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Thursday, 5 February 2009

Being Human, BBC3


Did we like it?
An unusually engaging drama that places the characters within a relatively conventional setting, in possession of very human needs and desires but offsets and complicates matters to exaggerate the mundane. It’s a tactic that occasionally smudges the very humanity the show is trying to emphasise through the supernatural mutations of its leads, but never strays anywhere near the romanticised gloop of more typical vampire tales.

What was good about it?
• The central premise is quite crude, bordering on the primitive, but it works wonderfully well through a melange of a sharp script and good acting. Consequently, even though each of the three principals – George the werewolf, Annie the ghost and Mitchell the vampire – essentially want for the same thing – to be normal – they are each distinct in their own right, complementing one another’s sense of belonging and alienation to the wider world.
• The trio persistently try and rein in their friends’ natural instincts to follow the more corrupting or amoral paths their supernatural idiosyncrasies compel them. For instance, Annie yearned to see her former lover Owen when he visited the house in his role of landlord, but was forbidden by George and Mitchell. Meanwhile, George’s new best fiend Tully (a fellow werewolf) led him astray, and seduced him into embracing his bestial nature rather than perceiving it as a curse, which created a schism with the other two.
• Mitchell, however, must constantly resist the temptation to return to the feckless bloodsucking ways of his kind; taunted on one hand by the local vampire leader Herrick – not bedecked in a cape and fine livery but instead a well-mannered copper who genially covers up his flock’s bloodier feasts – and on the other, the embittered and vengeful Lauren, whom Mitchell converted to a vampire in the pilot and who now wages a sadistic vendetta against him by murdering his date or sending him DVDs of her latest kill.
• And what sets Being Human apart from other fantastical dramas is that, while extrapolations, each of the flaws and miseries the characters must endure are drawn from the very pain that makes people human. Annie feels the anguish of a spurned lover, forever to be envious of her true love’s new girlfriend; George is the outsider, often by himself and mocked by society for his inherent gaucheness, and happy to work in a menial job to escape its scorn; while Mitchell’s foible is akin to that of a drug addict, always on the look out for the next hit, and fighting to resist the fall into the blissful eddy that makes it difficult for him to remember if he’s lived 25 or a 100 years, because each day feels the same as the last – numb.
• It’s not to say any of the characters are pampered by the script, often their weaknesses make for the best drama or comedy. Mitchell’s guilt over Lauren constantly eats away at his resistance to feed on blood, while George’s awkwardness and slow-wittedness were the source of some funny moments. As Owen visits the house, the hidden Annie makes a noise upstairs, after George investigates Owen asks him what made the noise. “It was a pigeon. I got rid of it by killing it with a shoe!” George bizarrely replies.
• Or when he is trying to charm the doomed Becca at the hospital, he compliments her on her new shampoo that he can smell with his wolf’s senses. “You smell like a polo!” he chirps, and encouraged by her smile he continues: “Have you got a hole?”
• While Annie practises haunting Owen after she tricks him into visiting in a posh Victorian ghost accent, because that’s her only experience with spectres other than herself.
• Dean Lennox Kelly as the mischievous and devious Tully, who tries to estrange George from his friends in order to acquire a companion of his own because of the loneliness of the long term werewolf. While slimy and conniving, there was also something pitiable about him especially after George rejected him.

What was bad about it?
• The scenes in which Mitchell must try and resist his bloodlust were muddied by the extraneous throb of pumping blood. We could see the conflict in his eyes as he wrestled the urge to seduce the hapless Becca.
• And as George frantically tried to find a safe place to transform away from inhabited areas, he was accompanied by Arctic Monkeys’ lyrical refrain of “they say he changes when the sun goes down” – too obvious for a drama that has taken a fairly original stance on the typical horror mythology.
• While we really enjoyed the first two episodes, we do worry a little for its narrative stamina as it has employed the plot device of some great coming storm of change sometime in the near future.

1 comment:

Ruth said...

An unexpected treat for a middle-aged viewer. Criminal for it to be hidden away on BBC 3 too.

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