“Demons,” which begins its six-episode life tonight on BBC America, is a " Buffy, the Vampire Slayer"-flavored creep show, but with a British male Buffy and an American Giles. The designated slayer this time is young Luke Rutherford (Christian Cooke), a well-built collegiate Londoner who learns from his suddenly appearing American godfather, played by the not-actually-American Philip Glenister, that he is the great-grandson of Bram Stoker’s original fearless vampire killer, Abraham van Helsing.
Glenister, who created the righteous and vulgar DCI Gene Hunt in the original British “Life on Mars,” is the primary point of interest here, and the Yank accent he affects may in part be a dodge to separate that last flamboyant dispenser of rude justice from this one. Although more sophisticated than Gene, Glenister’s Rupert Galvin has a similarly pointed disdain for the “half-life” beasties that pollute his city with their evil ways, poor hygiene and bad fashion sense, and he “smites” them with a special big gun that blasts them to colorful bits and pieces.
As in “Buffy,” fighting creatures of the literal underworld takes a mixture of martial arts and research, conducted in what looks like a subterranean replica of the Long Library at Trinity College, full of books and scrolls on all the monsters of the world. Rounding out the Scooby Gang are blind concert pianist Mina Harker (Zoe Tapper), whose name also will be familiar to Stoker fans, and whose extra-special extrasensory powers will be explained in due time; and Luke’s cute friend Ruby (Holliday Grainger), who has a crush on him, Xander-like.
Lacking the subtext, satire and snappy talk that made “Buffy” golden, “Demons” (on the evidence of its first two episodes) has little on its mind past raising spooks and smiting them, but it does a fair enough job of that. Cooke is an attractive but somewhat pale lead, and Rupert Galvin does make you yearn for Gene Hunt.
But there are flashes of wit, and the show does perk up around its monsters — Mackenzie Crook, who was Gareth in the U.K. “The Office,” does a nice turn as a dandified Cockney bounty-hunting ghoul with a scrimshaw nose, and Richard Wilson, who has played Vladimir in “Godot,” is good as a grumpy church-bound zombie. The second hour improves on the first, bringing the quotidian and the queer into closer orbit, as when Luke fails a driving test because of the monster in the back seat.