Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Being Human series 1-4

Being Human is a big hit on BBC 3 and one of my favourite TV series. With the recent release of series 4 on DVD, a review of this series is long overdue. The premise of the series sounds like the opening line of a joke - a ghost, a vampire and a werewolf share a house together. Well, there certainly is humour in the series, but mainly there is drama centred around three very different characters, whom you will quickly come to love, admire and most important of all, care deeply about. Annie Sawyer, played by Lenora Crichlow, is a ghost who haunts the house, having been murdered there by her last boyfriend. At first she doesn't realise this. Only other supernatural creatures can see and hear her, which makes her very happy when George and Mitchell move in. George Sands, played by Russell Tovey, is a reluctant werewolf, who doesn't want to hurt anyone or pass on the werewolf curse. He's a bit of a nerd but very intelligent, being able to speak multiple languages fluently. John Mitchell, played by Aiden Turner, is a 100+ year old vampire but has the looks and appearance of a 20 year old. He also doesn't want to hurt anyone, so he abstains from taking blood. No one calls him John, he's just known as Mitchell. The trio try to live normal lives and blend in with humanity. George and Mitchell work as porters in a Bristol hospital, keeping a low profile. Series 1 deals with their struggles at "being human" as they deal with mundane issues like house-sharing and girlfriends. However, their primary conflict is stopping the rise of the rest of Bristol's vampire population, led by Herrick, played by Adrian Lester, who just happens to be Mitchell's sire. Herrick masquerades as a policeman and is a complete and utter bastard but such a joy to watch! Incidentally, in this series, vampires are not affected by sunlight.
Series two picks up almost directly after the climax of series one. George's girlfriend, Nina Pickering, played by Sinead Keenan, got scratched by George when he was in werewolf form at the end of series one. You know what that means? Yes, come the next full moon, she also transforms into a werewolf. She tries to keep her condition a secret from the others, especially George, but fails. Annie searches for a new meaning to her existence, now that she has resolved her murder as a human. Mitchell steps into the power vacuum in the ranks of the Bristol vampires, following what happened at the end of series one. With great reluctance, he becomes their new leader, a decision that he soon comes to regret. A new threat to our heroes arrives in the form of a mysterious organisation known as CenSSA (Centre for the Study of Supernatural Activity). Their leader, Dr. Jaggett, convinces Nina that they have a cure for lycanthropy (they don't!) and she happily believes him to such an extent that she splits up with George. Annie learns of the existence of Purgatory, a place she does not want to visit... ever. George tries hard to live a normal life. He gets a new job as a language teacher and tries to settle down with a young mother although her daughter never takes to him. The veil is lifted from his eyes when he almost transforms at a PTA meeting and thus he welcomes Nina back into his life and agrees to meet with CenSSA. He is now so desperate for any possibility of a cure for his lycanthropy. Annie tags along with them but suffers a cruel fate at the hands of Dr. Jaggett. Unbeknownst to all of them, Mitchell falls off the wagon in spectacular fashion as he slaughters a load of passengers on a train. It is such an important and devastating turning point in his unlife, the ramifications of which are fully explored in series three.
Series three is a lot darker than the previous two series. After the events of series two, you just know that life can never be the same for Annie, George, Nina and especially, Mitchell. They move to a large house situated in Barry, South Wales, which becomes their new home for the rest of the series. The house used to be a former bed and breakfast hotel and is called Honolulu Heights. The quartet have to deal with figures from their past, including one huge surprise, as well as further encounters with vampires (a likable teenager and an obnoxious husband and wife pair of swingers), a very sympathetic zombie and a pair of werewolves who hunt vampires. This last two, MacNair, played by Robson Green, and his adopted son, Tom, played by Michael Socha, have the biggest impact on their lives. Meanwhile, Mitchell is desperate to atone for his actions in series two. Over the course of the six episodes of series three the truth about what he did is revealed to Annie, George and Nina and he realises there is only one way to resolve the matter - he has to die! He asks George to stake him. Does he die or not? If you don't want to know then do not highlight my spoiler alert below.
SPOILER ALERT BEGINS Series three does indeed end with George staking Mitchell, proving that the makers are not afraid to kill off major characters. Even more surprising, series four begins with the deaths of Nina (off screen) and George and ends with the death of Annie and baby Eve. Gulp! SPOILER ALERT ENDS 
Series four shifts gear, with young werewolf Tom MacNair and an ancient vampire (500+ years old) called Hal Yorke, played by newcomer Damien Moloney, joining Annie in Honolulu Heights. Hal shared a house in Southend with a ghost called Pearl and an old werewolf called Leo. They travel to Barry on a quest, which sees Leo and Pearl departing and Hal stuck behind. Annie has a new quest in her life - to raise and protect baby Eve, the offspring of George and Nina. A vampire prophecy written on human flesh reveals that Eve is the War Child, the person who will destroy all vampires. This series has been expanded from six episodes to eight and is without doubt, my favourite series so far. Being Human has always had its moments of comedy but in series four there are some genuine laugh out loud moments. Episode 4.06, in particular, has some outstanding comedy scenes. Early on in the series, it is announced that the Old Ones, a group of ancient vampires, will arrive in Barry. Naturally, Hal knows all about them. After all, he was once part of their group. For fifty years, Hal has avoided drinking blood but that all ends when the Old Ones finally arrive. They are led by Mr. Snow, evil personified and brilliantly played by Mark Gatiss. If baby Eve lives, the vampires will take over the world and Hal will lead them to victory. If baby Eve dies, humanity's dark future will be avoided. Given that Annie, who really is a very powerful entity in her own right, has sworn to protect baby Eve, this leaves her with an unenviable dilemma. Kill the baby to save humanity or save the baby and condemn humanity?

VERDICT. Suffice to say, I am a huge fan of this series. It is one of those series that improves with every episode. It started strongly but ended so impressively. Actually, when I say ended, that isn't strictly true. Thankfully, the BBC have already commissioned series five. Oh joy! It should air in 2013. The stories have been a delight to watch. I can't think of a single duff episode, but I can think of plenty of outstanding episodes. Credit must go to the main leads, whose characters want nothing more than to lead normal lives and blend in with society even though they are, essentially, monsters. Being Human achieves a very difficult feat of being superb in so many categories - comedy, drama, horror and romance.
The first three series all have special features on the DVD sets, but I kept wishing for more. Series four, however, more than makes up for that "fault" by having over two hours worth of extras. If you haven't seen any of the series, I'd recommend buying the boxed set containing all four series, currently priced at £35.99 from Amazon. Of course you can buy each series separately. My ratings for the series are 8/10 for series one, 8.5/10 for series two, 9/10 for series three and 9.5/10 for series four. So, have you heard the one about a ghost, a vampire and a werewolf who share a house?

23 comments:

  1. Finally this series has been explained properly to me, will think more of catching this up now Bryan! Good honest review!

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    1. I can well imagine you're not alone in not knowing much about this series, Fran. Even though the BBC have stuck it away on BBC 3, it has garnered a large fan base and just as importantly, the critics love it as well. It deserves to be seen by a bigger audience.

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  2. I've only managed to catch a couple of episodes of this series and have been hugely impressed with those that I have seen. Thanks for the 'whole-nine-yards' review VtG, it has decided me to get the dvds

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    1. Well at least you're not going into the series blind, Colin. If you enjoy the series half as much as I have you'll still be thoroughly entertained.

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  3. We've been following the BBC America version, which I think is made in Canada. It's also excellent, and very similar, with a few small differences for a North American audience. Centered in Boston, with the vampire having been an American AWI soldier.

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    1. I've mixed reviews about the overseas version. It would seem that those who haven't seen the UK version like it and those who have seen the UK version don't like it. Not having seen the BBC America version I couldn't possibly comment but I do know I'd find it impossible not to be making comparisons between the two.

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  4. I'd never heard of this before, but it has a unique premise.

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    1. The premise of the show is certainly unique and it's great to see us Brits making such a great horror drama.

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  5. Its sounds great. There is just enough hours in the day!

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  6. Its a great series!!!! I still need to see series 3 though!!

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Ray. Up til now, I thought I was the only person who'd seen it. I hope you get to catch up with series 3.

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  7. Loved series 1 through 3 and cant wait to see number 4!

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    1. Thanks, Paul. As you'll have seen, I thought series four was the best of them all.

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  8. I loved this series, but getting it in the US is annoying. There had better be a season 5. The US series has improved greatly after the 2nd show. I also hope The Fades returns -- Mister_Barista

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    1. i can't tell you how much I am looking forward to series 5 of Being Human. As regards the Fades, I heard that there will not be a new series. It was a good show and it would be a shame to end it so soon. With luck I'll be proved wrong.

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    1. I certainly did, Roger, and I sent you a reply.

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    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    3. I got an e-mail from you today with the heading "Catching Up" but it made no mention of any VF order. My reply to that e-mail did mention the VF zombie horde II deal. It's kinda looking like your message got lost in the ether, Roger.

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  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. No worries, Roger. I'm just glad we got it all sorted out in the end.

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