Directed by: Various
Release date: 2009
I had really enjoyed the Pilot of this show and so it was with a little bit of trepidation that I sat down to watch the first episode of the series that concentrated on a house share between a werewolf, George (Russell Tovey), a vampire, John Mitchell (Aiden Turner), and a ghost, Annie (Lenora Crichlow). Part of this was due to the fact that two of the three main characters had changed actors from the pilot. Part was the rumour that the pilot was no longer canon – I believe that writer Toby Whitehouse sees the pilot as canon, as such there is a small but significant probable continuity error. Part was the fact that they were going to lose some of the 'gothic' making it “slightly more rooted" and "a bit funnier".
After the first episode I found my expectations raised, so how did the series go? For the most part I really enjoyed it but I perhaps missed some of the humour that had been present in the pilot – despite the claims by producer Matthew Bouche, quoted above, the series was less funny and a lot darker – that's not to say that the show didn't have some laugh out loud moments (it did) but that they were less focused on. However, I found some plotting issues that, whilst they weren't a problem watching the thing, became obvious once you started thinking about the plot in depth.
The general story is fairly simple, a werewolf and vampire – both hospital workers – rent a house in Bristol in an attempt to be a part of humanity – their goal to be human. George has to deal with his monthlies, and in this the transformation only triggers on the first night of a full moon. Mitchell is trying to stay on the wagon and not drink blood – his last kill was co-worker Lauren (Annabel Scholey) whom he turned into a vampire and we’ll look at the nature of the vampire’s blood thirst later.
On renting the house they discover it is haunted by Annie – the owner’s fiancée, who died in the house having fallen down the stairs. As things progress we discover that Annie did not die accidentally and I don’t believe that is a spoiler as it was fairly obvious it would be the case, but was actually killed by her fiancée Owen (Greg Chillin) – a fact she had blocked out. Annie can be seen and can interact dependant upon her mood, the more happy and confident she is the more she can interact with the physical world. When she regains her memory she develops a poltergeist aspect.
Meanwhile the local vampires, led by Mitchell’s sire Herrick (Jason Watkins), are actively recruiting new vampires. They have a plan for a new world order with the motto “no one gets left behind”. The world shall become a vampire paradise, which they will rule, though they leave out of their spiel the fact that humanity will be farmed. Mitchell gets sucked into this conspiracy when he loses faith in humanity – having been turned on by a typical ‘Daily Mail mob’ when suspected (wrongly) of grooming a young boy. Once he emerges from the lie, as it were, it appears it is too late – Herrick uses Mitchell as a symbol due to Mitchell's past excesses and if he won't play ball he’ll have to die.
Vampiric lore then comes in, they have sensitive eyes but otherwise can go around in the sunlight. They develop fangs and their eyes swim black when filled with the blood lust. The blood lust itself is almost akin to alcoholism. Mitchell tells us that when you give up blood you remember, clearly, all you have done and thus many vampires have tried to give up blood but have failed as it is easier to crawl back into drinking blood to forget. Blood, of course, helps them heal but it must be fresh from a victim.
The reason that the vampire revolution is starting in Bristol is because the first vampire to live hidden as a human, in Britain, lived in Bristol. Richard Turner was also a slave trader and, when we see the prison of humans held for feeding we see a further simile. Vampires die by stake through the heart (leading to a dissolution) and, we hear, beheading. In the pilot vampires had reflections, in this they do not. According to wikipedia they only fail to reflect via silver backed objects (assuming a silver reaction aspect to their condition) and thus can’t be filmed. The trouble is that this is not said in the series and thus is our probable continuity error as we cannot say whether vampires were meant to reflect in the pilot or not. Also, Moonlight did similar but remembered that digital cameras don’t use silver nitrate – thus work. This seemed to be missed when we see a dvd of a vampire kill with the vampire invisible, though they might have deliberately used a film based camera for some reason.
It is strange, also, that Mitchell can handle George’s silver Star of David. The religious aspect of the icon is answered as it does hold off other vampires but it doesn’t affect Mitchell due to the genuine love that George feels for his friend. Fair play, but surely vampires react to silver if they can't be reflected due to silver? Death is deemed as a not pleasant place in this – the pilot mentioned men with sticks and ropes – and both Annie and Mitchell have seen things they refuse to relay to George. That said, a ghost who fulfills their reasons for remaining happily steps through into death.
The series did a lot right and it certainly had me coming back on a weekly basis. I loved how dark it became and there was an episode with another ghost, Gilbert (Alex Price), that was genuinely touching. However, there were little writing faux pas such as having a werewolf change in a house and rip the place apart but not be able to get through the door or a window – it was nonsensical. The pacing of the finale seemed off, with moments of angst and sentiment spoiling the race to the climax. Herrick's reactions through the finale seem out of step with his brutal, angry attack on Mitchell the episode before.
The performances were, generally, very good. I thoroughly enjoyed Lenora Crichlow’s performance as Annie. She had some very powerful scenes and I bought the character and how she developed. The only real criticism was that Russell Tovey, who was generally excellent, did occasionally stray to the too hysterical. These moments almost owed a debt to Stan Laurel (Laurel and Hardy are referenced in the show) and perhaps those moments could have been toned down just a notch - though sometimes it worked really well as it did when he confessed wetting himself at a knock at the door. Incidentally the programme, to me, owed much more to Laurel and Hardy, certainly within the Mitchell and George dynamic, than it did The Odd Couple as some sources have suggested.
The trouble with Being Human was that when you thought about it in too much detail it began to unravel and the writing careened from genius to average. I enjoyed it, I will buy the DVD but I think it could have been better. For the score I am minded to settle upon 7 out of 10. The worse parts of the series are not enough to push it lower taking the programme as a very enjoyable holistic whole – but it should have scored more.
The imdb page is here.
At the time of review the DVD is available for pre-order for a 20th April release:
Monday, March 02, 2009
Directed by: Various