I can’t say my initial impression of BEING HUMAN was favorable; the GREY’S ANATOMY-style navel-gazing opening soliloquy was instantly annoying. But the show improved rapidly from the moment the title card appeared. In the end, I liked this debut a lot more than I had anticipated.
The basic premise of the show is appealing: Vampire Aidan (Sam Witwer) and werewolf Josh (Sam Huntington) share a house with ghost Sally (Meaghan Rath), and they all try to pretend to have normal lives. But of course that’s impossible for…er, people…who are dead, undead and…not exactly living the life.
The boys work as nurses at the local hospital, and have their own problems: Josh cannot control his beastly self, while Aidan is trying not to be drawn back into the vaguely sinister underground vampire organization run by Bishop (LOST’s Mark Pellegrino) and his ambitious underboss, Marcus (Vincent Leclerc). Bishop clearly has plans for Aidan – plans that were derailed when Aidan bailed. “You don’t call, you don’t write,” Bishop whines. “You move in with a…werewolf?” As for Sally, she cannot leave the house she’s haunting, because she’s afraid she will vanish into nothingness. That doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I’m assuming future episodes will explain why she thinks that way.
It goes without saying that this pilot episode is guilty of “pilotitis” – the story and dialogue are larded with exposition, and the whole thing feels a bit rushed as characters are introduced and the seeds of conflict are sowed. We learn that Josh ran out on his family (leaving just a “Don’t worry” note), and his sister really resents him for it. I admit I’m over the idea of the insouciant vampire who’s bored by hundreds of years of life, so I wish the-powers-that-be had tried to think of something a little more interesting for Aidan. He mentions Byron but, thank Cthulhu, he doesn’t claim to have known the poet personally
The actors acquit themselves well, even if the characters are a bit facile. Witwer and Huntington have a good vibe as friends, but I hope Witwer can bring something new to the broody pretty-boy vamp stereotype. Enough with the self-flagellation over killing Rebecca (Sarah Allen)! Aidan has been a vampire for hundres of years; shouldn’t he be over that by now? And the audience is clearly supposed to be rooting for the overly earnest Josh, but seriously, his struggle to control the beast within is also very “been there, done that, bought the T-shirt and ripped it to shreds.” Perhaps fittingly, Sally is the most ephemeral character, with the least screentime. She is supposed to be “the free spirit,” but she’s tethered to the house – get it? (BTW, is it wrong that I really like the house? Both the exterior and the interior sets look terrific!)
The script has just the right amount of humor without overdosing on snarky self-awareness. The material has to be played pretty much straight in order to work, but the story cannot take itself too seriously, or it will become camp. Sally’s line about the boys “going all Twilight on each other” strikes just the right tone. There is a genuine attempt to make the episode a domestic drama; the roommate stuff isn’t just filler between supernatural encounters. In fact, the preternatural stuff felt like a bit of an intrusion. However, I will give it this: The cliff-hanger ending, which saw Josh transforming with his sister locked in the room with him, was genuinely exciting. And what is Bishop talking about, with Aidan being “back”? What is this vampire “coven” doing? “You’re a shark,” Bishop tells Aidan. “Be a shark.” So what was the significance of Aidan going to the den and drinking that woman’s blood?
I’ve never seen the original U.K. series, so let’s just stipulate that the British version is better (The original has been broadcast on BBC America, in case you’re wondering.) and move on with what we’ve got on SyFy here in the colonies. I know I’ll be watching.