It’s a tricky old business, reinvention. How do you totally change a television show while still retaining what people liked about it in the first place?
It’s a concept that’s rather in vogue at the moment, with American Horror Story planning to have entirely new characters, location and plot for series two, but for once we Brits are ahead of the game.
In the current fourth season of Being Human (the much loved show about a werewolf, a vampire and a ghost living together that somehow managed to be more than a punchline), three of the four main characters have been killed off.
It’s a bold move for such a popular programme. Mysterious vampire Mitchell and doting werewolf couple George and Nina have kicked the proverbial bucket and aren’t coming back. That leaves us with ditzy ghost Annie and Nina and George’s baby, Eve, who’s apparently destined to be the destroyer of all vampires. In fact, in the very first episode of the series we were treated to a flashforward into a dystopian future where Eve was the leader of a struggling human resistance battling for survival against a vast vampire menace.
It seemed the central focus of the show was going to be a huge and crazy supernatural war. And that’s ok, but it wouldn’t be the Being Human we know and love.
But thankfully, since then the show has gone back to its roots. We’ve got a new werewolf and a new vampire and we’re back to the tried and trusted format of paranormal housemates living, loving and killing vampires together.
And fortunately the new additions are both pretty entertaining.
The new werewolf, Tom, was around last season and is a little odd due to being groomed to be a vampire killing machine by the werewolf who killed his parents. As a result his social skills are rather unorthodox but his heart’s in the right place. Also his proactive approach to vampire destruction makes a nice change from George, whose fearful gibbering at the slightest threat could be a bit tiring.
Our new vampire Hal, on the other hand, is rather similar to the character he’s replaced, though much more dapper. Like Mitchell he’s a vampire with an incredibly violent past who’s now a nodrinkybloodatarian (not sure if that’s the technical term, but it works for me).
Unlike Mitchell he does appear to be acquainted with the basics of personally hygiene and he is also an ‘old one’, a.k.a. some kind is super vampire who all the other vampires look up to, a bit like the way other newsreaders look up to Paxman.
This is because in any fictional world where vampires exist there are always a bunch of super powerful ancient vampires lurking in the background. Always. It’s a iron clad rule, much like the one that states any show that’s built up a rich and compelling mythos must spend at least 15% of its running time on flashbacks, callbacks and oblique references that are highly entertaining to the devoted fan but bloody confusing to everyone else.
Fortunately for the future, Tom and Hal have a rather engaging chemistry that comes to the fore in the third episode when they’re forced to work together in a rather grotty caff to make ends meet. It’s like Eastenders meets Buffy (Buffstenders?)
This allowed the programme to get back to that winning mix of boring old reality and the paranormal that’s always been a hallmark of the show as its best.
The challenge for the rest of the season will be juggling that happy familiarity with the massive over-arching plot about the end of the world: no mean feat but given that Toby Whitehouse, the show’s creator, has gifted us three previous seasons of excellence, I wouldn’t want to bet against him.
Being Human airs on BBC 3 on Sundays at 9pm. You can catch up on iPlayer here