Every now and again a series arrives, usually on BBC Three, and takes TV to a whole new level. It happened with Torchwood, Gavin & Stacey, The Mighty Boosh... All very different shows, all excellent in their own way. But they all have one thing missing. Yes, we fall in love with the characters, Vince Noir makes us laugh, Nessa makes us CRY laughing, Ianto just makes us cry. But there isn't a sense of threat, excitement and danger about these shows, or not enough to get people truly hooked in any case.
What Being Human does - something Torchwood took 3 years to do, something Gavin & Stacey only touched at - is push people further than usual. It offers up some pretty nasty, tasteless stuff as story and makes it just WORK. And work well. It's not afraid to go dark, to push the limits of what could be too much for a terrestrial channel. I suppose it's BBC Three's magic that makes this happen and I hope that WHEN Being Human reaches BBC2 (because it has to, hasn't it?) that they don't hold back. I mean, Torchwood murdered a ten year old boy on BBC1 on a Friday night for Christ's sake! It is a beautifully HUMAN show, considering it's 3 main protagonists are anything but human. Which is the point I guess...
I've watched it since the beginning. Ever since the words "...a new BBC Three pilot about a Vampire, a Werewolf and a Ghost sharing a flat in Bristol..." were uttered I was in. I had no idea what it was going to be. Was it a sitcom? A Twilight style romance? A load of shit? I didn't know... And it took a bit longer than that first episode to hold me, I must admit, something I think has much to do with the original cast (in the pilot episode), despite being great young talent, not quite making the characters. All except for Russell Tovey's neurotic Werewolf, George.
If you haven't seen it, then let me break it down for you. On the surface it is what it is. A Vampire, a Werewolf and a Ghost share a flat in Bristol. It's the telling of their lives. But their lives, as you could imagine, are not NORMAL lives. Tovey's George hates what he is, seeing his Werewolf-ism (?) as a "curse". Annie (the beautifully playful Lenora Critchlow) doesn't quite know what she wants, or why she's still here, why she hasn't passed over. Unfinished business as Casper taught us, but what? And Aidan Turner's cooler than cool vamp Mitchell knows EXACTLY what he wants - BLOOD - but knows he can't have it.
Series Two has just finished on BBC Three, but if you've missed it, is still available on BBC iPlayer. I urge you to go watch this NOW because I'm going to be talking about what happens in the next few paragraphs and I don't want to spoil it for you. So... Bugger off and watch it...
Are you back? Dried your eyes? Good. The first series offered an enemy in supernatural form, the Vampires, led by chubby ginger cop Herrick (played with more layers than an onion by Jason Watkins). A threat of total invasion by the Vampire horde that was only averted when George went all "illegal dog attacks council estate toddler" on Herrick, leaving a gaping power vacuum which could only be filled by one man. Yup, Mitchell was now the big daddy of the Vampires (Bristol Sect). And under him, there was to be no more killing and blood lust. And so season Two becomes a struggle for our characters. Now facing an enemy more monstrous than the Vampires, namely Humanity in it's most twisted, brainwashed form, our house mates had to face the beautiful, if flawed, Professor Jaggat and Cleric-gone-mental Kemp (portrayed as a kind of "evil Vincent Price" by genius skeletal old timer Donald Sumpter). These two "humans" lead a secretive organisation (part religious cult, part Saturday afternoon science club) who have vowed to rid the Earth of the monsters who walk her, starting of course with our heroes.
So! The story unravels in a tide of blood and laughter toward the excellent finale that sees Mitchell on a revenge kick, seeking the organisation responsible for blowing up pretty much ever Vampire in Bristol, George and Nina (or "George's Bitch" as I humourously call her) unwittingly awaiting a "cure by exploding" from Jaggat and her cronies and Annie just wanting to move on. I'm not going into detail about WHAT happens throughout the episode, I want to talk mainly about that last 20 minutes. Mitchell confronts Jaggat just as Kemp exorcises Annie and sends her screaming and pleading into the afterlife, against her will. George notices a scrawled warning from "probably smells of onions" Werewolf scruff bag - George's "maker" - Lee Tully stating "George. All the werewolves die. Tully" and so, devastated by the loss of one third of their entire life, Annie, and desperate to escape the maniacal clutches of Kemp and his (lovingly fashioned) stake, Mitchell and George seek revenge and freedom respectively.
Convincing Mitchell that he doesn't have to kill Kemp, that he shouldn't in Annie's name, they leave the compound and retire with Nina to a farmhouse in (I'm guessing) Wales. Jaggat arrives, tailed by a mad-for-closure Kemp and attack once more, Jaggat getting killed by her co-worker in the process. But just before Nina gets a sharpen
ed table leg in the throat Annie fizzes into existence and drags Kemp into nowhere with her. A nasty way to go in anyone's book! And then comes what is, for me, the most touching and somewhat frightening three minutes of television I have had the pleasure to watch since I don't know when... Annie, unable to take corporeal form, appears to George, Mitchell and Nina through a broken television set and explains that "they" are angry with her for pulling Kemp across. That her days in heaven or hell of "waiting and waiting in a room for your number to be called, then sitting in another room and waiting some more until one of us disappears, then we're told we're not to talk about them" is not her idea of peaceful rest. Mitchell vows to get her back, somehow. And the picture fades. Annie is gone.
THEN! THEN!! In a snowy field "somewhere" two of the surviving vampires sit bleeding in the snow, their life dripping onto the spot where "the bones were buried" seemingly offering themselves as sacrifice. In one of the most comical (sorry, I giggled) yet freakishly exciting series cliffhangers in recent times, a decaying hand bursts through the snowy earth, heaving the body controlling it above ground. And there stands William Herrick. Naked as the day he was born, covered in mud and blood, screaming feral into the cold air.
I had chills for 80% of this episode. The acting was, as always, top notch. Tovey, Turner and Critchlow just WORK. And the supporting cast (all apart from "oo aar" farmer's-wife-vampire-chubby-strumpet-and-ex-feeder-girl, can't remember her real name, anyway) are incredible. I hope Herrick is back for revenge, for total destruction. I hope everything heats up a gear, more so than it did this year, which was a lot! And I hope the talk of production and indeed location getting shifted to Cardiff is true. The home of Drama is the place for Being Human to grow from the monster it is into the masterpiece it deserves to be. And it's not got much growing to do.
Very rarely does a series evoke such a personal and heartfelt response from me, but this did. Since we first met the characters I have loved them. And I am not afraid to admit that I cried when Annie was taken. Roll on Series Three is all I can say. And, judging by the hints we got from series creator Toby Whithouse, we're not going to be disappointed. "the threat this time is more or less themselves"? Interesting, very interesting...