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Review: Being Human
Being Human's Damien Molony, Lenora Crichlow and Michael Socha
Back in 2009, the idea of a TV series in which a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost co-habit seemed nothing short of ridiculous.
Amazingly - and thanks in part to the insatiable global hunger for all things supernatural (see Twilight, True Blood et al) - BBC Three's Being Human caught on, garnering a devoted cult of rabid fans along the way.
Speaking to The Guardian recently, creator Toby Whithouse bemoaned the fickle nature of those same fans.
"Every twist in the life of Being Human has been met with wails of anguish," he said. "People thought we were stupid to kill Herrick off. Then they liked Kemp and Jaggat. We were stupid to move away from the Pink House. Then they loved the new house."
Series three ended with the death of Mitchell (Aidan Turner) and, in the intervening months, werewolf Nina (Sinead Keenan) has been killed (off-screen). Meanwhile, George (Russell Tovey) is dispatched in the opening episode of this, the fourth series.
No wonder Whithouse has gone on the defensive. But will this complete casting overhaul prove a bridge too far for even the most devoted followers?
The Fast Show's Mark Williams kept the show's comic spirit alive (just) in his role as the bumbling 'Vampire Recorder'.
Death, misery and gnashing of teeth. If it wasn't for Mark Williams, you might be forgiven for thinking Being Human has lost its sense of humour altogether.
We rejoin what's left of the ever-dwindling Being Human gang with a house in mourning. Nina has been butchered by vampires and George is pulling that expression of intense mental anguish that he used to such great effect in a recent episode of Sherlock.
"We rejoin what's left of the ever-dwindling Being Human gang..."
Lenora Crichlow, as ghost Annie, is working that massively OTT mood-swing thing that must leave her utterly exhausted after every take, and Michael Socha (werewolf Tom) is busy aping George's trademark facial contortions.
So far, so predictable. Until, that is, we're thrust into a Terminator-style plot that involves a parchment made of human skin, and George and Nina's daughter Eve being stabbed by one of her own soldiers in the year 2037, in order - it seems - to travel back through time as a ghost - and kill her younger self.
Confusing? Perhaps. But it does at least distract us momentarily from the fact that - as of episode two of this latest series - Annie will be the only original character left.
In addition to the mind-melting time travel plot, we're also introduced to a second house occupied by a werewolf, ghost and vampire. This one's in Southend-on-Sea where, on any Friday night, you're likely to find the walking dead down the pier, leering at you from beneath their 'kiss me quick' hats. But I digress.
There's handsome like-for-like Mitchell replacement Hal played by Damien Molony, dying werewolf Leo (Louis Mahoney) and pretty spook Pearl (Tamla Kari). Only one looks likely to become a regular cast member, however. Indeed, Hal's move to Barry, where he will reside in undead harmony alongside Annie and Tom, is all but inevitable.
In other words, it's the same old set-up with (slightly) different faces. But does Being Human still have teeth?
The death of laughter
"Hand on heart, I think series four is our best ever," Whithouse has claimed. But then he has to say that, doesn't he?
Whether he's right or wrong remains to be seen, and it will be those famously fickle fans who vote with their remotes. Early signs are promising as 1.1 million tuned in for the fourth series launch, according to unofficial overnight ratings.
"It could do with upping the gag quotient just a little"
However, it could do with upping the gag quotient just a little; the loss of Mitchell, Nina and George was depressing enough without lines like: "Every time I think of a name, I see it written on her gravestone."
Remember the first series? It was laced with black humour revolving around the unique set-up. I miss that.
It's the end of an era with the departures of Aidan Turner and Russell Tovey, but the ongoing presence (no pun intended) of the brilliant Lenora Crichlow should assist in the longer-term success of Being Human.
That's assuming she doesn't decide to spirit herself away before series five rolls around.
For my money, this is a show that could run and run - regardless of who stays and who goes - as long as strong writing remains at its heart.
- Rating: Not quite the epic fail fans may have been expecting, the new series of BBC Three's Being Human earns a blood-curdling three stars out of five.
TV quotes of the week
"Slitting their throats and stamping on their bones." - Vampires in the year 2037 AD appear to have forgotten how they're supposed to dispatch humans.
"Before you reach the first major city, they'll have raised an army on Twitter." - Cutler may be over 600 years old, but he's more web savvy than your average oldie.
"Now Mitchell's dead. And Nina's dead. And George is gone. And there's nothing nice in this house anymore." - Oh do cheer up, Annie.
"He's given himself liver, kidney and heart failure." - George's death doesn't make matters any more jolly.
"I'm going to save the world; I'm going to kill that baby." - In the year 2037, Eve's ghost plots the most unusual suicide ever
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