The strange case of Being Human raises all kinds of questions about how much influence the public should have in determining what goes on to our screens. Now, halfway through the first run of the supernatural flatshare series, it's the right time (of the night) to have a think about what the fans and the Beeb got wrong and what they got right.
Flashback to last year, and the Lily Allen-themed rebrand of BBC3 heralded a series of drama pilots, one or more of which would be picked up for series. There was no public vote to speak of, and the first, Jamie Hewlett's ridiculous Phoo Action had already been green-lighted.
Next up was Being Human, apparently the result of a desire to combine the BBC's desire for a modern answer to This Life with the latter-day craze for high supernatural concepts. That may sound cynical, but in fact, Being Human worked.
The characters were three twentysomething flatmates with very different problems. Russell Tovey played neurotic geek George, whose "time of the month" saw him turn into a bloodthirsty werewolf, mirroring a human struggle with anger management. In the real world, Guy Flanagan's louche Mitchell would have been an alcoholic – a disorder that squares neatly with what he ended up being: a vampire with a conscience, trying to wean himself off the blood.
Their attempts at being human saw them banding together to rent a house and try to blend in. So they found an enviable property in Bristol that, miraculously, had not been snapped up. The reason? Tenants had been scared off by the meddling of Andrea Riseborough's Annie, who had died in the house a year before, but couldn't bring herself to move on to the next life. The result was that Annie had become an agoraphobe. George and Mitchell, being supernatural creatures themselves, could see her, and agreed to let her stay so they could all help each other manage their conditions. Alin all: a flatshare comedy with added blood and guts. Perfect.
Sci-fi and horror fans went wild, but the BBC weren't sure. They stuck with Phoo Action. But then a journalist from the Reading Chronicle set up an online petition to get a series commission. It's seems unlikely that the 4,000 people who signed it were enough to swing the decision, but the fuss and publicity generated worldwide interest (not least from certain gay websites who wanted to see more of Tovey's naked transformation scenes). Phoo Action was mercifully dropped, and Being Human was commissioned.
But with a few tweaks. Although all three leads were under 30, bosses were still not sure it fitted with the BBC3 demographic. Flanagan and Riseborough were out, replaced with the younger and more glamorous Aidan Turner and Lenora Crichlow in the same roles. And so the messageboards went wild again, with the same cries that greeted the news of Matt Smith's casting as the next Doctor: "They're turning it into Hollyoaks!"
To my mind, BBC3 made the right decision. Nothing against those actors, but their earlier versions of the characters were too close to caricature. The original Mitchell was too stylised – too vampiric, even. Turner plays him perfectly as a bohemian with hidden depths, an old man in a young body.
I was less sure at first about the new Annie, who went from being a smart-talking Tyneside kook to a more standard version of the female leading lady. But that's to insult Crichlow (who was impressive in Sugar Rush). Riseborough's version was played too much for laughs, and as Being Human has gone on, we've realised it isn't a comedy at all.
I love Being Human, and not just because it effortlessly smites ITV's Demons. As a twentysomething male sharing a house with a man and a woman, I can identify with every situation except the rampant bloodlust (and actually, sometimes even that).
You can still catch the first three episodes on iPlayer here. The BBC claims you don't need to see the pilot, but really you do, to understand properly what's going on. It's all over YouTube, so you can judge for yourself.