TV Review: BBC America Offers More Supernatural Drama With ‘The Fades’

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CHICAGO – “My only friend is either a lunatic or Heather Langenkamp.” It’s clever lines like that keep BBC’s “The Fades” from becoming yet-another teen supernatural drama (the Brit’s “The Vampire Diaries,” if you will) along with a relative consistency of tone and with some strong performances. There’s still something about “The Fades” that holds it back from the best that BBC America has to offer — “Being Human,” “Doctor Who,” early “Primeval,” the now-gone “Torchwood” — but it’s worth a look, especially for those of you know who Heather Langenkamp is. Television Rating: 3.5/5.0
Television Rating: 3.5/5.0

Paul (an effective Iain De Caestecker) is a typical horror hero in that he’s the guy who isn’t really all that popular to begin with and finds his awkward days even further problematic when he starts seeing dead people. The title of “The Fades” refers to creatures who have died but not yet passed over the other side. And they’re pissed. And getting more powerful and terrifying. Normal people can’t see them but Paul isn’t normal. He’s also been having apocalyptic nightmares that can’t be explained. Only his best friend Mac (Daniel Kaluuya) truly believes him. His popular sister (Lily Loveless of “Skins”) certainly doesn’t like that her gawky brother has gotten even weirder.

The Fades
The Fades
Photo credit: BBC America

Paul stumbles into the world of the “Angelics,” the people like him who can see the Fades and might know what his dreams mean. Neil (Johnny Harris) brings Paul into the group just as the Fades are getting more dangerous, killing Sarah (Natalie Dormer of “The Tudors”) in the opening scene of the premiere — although given the concept of the show, death isn’t the end. Sarah’s husband (Tom Ellis) happens to be a teacher at Mac & Paul’s school and clearly knows something about the Angelics, the Fades, and maybe even Paul’s role in the whole nightmare. Sophie Wu, Daniela Nardini, and Claire Rushbrook also star.

“The Fades” was created by Jack Thorne, an excellent writer who also created “This is England ‘86,” “Skins,” and “Shameless.” With a production team that includes veterans of “Survivors,” “Waking the Dead,” “Five Days,” and “Doctor Who,” this is clearly a program with a high pedigree and it shows. Production values are high throughout and the premiere is expertly directed, shot, and edited. The cast is more than up to the challenge of the dark material and it’s well-balanced with a nice streak of dark comedy. This is bloody, scary stuff, but Thorne smartly knows that it can’t take itself too seriously.

Supernatural shows seem to be everywhere in the current TV landscape and it’s a presence that’s only going to grow with the success of shows like FX’s “American Horror Story,” AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” and both BBC & Syfy’s “Being Human.” There’s something about dark times in real life that brings on darker times in our fiction. “The Fades” is neither the best of this remarkable genre trend nor the worst. I guess all that really matters is that Heather Langenkamp would approve.

“The Fades” stars Iain De Castecker, Daniel Kaluuya, Lily Loveless, Natalie Dormer, Tom Ellis, Johnny Harris, Sophie Wu, Daniela Nardini, and Claire Rushbrook. It premieres on BBC America on Saturday, January 14th at 8pm CST. content director Brian Tallerico

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