Being Nostalgic - A Being Human Retrospective
Last night, the BBC Three fantasy show Being Human ended forever, and a viewership wept. Never again will we see vampire/werewolf/ghost housemates - at least, not unless we watch the still-ongoing American adaptation. But for Hal, Tom, Alex, Annie, George, Nina and Mitchell, it truly was (probably) the end.
I mean, unless the "we're cancelled" thing is just a ruse to make last night's ending seem more convincing. But anyway, we're moving into spoiler territory here. Join me below the image, as I look back at five years of Being Human and, of course, the uneasy way they ended it. Do watch the final episode on iPlayer first to avoid having it ruined by me.
The show was created by Toby Whitehouse in 2008, part of a pilot-season stunt by BBC Three. They made debut episodes for a bunch of concepts with one of them going to series. And Being Human... didn't win the competition initially, despite strong online reception, but once the Beeb decided not to move forward with original winner Phoo Action (no idea), the supernatural houseshare's moment arrived. It's a classic inspiraitonal story, really - "I was singing in the chorus line one day, when the lead soprano's scripts turned out to be sub-par..."
Anyway. The series went ahead, but not without tweaks - the pilot starred Guy Flanagan, Russell Tovey and Andrea Riseborough, but only Tovey appeared in the eventual proper run as werewolf George. Aidan Turner and Lenora Crichlow were drafted in as the new faces of vampire Mitchell and ghost Annie respectively, along with extra supporting players Sinead Keenan (werewolf love interest Nina) and Jason Watkins (vampire villain Herrick), and thus the show was born. Combining genuinely horrific supernatural moments with matey flatmate banter, it worked well for three years.
Vampy Mitch And The British Show
Well, personally, the housemate banter was always of more interest than the gothic stuff. So as the show grew more and more seriously grim over those first series, my interest waned a tad. By series three, no-one was having any fun, the focus was mostly on Mitchell's grim vampirism and foreshadowed death, not to mention the character of Annie the ghost, who I'd always found a tad annoying. So when vampy Mitch finally kicked the dust-filled bucket in the finale, it wasn't a total disappointment.
But if I was hoping that meant a return to fun with Russell Tovey (love that guy), I was disappointed. For Being Human is a British Show, and the curse of the British Show is an inability to keep major actors for longer than three years. (See also: Misfits.) So, after Aidan Turner's departure, Tovey only hung around for one installment of the fourth series, and now long-term weregirlfriend Keenan didn't even last that long, disappearing between episodes.
Which meant Being Human moved on to the next phase of the British Show lifecycle: continuing the concept without the most recognisable talent. This often doesn't quite work (again, see Misfits, also Taggart, Hamish Macbeth, Ballykissangel, others) - which is why Doctor Who is the ultimate British Show, by the way - it's built this inevitability into its premise.
The Superhuman Resources Department
But I'm getting off topic. With Annie the ghost still on board, creator Toby Whitehouse tried to rebuild their trinity with new vampire Hal (Damien Molony) and former supporting cast werewolf Tom (Michael Socha), now promoted to main housemate status. Some were pessimistic, but pleasantly, after one shaky handover episode, the fourth series with the new cast was actually really good. They were endearing, funny, the horror was still horrific, even my irritation with Annie wasn't troubling me too much.
Although nor did I much mind when Lenora Crichlow left the series at the end of that run, her character replaced in the set-up by Alex the less whiny ghost (Kate Bracken).
So, after watching Being Human for four solid years, I was becoming a fan for the first time. A fifth series was announced for 2013, with all the new cast returning, and my level of excitement was high. The episodes started airing and were still great fun. Predictably, that's when the BBC announced they were cancelling it.
Smashing The Satanic Ceiling
According to Toby Whitehouse in a gracious blog post, the series was cancelled by BBC Three, but with enough notice for him to write a proper ending - hence raising the stakes through the ceiling by bringing in the Devil, I suppose - at least they don't have to worry about topping him. On a similar note, the oncoming climax gave us a little more suspense - could Satan win? Would everyone die?
The camaraderie between the cast, wit and willingness to bcounterbalance the horror moments with silliness kept me thoroughly invested throughout this run, and now that it's over, I still wish it wasn't. And the conclusion itself... well, that's a whole new paragraph.
Inspirational Messages For Monsters
Honestly, it's hard to know how to take the climax of the final episode. Our heroes finally become human, thus concluding the whole show's arc, but decide to keep living together, due to love and stuff. It all seems a bit quick and magical - the show plays on that by implying in the final moments that it might all be an illusion conjured up by the big evil Devil. Meaning... their happy ending is an illusion and everyone in the world is being tormented into pieces? Or the paper dog is a coincidence and it really is just a quick wrap-up?
Ultimately this is a horror show in part, and undercutting the seemingly happy ending in the final shot is very much a horror tradition. It's meant to unsettle us, and they've got me for sure. So, if this is all an illusion, what's the ultimate moral of Being Human, looking back at all the characters? Their hopes of being real people are futile, they're monsters, and their only hope is death like the original three or retreating from reality into a dreamworld like their successors?
It's pretty bleak, but this would hardly be the first show about monsters trying to carry on with normal lives, only to find it just won't work. Dexter and Breaking Bad have both done a lot of work in that area too, and none of them seem likely to end well for the grim protaganists. So maybe that's what TV is teaching us... are you monstruous? May want to give up on maintaining that regular day-to-day now, it won't work out.
Ah well. Such a sad outcome maybe seems a little odder in Being Human because the monsters here (especially in the second generation) are so earnest, lovable and well-intentioned. Still, I enjoyed the show, and I suppose it's testament to my attachment to these characters that I feel kinda aggrieved they didn't get a clear happy ending. Rest in peace, Being Human. I'll continue to hope your cancellation was a hoax. At least there's apparently a continuation scene on the DVD to look forward to.
Being Human has now ended, as you may have gathered from that whole piece. The official BBC Being Human site is still up, and the final series will on iPlayer for another week. I'm off for a little cry now.