sat 22/06/2024

Being Human, BBC Three | reviews, news & interviews

Being Human, BBC Three

Being Human, BBC Three

Sex, horror and humour; this cult TV series shows that we Brits do it best

Mitchell (Aidan Turner) is furious that Tesco has moved the tomato ketchup yet again

Don’t you just hate it when your favourite cult show becomes everybody’s favourite cult show, and then to make matters worse even the damned Americans embrace it? But how could you not love a scarier, bloody version of the sitcom Spaced, or a funnier version of the horror movie Let the Right One In?

Yes, the latter does sound particular unlikely, yet in 2008 Toby Whithouse managed to create a central trio of characters who are first and foremost endearing and achingly vulnerable, and only secondly a ghost, a werewolf and a vampire.

Lenora Crichlow plays the goofily sexy, touchingly optimistic Annie with pitch-perfect precision, so that in her rare moments of melancholic introspection, you can’t help but think, shit, it must be terrible to be a ghost. Then there’s the bumbling neurotic George the werewolf played by Russell Tovey, who gets funnier lines in this drama series than in any of the sitcoms he’s been in (Gavin & Stacey, Him & Her, Mutual Friends). And then finally there’s the hot-blooded blood addict Mitchell the vampire played by Aidan Turner. As he’s over 100 years old it’s hardly surprising he’s the nearest the hapless trio has to a leader, even though he’s ill suited to the job.

The irony – and perhaps one of the reasons for the drama’s popularity – is that these sweetly inept twentysomethings are trapped in a genre in which nothing but bad stuff happens to people (as well as ghosts, werewolves and vampires). But that’s precisely why Being Human is so much more involving than the over-ripe, self-consciously sexy (and therefore, not sexy) True Blood or the sub-Buffy hormone-charged Twilight. In fact, in spirit (pun intended) Being Human has more in common with John Landis’s seminal comedy horror film An American Werewolf in London in the way it mixes incidental comedy with state-of the-art horror and has the kind of scares that are all the more effective for being rooted in the domestic: we’ve all lived in flats in which the taps don’t work properly (although usually the cause is plumbing rather than poltergeists).

But now here’s where I will probably start to lose you, by telling you that series three begins with Mitchell going through death’s door (for death’s door is a proper wooden door, not just a comforting euphemism in the Being Human universe) in order to rescue Annie from Purgatory (also a real, if ill-lit, place) where he encounters the curvaceous but creepy Lia who leads him through a number of other doors, behind which, to his horror and discomfort, he sees the dead bodies his vampire self has left behind over the decades. In the meantime, surprisingly hi-profile new cast member Robson Green pops up as McNair, a tough-guy werewolf who gets forced into a gruesome Darwinian-style Fight Club run by Vincent the vampire, played by Paul Kaye giving a hypnotically repellent performance that brings to mind Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight.

See what I mean? If you're a viewer predisposed to, say, the starched gentility of Downton Abbey all I’ve probably done with this plot summary is reinforce preconceptions. But trust me, the writing is as sharp as Mitchell’s teeth, and the production values are – particularly in this first episode – exceptionally high given what a BBC Three budget must amount to. In summary, series three has got off to a scary, funny and moving start while also introducing a whole new rabble of characters, reinforcing my belief that Toby Whithouse is one of the best writers in television today, in any genre.

Oh, and of course America is now in the process of making its own version of Being Human starring a generically attractive, plastic threesome who are presumably thought to be less physically compromised - and more importantly - less English than our rather too human-looking cast (watch Episodes if you want to see how that’s likely to pan out).

‘Being Human' is so much more appealing than the over-ripe, self-consciously sexy (and therefore, not sexy) 'True Blood' and the sub-Buffy hormone-charged 'Twilight’

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Fantastic season premiere for a fantastic show. In fact, if this episode is any indication, season three might just be the best season of the whole show. That being said, if you'd give the remake a chance, you might be pleasantly surprised. I, too, was shocked and apalled to hear it was going to be remade (and I'm American), but when the first episode came out, I found myself being grudgingly won over, and now count myself a fan of both shows. True, it's not as good as the original, but it's quite enjoyable in and of itself. And by the way, it's not quite accurate to call it an American show. From what I understand, it's an American-Canadian co-production, so "North American" is probably your best bet.

I like Downton Abbey! But I love BH more. That's probably due to my overly shallow side as Aidan Turner and Russell Tovey both make me melt. I honestly don't see why the US insists on remaking Brit shows, as they're usually crap (I live in the States). I feel the same about the Syfy's "original" BH with 3 actors who haven't an ounce of chemistry and who seem to try to hard to be funny so to me they aren't funny. I did love the first episode of the third seasonn of the real original. I can't wait to see the rest.

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