Another vampire series? Yawnsville, right? I’ll admit, my mind may have drifted toward that thought when I first found out Syfy was adapting BBC’s Being Human for a U.S. audience. Way to cash in on the ever-growing craze of blood-drinking sexy people and manly, furry beasties. Having seen the first three episodes of Being Human, I feel I may have misjudged the series by its furry, fangy, ghosty cover and would like to appeal to those of you who did the same.

This is a relatively spoiler-free zone. All references to the show and characters are fairly vague.

Steve posted his early review this week, and while I think he did a fine job in laying out some of the key points in the series, I have a few more reasons to add to why you might want to give Being Human a look when it premieres this Monday night.

The short and skinny on the premise is this: Aiden’s a vampire. Josh is a werewolf. Sally’s a ghost. They’re young, pretty and saddled with secret identities due to their supernatural natures. They all end up living in the same house together and are friends despite their differences. It sounds very sit-commy when put that way but I assure you, this isn’t Three’s Company with claws. The tone of the show is fairly serious with snippets of humor and lighter moments laced throughout.

Identity Crisis Averted

What Being Human has that’s going to set itself apart from Twilight, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries and probably a lot of other books/shows/movies that fit into the whole “pretty people who are secretly monsters that might kill you” story-line are three characters who are struggling to figure out where they fit into the world.

At one point, Sally’s voice-over says, “We find ourselves in an eternal nowhere, between human and thing.” This pretty much sums up the introduction to this show in a nutshell. Without giving much away as far as specifics, these three characters aren’t willing to embrace their supernatural nature enough to abandon what makes them human or the people they were. It puts them in an in between place where they’re no longer “normal” among regular people but they aren’t fully immersed with their own kind either.

The use of metaphor isn’t all that veiled here and that’s one of the things that works so well as the characters are introduced to us. Aiden’s thirst for blood is like an addiction he’s constantly fighting. Bishop is in some ways his dealer, constantly trying to coerce him into forgetting his humanity and diving head first into a pool of delicious, bloody carnage. Josh, the werewolf, is full of rage. His “monthly visitor” turns him into a monster but even during his better days, emotional control proves to be a challenge. And Sally is dead. Sure, she’s a ghost and with that comes a few perks but it also means detachment from the life she had and the man she loved.

Being outsiders among humans and among their own kind is what brings these three characters together. I mentioned that they are all friends despite their differences but the more I think about it, it seems more that it’s because of their differences and their shared sense of detachment from humanity that they fit so well with one another. They’re the misfit toys, unfit for their old lives, unsafe for the world and unsure of the choices they need to make or what kind of futures they can have. There’s a budding sense of family that is starting to emerge between Sally, Aiden, and Josh and that’s one of the things that’s most intriguing to me about this series.

There are bits of violence, some personal drama, and even scenes that sexify the whole vampire, blood-drinking thing but the characters’ stories are what come through the most. Since Battlestar Galactica ended, I’ve been waiting for another great, character-driven Syfy show and so far, Being Human has all the makings to be just that, albeit on a somewhat quainter scale (with a much smaller cast).

The Cast

Playing Aiden is Sam Witwer (Crashdown from Battlestar Galactica, Doomsday from Smallville). People might recognize Sam Huntington (Josh) from his portrayal of Jimmy Olsen in Superman Returns but I’ll probably always associate him with Jam from Detroit Rock City. I’m less familiar with Canadian actor Meaghan Rath, who plays Sally but she has a number of small film and TV credits to her name. And then there’s Mark Pelligrino, who plays Aiden’s vamp-mentor Bishop. His recent credits include Supernatural and Lost.

These actors are all somewhat recognizable without being major celebrities. In other words, they’re experienced, established and talented but not overexposed. We’re dealing with a show about vampires, ghosts and werewolves. Between that and the inner struggles of the three main characters, there are moments that are written in such a way that overacting could destroy the tension of a scene and quickly launch the series into campy territory but all of the above mentioned actors have a solid handle on subtlety and timing and that comes through nicely.

The Music

I had to do a bit of googling during the three episodes because every once in a while a song came up during a scene that not only worked well, but also caught my interest. With the exception of a few shows with exceptional soundtracks, I rarely pay all that much attention to the music. I usually assume that the producers threw in whatever songs fit the scene (and their budget). In the case of Being Human, the music is well chosen and well used throughout the show and in my opinion, good enough for me to search by lyrics to find out who the artists were. Canadians might have an easier time here, considering the bands I googled all turned out to be indie groups from our neighbors to the north. I’d never heard of Royal Wood, Kathryn Calder or Royal City before Being Human but I’ll be introducing my iPod to their music very soon.
Montreal: Being Boston

The series is shot in Canada but the setting is Boston. By choosing a specific city to set the scene, they run the risk of either overdoing it with exaggerated Bah-sten accents and constant cuts to shots of Fenway Park and Beacon Hill. Fortunately, that doesn’t seem to be an issue, so far. If anything, the setting is a bit underdone and if you weren’t paying attention, you might forget where they were supposed to be. Outside scenes (some of which are beautifully shot, I should mention) often include old, brick buildings and concrete sidewalks or pretty green parks. For a story about double-lives, it seems necessary (and easier) to set it in a city where anonymity would be a little bit more accessible than a small town could offer. In that respect, I think they’re taking the right approach in a sort of generic but pretty portrayal of Boston.
Originality and Potential

On the topic of originality, I’ve seen comments from people complaining about Syfy calling this an “original series.” It’s an adaptation and let’s face it, even if it weren’t based on a British series, a TV show about werewolves, ghosts and vampires isn’t exactly thinking outside the box as far as TV trends go. This series is “original” in that this is Syfy’s version of another successful (and from what I hear, really entertaining) show. New cast, new setting, new production, etc., borrowed (and credited) premise. I might be more willing to argue the other side of this point if Syfy weren’t crediting BBC’s version or if I were a fan of the original series and naturally felt a bit territorial about it, but neither is the case. So I’m willing to overlook the textbook definition of “original” here for the sake of supporting what could be a great show.

On the subject of potential, I’m thinking it’s likely that the writers will eventually take Syfy’s Being Human in it’s own direction from the story laid out in the original series, should the show be a success. Given the starting point, I’d say they have plenty of opportunity to do that and as long as they stay the course in focusing on the characters’ stories (and not resorting to relying entirely on the supernatural elements to sell the show), this version of Being Humancould really come into its own.

Syfy’s Being Human has an opportunity to explore the best and worst of humanity through the eyes of three former humans who aren’t quite ready to let go of who they were. I’m looking forward to seeing how that plays out.

Being Human premieres Monday, January 17th at 9:00 p.m. ET on Syfy.

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