Saturday, December 17, 2011

Being Human (US – season 1) – review

Director: Various

First aired: 2011

Contains spoilers

When I first heard about a US remake of Being Human I was less than enthusiastic, after all the UK series was patchy in parts but had developed a great pedigree. The original pilot episode (which sinfully is not available on DVD) was a magnificent piece of comedy drama with more than a touch of Withnail and I and brought us the tale of a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost sharing a house and trying to be human.

a touch of gore
The first season changed two of the main cast members but maintained the pilot’s background story. The comedy remained, but its focus and style shifted and it wasn’t consistent in its writing. Season 2 still had weak moments but had some marvellous moments, edging just ahead of the first season. Unfortunately Season 3 squandered its strong moments, more than the first two seasons, with some plot-holes as well as unrealistic and sensationalist writing.

werewolf, US style
So, a US version, the actors (by the initial publicity shots) seemed too polished – they weren’t, to be fair – and I wondered why the producers would bother. However, by the end of the UK season 3 we knew that the vampire character Mitchell was out of any subsequent series and recently (at the time of writing this review) it seemed the werewolf character George was not to be reprised by Russell Tovey – honestly, I am left wondering what the point of a fourth season would be but it also meant that the future of the franchise has to be placed well and truly in the US series’ hands.

unusual flatmates
Well, the series was both familiar and new. The series used the basic plot of the pilot episode and the first UK series, with some aspects lifted from the later UK series, but then really changed the show. The show was played straight, with some incidental humour, the character names all changed as did storylines, with character development and dynamics shifting because of the way the script writers changed the actions and events around. Mitchell became Aiden (Sam Witwer), George became Josh (Sam Huntington) and Annie became Sally (Meaghan Rath). Looking strictly at the vampire aspects; Aiden attacks and leaves his date, Rebecca (Sarah Allen), for dead at the head of the first show, falling from his not-live-blood wagon. She is turned on the orders of Bishop (Mark Pellegrino) – who is the Herrick equivalent - and Bishop then uses her through the series to try and get Aiden back into his vampire fold.

the Dutch during the day
The show changed, very much, the vampire dynamics. Bishop still plots for a vampiric uprising, as it were, but is going against the elders – Bishop may run Boston but it is at the whim of the Dutch. Interestingly they sleep through the daylight hours, either in coffins or suspended in burlap sacks (because it is traditional, not because they have to) and live a rural life that is a juxtaposition of an almost puritanical lifestyle mingled with truly monstrous appetites and vampiric behaviour, where the urban vampires are comfortable in the light and have blood dens where willing victims offer a taste of their blood.

no invitation
There was some major lore changes as well. Gone is the entire religious theme, which played a part in the UK series. There is no indication that a cross (or in Josh’s case a Star of David) can hold a vampire off and whilst a hospital priest does come into the story he does not repel the vampires with faith but is a vampire, recruiting new vampires for Bishop. Garlic comes into play but causes a mild allergic reaction that forces the vampires to show their true, vampiric face. Vampires who enter a domicile without invitation start to decay or burn away.

Mark Pellegrino as Bishop
Interestingly Juniper is added into lore, Juniper being able to cause a temporary, rigor mortis like paralysis in a vampire. Both a stake through the heart and beheading will kill a vampire and when they die they crumble into dust. To turn a victim into a vampire they must be fed vampire blood. Interestingly the Aiden character is significantly older than his UK counterpart – coming in at around two hundred – he also does an unfortunate line in being the maudlin vampire.

vampire on camera
Significantly vampires now have reflections and can be filmed. This changes the dynamic of the entire storyline (as it might have developed) as there is no sneaking in and out of places as Mitchell did in the UK series because CCTV wouldn’t catch him. The storyline of the young boy, Bernie (Jason Spevack) , being befriended by Aiden and taking a vampire porn disc created by Rebecca is still there but changes as the disc clearly shows a male and female participant – the mother simply separating Aiden from her son as a pervert, without the Daily Mail-esque false accusations of child molestation and the hysteria thereafter. This story also shows how the writers changed the show’s dynamic (with this and some other storylines) by having the story run over two episodes.

Sally is unwell
The acting is strong throughout, though Aiden is a bit of a whinger. Josh, as a character, is probably the most unchanged – though it is his sister and not his ex he meets in the early episode, leading to a reconciliation (of sorts) with his parents in this season (rather than season 3 of the UK storyline) and some of the other events of later UK seasons are introduced in this season. Sally’s backstory is much the same, though her character is drawn as intelligent rather than scatter-brained, but her ghostly interactions are more limited in this season, she has a ghost on ghost relationship briefly and her murderer tries to have her exorcised – which left her looking rather ghoulish for a while. One thing I did notice was that there was an obvious estrangement from nudity, even the vampire porn disc had a maintanance of underwear (and then an on-screen reaction to off-screen boobs) - that felt odd after a certain HBO vampire series.

Nora and Josh
Over all I cannot say that this was any better or worse than the best of the UK seasons – it was different and I think that the overall writing was more solid, with more realistic reactions/impacts than later seasons of the UK series. The dynamics and character development, I think, were so changed by the end of the season that I genuinely look forward to seeing where they take this. 7.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.



Simon Dyda said...

I've watched the first season and I've nearly finished the second. I quite like the story's "universe" but a major problem I have with this US version is that two of the protagonists - Josh and Sally - are whiny narcissists. They really annoy the crap out of me with their incessant whining. I have no sympathy for them whatsoever.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

I've not seen season 2 yet, so can't comment on the later development, and whilst I wouldn't disagree that there is some narcissism going on... I didn't find them any more whiny than the UK characters (in fairness more George and Mitchell, than Annie).

However I do think the story telling was massively tighter than the UK version (at least to the end of US season 1 and watching how loose it became season upon season in the UK version)