The BBC has a wonderful facility for making absurd-sounding concepts unexpectedly palatable. So it is with “Being Human,” a quirky, funny, occasionally eerie hourlong series that sounds like a macabre joke — a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost share an apartment (hell, why not “walked into a bar?”) — but winds up generating laughs while exhibiting surprising heart. With so much revisionist vampire fare in circulation, from “Twilight” to “True Blood,” the BBC weighs in somewhat late in the U.S. with this 2008 entry, but it’s still a bloody good dish.
The hapless George (Russell Tovey) and suave Mitchell (Aidan Turner) work as hospital orderlies and also live together. It’s just that George, a werewolf, worries about “his time of the month,” while Mitchell wrestles with controlling his vampiric bloodlust.
Then there’s Annie (Leonora Crichlow), a ghost who only they can see. Having died in her early 20s, she’s still pining for her boyfriend Owen (Greg Chillin), and doesn’t know why she remains trapped in this realm.
Created by Toby Whithouse, the series is part comedy, part soap opera, with vague hints of a larger plot and nefarious grand plan involving the vampires, who keep making overtures to Mitchell that he rebuffs.
The show’s focus, though, is on the relationship among the three central characters and how they support each other in an effort to be as “normal” as possible — striving to be “human,” the key being that none of them are.
By all rights the program should be as laughable as the special effects, which are actually OK until George begins transforming into a werewolf, at first looking a bit like “The Howling” (not bad) and winding up resembling an oversized Muppet. But Whithouse and his cast (especially Tovey, poor bastard, who must keep playing scenes where he wakes up disoriented and naked) keep drawing you deeper into these characters’ lives — or deaths, or undead lives, as the case may be.
Whatever deeper meanings one might extrapolate, the show’s approach proves refreshingly unpretentious and a great deal of fun, playfully exploring the mythologies surrounding ghosts, vampires and werewolves. Its sheer conceptual audacity is also perfectly suited to the BBC’s short-order format, opening with just a half-dozen episodes.
“Being Human” is a clever concoction, in other words, but one that probably works best if its unholy trio doesn’t have to be kept alive for too long.