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Being Human - season one
cast: Russell Tovey, Aidan Turner, Lenora Crichlow, Jason Watkins, and Annabel Scholey

creator: Toby Whithouse

345 minutes (15) 2009
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
2 Entertain / BBC blu-ray region B rental / retail

RATING: 1/10
reviewed by Christopher Geary
A vampire, a werewolf and a ghost walk into a pub... No, but seriously, this unlikely trio of 'undead' best friends actually 'live' together in Bristol (of all places!), renting a cheap old street-corner house with outside walls painted an unfashionable pink. Being Human, an urban supernatural mystery drama of uncertain charm and yet almost mildly-promising potential, is not merely spoilt but systematically ruined by poorly devised twists on hoary genre clichés, and its stupidly-conceived attempts at combining modern horror with 'adult' drama (which here means 'strong' language), plus dreary soap opera, and farcical sitcom formats. The result is a typically British TV series that's so fatally uneven in atmosphere or quality entertainment value that it turns out to be 90 percent boring.

Mitchell (Aidan Turner) is an Irish vampire struggling to overcome his bloodlust so he can... well, 'fit in', like - and work as a hospital porter. Yes, he's a faulty 'clone' of antihero Angel but, as a reformed 'addict', he's actually less interesting than Angel's long black coat and, as a fiendish day-walking immortal, he's a character with even less substance than Blade's shadow. In short, Mitchell is a vampire who's not in the least bit scary or clever. He's never wicked at all, really, and - judging from his past and present 'relationship' troubles - we might reasonably suspect that he's a bit of a nonce.

George (Russell Tovey), is a weedy needy Jewish werewolf-in-denial, who quickly becomes the programme's major irritant with his breathless whiney voice. This is a wormy and distinctly unmanly 'performance' of the genre's favourite transforming creature. A lycanthrope who is all barely-articulate ramblings, geeky mannerisms and pseudo-spastic gestures, he's yet another hospital porter, and a grown-up 'teen wolf' without a genuine sense of humour, or sense of proportion in most things, but he's lacking any scrap of sense especially when he supposed to be a savage beast. As a monster-man, poor George is a complete washout. He's a wimp, just like the little doggie that barks all day, but won't bite at night. It does not help matters when the origin story of George's full-moon affliction is cribbed from John Landis' classic An American Werewolf In London.

Crippled by insecurities, friendly but charmless ghost Annie (Lenora Crichlow) has the unenviable task of 'haunting' (not a job description she's actually capable of, or 'spiritually' qualified for) the house occupied by Mitchell and George. She discovers that fianc´┐Ż Owen (Gregg Chillin) murdered her and got away with it. Now, she frets about getting revenge on her killer, but can hardly summon up sufficient outrage or determination enough to leave the building, never mind find an exit (like all those unquiet souls on Ghost Whisperer). She just stays at home, makes endless cups of tea, does the washing up (oh, a useful poltergeist - how spooky!), and cries a lot. I suspect that actress Crichlow will never want to wear another grey outfit after this.

Principal villain of this entire shoddy, awkward mess is local beat copper, Herrick (Jason Watkins), who also runs an undertaker's sideline that's fronting for a blood kitchen frequented by several vampires, part of a clan plotting world domination´┐Ż Ah, so that's why the bloodsuckers' hideout is in Bristol, it's the obvious choice for any dark future's seat of ultimate vampire power, of course! Now I'm positive that 'Underworld 4: Devolution' will be filmed in Bristol. You know it makes sense... It must be admitted that Herrick, a vampire posing as 'delusional' authority figure, is a rather more energised character than any of the protagonists, although Herrick's blustery conduct harks back to Hammer's gothic tradition in which the lord of the manor was always the sneering baddie.

Being Human is not about humans or beings. It's merely a weary rehash of clichés with a preference for jokes in the postmodern vein rather than character-based fun. It wants to be Life On Mars meets Monster Squad with a nervous finger pointing to Heroes, but all of its gushing sentimentality, and smiling-through-tears emotional dam-busting, and wretched curtain-twitching mediocrity, is broadly indicative of lazy scripting, and simple-minded cringe-worthy performances with unimaginative formally-manipulative direction... It's also wholly predictable. We can easily guess the outcome of Annie, George, and Mitchell's confrontation with arrogant Herrick.

Getting to that point in the story (or what passes for one, anyway), or any point, is like pulling teeth. Sorry, fangs. Like trying to strike a match on the wrong edge of a matchbox, this never catches fire. It meanders from one humdrum hospital scene of deadpan bedpan wrangling to the next. A clearout of takeaway cartons from the cheerless main bed-sit-land style set is classed worthy of prime time viewing here. What meagre unloving spoonful of miserablist domestic strife available for serving now simply takes far too long to play out, in six patience-trying hour-long episodes, all of which could, probably, have been profitably edited down into a 90-minute TV movie. That would, at least, have saved an entirely wasted afternoon's worth of dull and snooze-inducing viewing.

There's a lot more astute commentary about the human condition in any one of the weaker episodes of Dollhouse than you will find in this utterly dismal BBC offering. Die-hard horror fans and genre completists who must see it are duly advised to rent Being Human, do not buy it.

Blu-ray extras: profiles of the main characters, behind-the-scenes material about werewolf special effects and peculiarities of vampire lore, but - shamefully - this two-disc package does not include the programme's 'pilot' episode, made in 2008 with a different main cast, except for Tovey's George.

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