Between Twilight, True Blood, and just about everything else on television and in theaters these days, it’s starting to feel like the whole world of entertainment is being programmed by Otto The Bus Driver. Is there anything out there that isn’t from the vampire’s point of view? Alas, the British TV series Being Human doesn’t buck the trend, although it does match its vampire—a handsome, conscientious bloke named Mitchell—with a werewolf named George and a ghost named Annie, as roommates in a house in Bristol. And the show’s creator, Toby Whithouse, makes a smart choice in hewing closer to the Buffy The Vampire Slayer/Angel model, aiming for an alternately witty and poignant show about tortured souls trying to cling to normalcy. Unlike the hothouse melodrama of a lot of recent supernatural fare, Being Human tries to be as down-to-Earth as its title.
The Being Human: Season One DVD and Blu-ray sets contain six hourlong episodes, which improve considerably as they go along. Early on, the show’s core trio are a little broadly sketched, bordering on goofy—especially the fumbly, jug-eared George, played by Russell Tovey, and the insecure Annie, played by Lenora Crichlow—and the scripts tend to be unevenly paced and stuffed with backstory. But even from the start, Being Human comes across as one of the most genuinely horrific monster shows ever made, with a good mix of creepy effects and subtle suggestiveness. (For example, in one freaky scene, the housemates watch a videotape in which a man has enthusiastic sex with an invisible vampire, until his neck suddenly rips open.) And throughout, Whithouse and his creative team thoughtfully explore the philosophical differences that arise between the heroes and others of their kind.
Annie summarizes that conflict well, in talking about the incident that turned her into a ghost. She says she’s tried to distance herself from her murder, thinking, “There was me, and there was this dark thing that happened to me, but the two were separate,” but the longer she’s bound by her condition, the more difficult it gets. Along the same lines, other vampires and werewolves rail at John and George for their relative austerity, urging them to embrace the benefits of their beastly side. As John, Aidan Turner conveys the struggle skillfully, showing how his character has spent nearly a century veering between abstinence and relapse, and how giving in a little can lead to giving in completely. Being Human’s first season builds toward a tense clash between Mitchell and a powerful band of vampires, but the real drama has to do with whether Mitchell, George, and Annie can use their supernatural gifts without losing themselves.
Key features: The two-disc set contains deleted scenes and featurettes—none of which are essential—but annoyingly, does not contain the original pilot, which Whithouse has said he considers “canon,” even though it had a largely different cast.