Being Human (US): Season 1
There is a long history of American television networks ‘migrating’ popular British shows across the pond to our shores. Sometimes it can result in a wild success as with ‘All in the Family’ but more often the results fall far below the standards set by the original. One series that did moderately well with our English cousins was ‘Being Human’. The premise may sound like the setup for a bad joke but it turned out to be a compelling look at the many facets of humanity. Here goes; a ghost, a vampire and a werewolf become roommates in an old house. Thanks to a multi region DVD account and an account with Amazon that works on their UK site I have become a fan of the British variant which sparked more than a passing interest in the Americanized version. This show’s first season has recently been released on DVD and Blu-ray so if you missed it on the SyFy Channel you now have the opportunity you now have the opportunity to catch up before they commence airing season two. One thing to keep in mind is although this series is significantly better than most supernaturally driven shows it is not a replacement for the BBC version. As a matter of personal pretence I feel the British version is superior in many aspects but I also admit that the local series does have its good points. It is actually perfect for a comparison between the techniques used here with those typically employed in England. This juxtaposition actually appreciably enhanced the enjoyment of the migrated program. You are able to consider how two cultures separated by a common language handle the same premise.
Both series fundamentally begin the same way, the pilot episode is virtually identical, but the important thing to appreciate is how they take that foundation and develop the themes to suit the expectations and experiences of the audience. It was fascinating to watch the same story diverge over the course of the first season becoming distinct identities. If you are a fan of the UK version as shown on BBC America watch this first season of the US version with an eye towards why things were changed not just the changes themselves. This is certain to significantly enhance your experience for both shoes on their own merits. The married team of Jeremy Carver and Anna Frick have stated that their intention for the Americanized version was to use the original British show reengineering it to better reflect the new demographic. As is the case in many transports the first season follows the original rather closely in order to establish the characters and circumstances to provide a means to pull in the existing fan base and leverage a proven successful formula.
Aidan McCollin (Sam Witwer) is a vampire turned to the undead while serving in the colonial forces during the American Revolution. During the almost twenty six decades he has been a vampire Aidan has changed his feeding habits from a vicious killer to a ‘Vegan’ vampire eschewing the use of humans as a primary food source. This helps to establish one of Aidan’s fundamental qualities; he strives to control his predatory nature as a means towards redemption. One other way he distances himself from the ‘mainstream’ vampire community is his lack of animosity towards werewolves. In this universe the two undead creatures maintain a hatred of each other that frequently manifests in a violent fashion. This is not unheard of in this type of supernatural story but unlike the ‘Twilight’ variation the two groups are competing predators but not in the romance department. One night Aidan witnesses a group of vampires bashing a werewolf in human form, Josh Radcliff (Sam Huntington). New to being a werewolf this basically timid man is ill prepared for his monthly transformation but also the sociological nuances of the various supernatural factions. Aidan intercedes saving Josh and the two become friends. Josh arranges for Aidan to get a job in the hospital where he works which is a boon since it affords the vampire access to the blood bank, a sort of fast food restaurant for him. The pair move in together soon discovering the house they are renting is haunted by a beautiful ghost, Sally Malik (Meaghan Rath), completing the undead trio of roommates. Usually the living cannot see Sally but she is visible to other supernatural. Also in the core cast is her ex boyfriend and murderer, Danny (Gianpaolo Venuta) who is their landlord and Aidan’s maker James Bishop (Mark Pellegrino) who was turned in the 16th century and currently maintains a human identity as a police lieutenant. He is extremely powerful community with a dastardly plan for humanity. He is consistently pressuring Aidan to return to the vampire fold.
The primary focus of the British show rested in the exploration of the character’s dichotomy between their ‘monstrous’ natures with the vestiges of their humanity. Both ghost and vampire are new to their supernatural status providing a natural means of exposition through the advice of the vampire. Usually the SyFy channel makes an effort to retain some deeper meaning in their series but in this first season the way it comes across is as teen angst faire more suitable for the WB lineup. There was some evidence that now that the fundamentals have been established and the Americanized themes are in place to garner an audience the show runners will have more latitude in exploring more substantial topics. I hope so since the premise is a strong one that presents incredible potential for a truly compelling series. As it is the show is entertaining but it would be fantastic if American audiences can be considered as attentive and willing to invest effort in a show that is associated with English series. The show has been renewed so in a little while we will be able to see if it comes closer to achieve its potential.