Thursday, August 19, 2010


Strange bedfellows make BBC's black comedy a hit in Canada

By: Alex Strachan c/o Winnipeg Free Press


Plans have a way of going astray, though, as anyone who's had dealings with vampires, ghosts and werewolves knows all too well. Being Human, a black comedy created for BBC Three by Doctor Who writer Toby Whithouse, was designed to be an eccentric hybrid of Friends and True Blood -- "unnatural and supernatural, watching the dance from the sidelines," as Annie, the hard-luck single woman and ghost, played by Lenora Crichlow, intones at her own wake. "You know the worst thing about being a ghost? It's lonely."

There's just one thing for a lonely person to do: find a pair of compatible roommates and share a flat together. For Annie, that means throwing her lot in with Mitchell, a 20-something vampire -- he's actually 120 years old, but why stand on ceremony? -- and George, a socially awkward werewolf, who's a decent chap, really, once you get beneath all that hair. Together, Mitchell, played by Aidan Turner, George, played by Russell Tovey, and Annie navigate their way through life on the margins, trying to find meaning to their existence while confronting evildoers from the underworld.

Being Human has proven to be a modest critical success and ratings tonic in the U.K. for the beleaguered BBC. Two seasons have aired to acclaim from the Sunday Times ("Dead good") and The Guardian ("Sharp, dead funny and sexy"), and a third season is on the way. Being Human is one of the more popular programs on BBC's iPlayer -- the Beeb equivalent of iTunes -- and while it doesn't have the cool quotient or cultural cachet of Doctor Who, it has a certain buzz factor all its own. Now, Being Human is about to make its mark on the specialty channel Space, starting Monday. First-season episodes will air weeknights on Space that first week; the second season will premiere in late October.

Whithouse cited a familiar film as his creative template for Being Human: John Landis's darkly comic 1981 romp, An American Werewolf in London, which was also the inspiration for Michael Jackson’s Thriller video.

"What was interesting about that film tonally was the mixture of horror and comedy, which, at the time, no one had seen done like that before," Whithouse said in Pasadena, Calif., where he was promoting Being Human's debut on BBC America.

Turner, for his part, never believed he would ever play a vampire as a 20-something sharing a house with a pair of equally mismatched roommates.

"It's almost the most ridiculous idea in the world, but it just works," Turner said. "I remember, when I first got the call, I didn't know if it was comedy or drama or what the hell it was. But then I was two or three pages in, and I thought, 'Wow, I get it now.' It's the fact that these guys want to be human that makes it work so well. Oddly enough, I think we're playing real people in this, as opposed to playing supernatural."

Being Human is comedy and drama -- and scary, too, Crichlow added.

"It kind of makes sense, because, that's life, isn't it?" Crichlow said. "Life is terribly dark and sad and then terribly funny. Funny stuff comes out of the bad stuff, and relationships change. That's the wonderful thing about the series, as well: I think all our characters have changed from season to season."

True Blood, Twilight, The Vampire Diaries -- and now Being Human. What gives with vampires in the popular culture at the moment?

"I genuinely don't know," Whithouse said. "I wish I did know, because then I'd be able to predict what the next fad is going to be."

Being Human debuts Monday 23rd Aug 2010 on Space at 8 p.m.

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