A year and a half ago I chanced upon a fantastic show on BBC Three. I know, I was as surprised as you are.
The show, Being Human, was a pilot for a series following the everyday lives of a werewolf, a vampire and a ghost and its juxtaposition of how each of the three coped with their personal affliction was expertly done. The sets were impressive, the acting solid, particularly from History Boys Russell Tovey, and the plot, which involved the three attempting to ‘be human’ as best they could (all told in a This Life style) was excellent.
Despite enjoying the pilot immensely, when the full, first series aired on BBC Three at the start of the year, it completely passed me, and many others, by – it only achieved a viewing audience of roughly a million an episode. Well, in another bid by the Beeb to prove its geek credentials following the successful re-ignition of Doctor Who, the porting of Torchwood from BBC Three to One and the quite brilliant Psychoville, the first full series is now being repeated but this time on BBC One.
Does it deserve its place on the broadcaster’s top channel and does it warrant your attention second time round? Oh, yes.
For a start the acting has been improved even further as Tovey’s fellow leads from the pilot have been ditched in favour of Sugar Rush‘s Lenora Crichlow and Aidan Turner, also currently starring in period arty romp Desperate Romantics (Turner must have a heck of an agent as his characters do seem to enjoy bedding women a-plenty. But I digress…). The on-screen chemistry between the three is outstanding. I’ve long been a fan of Tovey and he is as strong as ever here as werewolf George demonstrating just the right blend of nervous energy (complete with girlish yelping) and a kind-hearted nature that genuinely leads you to care about his plight. Crichlow is charming as ghost Annie, her anguish at wanting to reconnect with the outside world the episode’s heart and soul. Her life was ended in the house all three of them now share and her attempts to make contact with ex-fiancé landlord provided the show’s most heartfelt moment.
But it’s Turner who really shines in this first episode with a screen presence any show would kill for. Little wonder he’s been handed the most interesting role. Vampire Mitchell, with a far better back story than he was offered in the pilot, has been on this earth for over a hundred years. That’s because during the First World War he unwittingly chanced across a vampire feeding party and was inducted against his will.
Mitchell’s big problem is that he really doesn’t want to harm anyone any more, the guilt becoming too much for him to bear. But what’s a vampire to do when the thirst hits him? Add to that peer pressure from the powerful Herrick and the threat that ‘things are about to change’ and it’s clear that Mitchell’s will be the story arc that holds this series together.
If Being Human has a style that you’ll swear you’ve seen before it’s because if the show does have a weakness it’s the propensity to follow the current trend of many of the Beeb’s new dramas. Muted lighting? Check. Indie soundtrack? Check. Smattering of sex? Check. Bad language and yoof speak? But of course. It’s possible that these may put some people off and there is certainly a slight air of self-conscious ‘hey, this is really cool isn’t it’ about it all but then you could throw the same argument at pretty much any modern US drama currently airing on TV so that really doesn’t bother me all that much.
I was also surprised by just how much of the setup to this episode was aided by having watched the pilot. If you hadn’t seen that you wouldn’t know how the three came to be living together or how Mitchell and George had come to be working in a hospital and I did feel that was a slight oversight.
Minor quibbles aside – George’s werewolf incarnation was also a disappointment, cartoony rather than scary (although the transformation process was superb) – I’m delighted that the Beeb have bumped this up to the top channel, despite the late airing time. This was a strong opening episode for a series that promises to reinforce the assertion that geek is becoming more mainstream.
Next week’s episode looks to centre more on George as the mysterious stranger that was tracking him in this episode shows himself and Mitchell appears to have sex. Again. Somebody give his agent a medal.