Thursday, July 30, 2009

Being Human

I'm just starting the first epi of this new show on BBC America. Here is the review from the NYTimes (here is the BBC website)

Television Review | 'Being Human'
Friendship, Thicker Than Blood
Published: July 23, 2009

Vampire stories are almost always about dangerous love and forbidden lust, which is probably why every new generation of teenagers wants a taste.

Even before the hit movie “Twilight,” “True Blood” on HBO offered a Southern gothic version of the torment of suppressed desires. There are a slew of other iterations in books, movies and on television, including “The Vampire Diaries,” a CW series scheduled for the fall about a bloodsucking high school hottie who falls for a classmate and struggles to keep his fangs to himself.

The vampire story is as classic as the western, a genre whose pleasures, as the critic Robert Warshow once put it, lie in the minor variations. “Twilight” and “True Blood” and their many imitations offer similar celebrations of swoony love with a pallid stranger.

The tweak to “Twilight” is bourgeois respectability: the hero and his middle-class family in Forks, Wash., have forsaken their inhuman appetites and only occasionally feast on small animals — the vampire equivalent of turning vegetarian. In “True Blood” vampires who can safely feed on a synthetic blood are a militant minority demanding passage of a Vampire Rights Amendment.

“Being Human,” a new series on BBC America that begins on Saturday, offers the Dracula myth in a different chord: it’s structured less as a love story than as a buddy film.

Three young friends share a shabby apartment in Bristol, England, as well as secrets, and those sound like the set-up to a corny joke — a vampire, a ghost and a werewolf walk into a bar. Only in this case the bar is a pub and there is no punch line. “Being Human” takes the killing — and the perpetrators’ anguished remorse — seriously, but still manages to find the humor in their predicament as these monsters in human form struggle to blend into normal, almost Seinfeldian life that includes work, going out on dates and having the tedious neighbors over for drinks.

All three characters are highly appealing, but the charm of the show lies in the delicate balance of engrossing drama and disarming humor; the series is not campy or self-conscious, it’s witty in an offhand, understated way.

Annie (Lenora Crichlow), a ghost who is too timid and insecure to stray too far from the house, died in a freak accident before her wedding and is still obsessed with her ex, who has moved on to a trashy new girlfriend. George, played by Russell Tovey, who was so touching as the jug-eared jailor’s son in “Little Dorrit,” is a meek, awkward hospital porter who was savagely mauled on a camping trip in Scotland. He didn’t die, but once a month George transforms, unwillingly and with unspeakable pain, into a werewolf.

Mitchell (Aidan Turner), who works with George at the hospital, is the handsome, charming leader of the threesome with perhaps the toughest lot: Annie and George have no control over their conditions, whereas Mitchell can and does tame his cravings, up to a point, in an effort to align himself with the human race.

Vampires on “Being Human” have infiltrated every walk of society, even the police force, and, like the Mafia, they don’t tolerate defectors. Herrick, (Jason Watkins), a ruthless and manipulative vampire leader who is planning an uprising, keeps pulling Mitchell back to the side of the undead. So, more temptingly, does Lauren (Annabel Scholey), a sexy nurse who Mitchell drained on their first date and now keeps trying to drag Mitchell back off the wagon.

“You can have it again,” Lauren whispers seductively, urging him to join her in a fresh kill. Mitchell resists, saying “the cost is too high.” Lauren disagrees: “Please, you are saving, really. Have you seen ‘Britain’s Got Talent’?”

The three roommates struggle to keep their inner monsters in check, and their bond is tight because of it. People come in and out of lives and threaten their alliance, but friendship turns out to be thicker than blood. Mitchell, who has no trouble attracting women, encourages George to find a girlfriend, but he has too many self-doubts and moral qualms. When Mitchell asks, “Is that Jewish guilt, or werewolf guilt?” George glumly replies, “They’re pretty much the same thing.”

“True Blood” also puts vampires in a modern setting for comic effect, and it also showcases a romantic hero torn between human love and his inhuman cohorts, but the feel of the HBO show is quite different. It’s a romantic fantasy based on the vampire mystery novels by Charlaine Harris, and the television adaptation is steeped in Spanish moss and steamy Louisiana exoticism. The vampires, pale and lustful, are not much more creepy than the small-town cranks and misfits who gather at Merlotte’s, a dive bar in Bon Temps, La.

Oddly enough, “Being Human,” a series that posits ghosts, werewolves and vampires roaming through the pubs and supermarkets of Bristol, is more prosaic, but more compelling.

Being Human

BBC America, Saturday nights at 9, Eastern and Pacific times; 8, Central time.

Directed by Toby Haynes; written by Toby Whithouse; Alex Pillai, Colin Teague and Rob Pursey, executive producers; Matthew Bouch, producer. Produced by Touchpaper Television and BBC America for the BBC.

WITH: Russell Tovey (George), Aidan Turner (Mitchell), Lenora Crichlow (Annie), Jason Watkins (Herrick), Sinead Keenan (Nina), Annabel Scholey (Lauren) and Greg Chillin (Owen).

1 enjoyed the bouquet.:

Kaitlyn said...

that actually sounds good