Being Human (UK): Season 1
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Being Human (UK): Season 1

There is a long history of television series popular here in the United States that were originated across the pond in the UK. Some like ‘All in the Family’ and ‘Stanford and Son’ became incredible hits here surpassing the British version of the show. This is the exception since the series brought over here are diluted to comply with the more restrictive standards and Practices that hold sway over the broadcast networks. With cable television providing a more liberal venue this difference is being diminished. Still, even with more mature language and situations permissible here there is something inherently different about a series broadcast on ‘Auntie Beebe’ that is textually superior to their American cousins. A recent case study can be found in as supernatural series currently popular on the SyFy channel, ‘Being Human’. While its first season has recently been released on Region One DVD and Blu-ray, it is the perfect time to return to the British original for a touch of contrast. The British first series of ‘Being Human’ represented a novel direction for Sci-Fi oriented television. It is an unusual take on the three very different roommates formula were instead of incompatible personality types the roomies consist of Annie (Lenora Crichlow), a ghost, George (Russell Tovey), a werewolf and John (Aidan Turner), a century old vampire. This unlikely trio is attempting to cope with their supernaturally unusual circumstances as best as they can but still have to contend with the typical personality conflicts inherent with any set of roommates. Right up front it must be noted that the main difference between this and the SyFy variant is in many ways quite subtle. It is not unusual for the scripts used in the first season of the export follows the story lines fairly closely. This is the case here which does afford the discerning eye an excellent opportunity to analyze the cultural differences and how the influence the presentation of the same story with fundamental identical characters. ‘Being Human’ offers such a case study but it goes beyond that, it remains a really good show. If you enjoy the American version you are going to love the BBC original.

The title is better considered than it appears at first glance. Annie, George and John are frantically trying to fit into a supernatural world they were forced into while holding in to the shreds of their humanity. None of them choose to cross over from the mortal realm; each of them attained their supernatural status through circumstances beyond their control. Annie was murdered by here fiancé in the house the guys rent. Her boyfriend is now their landlord. George recently received a lycanthropic bite resulting in his hirsute time of the month. John was brought over in World War One by William Herrick (Jason Watkins), an ancient, powerful vampire influential in the vampire social hierarchy holding the royal rank of king. Herrick is still in John’s life posing as a constable. There is a great deal of enmity between vampires and werewolves with younger vampires engaging in werewolf bashing. George is caught in this situation only to be rescued by John. They decide to become roommates the move into the house meeting Annie. Supernatural creatures can readily identify each other so while humans cannot see Annie the guys can. Much of the first series is devoted to this struggle each has as they try to regain some degree of equilibrium between their dual, conflicting natures. Annie is confused about her new spectral existence but soon learns how to manifest her ghostly abilities. This permits her to break free of the confines of the scene of her murder extending her presence out in the real world. She also learns how to focus her energies to interact with physical objects. John has decided to eschew humanity as a dietary staple in favor of animals and blood banks. Both John usually referred to by his surname, Mitchell, and George have jobs as porters in the hospital given a reasonable access to blood in nicely portioned plastic bags. George is exceptionally intelligent, multi lingual and a mildly observant Jew. He locates a very secure room in the hospital basement perfect to ensure a safe transformation every full moon. He meets another werewolf living off the grid and becomes desperate to learn more about controlling his lamentable animalistic side.

There are the necessary plot lines that reinforce the supernatural foundation of the series such as Herrick’s ‘final solution to turn a huge number of people into vampires while leaving the rest as a farmable food source. Each character in turn id forced to decide whether they will embrace their humanity or give in to their supernatural side. In this British version the internal conflict takes own existential elements that permit the writers to leverage the angst of the characters into an insightful examination of the fundamental nature of humanity. A character like Herrick is basically affected by the same motivations that have always driven humanity; the need to expand the scope of power and control through any means necessary. This sets up Mitchell as the reluctant hero who tries to remove himself but is inexorably pulled back into the fray. The series is reasonably consistent with the current tween oriented monster angst fad were vampire and werewolves are the new bad boy, ill advised relationship choice but in this case the material is presented in a more mature level.

Fortunately, all three seasons of the British series are available as native region one releases. If you are a fan of the U.S. version than it does behoove you to see how the BBC handled the characters and stories, it is entertaining in itself to see how the British handled the series creating something that could be successfully transplanted overseas.

Posted 01/19/12

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