There’s always a push in television to appeal to the ideal, young, cool audience. It rarely works. Maybe it’s because the people making TV are middle aged and paranoid, but the images of young life presented tend to be either repetitive or just wrong. But that’s fine, shows like Channel 4’s Skins take the concept and make it so ridiculous that it becomes stupidly fun. The BBC, though, is not good at it. Their shows can be brilliant when they aim above or below the teenaged line, for example, “Being Human”, being pretty mature and with an adult cast, is for late teens and twenty year olds and is great. Doctor Who is a kids’ show, with big moral lessons and jokes, and it’s great. Both of these shows are also, semi-ironically, watched by audiences far wider than their target demographics, including teenagers, but for some reason they keep on going for that elusive, ideal 11-19 age group.
17 year old Paul is an outcast. Only he’s a TV outcast, so really he’s quirkily attractive, dresses like a TopMan model and everyone tells us he’s an outcast. His only friend in the world is Mac, who since he doubles as the comic relief, makes film references every second line so that we know he’s a geek.
One night, the pair of them are out exploring an abandoned building and run into Neil; a middle aged man who is in the middle of fighting off a demony-thing. They flee, but Paul starts having nightmares about the end of the world, and it turns out that he’s some sort of messiah. Now he’s teamed up with Neil and his group of ‘Angelics’. Together they must fight against ghosts who want to become human.
It all sounds like good, ridiculous fun. And it could have been, but the handling is so awkward and clunky that the whole show fails.
Everything is so dry, so drab. From the washed out filming to the lacklustre performances, it’s impossible to care about anything that happens. Take Paul. We’re obviously meant to relate to him, he’s the main character, he’s the way into the world presented. The problem is that The Fades tells us about its characters rather than showing it. In the first episode Paul’s love interest tells him that he’s special because he’s different. So far we’ve seen nothing that makes him different, other than the supernatural stuff that just started happening and that he wets his bed. She doesn’t even know about the bed wetting.
Even outside of the characters there are plot point problems which normally stem from things that are supposed to sound cool but just end up confusing. We’re told by Neil that the ghosts are the titular ‘Fades’. They don’t tell us why- these ghosts explicitly don’t fade; if they pass on they get beamed up by light. Why are they Fades? It’s stupid.
Cutting between awkward jokes and bad drama, this show is just frustrating.