Friday, July 23, 2010


'Being Human' takes the camp out of vamps and werewolves


Maureen Ryan 23-7-2010

Given that "Being Human" is about uneasy coexistence, perhaps it's appropriate that parts of this moderately interesting supernatural drama don't always mesh smoothly.

The show, which begins its second season Saturday, follows the lives of three English flatmates whose lives are unconventional, to say the least. George (Russell Tovey) is a werewolf, Annie (Lenora Crichlow) is a ghost and the broodingly handsome Mitchell (Aidan Turner) is a vampire.

Given that premise, you're no doubt thinking, "Hijinks ensue!" There are actually comedically tinged plots ("What happens when a [temporarily solid and visible] ghost gets a job in a pub?!"), but generally the show doesn't push the funny too much, given that it's trying to seriously depict what your life would be like if it wasn't really your own any more.

"Being Human's" characters don't like or embrace what's been done to them; their transformations don't make them feel sexy, cool or powerful. George, a hospital orderly, is probably the most winning of the bunch. Tovey radiates such good-natured intelligence that you feel for George's plight, yet the show carefully points out how losing control is, in a way, something that George needs to do more often, if anything. He blames the fact that he has such a dull job on his monthly transformations, but perhaps that's just a convenient excuse for not achieving more.

… "Being Human" is about those who have trouble accepting their true nature, and when it's working on that level, its earnestness is compelling. The show's less interesting when it spends time on the mechanics of how vampires get rid of incriminating bodies.

Speaking of tolerance, however, watching "Being Human" means putting up with some jarring tonal shifts and clunky moments. The sometimes can't quite decide what it wants to be, so it mashes various kinds of comedic and dramatic elements together, and some of the plots (involving Annie especially) begin to verge on the annoying.

Still, the cast is winning, and it can be both emotionally acute and pleasingly snarky (there's a roommate meeting in the third episode that is a heavenly mixture of supernatural complaints and mundane household arguments about who washes the dishes).
"Being Human's" saving grace is that it takes these people's lives and personal complications seriously. Dead, undead or just occasionally furry, these characters aren't so far from human: They're just trying to find satisfaction and connection while contending with impulses and forces they don't quite understand. And given how much nostalgia the characters have for the things we take for granted, maybe they're even more appreciative of being human than we are.

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