My failure to spot [[Being Human (TV Series)|Being Human]] as a brilliant television series has had me kicking myself for the last week or so. Just as the series was reaching its tense finale, I was frantically catching up via the BBC iPlayer.
I started hearing good things about the series a few weeks ago on the Unreality Forum, and decided to watch it from beginning to end over a few nights. The idea of a werewolf, a vampire and a ghost living under one roof put the idea of a grown-up version of Rent-a-ghost in my mind. Mercifully, it was nothing like that! Nor was anything like that now-ancient BBC flatmates sitcom, Game On, which also featured a trio of two males and a female sharing a flat.
Comedy or drama?
It’s a misnomer to label Being Human as a comedy. The show subtly shifts from comic moments to slightly scary and sometimes sad moments. Sometimes within the same scene. You have Annie, a fairly upbeat ghost, who died in the house they lived in. Mitchell is the intense Irish vampire caught in a tug of war between trying to fit in with society and trying to drink it. And Russell Tovey is brilliant as a down-at-heel geek whose alter-ego as a werewolf is fascinating to watch. His transformation scenes are the among the best special effects I’ve seen on a British TV show.
The characterisation was unbelievably well done: toward the end of the series (which I finished watching this morning), I found myself thinking ‘That’s a typical Annie reaction’ and being surprised and proud when both she and George stepped up to the plate to defend their trio of outcasts. How often to you get so absorbed in a tale as to ‘know’ the characters and to really care about their fate?
Over the series, we watched as George came face-to-face with the werewolf who made him. Lovable Annie’s rose-tinted view of her fiancee was shattered when she had a flashback to when he killed her. And Mitchell at the core of the story, battling his decision to ‘go clean’ and having to choose between his friends and his vampire kin.
Probably the most human thing about the supernatural heroes of the piece was their ability to make mistakes. Despite appearing to her fiancee, she failed to get revenge when he bullied her again. You could see her cringing at her weakness while still being unable to overcome it. An unlikely ferral killer, George can barely juggle his werewolf condition with being in a relationship. Especially touching was when Mitchell met a girl he dated in the 60s, who was now older and dying of cancer, and his frequent guilt about converting Lauren to a vampire.
I was even happy to overlook the bending of the rules surrounding vampires – in a lesser series, I’d have been most unhappy about Mitchell being able to survive in daylight, and his apparent ability to eat food.
Comparison with ITV’s Demons
I have to do this, because the last six-part supernatural drama I invested time in was ITV’s [[Demons (TV Series)|Demons]]. And we all know what a waste of time that was.
It seems the BBC’s drama department have once again whupped the ass off of ITV’s. Being Human was the exact opposite of Demons. Interesting plots, well-developed characters, a lack of unconvincing foes. Where Demons went for a played-out villain of the week format, Being Human had unexpected and challenging storylines. The episode where Mitchell befriended a young boy and ended up being attacked for being a paedophile (spelling ‘Peedo’ on their front door…typical illiterate lynch mob!) was thoughtful and frightening. You got this contrast between the three characters holed up in their little flat and the human aggressors.
Interestingly, as Demons went from episode to episode, my interest faded, and I ended up watching it because of the time I’d invested. Not for any love of the show or the characters. With Being Human, I was absorbed, totally and utterly in the story. I was even interested to see what would be the fate of the nasty characters like Annie’s fiancee Owen and the evil Herrick.
In terms of sheer quality, it even outperformed other BBC favourites like [[Merlin (TV Series)|Merlin]] and [[Torchwood (TV Series)|Torchwood]]. Yes, and possibly even [[Doctor Who (TV Series)|Doctor Who]]. There was a deftness of touch to the whole series that made it simply beautiful to watch. I’m sooo pleased that it’ll return for another series. There’s more of this story to tell.