Monday , May 20 2024
A vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost walk into a bar.

TV Review: Being Human

You've got your vampires, your werewolves, and your ghosts, and never the thrain shall meet… or something like that. Okay, so sometimes vampires meet werewolves, but ghosts rarely wind up involved in those mash-ups. But now, fans of all three supernatural creatures can rejoice, because BBC America's Being Human, which premieres this Saturday night, takes all three creatures of the night and mixes them together into an otherworldly parfait.

Is it an utterly delectable, none-too-fattening treat? Well, it's not undelicious, but it's not exactly a truffle from La Maison du Chocolat either.

The series revolves around three twenty-somethings: George (Russell Tovey), a werewolf; Mitchell (Aidan Turner), a vampire; and Annie (Lenora Crichlow), a ghost. George and Russell have, for various reasons, decided that they'd rather not live in the shadows anymore, so, while they're not divulging their secret identities, they are renting a swell house and trying to fit in with the world at large. They're both hospital porters and just generally doing everything they can to, well, try to be human.

Annie's issues are slightly different. Being a ghost she can't readily be seen by people. At the outset of the pilot, she actually seems to be coming back into focus for more folks, but that all falls apart after a little almost encounter with her onetime fiancé, Owen (Greg Chillin).

The show operates on several different levels. There are crucial backstories as to how George, Mitchell, and Annie ended up in their current not-quite-human states; there is the mythology as it exists in this series of the various creatures; the present day intrigues of the various supernatural sets; and the actual human bits. It is a lot to try to cram into every hour of television and doesn't always gel perfectly.

Perhaps a lot of that is due to the character of Mitchell, the resident vampire. Where George and Annie have serious issues they're dealing with, their characters are written in a more lighthearted fashion. Mitchell feels far darker than that. George and Annie struggle, but they joke. Mitchell – at least in the first three episodes – mainly just struggles. His character fits in with the concept of the show, just not with all the characters around him.

While that is a criticism of the show, one definitely gets a feeling through the first few episodes of the series that Mitchell is darker on purpose. The viewer learns early on that the vampires have some sort of weird, powerful network in the city, and they tend to stand far more on the side of evil (even if they're cops) than good. Mitchell doesn't approach the evil side, but unlike George and Annie, he is surrounded by many more of his own kind and has to contend with that social network as well. Plus, as we're told early on in the series, the vampires tend to think something big (and perhaps bad) is about to take place. It all necessitates Mitchell's being more dark, but his character makes the show a lot less fun.

George and Annie do know others of their species, just not as many, and werewolves and ghosts apparently don't have large social circles. Still, their encounters with their own kind are serious, heartfelt, and sometimes evil, but when they reenter "normal" society, they are able to maintain a far more lighthearted nature, and one that seems to fit better with the overall sense of the show.

Going beyond the supernatural, Being Human does deal with a lot of real, down to earth issues, everything from dating and relationships to work to one's place in society. Watching these three people trying to figure out who they are, and how they can best approach the world at large is fascinating, and at times truly heartbreaking. The best example of this is with Annie and her having to watch her one-time fiancé dating someone else while she is still in love with him.

Though not always a perfect mixture of the natural and the preternatural, Being Human does manage to do a decent balancing act in the first three episodes of the season. Enough questions are asked and avenues opened for exploration that it could be fascinating to see where the show goes in the future. It could very well wind up being Buffy-esque (and certainly owes a lot of itself to Buffy) and remain highly enjoyable for years to come. At this point though, it is simply like, but not love, at first bite.

Being Human premieres on BBC America Saturday, July 25, at 9:00pm.

About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.

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