BEING HUMAN - Episode One

BBC3 - 25th January 2009 - 9.00pm

The pilot went out last February and immediately developed an appreciative following who petitioned BBC3 Controller Danny Cohen to commission a series. After all, he'd jumped at Phoo Action, another of the six pilots that aired, and commissioned that. And Being Human was far better. A year on and Phoo Action didn't make it past the commissioning stage and Being Human arrives for a six part run on BBC3 minus the brilliant Andrea Riseborough who played the original Annie and Guy Flanagan as the original Mitchell. Still hanging on in there is the sweet Russell Tovey as George. And the catch? Mitchell's a vampire, Annie's a ghost and George is a werewolf and they share a flat.

...which raised a cheer in this house at the sight of Tovey's bare arse
Writer Toby Whithouse and Matthew Bouch have seemingly gone back to the drawing board and basically tweaked a number of elements from the pilot claiming to have made it less Gothic and more funny. The pilot's now not considered part of the series. So, the first episode interestingly takes the set up from the pilot and squashes it down into brief origins for the main characters that opens the first episode and highlights some of the subplots that are later teased out in the episode. We get a voice over from Annie and flashbacks to how Mitchell became a vampire and George became a werewolf. These are done really well, suggesting a First World War setting for Mitchell's transformation at the fangs of Herrick (here played with oily menace by Jason Watkins and played in the pilot by Adrian Lester) and his seduction of Lauren; George's encounter in the Scottish Highlands with a cursed creature which raised a cheer in this house at the sight of Tovey's bare arse (he was not averse to spending much of the pilot in nude and semi-nude states) and finally a backstory for Annie (now played by Lenora Crichlow) who is seen on the floor in a pool of blood and haunting her own wake.

great ensemble playing
This immediately gets into its stride with the goofy scene between Annie and the pizza delivery fella. Clearly excited that a mortal can see her, she fires off a barage of questions at the rather bewildered chap who ends up confessing he trained on his moped in a car park and lives with his dad. She's also delighted that the driver of the local recycling van called her a slag. Crichlow hits the ground running and provides a somewhat more upbeat interpretation of Annie here. Tovey steps straight back into George's shoes too and Mitchell (now played by the much sexier Aiden Turner) continues his struggle to 'keep off the wagon' as far as draining people of blood is concerned. Tovey is so endearing and Crichlow and Turner both effortlessly slip into their characters to provide great ensemble playing. All three want to have a normal life - George and Mitchell work at the local hospital trying to keep down normal jobs whilst coping with George's 'time of the month' werewolf transformations and Mitchell's blood addiction. Back home, Annie fills the house up with cups of unwanted tea and makes an attempt to get seen by her former love Owen, who is also the landlord.

...genuine moments of emotional drama
The great thing about this is that it mixes the farcical elements of traditional British sit-com; accidental meetings, frenetic activity, unlikely coincidences; with riffs on classic modern horror movies like An American Werewolf In London, The Hunger, Dog Soldiers complete with fairly gory sequences and convincing transformation effects. Like all good situation comedy it is more about the tragic consequences of the characters actions that push them into the social entrapment that epitomises the best of British comedy. With that then comes an empathy for the characters and some genuine moments of emotional drama. Here, the farce comes from George discovering that his isolation room, where he can turn into a werewolf without hurting anyone, is being converted into an admin block and he has to try and find somewhere to transform. This takes him on a frantic journey through the park, disturbing all sorts of nocturnal activity until he gives up, goes home and wrecks the flat. But whilst he undergoes his painful change, Annie watches and shares with us some of sadness at the pain of what George goes through before she has to leave him alone and wait for morning. They find George, curled up, foetus like amongst the rubble of the front room.
...the fine line between the monstrous and the human

Equally, both she and Mitchell have their dilemmas to face. Annie's chance meeting with her ex spins off into a gorgeous little scene between Tovey and Crichlow where they bond and share their troubles. Mitchell's problem is trying to date a woman without having to indulge his desire for their blood. This is further complicated by a previous date, Lauren, as seen in the opening 'origins' sequence, now a vampire and constantly pricking his conscience about his true nature. The tragedy is that she horrifically murders his date in a powerfully emotional scene to prove a point and the episode delves into some very dark corners about the nature of relationships, compulsive disorders, the fine line between the monstrous and the human. And it still manages a few laughs with the very stuff of everyday life: landlords, dates, dealing with your exes, going to the pub, trying to do your job. Also throw in Hettrick and his vampire mafia trying to get Mitchell on side and you've got a very heady brew and an entertaining comedy drama. Although Demons may be for an earlier timeslot it could learn a great deal from its wiser, wittier and should we say, more British counterpart on BBC3. In comparison to the pilot, this opening episode does tone down the Gothic trappings, particularly with Herrick and his cohorts but actually felt less funnier. Instead, much more humanity has been injected into the characters who spend time articulating their sadness, fears and desires. Definitely one to watch.

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8 Responses to “BEING HUMAN - Episode One”
  1. I think this series is completely and utterly BRILLIANT.

  2. S Bates says:

    I thought this was wonderful (but, then again, I sort of like Demons so...).

    Though I'm surprised they call it a comedy. Yes, it has plenty of funny moments but it's no more a comedy than, say, Buffy or Dr Who are. Great acting, great insights into the vampire/werewolf/ghost tropes. Overall, I reckon this is the best modern fantasy show yet this year.

  3. Well, I can't disagree with any of those comments. This got off to a great start.

    Nimbus, yes, calling it a comedy is doing it a great disservice. It is much more of a drama now.

    Funny, ITV and BBC chuck bucket loads of money at focus group formulated dramas like Merlin and Demons and this little treasure is tucked away on BBC3. It deserves a wider audience.

  4. I like the ghost girl. She's sparky. I wonder if she might team up with a certain Gallifreyan in the future?

  5. Indeed she did - in 'Gridlock'- she was driving the car with Milo and I think the character was called Cheen.

  6. I was CERTAIN that I knew her from somewhere!

  7. She was also young Nathan's friend in RTD's 'Queer As Folk'.

    Watched 'Being Human' again tonight and it actually is one of those rare beasts that improves on a second viewing!

  8. Anonymous says:

    I love it. I watch it over and over, and love it!
    Well done.

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