Thursday, 21 February 2008

Prances With Wolves

The Writer's Strike, which as you should know crippled American TV to a point where NBC decided bringing back Gladiators was a good idea; had many effects on me. Most importantly it made me go cold turkey which made me quickly realise that I seem to depend more on new episodes of How I Met Your Mother than I do oxygen. It also made me actually watch some British television, watching Hollyoaks, Holby City and reality shows on BBC Three about whether fat amputee chavs can fight on bears with sticks and tutting, all the while criticising modern society when they fail to do so.

It was soon after I realised that TV in Britain is generally crap and so decided to give some classic shows a watch. Dusting off my old Seinfeld and Cheers DVDs and then stumbling upon a delightful old sitcom called Three's Company. A remake of an old British sitcom, Three's Company has the wacky premise of a MAN moving in with two WOMEN! Oh the potential for hijinks and hilarity! It's rife with sexism jokes, homophobic jokes and when they manage to fit it in, a cheeky one-liner about sex. It's classic 70's humour, the kind when the male chef talks to his female room-mate and says "The bun's are ready! Oh, I see you already have two of your own" followed by a minute of whooping from a studio audience filled with sugar.

Amidst a week-long marathon of bad puns and flared jeans, I found out that the new BBC Three (now with 75% more pink!) were to air a pilot about a werewolf, a vampire and a ghost living in a flat. It was with a 50/50 mix of excitement and dread that I thought of the prospect of it being done in the cheesy sitcom style, full of one-liners like "Oooh, no need to get so hairy, it's not a full moon y'know" or "What's for dinner? STEAK!". Even if it was actually supposed to be taken seriously, a straight up drama with this premise it just much too silly to be bother with.

So how in the hell, in the form of Being Human (click here to watch on the fantastic iPlayer), did they manage to make one of the most engaging hours of television I've seen on either side of the Atlantic for a long while?

It's style was perfect, no OTT levels of mass fast-paced cuts, needless angles and scenes that last less than 5 sentences. It's storyline was perfect for a pilot - setting up characters, who are played to perfection, and their relationships perfectly. The main, probably-season-long plot is introduced slowly at a point when you actually give a monkey about these characters, and more importantly it's a compelling cliffhanger that makes you want to carry on and see how it progresses. But most importantly, it somehow manages to take a ridiculous idea and make it seem so believable. They do seem like people that could be sitting in the same pub as you, even though they may be a supernatural being. The fact that it sounds incredibly silly typing that a show about a vampire, a ghost and a werewolf living together is realistic proves my point. And it's about time we have such a fictional show be so rooted in reality, with Heroes, Torchwood et al presenting such a stylised portrayal of the world.

I urge the BBC to pick this up for a full series; this episode fails as a one-off hour drama, but succeeds so well as the start of a compelling series. This is the new BBC Three, get rid of every documentary you make that has a swear word in it, and use that budget to commission this. And while you're at it, stop bringing back Two Pints of Lager. Thanks.

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