In "The Fades," which premieres Saturday on BBC America, Paul (Iain De Caestecker) and Mac (Daniel Kaluuya) are best friends; they would have to be, having no other ones. Seventeen going on 14, they share a world in which all useful metaphors, if little practical knowledge, are available in the works of Spielberg, Lucas and Tolkien. We've met them before, in many places: Mac is the Virgin Who Can't Stop Talking About Sex; Paul is the Guy Who Would Be Hunky If He'd Only Stand Up Straight.
Paul also has begun to see dead people, the deceased yet un-departed who, unable to find their way out of the world, grow increasingly peeved; what's more, by taking a page out of the zombie playbook, the ghosts are getting their agency back, Lord Voldemort-style. The ragtag gifted underground that has joined to fight them, and into which Paul is reluctantly drawn, calls them Fades; the Fade-fighters are "Angelics," for reasons not immediately clear, but you start to get the picture. An ashy apocalypse, glimpsed by Paul in visions that make him wet his bed, is waiting in the wings.
Teenagers have been saving the world from monsters at least since Steve McQueen busted "The Blob" back in 1958. There is little original in "The Fades" — like Buffy Summers, like Harry Potter, Paul is a Chosen One, fated to play an unasked-for pivotal role in a war between the dark and the light. Even the character of the nerd into "Star Wars" refers to a well-established literature of nerds into "Star Wars." And creator-writer Jack Thorne can't avoid dropping in a reference to "The Sixth Sense" — if not the first "I see dead people" story, the one that made that phrase — to acknowledge that he, too, knows there is nothing new under the blood-red moon.