GeekPlanetOnline’s resident telly addict, Gillian Coyle, likes to write about the box almost as much as she likes to watch it. From soap operas to space operas, if you need some thoughts on a television show she’s your woman…
Almost every TV show has a star, but it isn't always the one its creators intend. Look at Life On Mars. John Simm's Sam Tyler may have been the main character, but Philip Glenister's Gene Hunt was the star. Ashes to Ashes survived without Tyler, and even the time it took for replacement main character Alex Drake to settle in, but I don't think many believe it could have survived, let alone thrived, without The Guv'nor.
When my beloved Babylon 5 first started, its main character was Commander Jeffrey Sinclair. We could debate for years who the star of season one was (and let's face it, we have), but it certainly wasn't Sinclair. But when JM Straczynski realised he needed another character to carry the main arc, Sinclair left to be replaced with Captain John Sheridan. From the moment Bruce Boxleitner appeared on screen, B5 had a main character who was also a star.
Some main characters work, others less so. The best writers and showrunners are good at recognising the difference between main character and star character, others not so much. I think sometimes they get blinded by the characters they love. This can lead to viewer frustration, when the showrunners focus on their favourites, while the fans are crying out for more of the star. For an example, I'd give Supernatural's Sam and Ruby storyline. We were supposed to love Ruby, right up until her revelation as tool of Lilith. Her betrayal was supposed to hurt us. But we hated her and just wanted Dean to gank her and smack some sense into the brother who's supposed to be our favourite. I think I could happily watch Supernatural without Sam. Without Dean though, there'd be no show.
In general, shows can survive the loss of their main character. If they lose the star though, it's an altogether more worrying time. Two of the current crop of world-conquering British genre shows are defying this.
With the end of series two of Misfits came the news that Robert Sheehan was leaving, and with him the irrepressible Nathan. Honestly, I wasn't that worried. For me, Simon and Kelly were at least equal to Nathan. I was curious, but I had faith that the show could continue without him. Come the start of series three, and my faith was rewarded with the near-seamless integration of Rudy, the continued evolution of Simon, and Kelly nutting Hitler.
But with the end of series three came an altogether more worrying loss: Simon and Alesha. For me, Simon has always been the star character. Nathan was just the loudest. Simon is a geek. He recognises zombies when he sees them and knows what to do. He knows that with great power comes great responsibility. His character has evolved far more than any of the others; I found the development of his relationship with Alesha unutterably beautiful; it's through Simon that most of the brilliant music on the show's soundtrack is introduced; and yes, in the interests of full disclosure, I have a slight crush on him.
I completely recognise the necessity of Simon and Alesha's departure to close their circular story. But I'm worried.
Kelly is still there. Rudy has, as I said, fitted in marvellously. Curtis? Well, he still needs some fleshing out, and after three series it's getting a little ridiculous. I like Seth, I like the dramatic possibilities suggested by his power, but he's still a second-stringer. I'm not giving up hope though, but it really is hope this time rather than faith.
Being Human is a different prospect altogether. Before the end of series three, I knew Mitchell had to leave, and I was completely at peace with that. He had to leave, not because Aidan Turner was off to play at Dwarfs, but because Mitchell's story was done.
Similarly to the Misfits situation, this didn't worry me at all. Yes, he's pretty, but Mitchell was never the star character. For most people, that would be Russell Tovey's George. Or, if you're me, Sinead Keenan's Nina. As long as we have them, with the addition of Annie and potentially one or two more characters, Turner's departure is not a problem.
As soon as Tovey announced his departure in November, I started getting worried. Apart from the loss of George, I couldn't see how Whithouse could conceivably keep Nina as part of the main cast without her partner. So Keenan's recent revelation that she was also leaving didn't come as a surprise, more a confirmation of what I already suspected.
Really, I should be okay with this. After all, I'm a huge fan of the brilliant Skins. One of the conceits of this college-set show, which has allowed it to continue past two series without becoming 90210, with students approaching their thirties, is the wholesale replacement of its cast every two years. Like a real college. Sidebar, I'm really hoping Glee has the courage to do the same at the end of this season.
So I'm okay with accepting the same show with a new cast. The difference between Mitchell, and George and Nina is, as I've already said, Mitchell's story was finished. I don't think George and Nina's story is. I know a lot of people hate so-called soapy elements in genre shows, but for me relationships are a key part of any story about people, be they human, alien or occasionally furry. I've been keenly anticipating the implications of a werewolf baby, of seeing Whithouse and team explore what parenthood means in this context. Parenthood is not something that is often explored in SF&F television, yet it's a fundamental part of the human experience, surely ripe territory for a show called Being Human. So I guess I'm feeling a little cheated, as well as anxious.
I know that they will, apparently, be making the odd appearance, but can the show be as good as it was without them at its heart? Despite hints of badassness, Annie has never really developed her full potential, and frankly her descent into puppyish worship of Mitchell last series made me want to hurl things at the telly. I would never actually hurl things at the telly. That's where the telly comes from. Sorry. Distracted. Anyway, maybe this year will be Annie's year to shine?
We do have the excellent Tom (Michael Socha) taking over the main werewolf role. I'm looking forward to some interesting development there. We have a new main vampire in Damien Malony's Hal. Unknown quantity, I guess we'll see.
Maybe it's not so bleak after all. But damn I'm going to miss that feisty little woman who can hold apart furious vampires and werewolves twice her size with no more than a glance.