I spotted the trailers for The Fades on the BBC and thought that it looked quite interesting; a dark supernatural thriller airing after the 9 pm watershed. However when I started watching I realized that the show is not really aimed at ageing rockers like me, but more at a younger audience with their baggy trousers and their hippity hop music. Down with kids me. Perhaps there were clues that isn’t wasn’t aimed at me in the BBC’s description of the series.
“The Fades is a fantasy horror series charting the life of a 17 year old boy called Paul. 17-year-old geek Paul can see the spirits of the dead. Now a vengeful spirit – or Fade – has broken through to our world and Paul’s friends and family are in the eye of the storm.”
Had I spotted the “17-year-old geek” in there before starting to watch it, I would have been ready for the storm of clichés that blighted the opening episode.
To be fair, Paul (Iain De Caestecker) is probably not a geek in the true sense of the word; he and his best mate Mac (Daniel Kaluuya, whom you probably saw last in Psychoville) are the two archetypical school “losers” who are ridiculed and snubbed by their peers – notably Paul’s sister Anna (Lily Loveless – Skins) and a pair of junior boys who appear to be Crabbe and Goyle escaped from Harry Potter. That Paul and Mac are ridiculed is no surprise, given that Paul is quiet, moody and retiring and that Mac is a loudmouth who can apparently only communicate by quotes from Star Wars. We know people like that don’t we? No.. thought not.
The scene is therefore set for lots of teenage angst, and that’s before Paul finds out that he really is different… he can see dead people.
Episode 1 sees Paul witnessing a bizarre attack in a disused shopping centre and following Neil (Johnny Harris) as he escapes with the mortally wounded ex-wife of one of Paul’s teachers. It turns out that Neil is an “Angelic”, one of a group of people with special powers who fight the Fades. (Oh yes, the Fades – we’re getting there, keep on reading). Neil spots Paul in the shopping centre and realizes that he can see the Fades and so turns up (in his bedroom) to recruit him. Neil explains that Fades are people who have died and who are waiting to ascend, but that if they don’t find a suitable spot they are condemned to remain on earth forever, something which generally makes them turn a little nasty.
Now, I believe its fair to watch the second episode of something. I wasn’t blown away (or sure what was going on) in Episode 1 but gave it a second chance to win me over. Episode 2 opens with Mac explaining the situation far better than Neil did in Episode 1 and we find out quite a bit more about what’s been going on. This was most helpful for my slower-running neurons – I seemed to have missed much of the key background data. The Fades are getting stronger and can now interact with the real world, something nasty is behind this (or profiting from it) and Neil thinks that Paul may be the “Special One” who can save us all. Now where have I heard all this before? Dysfunctional, angst-ridden teenagers, occult nasties, “zero to hero” as the yoof discovers his abilities, the “Chosen One”… Oh yes! Only all the other occult series for teenagers, and most recently the ill-fated ITV offering “Demons” (Remember that? Philip Glenister with his fake American accent? – It was so dire that I had to be reminded what the show had been called) .
So that’s what this is, an occult adventure for teenagers with all the usual clichés. However, contrary to “Demons”, this BBC production seems to be doing it very well so far, making for a far darker atmosphere and avoiding all the bounciness of Buffy. There are already one or two quite surprising twists even after two episodes, showing that the writer (Jack Thorne, Skins) has managed to fit some imagination in amongst the clichés. His blog states that “The Fades was born out of the worst TV script I – or possibly anyone else – has ever written” and that the first episode underwent 36 re-writes; maybe this explains why I felt that I had missed so much information and was glad to have Mac’s “story so far” at the beginning of episode 2.
The show is well-produced, with some very atmospheric shots bringing a feeling of menace at the right moments. Despite it being aimed fairly and squarely at teenagers and struggling under a heavy burden of clichés, it appears to contain a little more substance than many similar offerings; I shall continue watching it, mainly because once you put aside the clichés it is well-written, inventive and well-produced… and I want to know what happens next – generally a good sign for me.
Contributed by Clive for thecustardtv.blogspot.com