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TV Review: Being Human, BBC Three, Monday 18 February, 9pm

By Paul Hirons on February 19th, 2008 31 comments


Here’s another one of those BBC Three one-off dramas. Last week it was the hit-and-miss Phoo Action, and last night it was the turn of Being Human – an interesting-sounding drama about a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost all living together in a flat. All those Buffy/Angel fans among you must have been interested in this, but I have to say I’ve never been a fan of those brash, showy US cliché tractors. I was hoping that, finally, a British series could tackle these fantastical ‘genre’ issues and make something good for a change.

Thanks to a sharp, thoughtful and sometimes witty script, a really interesting idea and some decent acting, Being Human did not disappoint.

For all our Being Human news and reviews, go here.

A young man in a wood strips down to his nipples and waits. Elsewhere, another young man speaks in a slow, deep and whispy voice to an attractive woman while they share a bottle of red wine. She’s clearly attracted to him and when he speaks of ‘ancient machinery’ she’s lost in his dark eyes. They end up in bed, enjoying a vociferous round of ugly bumping. The man’s eyes glaze over and turn black… canines turn into fangs… and he sinks them into her neck. This man, Mitchell, is a vampire.

Meanwhile, in the woods, the other man is writhing in pain on the floor, his body snapping and twisting… his spine corrugates, hairs grow on his face and a low, gagging howl splinters the night sky. This man, George, is werewolf.

Mitchell and George, after their night’s misadventures, meet in the morning. George has the blood of a deer smeared over his face, while Mitchell is sated after his own night feed. They’re a right pair – Mitchell is lithe, languid and enigmatic, while George is tense, highly-strung and geeky looking. That’s the nice thing about Being Human – it has normal-looking people, in normal situations.

Mitchell and George both work in the local hospital as porters and, while chatting about their previous night’s exploits, they both agree they’ve had enough of feeling ghettoised. They both decide to get a flat together, to be normal, and live like normal people.

When they find the flat George is thrilled. He’s suddenly ever-so-excited at the little kitchen, the sweet little garden and the sofa. The sofa! How lovely, he shouts. The prospect of normality is making him giddy. The female estate agent thinks that Mitchell and George are gay (she explains that she once set up a lesbian couple with a flat, but she doesn’t really understand that sort of thing. In one of the only misjudged lines of the night, she says she likes dick too much).

The boys decide to take it and, with Pulp’s Common People on the soundtrack, they set about tidying the place up and making it their own. The estate agent did warn them that previous incumbents reported some spooky goings on, and soon they see why – a ghost, called Annie, is already a very protective tenant.

She explains to them that she was engaged, but died and has a special bond with the house. She just can’t leave it. George isn’t keen to let her stay and they instantly start arguing, while Mitchell, no stranger to death himself, is sympathetic. In the end they decide to let her live with them.

Back at the hospital, George bumps into a familiar face – his ex-girlfriend Julia is a patient. We start to learn a little bit about George’s former life. He went AWOL two years ago, and his family believed he had died. This was when the werewolf curse kicked in and he ran away, sparing the ones he loved any pain or confusion. Julia wants to see him again.

Mitchell, meanwhile, has found a secure, disused underground room beneath the hospital. Once it’s locked, it can only be opened from the outside. Mitchell thinks this perfect for George when he’s on the change, and George agrees that the next time he gets hungry like the wolf he’ll lock himself away and Mitchell will open the door the next morning.

The night before George’s change, when his heightened senses are making him invincible, he sees Julia and her fiancé rowing in the hospital car park. The fiancé is a violent man, but George – werewolfness coursing through his veins – overpowers him and scares the living daylights out of him. Julia is also scared at this aggressive side to George… but intrigued.

On the night of the change, George goes into the secure room, iPod screaming Firestarter in his ears. Unbeknown to him, Julia has followed him and demands to know what is wrong with George. When he refuses, she locks them both in the secure room. George has 20 minutes before he changes (and rips Julia to shreds), so he rings Annie at home to ask her to come and open the door to the secure room. Annie has never left the house since she died, and is terrified. But, just in time, she opens the door and rescues Julia. George, meanwhile, does the werewolf thing.

While all this drama is happening, Mitchell is at a clandestine meeting for vampires. The head of the pack is tired of hiding in the shadows, and wants the crew to start feeding indiscriminately. Humans have buggered up the world, the leader reasons, and it’s time for the vampires to take back what they deserve. They’ve spent too long in the shadows.

After Julia has been scared off and says a final goodbye, Mitchell, George and Annie sit in the pub discussing Harry Potter and asking each other what they would do if they won £10million pounds. Just like normal people would (except Annie can’t drink because it would go straight through her and leave a puddle on the chair).

When Mitchell goes to the bar to get another round in, he hears whispers, beckoning him. He follows the sounds to an alley way, where he finds Lauren – the girl he feasted on earlier in the programme. He’s very apologetic, but she’s loving her new incarnation (“it’s like humans are like drawings in a book compared to us,” she pants, wide-eyed). Mitchell, it seems, has created a monster, and from the shadows the vampire leader emerges and tells Mitchell he should now choose his friends wisely, because the change is coming.

And that was it. But what an ‘it’ it was. I was a bit sceptical to begin with, but thanks to some intelligent writing, Being Human really worked. There were musings on life and death, but the real undercurrent throughout the hour dealt with being accepted. These three freaks and misfits, together, felt the belonging they so desperately craved.

And this odd couple (or trio) scenario gives Being Human an edge other vamp shows just do not have. In fact, even if you don’t like this kind of thing, I’d recommend it – the fantasy stuff, in some ways, is just the top layer of the story.

Phoo Action has been made into a series, but this was ten times better. More please.

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  • Tim Pendry

    Agreed – ten times better.

    The BBC has a screw looose if this is NOT made into a series.

    Utterly brilliant.

  • Anonymous

    Loved this show Phoo action was alright last week just needs a bit more work but this was excellent the hour flew by and me and my girlfriend where sucked straight into the story it was dark and funny at the same time I really hope this is made into a SERIES spend your free money on something worthy for once Auntie Beeb and if you can’t afford the being human series drop one of the days eastenders is on to cover the cost

  • Richard Perris

    Very, very good, this needs to be a series! Smart polt great characters.

  • J-P Treen

    Absoloutly – This show was great!

    I loved Phoo Action last week, and thought that it should be made into a series, but like the previous reviewers I think that if Phoo action could have done with it, this positively demands it!

    Come on BBC 3 – do it!

  • Gareth

    I agree, very good – deserves a series. It’s very nice to see something out of the usual “uber-cool” werewolf stereotype.

  • David

    I got the impression, from the structure of the thing, that this program has been designed to lead on to a possible series. If that’s so then I would like to encourage the powers-that-be at the BBC to think no further and just commission it right now.
    I found this program to be one of the most instantly engaging and likeable dramas I’ve seen for years. I do tend to like the fantasy genre within television, but only when its programs are done extremely well, and only then if the main characters are well-drawn and convincing and there is some genuine originality to be found in the concept.
    “Being Human” succeeded at meeting all of those requirements; in fact, it transcended them. I’ve been watching “Torchwood” with something like a sinking heart, which has only just started to refloat. It’s taken an entire series of that program to reach a point where it is actually starting to work.
    “Being Human” managed, effortlessly, to overtake that Doctor Who spin-off within the space of thirty minutes. By the time it had finished I knew for a fact that I wanted to see more.
    It was intelligent, without being ponderous; funny, without being contrived; exciting, without being flashy; measured, without being slow; fantastical, without being gimmicky…I could go on, but I’ll spare you from that. I’m sure you get the message.
    I got the distinct impression that, although this story definitely belongs in the “fantasy” genre, it hasn’t referred in any way to the example set by the more successful shows of the moment to try and cash in on the current resurgence of interest of such programs, and consequently this program was refreshingly free of the clichés that often dog such productions.
    It was a heartening surprise to find such a gem lying, unannounced and unexpected (at least by me; I watch very little television) in the schedules.
    I think, providing that the writers, the actors the production team remain the same, that this could be one of the most enjoyable and exciting series on television. It already has more to recommend it than most of its competition and, so far, it’s only had sixty minutes to make such an impression.
    I’d love to see a whole series with these characters and their relationships, with or without the threat of the vampire sub-culture…”

  • John

    I loved this. As soon as it had finished I was searching for the series link. I was disappointed to find out that it was a one-off. The ending suggested a possible series but having had the chance to reflect a while it may be better that they don’t make it. While the characters are strong and the acting was good, I am just thinking that a whole series could be a let down. Sometimes it is better just to have something that is great and leaves you wanting more without it being spoiled by not living up to expectations.

  • sandgrinder

    I saw the repeat last night and was well impressed. After the numbing, incoherent Torchwood that was on earlier this was so much more interesting.
    There is a possibility that a series would disappoint, John, but I think the actors ( Andrea Riseborough & Russell Tovey in particular, for me ) are worth the punt. There were plenty of plot-lines that could be developed.
    I was gutted when I discovered it was a stand-alone production.
    More, I say. More!

  • narin

    I really thought this was ace.

    There’s an online petition for people who enjoyed it to urge BBC Three commissioning editors to give it a full series.

    Check out the URL above.

    If Lily Blimmin’ Allen gets air time then *surely* something as interesting as this should too?!

  • narin

    Bah, URL is below. That’ll teach me for not previewing my post.

    Oh and just in case, the URL is here too!

  • clare

    It’s about time we had a decent British series so imagine my horror when i could not find series link.
    Obviously anything this good will end up on the scrapheap while all the other rubbish on t.v. will go on series after series.

    This needs to be made!

  • ZEKE

    brilliant! the best british drama for decades. more soon please x

  • Syphus

    It’s been so long since I’ve seen anything of this sort of standard that was British made SF and I was thrilled to find it. Shocked it wasn’t advertised more aggressively, it was a wonderful production.It’s especially unusual to see such high quality in a pilot. I too finished watching and immediately went searching for the series link. I was very disappointed not to find one. Heads up, BBC, you’re on to a winner.

  • Kathy

    More please!

  • Matt

    No series? I’ve watched Being Human twice now, I’ve been scouring the TV paper to try and find the next episode. Gutted

  • Sadie

    I stayed in last night waiting for the next episode and thought i must have wrong night, so checked at work today to find it was a one off!!!! no way!!! gutted
    I hardly watch tv anyway as it is a load of tot really, but this programme was brill I was hooked through the whole hour…. gutted there is no more…
    BBC, use my licence fee and give me a this series :o)

  • Jo

    I believe this was just a one off ! Forget making more trashy reality TV we want more of this good stuff!

  • Valentino

    OMFG i Love Being Human they should deffenlty make it a series. I agree with you all i was really looking forward to the next episode then then i found out it was a one -off i was totally gutted ::(


    IT WILL MAKE YOU MONEY…..Since thats all the BBC care about =D

  • David

    I have to agree that this was much better than Phoo Action and far more deserving of a series.

    I could do without the vampire cabal though, that added nothing and has all been done before. The best bits where the three people struggling to live together and what it means to be human.

    Excellent stuff.

  • Roger

    Great show.

    Yes, the build was certainly there for a series (or two) and the writing, acting and production all stand head and shoulders above a heck of a lot on the small screen.

    But sometimes it is better to have loved a little than to regret the follow-up.

    Thank you for an excellent hours entertainment :)

  • sarah pound

    please! please! please! turn it in to a series i really enjoyed it and am gutted that it was a one of its nice to get out of reality from time to time. BRING BACK BEING HUMAN!!!!!

  • ricky

    omg this was 1 of the best programs ive seen in ages and what is Valentino on about i think that the vampre (mitchell) is brilliant. plz turn this into a series its just brilliant.

  • Lara Sleator

    This isnt a series??? No WAY! I am so disappointed. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought the characters were good and really well formed for a one off show. It has a lot of potential, it would be a terrible shame to see it wasted.

  • Light

    Damn damn damn, just been on iPlayer in the hope of watching the next episode of Being Human and its not there…so disappointed its not a series!!!! It was really really good…..the Beeb so needs to make more.

  • Domenik Vilia

    BEING HUMAN Absolutely fantastic with great acting. The story line as staid with me over the weeks. I just hope there is more to come, please.

  • B1ackvelvet

    Being Human – I absolutely loved it! It really captured my imagination and was so down-to-earth and… normal… believeable.
    I’ve been scouring the TV schedules for the next episode as I was unaware it was a one-off. I’d love to watch a full series of this program, there’s so much potential for storylines. Come on BBC, give us more!!

  • Sherry

    They should have made it clear it was a one off because like many others i have been scouring the listings to find the next episode.

    havent seen anything this good in ages.

    make a series losers!!!!

  • Maria

    This was fantastic! One of the best things I have evr seen. Very charachter driven and intriguing. I have seen some american shows similar like the new moonlight and this was far better. Please BBC do what you do best. Gosh that Phoo action thing was no way near so good. This is probs 100 times better!!!

  • bill

    i was really shocked to find out that it was not a series after i had wached it
    i really enjoyed it

  • Maureen

    I cant believe something like Phoo Fighters (which I tried to like) got the go-ahead and we still havent heard anything about a series for Being Human. It was well done and left you wanting to see more – a lot more, about how these three would work together. While I care a lot more about the individual characters and romance than any ‘vampire conspiracy’ aspects, it all worked to make a good drama and good show. Still hope to hear they’ve come to their senses and are making a series of it.

  • Abi

    Just adding my voice to the pile of those saying this show rocks!

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