BBC Video // 2012 // 457 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart // January 27th, 2013
"If people find out about the existence of vampires, werewolves, and ghosts, there'll be riots."
The possibility of conflict between humans and the supernatural beings -- and the apocalyptic chaos it'll cause -- forms the ongoing storyline of Being Human: Series Four. More interesting, though, is the adjustment that ghostly Annie (Lenora Crichlow, Fast Girls) is making to having a new werewolf and vampire as roommates, thanks to cast departures. Russell Tovey (Little Dorrit), who has starred as werewolf George for three seasons, departs in the opener.
If you've seen the North American Being Human and are wondering who Annie and George are, this is the original British version, which led to the Boston-set remake. Here, the characters room in a seaside B&B somewhere around the Welsh city of Cardiff, playing host to all the oddball monsters who wander through.
Being Human: Series Four features eight episodes on three discs:
* "Eve of the War" -- The story opens in London 2037, where a resistance movement is hearing about the loss of New York, then shifts back to present-day Wales, where a depressed George is minding his still unnamed baby alone after the loss of his wife. Annie tries to cheer him up, while Tom (Michael Socha, Shank), a werewolf who works at a burger bar, wants to go after some vampires.
* "Being Human 1955" -- A mysterious voice on the radio brings three roommates -- a werewolf, a vampire, and ghost, naturally -- to visit Annie. Hal (Damien Molony), a vampire who loves Radio 4 but tries to avoid just about everything else about humanity, decides to stay.
* "The Graveyard Shift" -- Hal joins Tom at the burger bar, just in time to deal with vampires who are coming after the werewolf. Meanwhile, a vampire (Mark Williams, Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix) who spotted the roomies at the Aldi tells Annie some prophecy.
* "A Spectre Calls" -- A ghostly visitor offers to help Annie mind the baby. Meanwhile, Hal conducts his own inquiries into a murder case that may have a werewolf connection, and vampire lawyer Cutler (Andrew Gower) helps Tom in a jam.
* "Hold The Front Page" -- Adam (Craig Roberts, Young Dracula), a baby-faced vampire in a sex scandal, turns up at the B&B with his lover. A news photographer tries to get a candid shot of Adam, while Tom and Hal dream of the mystery woman.
* "Puppy Love" -- Tom meets werewolf Allison (Ellie Kendrick, Upstairs, Downstairs), while Hal's dealing with the affections of Alex (Kate Bracken), who just dropped into the burger bar. Naturally, they go on a double date. Meanwhile, Annie accidentally kills a neighbor, then tries to help the man find his door.
* "Making History" -- Adult Eve (Gina Bramhill, Coronation Street) travels back in time to warn Annie of a vampire plot to take over the world. Hal is reunited with Cutler, whom he turned, and finds that their roles are reversed. Mark Gatiss (Sherlock) leads the Old Ones.
* "The War Child" -- Some new beings turn up as Hal, Annie, and Tom -- with Alex's help -- protect baby Eve from the vampires.
I've seen the North American Being Human, but this is my first experience with the British original. In general, the British show seems to put more emphasis on episodic stories and writer Toby Whithouse's idiosyncratic sense of humor, while the North American show seems more dramatic and more into season arcs. They have more in common than the old and new Hawaii Five-O, but they're different shows.
It's an odd place to jump in, with the cast transitions, but the strength of the British show seems to be the characters, and it appears that Whithouse is adept enough at introducing newcomers to the audience that Being Human didn't even skip a beat. The first new roommate is werewolf Tom, who's good at whittling stakes and killing vampires, but rather naive. Michael Socha brings out his concern for Annie and Eve, and gets to show him as an awkward romantic when Allison shows up. Next is Hal, the vampire whose life revolves around rituals. His aren't evil rituals like ripping out human hearts, but everyday calming rituals like listening to You & Yours (a consumer show, thus an odd choice for the antisocial), building lines of dominoes, and making sure all the matches in a box face the same way. Damien Molony blends the humorous bits with Hal's underlying fear of himself, which pays off brilliantly in "Making History" as Cutler tries to bring out Hal's blood lust. Lenora Crichlow's Annie is firmly in command of "her boys," leading them into battle with nappies as well as vampires.
The characterization extends to the well-written supporting roles, from the vampire Regus, who wants Annie's memories in exchange for information, to Cutler, the lawyer who seems helpful even as he's plotting to take over the world, to Allison, the brainy werewolf who wants to talk things out with vampires, to Alex, who seems more at home fixing cars than dealing with her strange date. Everyone in interviews is impressed with Mark Gatiss' confidently evil Mr. Snow -- and rightly so -- but he's part of a tapestry of characters that's thoroughly impressive.
Even though there's lots of bloody mayhem, you'll probably find yourself smiling more often than not as a goth poet turns up in the midst of a vampire attack or Annie deals with the newly ghostly -- but still cranky -- neighbor. With the show's odd sense of humor, you might even be amused by a werewolf romance montage -- including lessons on staking vampires -- to the tune of "Puppy Love"; it's obvious, but it works.
I suppose I've always wanted to see one, but I never expected to stumble on a beautiful travelogue of a horror TV series. The locations around Cardiff look inviting, even when Hal and Tom are hanging out in a slightly rundown cafe. Wales has hosted at least four science-fiction series (also including Torchwood, Doctor Who, and The Prisoner), but Being Human is probably the one the tourist promotion board is most excited about (or would be, if it didn't have such a high body count).
An ample collection of interviews, shorts, and deleted scenes is included. Best among the bits is a prequel scene in which Tom applies for the job at the burger bar.
While Being Human boasts strong characters and humor, you'll probably guess most of the plot twists. It seems like writer Toby Whithouse isn't all that interested in suspense, telegraphing everything intentionally so viewers can concentrate on the comic vibe. It was a bit disconcerting in the finale, as I knew a tragic ending was coming up; actually, I figured out how things would end sometime in the middle of "Making History." You'll also find the whole arc reminiscent of lots of movie series like The Terminator and Underworld, although the vampires of Being Human up the weirdness ante a lot. Does everything really need a season-long story arc nowadays?
I like my genre shows with oddball humor, and Being Human hits that spot well. It reminded me more of other British dramedies -- a la New Tricks (Hal seems like the vampire counterpart to Brian Lane, and Annie's exhortations to her "boys" sometimes echo Sandra Pullman, although that series is more densely plotted) -- than of science-fiction shows. I like science-fiction, but I suspect even people who wouldn't care for The X-Files might want to stop at Annie's B&B.
Not guilty, and there's even a Fred Basset reference.
Review content copyright © 2013 James A. Stewart; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 457 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes