Shiny Shelf

Being Human #2.1

By Mark Clapham on 11 January 2010

‘Being Human’ is an odd show, with a torturous evolution. Developed as a straight houseshare comedy/drama before having the supernatural twist added, it launched with a pilot that tried a little too hard to be funny, and treated it’s supernatural elements in an overly stereotypical way – the good vampire was aristocratic, the ghost mousy and cardiganed, while the bad vampires lurked in nightclubs and wore black suits.

The first series fixed a lot of these cliches with judicious recasting and rethinking, making vampire Mitchell a more rough-and-ready character, ghost Annie a stylish and attractive girl who constantly undoes herself by trying too hard, and making vampire bad guy Herrick a deceptively ordinary local policeman who uses his status in the community to advance his plans.

Those fixes turned the show into a surprisingly classy hit for BBC3, with a first series that balanced box-ticking standalones (each of the supernaturals gets drawn to one of their own kind at some point, before returning to the housemates and the shared quest to ‘fit in’) with developing storylines that built to a satisfying finale. The fixed point from the pilot to today has been rising star Russell Tovey, who as werewolf George has been a source of humour and gawky sex appeal from the off.

On the basis of the first episode of season two, creator/writer Toby Whithouse and his team have a clear idea of what they think works now – a lot of story, and Tovey at the dramatic heart of it.

There’s a lot of story here, not just character development but plot-heavy stuff with secret organisations and conspiracies. Even at it’s most story-driven, the first series was basically a character show, using the supernatural stuff to send characters on personal journeys, with everything usually coming back to confrontations in the front room of the house. Here, we get much more action, both in terms of violence and sex, and scenes which are pure plot development featuring characters we’ve never seen before.

It’s quite a nervy change. While the old format was probably unsustainable – there’s only so many variations of ’something knocks George or Mitchell off the wagon’ you can do – it’s definitely bold to throw in so much exposition and angst in the first episode of a season. I like it – this is a version of the show which demands that you pay attention, which plays to my tastes a lot more than the first series – but it does threaten to make the show less mainstream and relatable.

Having found their cast, Whithouse and co utilises them well. Tovey is a very likable performer, but rather than play on that for easy charm and laughs the story takes George to a downright unsympathetic place, knowing Tovey can get away with it. While George’s bumbling never really gets old, it’s good to see that suppressed aggression cut loose a bit more. Equally it’s a nice change to see Turner get more light romantic stuff as Mitchell, and for Annie to get out of the house more (in a storyline that is, I suspect, closer to the ongoing plot than it may at first seem).

Already commissioned for a third series, ‘Being Human’ is off to a strong start with its second. BBC3 have a new round of the same pilot system that spawned ‘BH’ coming soon – hopefully it will produce another show just as good, even if it does take a similarly convoluted route to get there.

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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named

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