Yes, I know the year is only a month old, but it’s also the best new show of the last twelve months, at least for its genre. Being Human is on the Syfy channel, although I guess it’s more of a horror show, but listen, that makes the fact that I like it even more surprising. As many of you know, I do not generally like to be frightened or disturbed or even mildly startled.
Here’s the premise and I know you’re going to immediately frown and be all skeptical, because that’s what I did. It’s about a vampire and a werewolf and a ghost who are all roommates, and yes, they play it pretty straight.
Okay, I’m serious, come back. Just listen to me for a second. I thought that sounded as dumb as you think it sounded, but it’s somehow really clever and original. Frankly, I have no idea how they did it.
Well, actually, I sort of do. First, they noticed the BBC version and said, “Hey, let’s do what those guys are doing.” It worked for The Office, so why not?
And then they managed to strike a balance between humor and depth, playing it straight sometimes, winking at us others. The tone is similar to An American Werewolf In London, the plot maybe one part Anne Rice, one part Highlander? I don’t know, it’s pretty hard to put your finger on.
Basically, they don’t spend a lot of time explaining or apologizing for the werewolves and vampires and ghosts. That’s just how it is, that’s the world. And they seem aware that they have to spend some of their time on the already well-traveled path that any of a hundred modern supernatural stories have beaten down hard.
So they have to rely on strong characters and strong acting and strong writing, and they have all three of those things in spades. Really blows just about any other supernatural show out of the water in all three of those categories.
Aidan (Sam Witwer) is a vampire. He’s about two hundred years old and ran afoul of some vampires in the Revolutionary War, and then he spent a long time being just absolutely horrible. He fell in with Bishop (Mark Pellegrino who played Jacob from LOST) and joined his cabal of vampires and then over time, decided he wanted to stop killing all the time.
He’s like an addict. He works at a hospital to gain access to blood, and tries to sustain himself on it, but he keeps relapsing and killing people. Some of the vampire imagery is a little cliché and gross, but there’s really no way around it, and I love how his desire to change is in fact very human, even though he is not.
Josh (Sam Worthington) is a werewolf, and for him, it’s more like being a serious binge drinker. He doesn’t remember the evil things he does – in fact, you could argue that he isn’t even evil. He’s just an animal part of the time. He goes out in the woods to change at the full moon, and wakes up buck naked with a deer carcass a while later.
He’s horrified by the things he does, and severs all ties with his family and friends, refuses to get involved in relationships – all because honesty is essentially impossible and there’s no way to be sure he won’t hurt anyone.
Above all, the two of them want to be normal, so they decide to rent a house together and help each other appear that way, all while helping each other out in terms of hiding their true natures.
This is where I can really relate to this show – a couple of dudes with some really serious flaws who only want to fit in and be better people. Even though sometimes, their behavior seems to suggest otherwise.
Of course they have no established credit, and their residence history is pretty shaky, so they end up renting a house which the owner was having trouble getting rented. That’s because the owner’s ex-girlfriend died in the house, and it turns out that werewolves and vampires can see ghosts.
So that’s where Sally (Meaghan Rath) comes in, the incorporeal ghost who only they and others like them can see. She is a lot like Patrick Swayze’s character in Ghost, in that she can’t really touch anything until she learns to focus her energies. At first, she can’t even leave the house, but she meets a rather amusing ghost from the eighties, complete with a sort of mullet, who teaches her (and us) what the rules and limitations and powers of ghosts are.
That’s really the first few episodes – establishing the rules of the world they all inhabit, what each of them can do, what they can’t, what they want, what they don’t. I was never a fan of literally any show like this – not Buffy or Supernatural or Vampire Diaries or even Twilight. It’s not like, “Well, Star Trek’s off the air so here’s another space show.”
I guess I used to watch Charmed with my daughters sometimes, but: A) I was never particularly into it, I just thought the Charmed Ones were cute, and B) my girls are not going to be watching Being Human. It’s a lot darker and more adult even though yes, it does sound designed for twelve year-olds.
What I like is the depth and irony. Its title is exactly what it’s about, even though the characters are not human at all. But the clear point of it is to explore the darkness and goodness in each of us, the battle between them and how realistically we lose that battle as often as we win it. That’s what being human is all about. And then despite this depth, they manage to avoid being heavy-handed or ponderous.
I’m particularly impressed by the way the characters can be dark and horrifying like Dexter, but without the glib, smirking shock value that really shorted out any connection I could ever make to Dexter. I’ll take this show over Dexter any time at all.
It’s on Syfy Mondays at 9pm, and you can also catch it on demand. My new favorite show and my wife’s new favorite show, too, so watch it (full episodes here on their site) and decide for yourself. You can always come back here and yell at me about it if you think I steered you wrong.