BBC Video // 2009 // 343 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // July 16th, 2010
"There are monsters outside. When it's just the three of us, it's like none of them can touch us." -- Annie
Like many BBC TV series, aside from Doctor Who, Being Human pretty much dropped out of the sky in 2008; delivering a relatively new, if not at least more traditional, look at vampires, werewolves and ghosts. Given its brief debut season of only six episodes, did the series have the opportunity to plant deep enough roots to carry it into the future?
From Three's Company to Bosom Buddies, series have been based on the inherently awkward and humorous situations that face roommates, but Being Human takes a new approach by adding a supernatural flavor most viewers won't likely have seen before. Trying to live normal lives and blend into the woodwork as much as possible, three unusual roommates are thrown together into a most unusual relationship of convenience and comfort that is both a part of, and apart from, humanity.
All six episodes of Being Human: Season One, and that's all they're called is "episodes," with no catchy titles like most other series, are included, spread across two discs. It took me a minute to get used to that somewhat generic approach, but each episode quickly began to feel like a new chapter in an ongoing story, rather than a one-off peek into a fictional world that would disappear again until its next scheduled air time. It certainly seems to be an American, and by some association, a Canadian approach to TV series: pandering to viewers by neatly packaging episodes with cutesy titles; you won't find any of that here.
As I alluded to before, what makes Being Human: Season One more than a tad original, is that lurking just beneath the surface of the "real" world, beings exist who are disturbingly more fact than fiction. I also found it interesting that, while maybe a tad obvious, the series' name carries its own duality, referring to supernatural beings who are trying to be normal and also playing with the term "human being," examining it from an entirely new angle. At the core of the series are seemingly normal roommates Anna, John and George.
* The Ghost
Anna "Annie" Clare Sawyer (Lenora Crichlow, Sugar Rush) is a ghost, there's just no way around it. The victim of a tragic accident in her own home, Annie is trapped in the place where she died and perhaps worse yet for a twentysomething, she's doomed to wearing the same outfit she had on when she died.
* The Vampire
John Mitchell (Aidan Turner, The Tudors) has been around. Experiencing his own death on the front lines as an infantryman during World War I, Mitchell was reborn to walk the Earth as a vampire. Ultimately choosing to renounce his primal side and immerse himself in humanity, John both cares for George and protects him, while relying on his friend to return the favor when needed. Oh yeah, and he's a smoldering pretty-boy too, which helps with the ladies!
* The Werewolf
George Sands (Russell Tovey, Gavin & Stacey) is a tad nerdy, a lot awkward, and likely the last person you'd suspect could tear you limb from limb. After a savage attack, George lives to tell the tale, only to discover that his life was spared at a terrible price, leaving him cursed with lycanthropy. His controlling behavior and retentive approach to life are all that keeps his primal nature at bay.
I haven't been able to find the reason behind it, but two out of three of the series' core actors were replaced between when the pilot aired in early 2008 and when the series began its first season in early 2009. Perhaps while the BBC dragged their feet before ultimately giving the green light for a six-episode first season, the original actors moved on to other jobs. Whatever the reason, while there was some on-screen chemistry between the original cast members, and actor Russell Tovey remained in the role of George, the choice to recast the other two main roles seems to have benefitted the show overall, as both Crichlow and Turner are just better actors than their predecessors. The main noticeable difference between the pilot and the series is that the comedic elements have been all but eliminated, focusing the show as a more pure supernatural drama with the odd humorous moment thrown in to release tension.
While we've seen ghosts, vampires and werewolves on TV and in movies for decades, there's something about throwing their worlds together under the guise of middle-class roommates that makes Being Human worth watching. With series like The X-Files and Supernatural all but cornering the market on the more gory and dark sides of things that go bump in the night, it's a unique and refreshing approach to see how these characters face their curses and struggle to maintain some semblance of a normal "human" life. Rather than getting bogged down in the conventions and trappings of the supernatural lore, Being Human takes a somewhat selective approach; adopting elements of vampire, ghost and werewolf canon, without letting those elements overpower the character-driven elements of the series. Because that's what Season One seems to be about: yes, these characters are supernatural, but they were also once human and are striving to retain their humanity despite outside influences and internal conflicts.
BBC sent us screener copies, so the A/V presentation I experienced does not necessarily represent the final retail product. That said, Being Human has nothing to be ashamed of as it makes its Blu-ray debut. At first, it seemed as though the picture was a bit on the soft side, especially for an HD presentation, but I quickly came to realize that it simply looks true to life, with just enough grain to give it character. Where this release becomes really frustrating is how the material is painfully restricted to a 2.0 mix. Given the fact that series' score, the werewolf transformations and other miscellaneous icky bits could have easily generated enough for our surround channels to feast on, what we're left with here is disappointing.
The extras are slightly above average and include a brief alternate scene from episode three; 20 minutes of "Character Profiles"; an inside look at the vampires with "Vamping it Up"; Being Human's creator shares an overview of the season with "Toby Whitehouse on: The Journey"; "Locations" takes a closer look at some of the main locales featured in Season One; and "Costumes and Make Up" is, well, pretty self-explanatory. Overall, what we find here is a decent amount of breadth, but not much depth at all.
Being Human: Season One is one hell of a start, especially for a series that had to claw its way back from the brink of oblivion. But the fans have spoken, not only shaping the BBC's decision to back a first season, but also a second 8-episode season that is scheduled to being airing on BBC America in the near future.
Being Human is a refreshing series in a somewhat tired genre that
artfully blends humanity with just the right amount of good old supernatural
elements. Not guilty.
Review content copyright © 2010 Kent Dixon; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080i)
* DTS 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 343 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Website