'Being Human': An Addictive BBC Hit With Bite
July 22nd, 2010 11:00am EDT
Being Human is not a typical walk in the supernatural park. With the overwhelming amount of romanticized, sugary-sweet TV shows, books and movies in the supernatural genre, Being Human is a refreshing trek back into the traditional theme of vampires, werewolves and ghosts: Horror. In the world of Mitchell (Aidan Turner), Annie (Lenora Crichlow) and George (Russell Tovey), no one sparkles. The transformation from man to wolf is agonizing, not swift and fluffy, and un-life as a ghost carries all the tragic, dark loneliness originally associated with the restless undead.
In many modern versions of classic supernatural stereotypes, the curse of immortality comes with little cost. Vampires walk the earth under a moonlit sky in the company of mortals, whom they watch sleep with chaste affections instead of a primal hunger. Ghosts visit mediums that complete their unfinished business for them, releasing them into the great unknown. Werewolves’ war with vampires over pretty girls and both factions are apt to reveal themselves to the public and demand rights as citizens. Gone were the days of anguish and damnation while these cursed creatures lived out eternity watching humanity from the sidelines.
Being Human returns to those tormented origins with a cast of deliciously flawed supernatural beings struggling to remain a part of the human race they have forever left behind. The characters themselves are so relatable, so real, that you can almost forget you’re watching a show about a werewolf, a vampire and a ghost. Regardless of the dynamics between the respective supernatural communities, Mitchell, George and Annie remain so poignantly believable that it is easy to empathize with even their surreal problems.
I had an opportunity to interview master storyteller Toby Whithouse, the series creator and writer, prior to this review and he shared insight into the fascinating world of Being Human. “Being Human is an attempt … to be a more realistic approach to that kind of genre.” He explained that the bedrock of the show is the characters, and that each story begins with the character’s point of view. “There are … moments of horror and tragedy, there are also lots of moments of comedy and … their humanity.”
Aidan Turner as the vampire Mitchell is much more than an immortal Romeo, unlike many popular Vampire characters. “With (Mitchell) we get away from the cheekbones … and slightly tortured look of other vampires,” Whithouse pointed out, though Turner certainly does capture the smoldering good looks typically attributed to vampires. What truly sets him apart from other A-list vampire characters are his depth and, ironically, his humanity. “I would hope that the human element of Mitchell is more foregrounded.”
George, played by the alarmingly talented Russell Tovey, continues to be my favorite of the primary cast. The character, whom we meet just a few years after he became a werewolf, is the most tragic of the trio in many ways. “There’s a part of (George) that uses the curse as an excuse not to participate in life. I think it is a very kind of human characteristic … in the same way people would say, ‘Oh, there’s no point in my trying that,’” Toby explained during our interview. “I think that George uses his curse in the same way; it’s a peg on which he can hang his cowardice, in a way. He uses it as a way not to participate in life.” The incredible authenticity which Tovey brings to the screen truly converts George from a concept into the character fans have come to love.
In Series 1, viewers meet Annie (Lenora Crichlow) and gain insight into the circumstances of her death. She becomes a source of support and optimism for George and Mitchell when they move into the home she happens to haunt. Despite the potential for heart wrenching drama regarding Annie’s supernatural condition, she has a spark of life and a determined outlook which overshadows the elements of hopelessness in death. “We all have those moments when we’re standing at a bar, trying to get the attention of the barman, and we’re invisible,” Toby commented while discussing Annie, “or when you’re in a meeting and you feel completely invisible. That’s something I think everyone can relate to.”
During our interview, Toby gave me a glimpse into what fans can expect from series 3 of Being Human, which began filming in June, 2010. “In season 3 there are a couple of new werewolf characters. The werewolves have always been slightly reactive in terms of the aggression from the vampires. And in series 3 we’ve introduced two new werewolves who are much more on the front foot, and who are actually going out there reaping retribution on vampires. In a way that they were the prey before, they’re actually going out there and giving their own back.” He indicated that Being Human is unlikely to ever focus entirely on a vampire vs. werewolf war: “That’s a very supernatural-heavy storyline as opposed to a human-heavy one.”
“(George, Annie and Mitchell) are constantly striving and attempting to be human, and to live decent, human, responsible lives. With them having been robbed of their humanity, it allows them to examine the thing that they’ve lost and to aspire to that,” explained Whithouse. That quest for humanity in a sea of chaos and unfair situations could be the element fans relate to the most. “They are trying to … be good people in a very strange and unfair world.” After just one episode I found these characters to be positively addictive. My only true complaint about Being Human is that there simply isn’t enough of it.
Toby did give me one teaser for Series 3: “In series 1 the threat was supernatural, in the form of Herrick. In series 2, the threat is supernatural in the form of Kemp and Professor Jaggat. In series 3, the threat is themselves.”
Series 2 of Being Human will begin airing on BBC America July 24th at 10pm EST. The Region 1 DVD set of Series 1 (Season 1) can be ordered online in the BBC America Shop, or can be downloaded on iTunes.
Photo Credits: Being Human Cast Photo, BBC America Press Office, BBC