Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Look at Being Human UK Version by Denise Verrico VAM03

Hi Blood Suckers and Humans today we have a nice look at being human…er……………like why?

Ho you mean the TV show well that is ok, but I never did understand all this fuss over trying to fit in to human society ……………….. I tried it once and all it gives you is a pain in the butt, along with the certain knowledge that most humans would have been a lot happier if they had stayed up in the trees with the other apes.

So today we have Denise Verrico on Being human number three in the Vampire Awareness Month TV Reviews

A Look at Being Human UK Version
by Denise Verrico VAM03

Okay, so this vampire, werewolf and ghost share a house in Bristol 

It sounds like the intro to one of those priest, rabbi and minister jokes, but it sets the stage for what is arguably the best supernatural TV series since Buffy the Vampire Slayer. 

I’m a self-confessed anglophile, having grown up on Masterpiece Theatre and Monty Python, and to this day my tastes run along that spectrum.  When BBC America premiered on US cable networks, I was beside myself with joy.  Yes, I was there on Saturday mornings watching Changing Rooms and late at night laughing at Graham Norton, and of course there were the Python marathons.

Being Human is the creation of Toby Whithouse, who my son and I like to refer to as “The British Joss Whedon”.  Like Whedon, he’s made some very well crafted supernatural and science fiction programs.  As well as creating Being Human, Whithouse is behind such successful British series as the current incarnation of Dr. Who and its spin-off Torchwood.  Oddly enough, the original premise of Being Human didn’t include a supernatural element, but was simply supposed to be about three friends who buy a house together.  Luckily for us, Whithouse was inspired to add the paranormal to the mix.

Being Human premiered in the UK in January of 2009 and stars Aidan Turner, Lenora Critchlow and Russell Tovey.  So what sets this show apart from the glut of paranormal fare on television and film?  The answer is simple.  The show has heart and presents adult conflicts. 

I’m not a big fan of sparkly, YA paranormal romance.  I have nothing against it, but as an adult, I prefer entertainment that explores mature themes. That being said, this doesn’t mean I prefer the over-the-top, cartoon sex and violence of some other supposed “adult” supernatural offerings.  The stories that grab me present real peril and grown-up conflicts for the characters.  I also like witty dialogue and offbeat humor, of which Whithouse is a master.

The fangs and claws must come out where vampires and werewolves are concerned.  Menace and horror need to be there to give their inner conflict resonance.  They must constantly struggle with their inner beasts.  Ghosts cling to this world, knowing that they will never know the joy of life again once they leave it. 
This is the very thing that makes this show so great.  The theme is expressed in the title, Being Human.  The series’ three protagonists desperately try to maintain their humanity in the midst of a cold, inhuman underworld.  Wow, isn’t this a metaphor for all humans?  Aren’t we all struggling day by day with challenges that can potentially chip away at our humanity?

Mitchell and George are close friends, working at a dead-end job as hospital porters.  The idea of a vampire and werewolf working in a hospital is in itself hilarious.  The show is often wickedly funny.  They take a flat together and find it is already inhabited—by a ghost named Annie who is thrilled because they are supernatural and can see her, where humans can’t.  The three get on well.  Annie makes endless cups of tea.  They enjoy one another’s company.  Even when George transforms on the full moon and trashes the house, “Oh, what’d I do, what’d I do?” the worst criticism Mitchell can muster is, “George, I’m sensing a trip to Ikea and you know my feelings on that.”

Despite the humor, the show has a welcome dark edge that gives it bite.  Each of the three characters has an interesting inner conflict that entwines both through the supernatural and real-life elements.  These characters are in conflict with their own world and the world at large.  The trio’s island of calm and source of strength is the deep friendship between the three of them.  No matter what these worlds throw at them, they will fight to protect one another.  They will literally go into hell (or least limbo) for their friends. 

First we have Mitchell, the vampire.  He looks in his twenties, but was made a vampire during WWI.  He’s a bit on the scruffy side, definitely not your clean-cut Edward Cullen type.  Thank God.  Mitchell is sexy like a real guy is sexy.  He’s handsome, yes, but also quirky, charming and there’s that adorable hint of Irish accent.  Mitchell has the best intentions, but we all know where those lead.  His vampirism is likened to an addict on the wagon.  Aidan Turner plays Mitchell with a twitchy, nervous energy.  His on-the-edge-of-hysteria line deliveries and frenetic body language are indicative of someone fighting a losing battle with his addiction.

Mitchell’s dilemma is that his penchant for preferring the company of humans and other supernaturals doesn’t jibe with his fellow vampires.  In the first series, his nemesis is Herrick, leader of the local group of vamps.  Herrick is a slick vampire politician, recruiting his operatives among mortals in positions of power and influence.  He’s even managed to get himself a place in the police department.  Herrick transformed Mitchell, but the younger vampire wants nothing to do with him or his plans for a vampire-dominated world.  

Series two finds Mitchell a reluctant leader of the vampire clan.  He embarks on a campaign to convert the others to his version of a twelve-step program for breaking the blood addiction of vampirism.  Needless to say, there is a lot of recidivism, notably from Mitchell himself.  When he falls off the wagon, he does it in a big way, resulting in a massacre of several mortals aboard a train.

 By the time series three rolls around, Mitchell is trying to escape the guilt of this horror, but the vampire powers-that-be see his act as proof of his efficiency as a killer.  They want him to work for them.  In the end, the pressures of Mitchell’s struggles are too great for him, and he calls upon his friend George to ease his pain.

George the neurotic werewolf is my favorite character.  He’s an average-looking guy, a bit of a geek, awkward in social situations and with women.  Then there’s the matter of his “time of the month”, one of the more humorous ways of referring to werewolf transformation I’ve heard.  In series one, George doesn’t really know any other werewolves or even quite how he ended up with this curse.  All he remembers is being mauled and waking up a werewolf.  Finally he does encounter another werewolf, who shows him the ropes on how to transform safely and not devour innocent people every full moon. 
George is looking for that perfect woman, and his peculiarity makes is difficult to say the least, but he meets a nurse named Nina and despite a love-hate beginning to the relationship, they soon become a couple.  However, it becomes increasingly difficult for George to conceal his problem from his girlfriend, and Nina finds herself in danger.

Series two presents more challenges to George and Nina’s relationship.  A group of humans researching supernatural beings is using werewolves as guinea pigs in ghoulish experiments, and Nina is drawn into their web of deception. 

In series three, Nina and George learn they are parents-to-be and they are uncertain of the outcome.  When they encounter father and son werewolves, they hope to find an answer, but are met with mistrust because they cohabitate with a vampire.

Russell Tovey makes George so real that when those awkward moments come we cringe along with him.  His open face and puppy dog expression are perfect for the werewolf trying to make sense of his condition, a man who is so inherently decent at heart.  Aren’t most of us like George at heart, even if we are better at keeping our geekiness under wraps?  Tovey gives a totally grounded performance that has us rooting for George’s success and mourning along with him when he faces defeat. 

The final member of the trio is Annie, a ghost trapped between this world and the next, which presents itself as a series of mysterious doors that appear without warning. Annie is a good-intentioned meddler in the lives of her flat mates.  Sometimes her efforts are comical, but at her best she goes to battle against adversaries in her friend’s defense.   Annie is the emotional heart of the friendship, the glue that holds it together, and she often pushes her reluctant flat mates to do the right thing, even if it seems inconvenient.

In series one, Annie is not sure how she died, except that she fell down the stairs of the house she shared with her boyfriend, Owen.   Owen has since moved out and rented the house to Mitchell and George and is involved with a new girlfriend.  Events eventually reveal just how Annie ended up tumbling down the steps, and she sets out to seek her revenge.

Annie learns more about what the doors mean in series two and even helps others to cross over to the next world, although she is still apprehensive of crossing over herself. 
However, the power behind the doors is determined to pull Annie to the other side.

In the third series, Annie is trapped behind the doors and Mitchell, being already dead, crosses over to attempt to bring her back.  Tender feelings develop between them, but Mitchell is worried that his violent acts will repel her.

Lenora Critchlow plays Annie with great warmth and vitality, strange to think of in a ghost.  Far from being a wraith, she’s voluptuous and sexy, bubbly if sometimes ditsy, but always the kind of loyal friend anyone would be glad to have.   All three actors have great chemistry and play off one another well.  Their tight ensemble strengthens the show.  It’s fun to watch them interacting.

As you can tell, I’m a huge fan of this show.  I’ve been a sucker for supernatural stories since I was six years old and running home from school to watch Dark Shadows.  Every once in a while, one comes along that transcends genre and becomes a parable of human existence.  What is more compelling than a story about friends banding together to fight the forces of evil?  It’s a recurring theme in mythology and literature.  When all around is dark, there’s safety in numbers and three is a magic number.  Mitchell, George and Annie represent the best of being human.  If you haven’t seen the show, give it a try.  You’ll be glad you did. 

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