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Taking a break from Spooks to watch Being Human series 1. I fully intended to post some brief Spooks episode reviews, but so far everything I've has been the opposite of brief (and also, finished). While all that was in progress, I came across a description of Being Human and though that the concept was screaming for a Spooks crossover where Lucas North moves into the flat while he's relearning what it is to be human. Also, the interlibrary loan system was astoundingly efficient and somehow bumped me to the top of the waiting list.

There are more flimsy excuses, but at this moment I'm hard pressed to think of one.

Right now, I'm up to 1x03 and really liking this show. The central concept is that a vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost share an apartment (er, flat) and try to live like normal human beings. It's definitely a high concept premise, the kind of thing I suspect immediately either appeals to viewers who understand the potential for metaphor and allusion to explore what it means to be human, or immediately is dismissed as an excuse for genre cliches. This kind of show could have been gone either way. I think they're doing well with the concept so far.

To avoid the pitfalls, the writers/producers were smart enough to discard some of the more cheestastic genre tropes, e.g. the series vampires seem to do just fine in sunlight and don't explode into dust or turn into bats. Instead, the supernatural elements are mostly dealt with as metaphor or exaggeration for more universal human failings -- addiction, immaturity, unhealthy relationships, and violent urges, to name a few. Admittedly, the metaphors are not very thinly veiled at some points. By episode 3, I didn't really need the vampires-as-addicts comparison hammered home yet again.

Overall, though, I like the writing quite a bit. The writers do a good job of mixing up the long-term supernatural plotlines with well-written roommate (er, flatmate) interaction. To be honest, I'd have to say the show so far is more about the friendship between three wacky roommates with their own respective personal crises, with the vampire/werewolf/ghost aspects as an added dimension. Each of the characters strikes a nice balance between admirable and annoying so as to feel three dimensional. For example, George, the werewolf, is an anal, annoyingly self-centered, somewhat controlling know it all, but also a very decent guy who cares about doing the right thing, even when his life is in tatters. The roommates background provides some nice comedic and dramatic moments -- great scene in 1x03, for example, when Annie the ghost sobs over a parsley grater as a proxy for greater (ha ha!) losses, George the werewolf is kind of clueless, and Mitchell the vampire tries to bring some order to the craziness. The scene could have worked with any spurned lover coming to pieces over a dead relationship and two roommates attempting to reassure. That Annie is actually dead adds a certain extra layer of poignancy. Not hugely subtle, but still moving.

The end of episode 3 marks the halfway point in the arc. I think the writing to this point has been strong enough to foreshadow that underneath it all, this series is really about the struggle against personal demons leading to transformation and empowerment, as well as the idea that it's the people around us who really make us (or keep us) human. Each of the first three episodes shows one of the main characters dealing with a kindred spirit guest character who shares the same supernatural condition, through which each character comes to a big revelation about him/herself which is ultimately empowering (well, mostly). My guess is that the last three episodes will deal with the threat of Herrick and pretty much every other vampire in the world, most likely requiring Annie, George and Mitchell to band together to deal with them.

I like all three of the leads pretty well. I see now why Russell Tovey generates so much buzz. He's great as George. The fact that he's the least likely looking werewolf ever adds an interesting dimension to the gigantic rift between his geeky human self and the wild animal who causes him so much self-loathing. I alternate between wanting to yell at him to remove his head from his backside and appreciating his essentially decency. Aidan Turner, as Mitchell, seems to struggle a bit more with differentiating his character from the vampire cliches. He's really not helped by his gothy vampiric ex who might as well have junkie jailbait written on her forehead. Lenora Crichlow is decent as Annie. I don't find her performance to be on the same level as Tovey's and Turner's, though this might be due to a script which gives her a few too many overtly emotional scenes for her character to appear anything but a wobbly-chinned people-pleaser. Because maybe that's the point?

Overall, I think the show is very well done. I'll definitely finish watching series 1 before I go back to Spooks.

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July 2012

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