Friday, April 30, 2010


"Being Human" review April 2010:

I don't often review DVDs because I believe you should make up your own mind and not listen to the opinions of others. Having said that, the "Being Human" TV series is an exception to my rule. It was emotionally compelling, visually hypnotic, funny, frightening and peculiar.

I sent to the UK for the DVD box set of Seasons One and Two, after catching just the one episode on late night TV here in Oz. When the DVDs arrived, I watched at least 3 episodes per night. When finished, I did the whole set again. Even on the second run I was transfixed.

I can't easily explain why "Being Human" works, it just does. It has numerous plot twists, it uses folk lore, details and references from old vampire, werewolf and ghost movies/novels. Makeup, costumes and lighting are topnotch. It blends pop culture and nostalgia, it has good incidental music, it has pop tracks which blend seamlessly into the fabric...

Being Human transcends the humdrum plots seen in most science fiction shows (westerns set in space). The scripts border on phenomenal. The writers explore the same complicated life issues that Shakespeare did so long ago; family, life, death, loss, friendships, monsters, the afterlife and what it is to be "human" with all its complications and frailty. There are not many happy endings, just a stark brooding realism. The villains wear black and the good guys go one shade darker.

The dissimilar lead characters have different fan bases but when combined gives this production an economic rationalism untried before. I suspect Being Human would attract less of a viewing audience if they chose to focus on one monster.

The other moment of brilliance must have been the casting of Russell Tovey who seamlessly combines comedy and horror. I have a great deal of admiration for Tovey who has to take his clothes off numerous times when he becomes "the wolf". I appreciate Russell's underplay and vulnerability that he brings to his role of George. In the beginning, Tovey's light comedy touches are refreshingly charming. As the episodes unfold you tend to dread the moments his character has to transform and then you wait anxiously for the return of sweet and innocent George. The character George is the antithesis of his primal animal-like alter ego. He's insecure, indecisive, easily whipped and burning with Jewish anxiety. But what better character is there to see fall to the ground screaming as he becomes transformed into an animal insatiable for food, violence and sexual conquest. This is not some two-dimensional Teen Wolf clone that Russell plays.

The abundant DVD extras include segments where the actors talk about and expand upon their roles and it's great to see such a young cast show solid ownership of their characters. The ensemble are the ones who bring great humanity to the monsters they portray.

I hope that Season Three and beyond can keep up the cracking pace already set. This show is more complex than meets the casual eye. Yeah, for the monsters!

Tom in Oz

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