Over the years, cult following of the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer has seemed to grow tenfold. A little while back, a close friend of mine and her husband decided to re-watch all the episodes of all the seasons from start to finish. Needless to say, it ended poorly… and when I say “poorly”, I mean they went on a Buffy spree that culminated in a fantastic couple’s Halloween costume. What makes us all fall so hard for the sweet-yet-badass Buffy? Is it her adorable ability to off the undead in one fell swoop? Her friends? Her hair? Perhaps it’s the “everyday”. After all, we love the silly conversations, the stories, the idea that a “nobody” can be somebody.
If you happen to count yourself one of the teen slayer’s biggest fans, you may appreciate the following recommendation: of all the vampire and werewolf shows that have aired in recent days, one of them stands out boldly and runs against the pack (…no pun intended). For fans of the BBC’s fabulous lineup of television programming, it may not come as a surprise. The UK’s answer to Buffy, Vampire Diaries and the beloved Supernatural came with a twist in the form Being Human. A few years back, my Hulu queue had recommended a few shows, one of which was the aforementioned; I had never gotten into the whole “Vampire Obsession” that seemed to spring directly from Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series, because to me, vampires were something to be afraid of and not ogled. I chalk it up largely to Nickelodeon’s Are You Afraid of the Dark? and a particular episode where Nosferatu would climb out of movie screens at night and terrorize teenagers, subsequently scarring me for life. Still, I began watching the recommended Being Human, partially out of curiosity but certainly with bucket loads of wariness.
Three minutes in, I was hooked.
The show’s simple tagline offers up a brief synopsis: “A werewolf, a vampire and a ghost try to live together and get along.” Seems simple enough, yes? Right. Here’s where things get interesting: the first episode.
The original trio of principle characters includes Annie Sawyer (Lenora Crichlow of Sugar Rush), a ghost who haunts her old abode, and friends George Sands (Russell Tovey of Him & Her), a werewolf, and John Mitchell (Aidan Turner of The Hobbit), a vampire. In an attempt to live normally in their abnormal conditions, George and Mitchell decide to rent a flat in Bristol and take low paying, under-the-radar jobs as hospital porters; George deals with his monthly change by using an old, locked-up chamber beneath the hospital where there is very little chance of being caught mid-transformation, and Mitchell… well. Mitchell just does his best not to kill random strangers in the street for their blood. After 117 years of futilely attempting to stave off his bloodlust, Mitchell does fail from time to time.
A short while after the boys settle into the new flat, Annie, still upset over not being able to interact with anyone except by haunting them, knocks over a few things and upsets the furniture to entertain herself….Except this time, the boys can see her, as both George and Mitchell are supernatural beings. Hilarity ensues. Alright, hilarity and horror. Soon, the three discover that trouble will find them, seek them out even, no matter what precautions they take to guard themselves and the public against the terror of their situations; they uncover the real reason Annie is left as a ghost, in limbo between the worlds, dangerous acquaintances who do their best to convince George to lose control during the full moon and an entire pretentious network of vampire elite who will stop at nothing to bring Mitchell back to his murderous roots.
What drew viewers in initially wasn’t necessarily the horror and fantasy aspect. It wasn’t just that the writers went out of their way to keep to traditional folkloric conventions. People loved the comedy. They loved the normalcy of the peculiar and the sweet moments of sincerity between the trio. In one favorite scene, Annie brings the two boys together for a roommate meeting to sort out a recent tiff: the boys exclaim that there’s nothing wrong with the way they were going about resolving their dilemma (which is to “go out one night and just get hammered”) but the conversation immediately turns into a sob-fest over The Real Hustle when they turn on the television to find that the time slot has been moved:
“So, what, are just supposed to check every night!?!”
“Don’t I deserve this? Don’t I deserve one crumb of happiness?!”
“I saw a preview… they were going to do a con about cash-points.”
“I would’ve loved that…. You b**tards!”
… All the while, Annie sits shell-shocked on the sofa, wondering what has just happened.
The drama of the three friends lives swings wildly from standard tussles over who, exactly, is responsible for the washing-up and the hoovering (and why Annie needs that many cups of tea when she can’t even drink them) to crucial decisions over how to stop Mitchell from killing again. Their struggles are humanized. Their backgrounds are dissected in an effort to distinguish what makes them the way they are, supernatural ailments and all. You feel for them. You hurt when they hurt and you realize that there’s nothing standard-issue about “being human”, that sometimes it just makes things more difficult.
The beauty of a show like Being Human is its ability to make you externalize your own fears: questions like “what would I do?” to “could I really kill if my loved ones were in danger?” are posed. The human existence is challenged. The limits of your imagination are pushed.
“There’s a question you haven’t asked yourself yet. If I exist, what else does?”
Being Human isn’t just another Vampire drama. It’s not Twilight. If the BBC knows how to do anything right, it’s creative resistance to the establishment.
So, all you Buffy fans, you Supernatural sympathizers and Walking Dead legion, all of you open-hearted fangirls and boys, give Being Human a try. You may find that you learn more about yourself and the person you could be. Challenge normal. Because there’s nothing simple about being human—there’s only this.