Being Human: Season One (US - BD RA)
Gabe moves into a Bristol house with a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost...
Based on the concept and cover art I was convinced Being Human was going to be a naval gazing angst-fest I’d want nothing to do with, but like most the BBC series I’m sent by the BBC America people this series is perfectly entertaining, and at times even downright engaging. The series plot revolves around three supernatural beings renting a house in Bristol. George Sands (Russell Tovey) is a nebbish and intelligent man cursed to turn into a monstrous werewolf every full moon. George is saved by John Mitchell (Aidan Turner) a tortured, oddly sweet vampire, and the two move into a cosy house in hopes of rediscovering their humanity. Ironically enough it turns out their new house is haunted by a neurotic ghost named Annie Sawyer (Lenora Crichlow), who pines endlessly for her still living fiancé Owen (Gregg Chillin).
The series starts a little too clichéd, but the references are obvious enough that it’s clear that the writers are just getting the obvious out of the way (the introductions to the werewolf directly lifts imagery from An American Werewolf in London). The vampire stuff never quite satisfies, but the slightly more comedic treatment of the werewolf mythos is consistently funny, and the ghost stuff is usually quite touching in a clever way (I’m actually slightly ashamed of myself for not guessing more of that story). Setting George and Mitchell in a hospital is also clever, but opens up the door to a whole other set of clichés, though the mixed recognizable elements usually manage to cancel each other out. Once the basic plot track is laid, and we’re free to explore the characters and series mythology there are surprises aplenty. I’m especially impressed with the character turns, and with the use of ‘villains’ who attack on an emotional level more realistically than most fantasy based creations. These emotional attacks usually lead to more goofy frowny faces and misty eyes, but usually the emo-overload is worth the investment.
The comedy is the consistently worthwhile element, and the writers wisely balance the angst-ridden vampire super-plot (which is, frankly, not what’s going to bring me back for the second season), though I occasionally found myself pining for more girlish screaming werewolf boy. The comedic stylings are patently British, but I can’t really compare them to any other specific series. There’s a touch of Doctor Who, and a smattering of Spaced, along with plenty of gags I’ll never understand without understanding more UK slang, and watching hours of other BBC series I don’t have the time to sit through. The humour features real personality, and no one is afraid to make a bit of an ass out of themselves in the name of a good laugh. I should probably also note for the Twilight crowd that Being Human does not scrimp on the violence and gore. As a horror fan I’m impressed with the gore levels, and the old-school make-up effects. The werewolf transformations are gloriously stretchy and rubbery, and the gruesome stuff, though not especially common, is usually enough to raise the bile a bit.
Instead of comparing Being Human to multi-million dollar American television on Blu-ray releases like Lost or Heroes, I’ll compare it to its tighter-budgeted BBC siblings, like Doctor Who and Torchwood. Unfortunately, even with these more modest expectations this collection comes up pretty short. The problem is two-fold. The first and less obvious problem is that of inconsistent detail and clarity. Occasionally things look great, including sharp edges, plentiful fine details, and expressive contrast levels. The rest of the time things are grainy and noisy, with muddied colours, and rough edges. These all appear to be problems with the source material, because there aren’t any big issues with compression artefacts, blocking or edge-enhancement. The second, and hard to miss problem is that of interlacing effects. I’ve watched other 1080i releases on this set and player, and I’ve never seen a problem like this. The frame rate is all over the place, causing jerky movement during broad camera or actor movement. Sometimes a cross-section of the screen will work on a slightly different speed than the rest of the action, creating a square of choppy lag.
I should note that these discs also froze up a few times while watching them, so it’s entirely possible that either these screener discs were defective, or that they didn’t mix well with my Momitsu player.
This disc comes fitted with a TV friendly and overall unimpressive Dolby Surround audio mix. The sound designers have fun with the musical track, in that they often give it a definitive point of origin, and when the camera is outside that space it becomes muffled. In the first episode it’s appears the action music is actually being created by the werewolf. When offered clearly and plainly the music is the track’s largest element, and despite overall compression and lack of discreet separation mostly compares to other low budget television releases. The series sound effects are mostly either basic ambience, but occasionally a werewolf howl fills out a stereo channel, or one of the ghost moving effect sounds will create a bit of left to right movement. The dialogue is the tracks only ‘problem’, in that the volume levels are inconsistent, though general clarity is rarely an issue.
Extras begin on disc one with a single alternate scene (01:00, SD), followed by a series of fluffy featurettes, most of which were probably used in some sense to sell the series. These begin ‘Character Profiles’ (20:00, SD), a series of interviews with the cast concerning their…wait for it…characters. It’s not very informative if you’d actually watched the show. ‘Vamping it Up’ (04:20, SD) sees creator Toby Whithouse and other members of the cast and crew discussing Being Human’s specific mythology vampire rules. ‘Toby Whithouse on The Journey’ (07:00, SD) sees the creator discussing the initial failure of the pilot, which was corrected by a rabid, grassroots fan response, and the general nature of the story and characters. The disc is completed with a look at the Bristol locations (09:50, SD), and a look at the costumes and make-up (02:40, SD).
Disc two’s fluffy featurettes begin with ‘Our Journey’s End’ (04:10, SD), a series of clips from the series, and interviews with the main cast and creator, who discuss the end of the first season. ‘Stunts Package’ (10:10, SD) takes a quick look at the stunt process, including interviews, process footage, and the final product. ‘Becoming a Werewolf’ (05:00, SD) is a reasonably entertaining look behind the werewolf transformation sequences, including interviews with the cast and crew, and plenty of onset footage. The disc also features a collection amusing, behind the scenes ‘Video Diaries’ (14:50, SD), deleted scenes (08:40, SD), and extended scenes (15:20, SD).
The oversaturation of supernatural television following The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and more recently Supernatural, along with, of course, Stephanie Meyer’s impact, has left many of us fatigued with vampires and werewolves. Being Human may sound like tween placating dullness on paper, but it’s genuinely worth a try for its solid sense of humour, and some surprising narrative twists. It’s also only six hour long episodes long, so it’s not much of an investment. I’d personally recommend the DVD release over this Blu-ray since the picture quality is pretty rocky, and the 2.0 audio isn’t anything DVD can’t manage. Extras are fluffy and unmemorable.
*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 20th July 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby Surround 2.0 English
Extras: Alternate/Deleted/Extended Scenes, Character Profiles, Vamping it Up, Toby Whithouse on The Journey, Locations, Costumes and Make-Up, Our Journey’s End, Stunts Package, Becoming a Werewolf, Video Diaries
Easter Egg: No
Cast: Russell Tovey, Lenora Crichlow, Aidan Turner, Sinead Keenan, Donald Sumpter
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Horror and Thriller
Length: 343 minutes
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