Awkward teen Paul sees dead people. So what, right?
As you begin to read this review of BBC America's "The Fade," (8 p.m. Jan. 14, BBC America; 3.5 stars out of 4), you're likely going to shrug, thinking you've seen plenty of ghost stories, not to mention TV shows and movies about teen outcasts trying to fit in and/or get lucky.
You haven't seen "The Fades."
Created by Jack Thorne (British versions of "Skins" and "Shameless"), this six-part horror series skillfully crosses "Superbad" with "The Sixth Sense" and just a drop of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." It's a funny, creepy, touching thriller that had me laughing one second and peeking between my fingers the next.
When Paul (Iain De Caestecker) witnesses a dying woman and a man attacked by an inhuman creature with a tongue that would make KISS frontman Gene Simmons jealous, he's so freaked out he can't even tell his best friend, sex- and "Star Wars"-obsessed Mac (Daniel Kaluuya), what he saw.
That's because he isn't sure what is real and what isn't. He's also seeing people no one else can see and he's been having nightmares so fierce that he wets his bed. Until now, he's believed what his psychologist says: It's caused by the anxiety he feels over his parents' divorce.
Then Neil (Johnny Harris), the man who was attacked, tracks Paul down and tells him the truth. Paul can see ghosts, or Fades, because he is an Angelic, a supernaturally powered ghost buster of sorts. Neil explains that the Fades are trapped on earth, partly because humanity's expanding concrete footprint has taken away too many "ascension points" through which they could move on. Their accumulating presence on earth threatens to cause an apocalypse.
"Can you imagine being trapped in a world you can't see, can't touch?" Neil asks. In other words, the Fades are pissed. Thanks to a new being—the one with the tongue—some of the Fades have learned a new trick: By eating human flesh, they can break the barrier between the living and the dead.
Paul, it becomes apparent, will have a major role in the upcoming apocalyptic war between the Fades and the Angelics—even though he'd rather do battle in bed with his sister's pal, Jay (Sophie Wu from "Kick-Ass"). Unfortunately, Paul's more earthly desire gets complicated by what can only be described as "Angelic-puberty," which includes a hilarious side effect when he masturbates.
The premiere dumps a lot of information on the viewer, including themes of life, death and what's in between. It's a lot to take in, and maybe could have been spread out a little more, but the info overload didn't really confuse me.
As far as the acting goes, the entire cast, which includes Natalie Dormer of "The Tudors," is wonderful. De Caestecker, although a bit mopey at times, is endearing as he conveys Paul's struggle with being a teen and the possible savior of mankind. Kaluuya excels as Mac, who initially kind of annoyed me with his non-stop chatter. But when Mac explains why the Eye of Sauron in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy is a sign of J.R.R. Tolkien's "slightly twisted sexuality," Kaluuya won me over. Perfect comic timing—and in later episodes he'll break your heart with his own struggle at home.
So yes, you've seen parts of "The Fades" before—but never put together like this.
"The Fades" is followed by a new "The Nerdist" special, which is then followed by the Madonna episode of "The Graham Norton Show."