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STUDIO Entertainment One
RUNNING TIME 572 minutes
• “Making Of” Featurette
• Comic Con 2012 Panel
• Additional Interviews
A ghost, a vampire, and a werewolf walk into a pub. No, wait– a bar. That’s what Americans call it, right?
Sam Witwer, Sam Huntington, Meaghan Rath, Jeremy Carver, Anna Fricke
Leading everyday lives is harder than it looks for three twenty-something supernatural roommates vampire Aidan (Sam Witwer), ghost Sally (Meaghan Rath) and werewolf Josh (Sam Huntington). Together, they share the creature comforts of a Boston brownstone while struggling to resist the temptations of their true natures and keep their secrets hidden from the outside world.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must divulge that the BBC version of Being Human might be my favorite TV show of the past decade. I’m not trying to be hyperbolic here. It seemed perfectly engineered for my sensibilities. It was wickedly funny, shockingly brutal, remarkably tender, and surprisingly gory. The truly fascinating thing about the show was that it was able to balance and switch between tones on a freakin’ dime, yet maintain its consistency. Unfortunately, BBC’s Being Human just aired its final series, so there’s no time like the present to get familiar with SyFy’s American remake, appropriately titled Being Human.
So now, the million-dollar question: does the US version stack up to the original?
Well, no. But it’s not necessarily bad television.
My first gripe is that the American TV format doesn’t work as well for these characters. In the UK, shows are usually divided up into short series, each consisting of about 6 to 8 episodes. These shorter series force the characters to make larger narrative arcs over shorter periods of time. This makes the pace feel compressed, more cinematic. US show seasons are much longer, and often feel thinly spread. This is especially apparent with The Walking Dead, or American Horror Story. The second season of SyFy’s Being Human suffers from this problem, albeit not as severely as the aforementioned shows.
SyFy’s remake also tends to pour on the melodrama. The UK show was profane, violent, and often downright wacky. The comparatively tame melodrama on SyFy’s version can get tiresome, but the show is bolstered by solid casting, witty dialogue, and some great music choices.
Season two is Being Human‘s weakest season out of three, and this is mostly due to some silly character arcs and distracting subplots. Sally, the ghostly member of the trio, is the main issue. She wallows in ennui for most of the season, trying to find any escape from the sheer boredom of being dead. The UK version of the show solved this issue in the first series by allowing its ghost to interact with the living. But the US version of the show is content to let Sally mope around, bemoaning her lack of human contact. She’s willing to try anything to get out of feeling dead, including (but not limited to):
- Ghost sleep
- Ghost dreams
- Shredding (don’t ask)
- Soul reaping
All of this nonsense eventually adds up to a weak reveal that Sally has developed some kind of paranormal schizophrenia, causing delusions and hallucinations of a dapper Grim Reaper.
The Reaper becomes one of the big bads of the season, which makes Sally herself a big bad. This schizoid/multiple personality ghost plot is a poor attempt to make a stale character more interesting. It makes Sally insufferable. Her usual role as the comic relief takes a back seat to addiction troubles, post-existential quandary, and an odd reunion with her annoying mother.
Aidan’s arc is also weak, getting caught up in True-Blood-esque vampire politics. The queen of the vampire mob is known only as Mother, and she’s willing to free Aidan from all his silly political responsibilities if he will literally dig up his ancient ex-flame and help her rule Boston. This storyline starts off fairly well, with Boston feeling the repercussions of Bishop’s death from season one. Mother, however, is a misfire. She’s neither interesting nor intimidating, and a cheesetastic performance from Deena Aziz certainly doesn’t help.
Mother’s daughter, Suren, is more intriguing. Played with animalistic allure by Dichen Lachman, Suren is a sadistic brat who fucks and/or kills whomever she wants. Oh, and she was buried for eighty years as punishment for a mass killing. Suren is bad news, but Aidan can’t keep his hands off of her. She’s unsympathetic and cold, a stranger to modern-day society. She works perfectly as the devil on Aidan’s shoulder, getting him to kill and feed from live prey.
Unfortunately, Suren stops being so effective when the show attempts to turn her into Aidan’s doting girlfriend. In one episode she’s buck naked, covered in blood, and dragging Aidan into the depths of vampiric debauchery. In the next episode, she’s awkward and demure, chatting with Aidan’s roomies over roast chicken. Her eventual demise attempts to elicit sympathy from the viewer, but how can we be expected to suddenly sympathize with a character that’s been a monster for most of the season? She never earns a redemption, so her sudden switch feels very forced.
Despite Sally and Aiden taking some big steps back, season two does have some strong points. Josh and Nora’s werewolf arc is quite good, introducing a miscarriage, a breakup, some dangerous purebred werewolves, and Josh’s ex-fiancée. The production values are also better for this second season, no doubt thanks to a larger budget than season one. The whole affair looks more cinematic, and the abundant visual effects look much better. There’s also a great (and gruesome) Hellraiser homage when a vampire gets completely skinned and recovers by drinking the blood of two young ladies.
So should you get into SyFy’s Being Human? I’d say it’s worth a look. It’s tame and melodramatic, but it throws enough quality content into the mix to keep things interesting. It’s not as trashy (or titillating) as HBO’s True Blood, but I think fans of Bill and Sookie might like it. Being Human‘s third season has just finished airing, and it’s a definite step above season two. Like I mentioned earlier: it’s not bad television, but it’s certainly not BBC’s Being Human.
Video quality for all episodes in the set is damn good. I was surprised just how much of an improvement the Blu-Ray transfer is over the broadcast versions. Sharpness is fantastic, and black levels are where they should be. My only complaint is that the transfer is a little dark, but that won’t be a problem for most current LED displays. Audio is a little lackluster, but perfectly serviceable. dialogue is perfectly audible, and musical montages crank up the emotional soundtrack nicely.
The set is distinctly lacking when it comes to extras, though. The hour-long “Making Of” featurette is informative and fun, with a lot of on-set footage and interviews. It’s easily the set’s best feature. The other features include a few minutes of interview footage that should’ve been cut into the longer featurette, and a painfully dull Comic Con panel. The audio quality of the Comic Con panel is very poor and the Q&A is complete dreck. Stick with the other featurettes. I really would’ve appreciated some episode commentaries and a makeup/visual effects featurette.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars