Monday, 31 January 2011

'BEING HUMAN' 3.2 - "Adam's Family"

Monday, 31 January 2011

As a comedy-drama, I prefer it when Being Human's tackling serious subjects and significant situations with humour as a pressure release valve, as it did last week. "Adam's Family" was ostensibly an example of the show doing exactly that, but I thought its black comedy suffocated the sincerity and, frankly, Brian Dooley's script wasn't funny or dramatic enough for me to care. In some instances, it was also too self-consciously silly for my taste.

Adam (Craig Roberts) is a 46-year-old vampire trapped in the body of a teenage boy, since at least 1985, when his sympathetic mum and dad started to quench his rapacious thirst by offering him their own blood. It was an arrangement that has led to his parent's premature deaths, and Adam being mollycoddled into arrested development. Having spent the past few decades literally suckling his parents "milk", Adam's suddenly forced to cope with the realities of his vampire independence, after he's taken under the wing of George (Russell Tovey) and Nina (Sinead Keenan), to the dismay of Mitchell (Aidan Turner), who doesn't want a voracious young vampire as a lodger now he's resumed his blood abstinence.

Meanwhile, Annie (Lenora Crichlow) was so grateful to have been liberated from Purgatory by the selfless Mitchell that she decided to become his "guardian angel" and help him get a job at a local hospital. And later, Mitchell was approached by a representative of the vampire "Old Ones", affable Richard Hargreaves (Mark Lewis Jones), who want him to leave for South America to escape the police investigation into the "Box Tunnel 20" train massacre.

There was undoubtedly a strong idea beating at the heart of this episode, concerning parental responsibilities. The four regular characters offer us different perspectives on life with a supernatural condition, but Adam's arrival offered something relatively fresh; a smart aleck adolescent unafraid to make lewd or disparaging remarks. Unfortunately, while it was a fun idea to see everyone cope with morose Adam and his petulant quips, he lost his edge when he was palmed off to Mr Hargreaves and his wife Emma (Melanie Walters), who were soon revealed to be bourgeoisie vampires who siphon blood from a willing "gimp" (Morgan James) they keep locked in their basement, and host depraved parties with their fanged friends. Adam quickly shrunk into the background once the oddball Hargreaves's stole the plot, in a storyline that wound up feeling like a feeble League Of Gentlemen sketch.

My issues with Annie reared their head again, as I find Lenora Crichlow's lively performance often becomes irritating, particularly when she ruined Mitchell's job interview with hospital administrator Nita Mawulawde (Anita Reynolds) by accidentally making him appear to be insane. A scene ripped straight out of the Ghost Comedy Writing handbook that fell flat because it wasn't inventive with the clich├ęd "man talking to a ghost looks crazy to normal people" idea. Crichlow's far better when she's given serious moments to bite into (like her lovely scene with Mitchell on the pier), as broad comedy just feels forced with her.

On the plus side, partnering Annie with Mitchell and teasing us with the potential of a romance might help keep Annie more interesting than usual, as ghosts are so difficult to write (even with the irritating fact Annie can touch people and objects, which surely makes her more Invisible Woman than spirit.) The downside is that we'll maybe see less of Mitchell and George as buddies, and their close friendship is a big part of the reason Being Human works. In bringing Nina into their social circle, she seems to have become glued to George's hip and, while Tovey and Keenan are funny together (remember last week's prison break?), a part of me pines for the classic trio with Nina as a semi-regular. Obviously, TV shows evolve and we should be glad Being Human isn't lazily resetting things every year (as the Syfy remake is more liable to), so I'll reserve final judgement on the wisdom of splitting the characters into Mitchell/Annie and George/Nina double-acts, for now.

Craig Roberts (Young Dracula) left a good impression as Adam, despite being lumbered with awkward sexual dialogue even The Office's Gareth Keenan would be too embarrassed to say aloud, but it was a shame his character was overwhelmed by the Hargreaves's when the story shifted focus. The whole situation with George and Nina leaving Adam in the care of the Hargreaves' wasn't believable, either, which the script essentially admitted and tried to turn into a joke when they had seconds thoughts about their decision immediately after returning home.

Overall, I predict I'll be in the minority over this episode, if the Twitter reaction is anything to go by, but "Adam's Family" just didn't work for me. It was two half-decent ideas welded together, each one sucking the life from the other. I'd have preferred to see more focus on Adam as a problem child for the characters to contend with, which was working well until the Hargreaves and their hackneyed sex party took over.

Asides

  • Knowing that Aidan Turner's joined Peter Jackson's The Hobbit, there's a distinct possibility he'll be written out of Being Human soon. Three years is a fairly long time for an actor to remain in a role that, frankly, doesn't seem to be offering much new for him. We're being teased that Mitchell's destined to die from a "wolf-shaped bullet" this year, so who else thinks Mitchell's a goner?
  • You may not have known this, but "Adam's Family" also works as setup to the online webseries Becoming Human, which follows Adam's life.
  • Week two and there's still no sign of the resurrected Herrick. Or the "McNairwolves", which was more of a shame. I've copyrighted the term "McNairwolves", by the way.
WRITER: Brian Dooley
DIRECTOR: Colin Teague
TRANSMISSION: 30 January 2011, BBC3/HD, 9PM