ITV seems to be onto a winner with this one. After all, what could possibly NOT be attractive to viewers but one of them from Life On Mars doing a turn as a Giles-from-Buffy kind of character, advising the last member of the Van Helsing family on how to kick monster backside? Everything about it works: strange creatures, evil vampires, human angst and supernatural shenanigans, with Mackensie Crook thrown in for good measure. Brilliant!
And then you watch it. Oh, God, I had to watch this. All the way through. Six whole episodes. I don’t know how many hours it was. I lost track. I couldn’t even see half of what was going on because I was weeping so much – not tears of laughter, but tears of sheer frustration that anyone could have written it, commissioned it, acted in it, directed it, had anything to do with it whatsoever.
It’s difficult to know where to start criticising this because there is such a wide and varied selection of starting points. Perhaps we should begin with Philip Glenister. I’m no Life On Mars fan but I am certain beyond all reasonable doubt that he can do better than this. For a start, he’s American. The only reason I can come up with is that Giles from Buffy is English: hey, why not do it in reverse? I’ll tell you why: because Philip Glenister’s interpretation of an American accent is worse than someone who has heard somebody else doing a bad impression of an American accent attempting to do an American accent. Goodness knows where he thinks he’s from, and given that his character’s name is ‘Rupert’ – a sly, hilarious inter-textual reference! – it’s not the bloody States.
His supporting cast is equally dire. Christian Cooke as Van Helsing is about as convincing in this role as a half-cooked omelette, Zoe Tapper is about as evil (and blind) as Quorn, and Holly Grainger would have been alright had her part not had the writing ability of a piece of burnt toast. Terribly sorry, they’re so interesting that I seem to have been distracted by something else there. Mackensie Crook? ‘Surplus to requirements’.
As for the story, well. ‘Rupert’ comes over to England to tell Mr Van Helsing that he is a Van Helsing, and then starts encouraging him to knock off school so that he can practise kicking stuff. Actually, in this show it’s called “smiting” – so this is really “Luke the Vampire Smiter”. Whoops! Did I say that out loud? (Oh! ITV have already done it! Never mind then.) Then it turns out that one of the others who’s supposed to be helping him is actually a vampire – you’ll never guess which one, but it’s Mina Harker, the one who happens to share her whole name with a character from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. After that I’m not completely sure, but I think it was plotlines that sounded suspiciously like direct rip-offs, I mean homages, to a really famous show called Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Summoning demons, ‘bad boy’ vampires, teenagers trying to be teenagers when they’re ‘The Chosen Ones’…there was a bomb in there somewhere. Shame it didn’t go off.
The titular demons are, frankly, few and far between. I remember there being a CGI one at the start of the first episode, and I think Mackensie Crook was trying to be one, but any others must have been immediately forgettable because I’ve forgotten them. I can remember many, many from a show with the abbreviation B:TVS, but they weren’t in it.
Shame on you, ITV. This apparently big budget, flashy primetime show with promising trailers has turned out to be dross of the highest order. It wouldn’t even be so bad if it was original dross, but it’s such an overt and crass plagiarism of…well, guess…that it skims the surface of ‘offensive’. I can only think that the only reason that there hasn’t been a lawsuit is because it’s an imitation paler than that brand of Powerade they stopped selling. As Saturday night tripe goes, Demons is somewhere below The Colour Of Money and probably even Hole In The Wall – at least the former has tension and the latter has humour value (to a point). You can see where we’re at on the scale when those even get a mention.
There is no better way to describe this show than through a quote from the mighty Bromwell High, where Keisha comments on a friend’s sitar playing. “You were shit, shittier than shit. You were so shit it made me wanna block out my ears with shit and eat some shit, and then do a shit.”
In conclusion: shit.
Demons series 1 is available now.