the ghost of their landlord’s fiancee. All three want nothing more than to be accepted in normal human society, but aspects of their own alternate worlds keep intruding. Because, as is true of all protagonists, They’re The Special Ones™ within their own realms.
The show pretty much hits all the things you think it will: vampire sex, werewolf sex, vampires vs. werewolves, lovers separated by death, more vampire sex, angst, inter-species romance, and vampire/werewolf sex. What makes the show actually good is our core cast, who are anything but the cookie-cutter tropes. Mitchell is (at least initially) a gregarious optimist and a teetotaler trying to get fellow vampires on the wagon. George is clean-cut, highly intellectual, a recreational chef, and all-around nice guy. And Annie is a well-meaning busybody whose clinginess to the human world manifests less in hauntings and more in needing to look after people.
As with any supernatural series, it has its own spin on each mythos, though there’s nothing particularly complex to learn about werewolf genetics or vampire hierarchy. Vampires can tolerate sunlight, ghosts can move things around and occasionally be seen, and overall the trio’s ability to operate in a human world is made easier for the sake of being able to get on with the plot. Which, from series to series, consists of them facing off against some person or group who wants to destroy the comfortable life they keep attempting to rebuild for themselves.
One of the big reliefs for me watching this early on was that the dialogue is clever. While there’s a major creepy factor (and yes, some angst), the characters engage in all levels of self-effacing humor. Whithouse, the creator and head writer, has also written for Doctor Who in the past (“School Reunion,” “Vampires of Venice,” and the upcoming “God Complex” later this series), and his writing and the writing of those who work with him is solid and interesting. The third series is a damn sight heavier than the previous two, and thus a bit of that humor goes by the wayside more often than before, but the show’s occasional late tendencies to get wrapped up in its own drama are still counteracted by the sympathy the characters get out of us early on.
It’s not a perfect show. There are some very unfortunately draggy episodes, the tendency to kill characters and then go “Just kidding” a few episodes later, and the occasional flat-out repeat of something that was dramatic the first time but loses some of its sting a second go round. Nonetheless, it kept me engaged for a marathon viewing of all three series. I wouldn’t call it a direct subversion or deconstruction of the genre; it’s nothing quite so in-your-face deliberate. It seems more like “doing it right” by way of making the characters genuinely likable rather than romantic. Which is a good thing when Mitchell’s emo starts to kick in … because if you didn’t like him already, you might lose patience with him otherwise.
“Being Human” series 1, series 2, and series 3 are currently available in individual box sets, with a fourth series slated for 2012. Viewer discretion is advised as this show contains … oh, wait, I already mentioned the vampire sex.
In: Columns, Television: British and Canadian · Tagged with: aidan turner, being human, ghosts, housemates, lenora crichlow, paranormal, russell tovey, Supernatural, the British one not the American one, toby whithouse, Vampires, werewolves