Being Human: Possibly The Best New Show Of The Year

08 Feb

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.




Earlier:  Welcome To The Harmless Ice Monster Project


And:  The Golden Voice Dance Remix: Engaging The Milker


And:  Future Tom Blog Force: Crisis On The Internet


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13 responses to “Being Human: Possibly The Best New Show Of The Year

  1. ecossie possie

    February 9, 2011 at 12:21 am

    I waech the BBC version just started a new series over hear.Didnt know America was doing a version…There a series over hear called the missfits that you would like..America is also wanting to clone it.Basicly a group of youngsters on probation doing comunity service get caught in a weird storm..An they each aquire a super power….Il try an find a link…

    • Tom Chalfant

      February 9, 2011 at 2:27 pm

      How’s the BBC version, Ecossie? I saw the commercials for it and it looks like the one over here is a little lighter – I’m a big sissy, and that’s how I kind of prefer it.

      Misfits sounds like the Fantastic Four except they’re not astronauts. I’ll bet they clone Primeval pretty soon, too..

  2. bex

    February 9, 2011 at 2:21 am

    interesting premise for a show.
    great review, so something to check out.

    • Tom Chalfant

      February 9, 2011 at 2:27 am

      Ha thank you! Hi Bex I was just over on your blog when this comment came in! Sushi sounds GOOD.

  3. Brian

    February 9, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    Well, I’m addicted to True Blood, but I am running low on TV time with another kid on the way. You and John convinced me to take on Dr. Who so I don’t think I can squeeze in another show… where do you find the time Tom?

    • Tom Chalfant

      February 9, 2011 at 2:30 pm

      Well, I don’t have a normal job, so that’s where I find most of my time. My work is packed into individual jobs which last two to four hours, so sometimes I have a twelve hour day, sometimes I have no work to do at all. Ideally, they balance out and I have a normal income. Sometimes I make a raft of cash, and then January and February I’m usually starving, which yes, I am currently starving.

      But on the plus side of starving is, you try to stay in the house and not spend money. That’s television and blogging time right there..

      I might start in on True Blood, but I don’t have whatever channel that’s on. I might pick up the DVDs and get started on it, but I’m doing that with Dexter right now and like I said, I’m not crazy about Dexter yet. I assume it gets better after season one..

  4. ecossie possie

    February 9, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    The bbc version is good not that dark realy amuseing at times,Misfits is nothing like the Fantastic 4 ..They are all stroppy teenagers an not inclined to be do gooders.An theres 5 of them although the 5th one doesnt think he has any powers..He finds out he does at the end of the first an beging of the second series..Think Kenny from Southpark he is killed an buried an wakes up in the coffin…

    • Tom Chalfant

      February 9, 2011 at 3:57 pm

      Okay then, I’m in. It’s not on BBC America though is it? Haven’t seen it advertised at all.

  5. Marquelon

    February 9, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    I watch both Being Humans…for the time being the BBC version is better, but I may think that because the majority of the story on the ScFy version is a rehash of their earlier stories. I think the vampires on both shows are evenly matched, the ghost on the BBC version is much better in my opinion and while the werewolf character on BBC blows me away everytime I watch it I see a lot of potential in the ScFy version. I’m watching right now to see how much they keep the same and how much they end up changing. I say do yourself a favor watch the BBC version first on netflix or some free cable site( they’re 2 series in right now) and compare the two

    • Tom Chalfant

      February 9, 2011 at 4:35 pm

      Yes Ecossie’s got me convinced to check out the original – like I said, I’m normally a pretty serious sissy about horror, so I stayed away simply because I was frightened. Yessir, what can I say. But I did like the British version of the Office – and I also liked how they didn’t run it into the ground – and in fact, BBC and Syfy are the two channels I watch the most.

      I absolutely love Sally in the Syfy version, but that might be because she is so beautiful and I’m not too complicated. When I think about it, it’s hard to rank the characters so that’s usually a really good or a really bad thing. In this case, obviously, I think it’s pretty good.

      I think I’ll do exactly what you’re suggesting, and then you and I will have completely inverted experiences, with you having experienced the BBC version first and I the Syfy. By all means come back and we’ll compare notes.

      Thanks for commenting!

  6. Tracy

    February 9, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    The BBC version is on BBC America. The third season is set to premier on 2/19 I believe. I loved the original and got mad when SyFy said they were doing an Americanized version. So happy they did because I love this version too. Awesome review!

  7. tammy

    March 23, 2011 at 11:35 pm

    i love both versions of being human ,but the english were wolf is brill


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