(Jeff Sakakeeny) The serial TV drama Being Human is a 4 season U.S. show adapted from its original 5 series U.K. counterpart. It features three main characters: a vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost living in a flat together and trying to live relatively normal lives within their paranormal circumstances.
The premise at first glance sounds somewhat uncanny, even comedic, and if one was to watch the trailer for the series, these presumptions would likely be reinforced. The promotional videos aired before the show’s release are dripping with dark humour, and they set up the series as a light hearted look into the macabre lives of the main cast. Being Human, however, is anything but a humorous. Sure, there are bits of humor here and there, but audiences will discover the show to be a high-tension drama rather than the comedy it is portrayed as in the promos.
The Trailer starts of with joke about Josh’s lack of success with women due to him being a werewolf followed by baseline leading into light rock music. This immediately sets an upbeat tone with a tune you could tap your foot to. It then proceeds to introduce the main characters with play on word title cards. For example, Sally the ghost appears with the text “the free spirit” and Aiden the vampire is presented with the nickname “the lady killer”. The narrator’s voice comes in and jokingly remarks how “This january, for three roommates being human is harder than it looks”.
The comedy is dark, but it still feels like it is trying to be funny first and foremost. The mention of “Three roommates” even gives the impression that it might be some grim, supernatural sitcom. However there are some more sinister imagery, alluding to the true nature of the show. Aiden’s introduction is cut with shots of him covered in blood sitting on the floor presumably after a massacre. Judging from the collared shirt and tie on Aiden and the clothed tables, it could even be a wedding. Over this imagery, Aiden hypocritically says the line “Not all vampires are bad”. However, The seriousness of this is somewhat undercut at the end of the trailer. Josh is shown setting up a table of food for the flat, the music cuts and sarcastically remarks how they could invite all the neighbors over and eat them. The beat comes back right after the joke and we are left with the title card.
Dark elements exist within the promo, but the focus is much more centered on the comedic and ridiculous aspects of our characters’ predicament. What we find in the show, however, is the inverse. Humor exists in the show but it is greatly overshadowed by grim plot.
In the first episode, much like the trailer, the jokes are mostly carried out by Josh while Aiden is the subject of more sinister subject matter, but soon the jokes take a backseat to dark and over dramatic tension.
The episode starts with a monologue by Aiden, talking about the dark side of humanity and how that is the only side he lives in. While hearing this, we see Aiden succumbing to blood lust and inadvertently drinking his date as well as Josh waking up naked in the woods, next to a mutilated deer. Already starting off as a show demanding to be taken seriously. The episode continues with Aiden struggling with the decision whether or not to join other vampires in live feeding again instead of sticking to his usual blood bag diet. Meanwhile, Josh tries his best to hide is affliction of werewolfism from his worried sister.
The episode is filled with high tension arguments, somber and brooding music, and intense zoom ins on faces to show emotion. At this point it become evidently clear this is a melodrama. Jokes and banter are few and far between and never dwelled on, though it is present. Josh is shown walking back from the woods in a dress stolen off a clothesline, and we hear some of the jokes from the promo again the episode. However, without the upbeat rock music, the jokes do not land in the same way.
One explanation to why the tone of the first episode and the trailer feel so different could be because of paratext. If someone who was asked to create a promo for the show was given a synopsis it is possible they could misunderstand what the writer is intending. The idea of a vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost living in a flat together sounds ludicrous and prime for hilarious situations.Whoever was designing advertisement may have created the ad with that in mind, despite the content of the show being quite different. The paratext added by even the marketing aspect of production can influence how the show is seen.