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Why you should be watching Being Human.

I feel as though I should pimp Being Human to all and sundry. I had my doubts in the first week but it turned out that it was indeed just the sheer amount of exposition the writers had to get through to turn from finale to new story strands.

The second episode last week was bang back on form and this week had me yelling swearwords at the TV. I love being shocked like that. It's very frustrating that so few people that I know talk about it, just as it is with Spooks.

I know that fandom/people/whatever have moved on to Twitter, Facebook and other places which do not encourage greater discussion, but I do miss the days when you'd get a collective mass update of reviews every time something aired. The only show which seems to provoke that sort of reaction now is Supernatural, and I am not sure I can textually render how unlikely I am to watch any more of that show (or indeed any show without women in major ongoing roles. Apparently I can forgive all manner of fail except lack of female protagonists)

Being Human remains my favourite show at the moment, if for no other reason than that it has twice shocked the crap out of me already. At first I thought tonight's revelation was a giant cheat, a twist pulled out of the writers' collective uber-arse, then I watched the repeat at midnight and, lo, I had just missed the pitter-patter of very tiny anvils.

The interplay of action and consequence continues to power this series in a very pleasing way. We might have cheered when Herrick was removed by George at the end of season one, but it has wrecked everything thereafter.

The battle against Herrick caused Annie to miss her date with the afterlife and now she has something malevolent pursuing her. Mitchell colluded in the removal of Herrick and now the vampires are unorganised, out of control and about to be unprotected, so he steps into the darkness to try to stop them killing. George killed someone, scratched Nina by accident and now he has lost his innocence and his love. Nina was turned by George and now can't bear to be with him. It's all come apart in their hands, not because of outside forces but rather because of their own actions. I love that.

While I find the vampire angst in general tedious in the extreme, I am happy to watch Mitchell take on hopeless tasks, such as organising vicious killers into not killing, and trying to date -- I am not sure I buy Mitchell being as completely crap at trying to date as he was here; he seemed quite good at it last series. And I loved his hissy fit about Marigold gloves and bonding in pissiness with George at the BBC moving the times of The Real Hustle

This series, George and Mitchell have carried the main plot burden and Annie has been the light relief. This was true in the early part of last season too, so I am hoping that her story will be foregrounded next week. Something is after Annie, something that has temporarily removed her ability to manifest to anyone other than Mitchell and George, and I want to know what's happening.

She has a lovely relationship with George, alternately cajoling and bullying him into reengaging with the world, but I miss her affectionate partnership with Mitchell and that tentative friendship she had with Nina. And above all, I miss Nina.

As predicted, the werewolf chamber in episode one is going to reappear next week, and Nina will be in it. I may have bitten my jumper in angst when she said her final goodbyes to George, presumably having been promised a cure by Creepy McTombface.

But I yelled out loud at the reveal that the doctor Mitchell had been failing to romance was in fact the professor who was referred to at the end of last season. I thought it was a cheat but on the rewatch there are just enough hints planted previously that it's not a con.

Well played show. Well played.

* * *
I've been doing some reading lately. Yesterday, M finally persuaded me to see Avatar in 3D at the IMAX in Greenwich with him. He said I couldn't possibly appreciate it until I saw it in 3D and bugger me if he wasn't right. It's still stupid and cheesy but lord it's so pretty when it's that big. After that the idea of watching Take Me Out on ITV wasn't very appealing so I read Juliet, Naked, which is Nick Hornby's latest.

Juliet, Naked is basically High Fidelity from the girlfriend's point of view, only the man in it has half the charm and almost none of the ability to mend his ways that Rob has. Annie lives with Duncan, who is obsessed with the singer-songwriter Tucker Crowe, who made several albums culminating in a coruscating break-up album called Juliet, after which he disappeared.

The charmless Duncan is what Annie has settled for. They live in a battered seaside town, and have no children – a fact which bothers Annie. One day someone turns up the early demo tapes for Juliet, and sends a preview CD to Duncan. Overjoyed and intoxicated with the prospect of being the first person to review this first new nugget of information in two decades, he gives it a glowing review. Annie, who is pissed off with both Duncan and the idea that she's wasted 15 years of her life on him, writes exactly the opposite. And then Tucker Crowe writes to Annie, agreeing with her.

Firstly, the aspects of the book I liked. It's incredibly good on the politics of internet fandom. While this is male music fandom, Hornby is good at evoking the batshittery and oneupmanship one sees in any fannish milieu, of the way that BNFs vie with each other and deliver their words from on high. It also makes somewhat uncomfortable reading for anyone who has ever behaved in an obsessively fannish manner, given that Tucker's devotees are seen as creepy and intrusive. There's not much lauding of the fannish sense of community here.

Hornby is also wonderful at undercutting what could have been a soppy romance between Tucker and Annie when they finally meet (Tucker is in ill health and Annie realises that she's behaving like a nagging girlfriend to the man she has a slow-burning crush on). Annie's innate sensibleness makes her very unsuitable to go off having mad affairs with mysterious Americans.

Tucker is a great creation, sarcastic, sometimes irritating, totally feckless and yet charming in a way that evokes a sort of protective instinct. You spend a good part of the book wishing that he could see that he had created something of value in his music. He sees his relationship with his youngest son Jackson as his last chance at a human credential and he's trying to be a better man. The fact that he has written off his other daughters and sons is less delightful.

And yet somehow, despite being about three subjects that are really interesting -- relationships, music, internet fandom -- I was dissatisfied with the book.

Firstly, Nick Hornby writes about Gooleness, which is clearly meant to be some amalgam of Goole and Cleethorpes or similar, with the kind of baffled contempt you get from a lot of southerners who cannot understand why one would ever want to live in the north, when clearly the only possible places you would want to live are North London, New York and Tuscany. His northerners are deeply unconvincing -- there's little of the ready banter, dour humour or sense of fishbowl life you get in such places. Nor is there much sense of place, beyond descriptions of the wind off the North Sea and knackered fish and chip shops. Though Annie works in a museum which is putting on an exhibition about the town's heyday, you don't really get much sense that Hornby has any idea what that heyday would have entailed (though he's not above using it for a bit of pathos every now and then)

I suppose we're meant to think that Duncan lives there so that he is a big fish in a small pond and can swim close to the surface of life there feeling superior to everyone else. However, one also gets the impression that Hornby thinks it's a fate worse than death to be in a small northern town, and certainly a fate that Annie is too good for.

To which I say a hearty fuck off to you and your metropolitan southern snobbery. (albeit one tempered by the fact that I have lived in London for more than 10 years now).

Nor am I altogether fond of his portrayals of other women in this book who are, save for Annie and her friend, as big a bunch of airheads, bitter old cows and harpies as you could wish not to meet. There's an amused pity for the sadsack men, like Duncan or the Northern Soul dancers Gav and Barnesy, but the women are mostly just appalling.

And finally the ending is, according to your preference, majestically open or maddeningly opaque. I fall on the maddeningly opaque side myself. I like the idea of an open ending leaving room for thoughtful personal canon creation, but this barely gives a starting place. It's as though he couldn't be arsed any more and thought "eh, let them make the rest up", as if it were a choose-your-own-adventure book with the last twenty pages ripped out.

I wanted to like it far more than I did.





I don't know if anyone made it this far, but if you did, here is my favourite radio documentary pretty much ever. It is a 1987 (or so) BBC World Service exploration of Ravel's Bolero. It's just members of an orchestra talking about what it's like to play the piece, its history and so on, cut to the actual music. I think it's genius in the editing and I love the way they talk about the piece -- even when it's to say they don't like it and consider it a joke.

Tomtickertatom

Comments

( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
leiliaxf
Jan. 25th, 2010 04:21 am (UTC)
I second your love of Being Human--a friend of mine turned me on to it when it started playing on BBC America. I love that it's smart, I love that there are consequences to actions. It's just...yeah. Brilliant. I don't know if season 2 has started yet over here--I need to check into that.

Never read any Nick Hornsby, although I did enjoy the movie High Fidelity very much.
infinitemonkeys
Jan. 26th, 2010 12:46 am (UTC)
It's a BBC America co-production so it will be on at some point soon.

As for Nick Hornby, he's a writer I like a lot, though in his desire to leave things as messy and loose-ended and ambiguous as life, he's made his books frustrating to read.
musesfool
Jan. 25th, 2010 04:28 am (UTC)
I will eventually catch up on Being Human! I just haven't gotten there yet!
cofax7
Jan. 25th, 2010 02:59 pm (UTC)
Yeah me too. I'm ... kind of overwhelmed at the moment.
infinitemonkeys
Jan. 26th, 2010 12:47 am (UTC)
I will not chastise you. I just think you would *love* Mitchell and George. It hits people in the Sirius/Remus place. And then there's Annie, who is a whole other level of fabulous. And an episode which is VERY SPECIFICALLY about the awesomeness of weirdo eighties music. And also a ghost called Gilbert.
vonniek
Jan. 25th, 2010 04:46 am (UTC)
I found the open ending to Juliet, Naked exasperating. Parts of the book were terrific (I thought Duncan was a spot-on creation -- reminded me quite a few of actual online people I know, down to the obsession about HBO shows and contempt for anything mainstream) but once Tucker and Annie met, it kind of fizzled off. Even without any awareness of its regional issues, I found it an unsatisfactory affair overall.

I have all of S1 of Being Human downloaded and I must get to it soonish! Of the people I know, I think troyswann (Salieri) is the biggest fan of the show.

Edited at 2010-01-25 06:39 am (UTC)
infinitemonkeys
Jan. 26th, 2010 12:51 am (UTC)
Oh thank God you said it. I always wonder whether I am being some rube-like absolutist who demands proper endings that go somewhere. It didn't have to be definitive or anything, I just wanted to know what had happened to Annie after Tucker went home.

You're right about Duncan though. He is so incredibly like a fellow I work with that I constantly kept picturing him when I was reading the scenes between him and Annie.

Being Human this year is tremendous. The first episode I had a few issues with but last week felt back as if it was back on track. All I ask is that my favourite shows make me yell at the telly in a good way.
se_parsons
Jan. 25th, 2010 06:31 am (UTC)
I have season one on my TIVO at the moment and mean to get caught up shortly. Sadly, I can't get the newest ones to talk about THEM, but I will be able to talk about the show a bit.

Here is an obnoxious Supernatural Icon.
infinitemonkeys
Jan. 26th, 2010 12:54 am (UTC)
The icons are not obnoxious, nor is the fic -- and thank you for sending me enough shows that the fic makes sense. It's just that there aren't enough women to drag me into full-time watching, no matter how awesome Dean is.
se_parsons
Jan. 26th, 2010 03:12 am (UTC)
It is basically my only show that has a lack of women, so one among many doesn't bother me so much.
(Deleted comment)
infinitemonkeys
Jan. 26th, 2010 01:00 am (UTC)
I think you're right that this part of fandom is probably still alive and kicking. I think it's me that's drifted away from those vast, buzzing fandoms. It doesn't help that my first online fandom experience was in a big, buzzing fandom back when there were fewer fandoms to choose from and less ability to split into discrete groups devoted to OTPs.

I am constantly amazed that there isn't more of a fandom for Spooks or Being Human.

And I am amazed that there isn't a Boyband slasher fandom for Take That. Look at all the canon! The bitterness and rows! The rehab! The UFOs!

(if you've found one, please don't tell me. Like the thriving slash community based around Liverpool FC/the Spanish national team, I am glad it exists if that's what tickles the pickles of the young folk nowadays but I am probably happier not knowing.)
parthenia14
Jan. 26th, 2010 09:18 am (UTC)
There's a nascent Being Human fandom, both on the LJ community and on the BBC blog itself; I think the official blog rather outdoes everything else right now and the only reason I don't go there to play is that I'd rather be unspoiled and I haven't made up my mind how the CENSSA videos play into all of that. I might start watching the older ones.

infinitemonkeys
Jan. 28th, 2010 12:42 am (UTC)
I've seen lots of people about the place, but it seemed as though there were more people playing in the fandom last year than this, and more people commenting. Maybe there were just more people on LJ then, who knows?

Last year the blog had sneak links to places where you could download whole episodes a day or two early. I miss that.
franthewndrhrse
Jan. 25th, 2010 08:26 pm (UTC)
I'm still waiting to hear when BBCAmerica will be airing BH second season. When? When?
infinitemonkeys
Jan. 26th, 2010 01:00 am (UTC)
It's a co-production so it can't be long, unless the BH American reboot means they've signed some kind of deal.
ravurian
Jan. 25th, 2010 11:25 pm (UTC)
I rewatched the pilot of Being Human this evening, just for something to do (I'm full of cold in a miserably male sort of way), and I knew that I had loved it when it first aired but I'd forgotten how much. I have grown accustomed to the Mitchell and Annie of the series proper; I even love them, now. But the Mitchell and Annie of the pilot were extraordinary. I would've loved to see the series that would've formed around them. Mitchell-Prime - vaguely Jarvis Cocker'ish - conveyed a sense of age and humour and ennui and potential in a way that Mitchell-Proper just doesn't, IMO. I could well believe that Mitchell-Prime had seen several ages pass, in part because he had a sense of being slightly askew, a sense that he didn't quite fit with the present, even while passing as a contemporary boy. And Annie! Annie was so dry and vivid and heartbreaking. I would've adored their series.

Which is not to say that I don't love the series proper, because I do. I love where they're taking it, and how they're playing it, and that they keep doing things that I don't see coming. It's fabulous, truly.
infinitemonkeys
Jan. 26th, 2010 01:09 am (UTC)
I understand your wistful wish to see what it would have been with Guy Flanagan and Andrea Riseborough. When I watched the pilot I loved Original Mitchell; he was so languid and strange. I think you're right about Mitchell-Proper too. For all that he's charming and haunted, he doesn't seem like someone who has lived more than 100 years. There's still too much life and love in him, he seems too modern somehow.

I do prefer Leonora Critchlow as Annie though. I like her sweetness and enthusiasm. And while I would usually watch Andrea Riseborough read the phone book, I didn't like her so well in this.

Anyway, I hope you feel better soon.
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )