Is BBC America's 'Demons' Worth Your Time?


Strip the mythology of Bram Stoker's "Dracula" of all the subtlety and vampire bits, add a healthy dose of some gender-reversed "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," and you end up with "Demons," produced by ITV in the UK and now running on BBC America.  You do not, unfortunately, end up with a show that's particularly watchable.

The premise is familiar enough to anyone who's ever seen a movie or TV show, ever -- adolescent Luke Van Helsing (Christian Cooke) is a less-than-exceptional student whose life is changed forever when his never-before-seen godfather Rupert Galvin (Philip Glenister) pops by to inform him that his dead father was the most recent in a line of monster hunters descended from Abraham Van Helsing (not to be confused with Gabriel Van Helsing from the equally awful "Van Helsing"). Which means that Luke is now being tapped in to join the fight against "inhumans," who hang out in underground bars and wear a lot of hooded sweatshirts, with some help from Rupert, the blind Mina Harker, and his best friend Ruby (Holly Grainger).  The inhumans don't seem to have much of a plan, or really offer any threat to humanity beyond grossing them out occasionally, but Luke's gotta fight them, so fight them he shall.

Although the show's cast features some great actors, including Glenister (best known as the gleefully brutal DCI Hunt from "Life on Mars" and "Ashes to Ashes"), Zoe Tapper (a survivor of last year's entertaining apocalypse series "Survivors") and Mackenzie Crook (the subtlely yet perversely weird Gareth from the original "Office"), they're shamefully wasted on the material given.  For one thing, Glenister is inexplicably playing an American, and his attempts at a tough-guy generic U.S. accent are pretty painful.  For another, Crook's involvement is limited primarily to some villainesque preening, a ridiculous fake nose, and one truly awful wire stunt.

Beyond the poor-quality CGI effects -- especially the all-computer-generated monkey-sized demons who occasionally pester Luke -- the writing and directing manages to strangle every ounce of life out of the tired yet classic premise.  An example of the show's lack of subtlety, from the pilot: When Ruby is kidnapped by some of the evil demons, "Ruby" by the Kaiser Chiefs plays as Luke goes running down the street to save her.  Lyrics: "Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, Ruby/Ahaa-ahaa-ahaa."

It's really the effort to emulate other shows, while never managing to create a comprehensive world of its own, that proves most offensive. "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," as mentioned before, is the clearest influence -- Luke's supernatural-fighting powers are pretty much exactly the same as Buffy's, and hilariously, the name Rupert Galvin isn't all that different from Rupert Giles (Buffy's Watcher guide to the world of the paranormal).  If there was an original idea to be found in "Demons," perhaps there'd be real value to it.  But as long as much better shows remain available on BBC America, and on DVD, your time would be better spent elsewhere.