Tune in, switch off - Blood, guts and bore

22nd January 2010 at 00:00

I would rather my ghosts were Victorian scary strangers than modern-day, cheery mates to hang around with at the pub. I like Turn of the Screw-type supernatural - dark and dangerous like that chocolate which is nearly all cocoa, as mysterious as a bat flit in a graveyard, with all the cunning of a dispatch of demons. Such spirits, out to destroy a world they can no longer inhabit, have me hiding behind the curtains, screaming for my garlic tablets.

But the ghost, werewolf and vampire trio of flatmates in the return of Being Human (BBC3), are twenty-somethings, trying to live normal lives, despite struggling with their unusual afflictions. Their worries are about the next full moon, walking in parks after dark and just being dead, especially as they appear larger than life. They could be three NQTs realising what schools are like, exchanging notes on difficult classes.

Yet even off-the-wall classes seem desirable when the alternative is waking up naked in the woods with a half-eaten stag for company. Werewolf George (Russell Tovey) had a stag night to remember and he wasn't even getting married. Dancing with deer spiced up his day job as a hospital porter and there was plenty to eat. He also got to have "weresex" with a ghost, giving new meaning to the term transsexual. In today's supernatural society, even the boundaries of acceptable inhuman behaviour are shifting.

The ghost mocked George for keeping his bits covered. But George had no such modesty about revealing a fine set of werewolf teeth. I reckon he would need to get those gnashers fixed on the NHS though, as it would cost a mint to go private.

George's girlfriend, Nina, blamed him for turning her into a werewolf, too. He scratched her. That's all it took. She didn't even believe in homeopathy before her transformation. Suddenly she is bursting, more hog than wolf-like from her clothes, ready to tear out someone's throat. And she no longer wants to have sex with him. That's why the lady is a vamp.

If these were the good guys, the baddies were evangelical Christians, those clean-shaven, Sunday-suited enthusiasts that normally do door-to-door spiritual sales. Professor Jaggat and his sidekick, the cold-hearted Kemp, were determined to destroy all supernatural creatures. They engaged in violent experiments, using something that looked like the Large Hadron Collider to squeeze the blood out of their victims. I prefer the garlic cure.

As all this sounds like pantomime, I was expecting a sprinkling of vampire jokes. You know the kind of thing: "Don't let your soup get cold or it will clot." It didn't sink so low, but I rather wish it had. Where were the poltergeist punch lines, quick quips, with the sharpness of a bat bite to surprise? Supposedly a comedy drama with lots of fans, this may be "cult occult", but I found it not so much panto as pants

Ray Tarleton is principal of South Dartmoor Community College in Ashburton, Devon.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today