Tag Archives: Being Human

Pros and Pratfalls of Regenerating Your Cast

Being Human season 5 cast

[Spoilers ahead for Marvel comics and Being Human]

A series’ heart is its characters—whether it’s comedy, tragedy, fantasy, what have you, generally speaking, if you’re going to really capture the audience what you want is a good cast. You could have the most banal or wacky concept in the world, but if you have good characters people like and are interested in, people will watch it. Similarly, you could have the coolest and most fascinating backdrop ever, but without good characters to form that human connection, nothing’s going to glue. So, once you’ve got this band of characters that forms the bridge of audience attachment, you’d be silly to change them, right? Well, not always. Not every series revolves around the same set of fictional people for its entirety, and sometimes it’s beautiful and sometimes it’s bad.

Some series cling to their characters for decades, some change them every few seasons as a matter of course (like Skins), some bring back beloved concepts with new faces (Star Trek: Next Gen perhaps). Every long-running series has a kind of conceptual mould at its heart (e.g. Madoka Magica’s mould is “young girls fight monsters and discover the evil in the system they’re fighting for”) and a set of main characters (Madoka, Homura, Sayaka and co.). Sometimes, if they run long enough, these can get a little tired, so you have to change things up, unless you’ve got something truly episodic with no excessive continuity like old sitcoms. Generally, you can either change the characters (for example, bring in a new group of Magical Girls to follow) or break the mould (now instead of this being a story about fighting monsters it’s about fighting each other and their various dubious motivations).

Comics often keep their moulds, but get new characters within it. The new Thor comics star a woman (to the ecstatic cries of one half of the internet and the groans of the other, of course) not because Thor as we know him has been warped into a sex change, but because a new character has picked up the hammer and gained the powers therein, thus becoming the person to carry the title. So you can still have all your adventures that play with the universe and themes that suit that story, but to keep things fresh there’s a new lead to follow, get attached to, come to understand. It keeps the flavour and formula the same, but changes up the human connection to make things interesting and fresh. Thor was also a frog at one point, I’m pretty sure, so it’s not as if this is something new. Continue reading

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Filed under Pop Culture Ponderings

Vampires: Good for Symbolism, Bad at Politics

Being Human's Mr Snow, ancient vampire

I’ve been re-watching Being Human, and marvelling at how consistently good it was before it decided the vampires had to take over the world. Well, that subplot’s right there in the first season so perhaps that’s unfair, but I have to say most writing involving the handsome blood-drinking undead works better for me when it doesn’t lean towards plotlines of world domination. Seriously, why are fictional vampires so intent on ruling the planet and implementing a system that glaringly does not work?

Of course, many a narrative dutifully points this out, and the logistics bring up all sorts of lovely philosophical questions about the nature of humanity and evolution and morals, but the plot is still there to be talked about. I suppose it’s a natural direction to take your story in if you’ve got vampires running about, because let’s face it, living for x hundred years in style (because vampires are more fun when they’re stylish) would quite conceivably give you a bit of an ego and air of invincibility. Why not move up in the world, stop skulking in the shadows? Stage a vampire coup and make them the ruling class. Nothing could go wrong there. Continue reading

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Filed under Archetypes and Genre

Dying in Fiction 103: Deal with the Supernatural for Long Enough

Within fiction there are certain codes, ingrained enough in our collective psyche that, hypothetically, if we were to end up stranded in a made-up world, we, as geeks and fiction aficionados, would sort of know what to do to stay alive.

It’s a dangerous business being a fictional character. As if life wasn’t hard enough, you’re caught and contracted into the business of propelling along a story, and that means having constant drama flung at you by the godly hands of your writers. They’ve got to keep the audience invested, see, whether that means piquing their curiosity about the future of your love life or scaring the bejeezus out of them with life-or-death suspense. My understanding of television writing comes down to this: it’s a group of people in a room with some pens and paper and a whiteboard, rubbing their hands together and going “Okay, team. How can we mess around with everyone’s lives this season?”

Not even kidding there. I listened to a seminar on it at a writer’s festival I went to, but that’s an irrelevant detail except that it allows me to waft around the fact I visit writer’s festivals and am clearly a deeply cultured human being. The point is, screenwriters are in the biz of cramming as much drama into their characters’ lives as they can to make their creations as engaging as possible. In any long running series, it’s inevitable that at one point or another they’d have to start running out. After all, there are only so many times you can raise the stakes before it gets ridiculous. When scraping the bottom of the proverbial barrel with a creative spatula, writers are often faced with the option of the ultimate dramatic device: kill off a main character.

If we’re talking about anything set in the real world, this can be a serious move that many executives, team members and fans would rebel against in terror. But if your show resides in a universe where the supernatural is putty in its writers’ hands, then you’ll find there’s much more leeway, and, as the hero, much more of a chance you’ll be horribly murdered. Because they can bring you back. Continue reading

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Done to Undeath: Alex watches Being Human

Being Human

Vampires, werewolves, ghosts! You’ve seen it all a million and one times before. And Toby Whithouse knows this, and how to make it work.

Being Human offers virtually no explanation of the supernatural creatures it stars and deals with, because it knows that we’ve seen it all before. I was surprised, watching it, that the first episode introduces the characters and explains who is what in a very brief opening segment and then launches straight into the story. No explanation of how werewolves work, or vampire lore, or ghost physics, because it’s so ingrained in our popular culture that it’s assumed knowledge.

Now, what if we put them all together into one house in Bristol? It’s like a roommate dom-com but with one of the buds howling at the moon every month, one fighting his addiction to blood and one trying to figure out what her unfinished business is and making lots of tea that she can’t drink. Continue reading

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