By Tressa Eckermann, Senior Staff Writer
A vampire, a werewolf and a ghost living together sounds like the beginning of a really bad joke, or at the very least, a really bad ‘tween book.
Instead it’s the premise of “Being Human,” Syfy’s American remake of the popular British show of the same name. Many fans of the original series, which started airing in 2008 on BBC3, railed against the remake. Those who do tune into the Syfy version on Mondays at 8 p.m. should be pleasantly surprised.
The show follows Aidan, a vampire who works as an orderly at a hospital, as he decides to move into a run-down house with Josh, a pensive and sneaky werewolf who also works at the hospital. After they move in, they discover Sally, a young woman who died in the house and now haunts it.
It goes like this: Aidan is tortured by his past and keeps slipping up (in other words, he keeps killing his dates), and is fighting the urge to fall back into the devious vampire family he once ran with. Josh is a newly minted werewolf (though we don’t know how he got that way yet – we’ve only seen snippets of his past.) Sally is a ghost who fell to her death while her fiancée slept in their bedroom.
It sounds goofy and cliché but it works. Instead of approaching it as a science fiction show, the writers and actors produce it as a character study in the vein of Arthur Miller’s “The Misfits.”
The show alternates between searing humor and meditative sadness. One episode shows Aidan inviting over half the neighborhood to form a neighborhood watch, an ironically funny idea on its own. The early episodes show how the characters deal with family and personal tragedy. Josh has run away from his sister after discovering that he is a werewolf only to have her thrust back into his life. Aidan must deal with a vengeful vampire he accidentally turned in the first episode. Instead of focusing on her fiancé’s mourning, we see Sally coming to terms with the fact that she can see him but have no contact with him, sort of like the ultimate star-crossed lovers.
Like the original, the American remake of “Being Human” relies on the writing and the chemistry of the actors. Fortunately, this version works on both fronts. The writing is witty and fresh. It doesn’t feel recycled from other shows or movies that have come before it.
Sam Hunington, who plays Josh, is the most genuinely “approachable” character on the show. He consistently elicits the most sympathy or laughs. I imagine it’s a difficult character to play but he does it well, playing off his lines with ease and comfort.
“Good, we’ll invite the neighbor’s over and eat them,” he says to Aidan, who’s trying desperately (like all the characters) to just be “normal.”
Sam Witwer, who plays Aidan, doesn’t fall into the general trend of today’s vampires. True, he is pretty, but he also has a quality missing from other creature-of-the-night characters. He actually smiles, and even cracks jokes. Witwer plays him with all the dark charm and ease that the original actor plays the role.
Sally (Meaghan Rath) probably has the hardest role. For the first two episodes, she was confined to the house setting and she has arguably the most intensely emotional role. She has little to work with other than the wonderful writing, but despite all this she does the role justice.
The show is aided by co-stars like Mark Pellegrino (“Supernatural” fans will know him as Lucifer) who plays creepy oh-so-well. The biggest issues the show must overcome are its comparisons with its predecessor, and also not falling into the current trends of vampire/werewolf stereotypes. I’m sure certain fans of the original “Being Human” may take issue with things. It’s only natural. But those who give the show a chance will find a lot to love.