Continuing the trend of supernatural fables on TV is Being Human, a SyFy show based on the 2008 BBC series of the same name. At the completion of Season One on SyFy, I can confidently say that SyFy's reputation for "cheap" special effects doesn't matter THAT much in this show. You end up caring more about the characters--a ghost, vampire, and werewolf--than you do about whether the transformation to werewolf looks realistic. And though I've seen the show on both networks, I'm partial to the SyFy version for no other reason than I like the actors more.
Centered in Boston, we meet vampire Aidan (Sam Whitwer, Smallville) a nurse at a local hospital, and Josh (Sam Huntington, Veronica Mars), an orderly who works with Aidan. Since they are both trying to blend in and attempt to "be human," they decide to encapsulate their monster-ness and rent a house from Danny (Gianpaolo Venuta, Naked Josh). Because that is what normal people do. They pay rent. Danny bought the house originally as a starter home for him and his fiancée Sally (Meaghan Rath, The Assistants). Except Sally died. In the house. Naturally, Danny moved out--too distraught to live in the home. However, for whatever reason, Sally is still hanging around as a ghost, ridiculously bored. Until Josh and Sam move in and can see and hear her, presumably since they are of the same monster-ilk.
But the nice thing about this series is that it's not all about their monster sides. Ultimately, Sally, Sam, and Josh are twentysomethings with the same problems that go along with that--relationships, money, family, self-discovery--but with added stress from the need to manage their monsters. For 250-something-year-old Aidan, that means not feeding on humans, and definitely not killing them. For Josh, it's more a matter of accepting what he is and realizing that for some nights of the month, he can't really stay human. As for Sally, hers is more answering the question of why she's still here and learning to figure out that she can still be herself, as a ghost.
These relatable problems are probably why the show's been picked up for a second season. Hopefully, people aren't tuning in to see a werewolf maul someone or to see a vampire staked--because Being Human is more than that. In Season One, we learn how Aidan became a vampire, and meet the vampire that turned him, Bishop (Mark Pellegrino, Lost). Bishop is entrenched in local law enforcement, which gives him a position of power. The big thorn in his side this season is Aidan's "being human" attitude, which flies in the face of nature--and Bishop's "gift," of vampirism, as far as Bishop is concerned. This attempt to pull Aidan back into the fold continues throughout the season.
Before moving in with Sam, Josh was really alone. After feeling like a danger to family members, Josh left the home--along with a fiancée--that he had known for so long. And I can somewhat understand. It's hard to imagine someone's reaction to news like "I'm a werewolf." The threat of not being accepted is legitimate and terrifying. We get to see a bit of his family; his sister is in several episodes, but his backstory is not quite as clear as I would like.
Sally's self-discovery leads to a memory that she has a difficult time processing and letting go. When Sally finds out what really happened when she died, you realize how important it is for her to have Sam and Josh to lean on and "have her back." However, at the end of the season, you see that she has a bit of a Grudge-like streak that could land her in an asylum for ghosts. And who knows what that could mean for her in the long-run.
Among the Season One's 13 episodes is some quality television for fellow supernatural fans. For example, in "Children Shouldn't Play with Undead Things," Aiden befriends a young boy who's being bulled in the neighborhood. It's almost as if Aidan sees the chance to be something of a father to this boy whose single mother is hard-working but not really around for her son. Unfortunately, when something bad happens to the boy, things go from bad to worse, and Aidan is left with a heart-breaking decision that, had he been a bad-boy vampire, wouldn't have mattered. This is the essence of Being Human - knowing what's right, and attempting to be the person that can make that move ... attempting to care.The Blu-ray Discs:
All of the Being Human episodes are presented in 1.78:1 widescreen and employ the AVC encode, with the ultimate result being solid. Fine image detail is abundant through many examples, and the color palette is reproduced accurately and without over saturation. Black levels loop deep and inky and shadow delineation is natural, and even the exterior shots have a hint of background detail to boot. The show's visuals look outstanding on Blu-ray.Audio:
DTS-HD Master Audio lossless 5.1 surround for all of the episodes. Honestly I was surprised with how the show sounded, with directional effects and channel panning both present and pretty regular through the episodes, sounding effective and showing off a broad soundstage. The low-end from the subwoofer doesn't impede the listening experience too much, with dialogue coming through the center channel both strong and consistent, requiring little adjustment. It's a solid representation of the show on video, er, sound.Extras:
Honestly, no amount of extras is enough for me, but with a fair few of extras centered on the actors/characters, I feel somewhat satisfied. "The Making of Being Human," a 47-minute conglomeration of the cast and crew as they break out into what is special about being a ghost, vampire, and a werewolf. Expect to hear what drew the cast to their characters, the different rules related to each supernatural creature, and you will see some special effects, especially for Sam's transformation into a werewolf. Writers discuss the specific ways that vampires in Being Human could die, and how they performed a lot of cultural/background research. Some of the writers also discuss the challenges in taking the BBC version and translating it to the US version--honoring the original but also making it into its own show. Fans, apparently, storylines will be branching off from the UK version in Season Two, which is exciting stuff. A short featurette called "What Would You Choose?" talks to each of the three stars and asks whether they would be a vampire, werewolf, and ghost if given a choice. Interestingly, for whatever reason, they each chose their own character's monster side. Additionally, there is about 10 minutes of interviews on the SyFy red carpet with Sam, Sam, and Meaghan, where you'll find answers to questions about Sally's "uniform," what each think of the other actors, and what they hope for the series.
Aside from a show trailer, the only other thing is maybe the best extra: the recorded Being Human panel from the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con. At 39:56, this is an excellent look at two of the writers and the three stars. Very casual, the two Sams steal the show with their humor. Check out Sam Whitwer's face at around the 39:05 mark as he does an impression of old-timey vampires. I watched it twice. Last word of note for fans of the show looking forward to Season Two: According to one of the writers, the theme is "the more you try to be human, the more monstrous you become." So read into that however you wish.Final Thoughts:
Whether you're a fan of the BBC show, you should try it out. With a lot of drama, smart storytelling, and unusually funny moments (mostly from Josh), fans of the supernatural will like this. Just don't get caught up in the special effect details. There's more to love here than just makeup and CG.