How do you stand out while making yet another coming-of-age teen drama? Fold it into a supernatural fantasy. It’s something Steven Spielberg has been doing for decades. That “Twilight” franchise seems to have found an audience. But it doesn’t always work. Happily, “The Fades” (8 p.m., BBC America) does. For all of the horror, undead doings and apocalyptic creepiness erupting here, its teen characters seem 20 times more human than anybody on ABC Family or MTV.
Social outcast Paul (Iain De Caestecker) is 17 but seems much younger, as does his sidekick, Mac (Daniel Kaluuya). They spend most of their time riding their bikes and talking about sci-fi movies and games until they break into an abandoned shopping center and Paul happens upon a horrific scene. It seems Paul can see “Fades,” undead human spirits that dwell among us. Paul joins a very small society of those who can see Fades, and some of them suspect that the growing number of specters foretells the day when the dead will crowd out the living and bring on the end of the world.
A child of divorce with a wicked twin sister, Paul is a particularly angst-ridden teen before discovering this peculiar gift. And as the plot unfolds, we discover that he’s probably the only world-saving hero who occasionally wets the bed.
The teenage pathos is so believable, funny and occasionally touching, that I found myself resenting it whenever horror and fantasy elements returned to the front burner. The patter between Paul and Mac is particularly well done, ranging from the weird, silly chitchat of “Psych” to far more nuanced drama. They’re quite convincing as friends who have only each other until the Fades enter Paul’s dreams and waking life. Note: Viewers may find some of the U.K. accents and slang a tad difficult to understand.
• I like to leave sports to the sports pages, but nobody could have scripted a game like the AFC Divisional Playoff between the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos (7 p.m., CBS). On paper, the Patriots and their quarterback Tom Brady are vastly superior, thrashing the Broncos in their previous encounter. But Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has made an exciting habit of pulling out heart-stopping wins — often after playing quite dreadfully for three quarters or more. Last week, Denver’s playoff game ended with an 80-yard heave just seconds into overtime that surprised everybody, even Tebow.
Add to that Tebow’s very public piety and the adulation it attracts, and you have all the ingredients for the most watched football game of the season, to be surpassed only by the Super Bowl.
Tonight’s other highlights
• Teri Polo stars in “A Taste of Romance” (7 p.m., Hallmark).
• Brooke Burke-Charvet hosts “The 2012 Miss America Pageant” (8 p.m., ABC) live from Las Vegas. Bring back Atlantic City!
• A cosmic mishap rocks Mercury out of its orbit in the 2012 shocker “Collision Earth” (8 p.m., Syfy).
• Daniel Radcliffe hosts “Saturday Night Live” (10:30 p.m., NBC), featuring musical guest Lana Del Rey.