Thursday, January 20, 2011

Review: Being Human (USA) "There Goes the Neighborhood Pt 1"

Non Spoiler Review:
A vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost rent a house, it's not the beginning of a joke, but actually quite a successful British television series that has undergone an American remake. The original is quite a dark and compelling supernatural drama, so this one has big shoes to fill. 

Being Human stars Sam Witner (Crashdown from Battlestar Galactica), Sam Huntington (Jimmy Olson from Superman Returns), and Meaghan Rath as the three nonhuman characters who just want to create a life as human as possible for themselves. Vampire Aidan (Witner) and werewolf Josh (Huntington) work at a hospital together and decide to share a house in order to create a haven from their otherwise chaotic lives of blood drinking and general wolfy mayhem. 

Enter Mark Pelligrino (Jacob from Lost), as Aidan's former maker, to try to draw him back into the fold, and Rath's sudden appearance as the newly dead Sally bound to their new house, and you have the makings of an intriguing premise. Character and plot started out interesting enough to keep one watching, and the stakes slowly ramped up to a great finale of part one. The actors all seem to have a good handle on their characters, as each has their own unique cross to bear when it comes to being a supernatural creature living in a world of humans. Aidan's blood lust is pretty much a drug addiction, and Josh has that thing that happens to him once a month. Sally can't do anything, except observe. She can't even remember how she died.

If you've seen the British version you're likely already in love with that, but this one is still worth a look and promises to have its own dark aspects, despite being an Americanized remake. I'll definitely be sticking with it if it continues to improve on its already great premiere.

Spoilers Now!
The pilot episode opens with Aidan out on a date with coworker, Rebecca, juxtaposed with his friend Josh as he goes off into the woods—and turns into a werewolf. In the heat of passion, Aidan starts biting into Rebecca and drains her of blood. Waking up in the morning, he calls a friend who works at the morgue to handle clean up.

Aidan later picks up Josh from his forest excursion (waking up naked next to a disemboweled deer). While both of them don't discuss their previous night's revelries, they head to work at a hospital, and on break, Aidan brings up his idea that they move in together. Aidan is trying to convince Josh it's for the best, but Josh has doubts. Then they meet Kara, who is filling in for Rebecca (who hasn't shown up for work, oddly enough). She's kind of awkward and nervous, like Josh. 

Aidan runs into vampire Marcus at the hospital who is looking for new recruits among the patients. He's pleased to see Aidan is getting back into the fold. Aidan tells him to get out, but Marcus says their leader, Bishop, wants more vampires. A nurse walks in on their conversation and ends it for the moment.

Josh finally agrees to moving in, wanting a shot at normal and a place they can look out for one another, so he and Aidan house hunt, finding a funky place with lots of character. The landlord Danny confesses that it used to be owned by an engaged couple (and the girl died)...then says it was his fiance. He seems anxious to rent it out, and Josh and Aidan seem the perfect couple.

We get a moving in montage, complete with soundtrack, but it's not long before Josh sees someone else in the house. They can both see her, and she's shocked and ecstatic that they can. Aidan knows right away she's a ghost. She's Sally. And for six months she's been hanging out alone unable to interact with anyone or anything. She doesn't remember how she died...she went to bed and woke up dead. Sally's been listening to them talk about their own conditions, so is aware they're vampire and werewolf. Josh doesn't appreciate the haunting aspect or the fact that there is now zero privacy in the house, so suggests she haunt Danny. But Sally can't leave, unable to pass across the door outside.

Aidan explains supernatural beings can see one another. But he knows a ghost isn't a ghost without a reason and wants Josh to give her a chance to find her way. Meanwhile, he's had another idea to help his friend and brings Josh to a secure vault below the hospital, locked from the outside, where he can transform without fear, to be let out by Aidan in the morning.

As Josh mulls this over, he runs into a face from his past at the hospital—Emily is his sister, and she's looking after her girlfriend. He's happy to see her but won't explain why he broke off communication with his family a couple of years before.

Aidan is interviewed by the police given it was common knowledge that he was dating Rebecca. But one of the cops is Bishop and assures his partner (using his vampire mind tricks) that Aidan didn't do this and sends him off to wait in the car.

Bishop is pleased to welcome Aidan back to his blood drinking ways (given Aidan had taken to using the blood bank to satiate his hunger). Aidan says he's not back, but Bishop disagrees, given this latest killing. Aidan does ask him to make the problem disappear, but it's difficult given everyone knows Rebecca had a thing for him.

Bishop has known his protege over two hundred years. Now he's worried the younger vampire is lost. Aidan used to be a bad ass, and we get a flashback to the good old days when he and Bishop would attack weddings and kill the entire party.

Feeling guilty about getting Bishop to help him, Aidan decides to tell Rebecca's parents (anonymously) that she's dead, to ease his conscience. He comes home to comfort a crying Sally who'd taken his advice and has been trying to leave the house, but can't. She suggests that she needs to see Danny, so wants them to call him to come over to fix the pipes so she can try to appear to him.

With everyone upset about something in their life, Josh is pursued by Emily despite telling her it's for their own good that his family just leaves him alone. She secretly follows him at the hospital down to the vault, where she confronts him just as he's about ready to change. She demands an explanation and won't let him leave without one...and shuts the door, which can't be opened from the inside. A horrified Josh realizes they're locked in together.

Bishop took care of Rebecca, but he gets Aidan to come for a ride with him. Things are about to change, he says, but he tells him life doesn't have to be so hard for their kind. They go into a club which is kind of a blood brothel for vampires where they can drink at leisure.

Josh is desperately trying to call Aidan but he's not answering. So he tries calling Sally to see if there's anything she can do to find him. The best she can do is listen to the voicemail, and goes to the door, but her hands still pass through the wall. Aidan savors his taste of human blood, and sees Bishop smiling at him. And Josh begins to change as his sister watches.

What Worked:
The characters are all pretty likable, though I do find myself loyal to Sally's British counterpart, Annie, given how well she plays that part. I was pleased to see the darkness in the main characters has been maintained for this version. Aidan can't shake his blood lust and is easily drawn back into the shadow of Bishop like a drug addict. He also has quite the past, given his flashback to the wedding massacre. We'll see next week how much control (or not) Josh is able to exert when he's in wolf form. And Sally's lack of memory regarding her cause of death promises to bring some more surprises.

Sam Witner rocks as Aidan. Despite appearances, Josh is just a novice werewolf, and Sally newly dead, but Aidan is two hundred years old with lifetimes of history and experience. It's easy to forget this when the three of them are together.

I'm pleased with Pelligrino's more subdued take on Bishop. He's rather likable at the moment, but he's certainly going to be one of the bad asses on the show. There will be a lot of grey areas when it comes to how these characters deal with the world, but that's why it's called Being Human.

The series is filmed in Montreal, which was a surprise to see some familiar landmarks and an added European flavor to the background. The house has a suitably funky and dark atmosphere befitting its supernatural inhabitants. The writers and producers are off to a great start.

What Didn't Work:
It's an ongoing quibble—I'm a traditionalist and can never get used to these daylight vampires. I realize it would put a lot of pressure on the writers to deal with Aidan only appearing at night, but I didn't really catch any explanation as to how he and other vampires are walking around in the middle of the day. Nor did we see him catch any sleep either. Given it's only the first episode, I'm sure more mythological explanations are forthcoming.

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