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Does 'Being Human' Have a Future Without Russell Tovey?

With both George and Mitchell gone, fans wonder what's next for the BBC series

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George (Russell Tovey)

BEING HUMAN SEASON 3 -- George (Russell Tovey)

Touchpaper Television and BBC AMERICA
Updated November 20, 2011

Russell Tovey, who plays the doe-eyed werewolf George on the original BBC version of Being Human, has let it be known that the fourth season -- which has been produced but which is still yet to air -- will be his last on the show.

Co-star Aidan Turner, who played the compellingly conflicted vampire Mitchell, left the show by way of a dramatic sacrificial death scene at the end of season 3. And in breaking the news to fans in Britain's Guardian newspaper, Tovey confirmed what we've always known: the core of this show was the deep-rooted, complex, and evolving relationship between Mitchell and George.

Sad (and Uncertain) Departure

"I've actually left Being Human," Tovey told The Guardian last week, "but no one [outside of the show] knows yet. Aidan left to film The Hobbit in New Zealand and going on without him on this fourth series felt strange."

Tovey himself is clearly saddened at having had to break the news, apologizing to fans via his Twitter feed as a coda to his announcement there, which followed the Guardian interview.

What's worse is that no one has clarified when exactly George falls out of the Being Human storyline. Is it a dramatic departure at the end of the forthcoming season 4, as with Mitchell, or sometime along the way? There were rumors earlier in the year that Tovey was not in every episode of season 4; they were denied at the time, but now the question has been reopened. (My guess is that George might be missing from two or three episodes but will resurface in the season finale.)

Vampire and Werewolf

Toby Whithouse's original inspiration for the series involved three supernatural individuals -- a vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost -- rooming together and trying to reject their monstrous sides by living normal, human lives.

But from the beginning, the powerful connection between George and Mitchell, later revealed to go back some years before the start of the series, drove the storylines in an additional and equally fertile direction. The bond of friendship between vampire and werewolf in the face of the traditional violent contempt the two races have for each other -- well established throughout the series -- is as much a rebellion against rigid conformism as their attempt to live as humans, and even became a point of contention polarizing Mitchel from his bloodsucking brethren.

What's Next?

Tovey himself need have no worries about his future: he's a sharp and much-admired talent. He's been working on another show (called Him & Her) and has a guest spot in the next season of the Benedict Cumberbatch/Martin Freeman Sherlock (speaking of The Hobbit), with no fewer that four feature film supporting roles due to show up on cinema screens next year.

No, we're not worried about Tovey. But we are worried about Being Human without George.

Tovey wants fans to have faith in the show's future and in Whithouse's genius even without its founding vampire-werewolf axis. "With Being Human the story can definitely go on and on," Tovey insisted. "Toby still runs it and they can do all sorts ... add giants and robots!" Giants and robots? Seriously? Now if he'd said "zombies" more people might have perked up and said "Hey, yeah!" -- but Tovey doesn't sound like he's being serious here. (To be fair, Tovey seldom sounds like he's being serious when speaking extemporaneously.)

Now, it's true that the format of Being Human allows for a great deal of versatility, and could include both different werewolves and vampires and/or different kinds of anthropomorphic monsters. ("Hi, I'm the jackal-headed god Anubis. I'll be taking the garret room, then? Fine.")

Would a New Team Work?

But the development of Being Human has firmly rooted the fans' investment in the show in the George-and-Mitchell dynamic -- yes, and ghost Annie, played by Lenora Crichlow, and werewolf/girlfriend Nina, played by Sinead Keenan, but to a lesser extent. We might have been willing to watch a lopsided, but still trenchant, fourth season in which George and the others deal with the after-effects of Mitchell's death. But unless that investment can be transferred to a relationship as potent as George and Mitchell's, it's hard to see a strong future for the UK Being Human.

That could happen. If Tovey gave Whithouse enough warning, he will have crafted season 4 to build a new foundation for the show around the very strong and versatile characters of Annie and Nina joined with new characters (hopefully not giants and robots) given a suitable build-up over three or more episodes, so that going into season 5, if there is one, we can have made a kind of transition. Even that's not a foolproof plan, considering that Robin Hood followed that playbook in its third season, attempting to establish a character called Archer to replace Robin, and the whole enterprise fell flat on its face.

The ironic alternative if the shift to a new foundation doesn't happen would be that the love-it-or-hate-it North American version, now entering its second season on Syfy, might represent the future of the Being Human franchise -- pending, of course, any career opportunities for its talented stars, Sam Huntington and Sam Witwer, that may emerge in future years.

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