Thursday, July 30, 2009
Being Human: yet another reason to watch BBC America
The concept for "Being Human," the British TV series in which a ghost, a werewolf and a vampire set up housekeeping together (much like "Three's Company" but with more biting and less Don Knotts) doesn't exactly inspire confidence. Instead, it just leaves you waiting for the punch line. But as jaded TV viewers, the joke's on us because the show is actually damn good.
In fact, "Being Human" is very, very good. And just to make sure, I watched it again and can verify that I was neither high nor crazy when forming that initial opinion. The series, which debuted on BBC America this past Saturday after already airing in full in the UK, does a wonderful job mixing horror and humor and building deep and believable relationships between its main characters. The lead actors -- Russell Tovey as George the werewolf, Lenora Crichlow as Annie the ghost and Aidan Turner as Mitchell the vampire -- are all genuinely appealing.The writing, too, is clever, sometimes zigging when you think it's going to zag. To be sure, there's more than a few tired vampire cliches -- Mitchell hates himself for his vampiric bloodlust and does his best to keep the body count low...or at least good-looking. But just when you think, oh no, I've seen this story a million times, you have George desperately looking for a place to wolf out when his normal hiding place has been rendered useless. We see him dash off into the forest, with Mitchell telling him it's too dangerous, he might hurt someone. Well, let's just say, it's George who gets his eyes opened on that one. And then we've got Annie, an adorably insecure woman who's death has left her wandering the rooms of her old apartment, pining for the fiance she left behind. But she's not all maudlin doom and gloom; she's genuinely excited when the pizza delivery boy can actually see her! Baby steps toward human contact.
Created by Toby Whithouse, who's penned episodes of both "Doctor Who" and "Torchwood," plays his allegorical story beautifully -- people who are psychologically damaged but driven to preserve their humanity as best they can. As JusticeRobin reported from the "Being Human" panel at Comic-Con, the idea behind the show is really that of an agoraphobic (the trapped ghost), a recovering sex addict (the rapacious vampire) and a man with anger issues (the werewolf who cannot contain his rage when the moon goes full). Looking at the concept that way gives the show an added depth and the actors something bigger to chew on. You feel sorry for these people who want to be good and who try so hard...all while cracking some pretty good jokes.
I hope the rest of the series is as good as its first episode because I'm already invested in these characters and their situations. Plus, let's face it, the eye candy is really quite nice -- Russell Tovey has such a sweet, kind face, you almost forgive his character for wanting to rip people limb from limb three days a month and Aidan Turner kept surprising me with his ability to go from brooding sexy dude to affable dude who seems almost apologetic for looking as good as he does. And seriously, Lenora Crichlow makes me want to be Annie's best friend even if she does have a compulsive tea making habit.
If you're looking for a fun, engaging summer series, "Being Human" is it. And even if you don't like it, you can spend the hour thinking up a good "a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost walk into a bar" joke.