“There Goes the Neighborhood, Part 1″
Being an avid tv watcher and anglophile (hazard of having a Brit for a husband), keeping up with UK television is a must. The main thing that really separates the US and UK is the length of seasons and series in general. While shows in the US will pop out 20+ episodes a year, season after season (and sometimes past the point of entertaining), UK seasons vary from 6 to 12 episodes. Some entire series form a practically perfect baker’s dozen (see The Office and the classic Faulty Towers). With only a handful or two of hours to tell their story, writers find genius in simplicity, compact storytelling and tight pacing. Two of the shining recent examples are Being Human and Skins, both of which are being granted highly anticipated US remakes starting this month. Being Human has a pretty simple premise: two guys and a girl live together, hijinks and drama ensue. In this case, however, this trio consists of a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost, making it a perfect fit on SyFy. While great remakes find their own territory (see The Office’s American counterpart), first episodes have nowhere to start but with the source inspiration. Being Human premiered with a close copy of its UK cousin, but with just enough promise that it might become a great show all on its own.
As the show opens, Aidan, pale and chisel-featured narrates while we see his date juxtaposed with a young man walking through the woods. The young man looks around, anxious and unsure. Aidan and his date move to the “come on in for dessert” phase of the date. It’s a pretty common bait and switch that tv shows have pulled before (my favorite use is still from Buffy) and savvy viewers quickly realize that it’s not the anxious guy in the woods who’s in trouble; it’s just girl who just invited a guy in for dessert and then pulled her shirt off before he crossed the threshold. Aidan, our recovering vampire protagonist, gets a little caught up and goes full vampire with girl who has yet to be named while anxious guy in the woods provides some equal opportunity nudity before he turns into a werewolf. In the next morning aftermath, Aidan calls someone to have his problem cleaned up while our werewolf, Josh, wakes up next to a half-eaten deer carcass… his own morning aftermath. He walks back to town, stealing a dress along the way, where Aidan is waiting for him.
Just some quick editorializing on the opening and then I promise, it’ll be all recap from here until the wrap up. This cold open is practically a shot for shot remake of the start of the original series. Which I’m completely okay with. I feel like this opening; establishing Aidan falling off the wagon, showing Josh’s resigned uneasiness with his werewolf self, the striking visual of the naked, bloody Josh waking up next to the deer, the awkward small talk between Aidan and Josh in the car… these things set the tone for the series. The mix of the supernatural world with a normal friendship and roommate relationship.
Josh and Aidan work at the same hospital, an orderly and nurse respectively. After last night’s issues, Aidan wants himself and Josh to move in together, to be able to watch out for each other and having something of a normal life. Josh initially rejects this idea, but after a close call with someone he recognizes and some time sitting in a park watching the normal people, he decides that it might be all right, but warns Aidan that he’s OCD. They check out a house for rent and the actor Sam Huntington really shines as he adorably tries to contain his enthusiasm for one apartment in particular. Josh’s enthusiasm wanes when the landlord, Danny, lets them know that someone died in the house: Danny’s fiancé to be exact. Aidan is nonplussed and the guys move in. The house has its downsides, though… the plumping is wonky and there’s some strange transient wondering the hallway. Only the transient is a ghost: Sally, Danny’s dead fiancé who knows what Josh and Aidan are (it’s all they talk about apparently), and is ecstatic that people can finally see her. Meaghan Rath makes for a really pleasant Sally. Though, if figuring out who she’s a sound-alike for was bugging you: Piper Perabo. You’re welcome. Aidan’s cool with Sally’s ghostly presence; Josh thinks she needs to move on and haunt her ex. Unfortunately, she can’t bring herself to leave the house. Poor Sally doesn’t even know how she died.
Back at the hospital, Aidan is on to step two in his plan to make Josh’s life better (we’re unsure why he embarked upon it, but go with me here). Thinking that running into the woods is no way to deal with his time of the month, Aidan finds some rooms in an abandoned part of the hospital that can lock from the inside, providing the perfect place for Josh to hide away on the full moon. On the top side of the hospital, however, things aren’t going as smoothly for Aidan. Marcus, the vampire who cleaned up after Aidan’s mess, is hanging around, waiting to turn high-profile deathbed patients per Bishop’s orders. Previously unnamed girl? Rebecca… a nurse and coworker of Aidan’s who people knew had a thing for him, stamping a Prime Suspect #1 badge on Aidan when Rebecca goes missing. When being interviewed for the umpteenth time by an officer, the officer’s partner steps in, taking over the interview. This is the aforementioned Bishop (played by mysterious supernatural guy staple Mark Pellegrino). A higher-up in the vampire food chain, Bishop drops some exposition, letting us know that Aidan’s been a vampire for two hundred years and has turned his back on his vampire family. Aidan again reiterates that he wants no part of it. Filled with guilt, Aidan anonymously phones Rebecca’s parents to tell them that she’s dead. Meanwhile, we need some exposition on Josh, and the person he recognized before turns out to be his sister, Emily (there with her injured girlfriend), who is happy to provide it. Josh suddenly disappeared from his family two years ago, telling them not to worry about him (the “worst thing to say to a Jewish mother”). Emily tries to get the truth out of him, being genetically inclined to love him unconditionally, but he pushes her away and asks that she not tell their parents she saw him.
Bishop seeks out Aidan again, reminding him that he’s getting sloppy and letting him know that his latest mess wasn’t as easy to clean up after. He needs to show Aidan something and takes Aidan to some kind of brothel for vampires where a skeezy guy takes his coat and then some girl in a tragic outfit slits a vein for him to drink from. I really didn’t catch why Bishop took him there or why Aidan partook (apart from it being important for the next bit of timing), so if some reader can fill me in, please do so. While Aidan’s busy being a rock star, Josh pops in some ear buds and heads to his special room (this episode has taken the span of a month? Really?), but Emily catches sight of him and follows. She confronts him, wanting to know what’s going on, why he left, and why he’s hanging out in some dingy room. He tries to force her out, but she slams the door shut. And the moon is fast approaching. With Aidan not answering his phone (it’s in his JACKET!), Josh tries calling home, pleading Sally to try leaving the house to come help him somehow. He explains that he’s locked in and his sister’s there and if she doesn’t help, he’ll kill her. With circumstances dire, the episode ends, cutting to a slightly inappropriately peppy preview for the rest of the season.
Overall, I really liked this first episode. I like the introduction of Josh’s sister (we’ve never seen his UK counterpart’s family), I like the feel of the show and I like the majority of the performances. I’m not going to say that I really hate anything yet, because it’s early days and it might grow on me. However, I have to say that Sam Witwer as Aidan has a LOT of growing to do. While I can’t say that I’d want Aidan to be constantly angsty and brooding (I have Angel reruns for that), there’s something that Witwer is missing. There’s no world weariness to him; we’re not really seeing the struggle between his vampire impulses and his no-kill stance. Considering that the UK version really sets the counterpart character up as the hinge that the show swings on, Witwer could be a make it or break it for me with this show. We’ll see how it goes.
Did you catch Being Human‘s premiere? What did you think?