Adapted from an improbably absorbing, wonderfully sly British series, “Being Human” comes to Syfy with its predecessor’s basic bone structure intact. The casting, alas, represents something of a downgrade, with the notable exception of “Lost’s” Mark Pellegrino as the toothsome villain — the menacing leader of vampires secretly living among us. Still, the wacky premise — a werewolf, vamp and ghost sharing a flat (er, apartment) — remains an intriguing foundation for this composite of drama, comedy and horror. While the short-order Brit format is better suited to such fragile material, “Human” should provide the cabler its own cult commodity.
Developed for the U.S. by Jeremy Carver and Anna Fricke (who both have CW series credentials, appropriately) from Toby Whithouse’s version that has played on BBC America, the premiere begins with rather overbearing voiceover, citing what it might be like to occupy “an eternal nowhere between humans and things: monsters.”
As with “Twilight,” however, “monster” in this context represents a transparent metaphor for youthful angst and feelings of otherness. As with that teen-oriented franchise, the rules traditionally associated with some of these beasts also have been conveniently altered. Vampire Aidan (Sam Witwer), for example, walks freely in daylight, working as a hospital orderly alongside werewolf Josh (Sam Huntington), whose lycanthropic ways put the customary complaints about unwanted monthly cycles to shame.
The two provide a support system for each other that expands to a trio when they discover their new apartment is haunted by a ghost, Sally (Meaghan Rath), who is unable to leave her surroundings and elated to encounter “supernaturals” who are actually capable of seeing and hearing her.
The deeper threads, faithfully drawn from the original (while falling short of its, um, biting humor), involve Aidan’s desire to behave differently than the more ruthless vampires led by Bishop (Pellegrino); Josh’s hunger for normalcy (and not incidentally, to get laid); and Sally’s adjustment to her spectral status, especially since she’s pining for her ex-boyfriend, who doubles as their landlord.
Establishing its U.S. venue, “Being Human” trades old idioms for new ones and makes winking pop-culture references, like the boys referring to Sally as “Amityville.” The special effects are superior to the British version, where their cheesiness actually contributed somehow to the atmosphere, perhaps by forcing the producers to focus squarely on the characters.
The serialized storytelling ought to make this a soap for the younger crowd, which has exhibited a near-unquenchable (and often inexplicable) appetite for hunky vampires.
Notably, AMC has already scored this fall with “The Walking Dead,” which derived its take on humanity through the lens of a world populated by zombies. “Being Human” isn’t nearly as well done as that, but the early episodes are likable, if unworthy of love at first bite.