“Being Human” is busy being surprising

Being Human“Being Human” is a show broadcast on BBC America.  For those of you who haven’t seen it, the basic premise is that a vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost are roommates in a rented house in Bristol.  The main impetus for this arrangement is that each of these individuals is seeking to separate themselves from their supernatural cultures, to live as normal a “human” life as they possibly can.

My initial thought about the show was kind of a “here we go again” reaction.  We’ve all seen plenty of vampire/werewolf/ghost tropes parading through popular media, and I’ve generally been of the opinion this genre has had all the originality wrung out of it long ago.  I’m really glad I didn’t listen to that inner voice as “Being Human” really took me by surprise…in a good way.

being_human_werewolf2The show has moments of genre-deviation that keep it unique.  For example, there’s George Sands, played by Russell Tovey.  George is a werewolf.  A very typical beastie, as far as the supernatural part of him goes, but what makes him stand out is his human side.  George’s human persona gives us no clue that he possesses a more bestial nature. While some famous werewolves look a bit animal-like when the full moon has set, George is pasty-white and rather nerdy.  He is thoughtful, compassionate, and truly frightened by his affliction.  He is on the verge of panic when the full moon is ready to rise, genuinely afraid of the damage that he might unwittingly inflict on those around him.  The show makes George a bit of a sheep in wolf’s clothing, which I found to be a very refreshing angle.

beinghumanAnnie Sawyer, played by Lenora Crichlow, is dead…a ghost, as a matter of fact.  I won’t reveal the circumstances of her death, but they definitely become a major plot-driver.  Annie is the most atypical character, genre-wise.  The writers build some lore around ghosts that is not of the usual variety, leaving me in quite a curious state.  I’m not sure what stage she’s at in her afterlife journey, and I think that’s all to the good.  I have enjoyed Crichlow’s performance very much.  She is able to bring out the character’s nurturing nature at first, but does a great job turning that on its head by season’s end.

mitchell--being-humanThen, of course, there is the vampire.  John Mitchell, played by Aidan Turner, is a vampire that you will recognize.  He’s got lots of angst about his condition.  He’s is an open state of rebellion against the “bad” vampires because he’s a “good” vampire.  I believe that Mitchell is the least original of the characters.  That being said, I do think that Turner gives an excellent performance when showing us Mitchell’s position on the edge of the darkness.  When I watch the character, I get the real feeling that he could slip towards the dark side quite easily.  It’s great tension that Turner does a remarkable job summoning forth.

Of course all good stories need a bad guy, and this is where I think that “Being Human” shines brightest.  The main antagonist on the show is the “bad” vampire, William Herrrick.  Jason Watkins plays Herrick, who is to be loved not for what he is, but for what he is not.  As the big bad vampire, the leader of the other ‘bad” vampires, Herrick is not over six feet tall and athletically slender.  He is not impeccably dressed and coiffured.  He is not surrounded by a palatial manor.  He does not speak with lofty, classical, phraseology.   No, Herrick is short.  He is stocky, almost dumpy.  He has a round, blue-collar face.  As a matter of fact, his day job is as an ordinary policeman.  Make no mistake, though.  He is as evil as evil gets.  Watkins brings this out in a performance that is one the best on the show.  I think it works because you don’t expect it.  Herrick walks on camera as a friendly-looking policeman, but when he begins to speak the viewer has no doubts about his vileness.

“Being Human” works in lots of different ways, but it does have some problems.  The special effects are a bit lacking, but I think that most viewers will be forgiving in this regard.  The story more than makes up for it.   I do wish they’d stop the black eye thing.  You know, the thing where the blood-sucker “vamps out” and his eyes turn totally black.  I’ve seen enough black-eyed demons on Supernatural to last a while.

Go watch “Being Human”!  I think it’s a good show with enough originality in a field that can definitely use it.

You can check for scheduling at the BBC America site.  The season one DVD’s are available in the U.K.  Check here for the future U.S DVD release.

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