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'Being Human' Arrives on These Shores with Fangs, Claws and Problems Intact

by Maureen Ryan, posted Jan 17th 2011 10:15AM
Syfy's remake of the cult British show 'Being Human' was always going to be a tricky endeavor.

Fans of the original series, which airs on BBC America, are likely to turn up their noses at a revamp of the U.K. show, which chronicles the lives of twentysomething roommates who happen to be a ghost, a werewolf and a vampire.

Truth be told, the British 'Being Human' had some flaws that I thought a remake might successfully address. In an ideal world, a U.S. 'Being Human' would attract new fans unaware of the original show by deftly exploring its themes of identity and self-doubt and jettisoning what didn't work about the UK drama.

Unfortunately the new version of 'Being Human' (9PM ET Monday, Syfy) is more repetitive, clunky and melodramatic than the previous one. In a pop-culture universe saturated with vampire fare, 'Being Human' is unlikely to dislodge 'True Blood' or 'The Vampire Diaries' in the hearts and minds of TV viewers who enjoy bloodsucker tales.

The frustrating thing about both versions of 'Being Human' is that they have solid premises: What would it be like if, during your angst-ridden twenties, a radical new way of life was forced on you? How would you define yourself when you're unable to share your true self with most people? Despite your self-loathing and doubts, should you even try to, well, be human? These are great questions to explore, given that they jibe perfectly with the confusion and experimentation many people go through in their early adulthood.

Unfortunately the new 'Being Human' doesn't explore any of these themes with much subtlety. The characters -- Sally the ghost, Josh the werewolf and Aidan the vampire -- repeatedly bemoan their fate and resist their current conditions, but they do little else of interest. It's frankly hard to work up much sympathy for these whiny, gloomy people, especially when they're telling us in on-the-nose voiceovers exactly how we're supposed to view their lonely situations.

The show's angst-ridden tone might be more palatable if 'Being Human' had a energetic plots, but the new version of the show, which features the expected emo musical interludes, has a rather sludgy pace. To be fair, given that I've seen a fair amount of the British original, I knew where a number of these stories were going, so that could account for the lack of tension -- but only up to a point. The problem don't necessarily stem from the unexceptional plots but from the bland people moving through them.

What made the British version of the show a cult success was the warmth of the actors who played the three central roles, a wry wit and a willingness to embrace the mundane yet amusing consequences of three otherworldly beings sharing a flat (Who deals with the landlord? Who washes the dishes?). The U.S. show's cast is serviceable, and Sam Huntington is especially sympathetic as Josh, but there's no real chemistry among the leads, and sticking them in obvious, slow-moving plots doesn't do them any favors.

The creakiest parts of the show are, once again, the villains of the piece. Mark Pellegrino is a fascinating actor, as he proved on his stints on 'Supernatural' and 'Lost,' but there's only so much he can do with the role of vampire baddie Bishop, who pops up occasionally to give Aidan (Sam Witwer) rather rote "return to the Dark Side or else" pep talks. It doesn't help matters that Pellegrino appears to be wearing a very unfortunate blonde wig.

I can't for the life of me figure out why the distracting wig was necessary. And that just about sums up the problems with this version of 'Being Human' -- at times it's too devoted to the original, but when the new show does make changes, those alterations aren't necessarily for the better.

There are some human moments in 'Being Human' that work, such as a sequence in which Sally (Meaghan Rath) meets another ghost -- a refreshingly flippant metalhead who helps her embrace her condition. In another episode, Josh prepares a home-cooked meal for his roomies, and for once, the show doesn't repeatedly hit the viewer over the head with an obvious fact -- i.e., ghosts and vampires don't have much use for roasted meats. The roommates just talked and hung out and didn't complain (much) about their weird lives. They did what the premise has always promised -- they found a common humanity thanks to the fact that they all have weird lives.

These moments make me wonder if this version of the series is going through some major growing pains as it attempts to find an original and fresh way to tell this story. If so, 'Being Human' will need to evolve more quickly if it wants to remain undead.




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17 Comments

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Micha

Miss, Ms. or Mrs. Ryan, By the tone of your review, you are completely out of touch with the demographics this program is designed for. Maybe a more diverse critic can be hired for a follow up...

January 05 2012 at 4:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Micha's comment
Micha

The twenty somethings of today are "whiny, gloomy people." Look at the economy, the inflated cost of living and higher learning, the apathy of the masses and other current trends in society and try to put yourself in their shoes. That's probably asking too much as you would have to step off your high horse and take a few 0's off of your income to slum it with today's young Americans.

January 05 2012 at 4:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ljparker2983

I find myself drawn to both versions of this series. For some reason I find myself cringing at some of the episodes. The British version is going down some very strange story lines.

May 16 2011 at 2:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bob

In my personal opinion the American version is better, but both versions of the show are great! I’m glad SyFy ordered up a second season of Being Human. If you like watching Being Human on cable TV, I have some great news for you. You can get all of your favorite shows like Being Human in HD for less money than you’re paying cable by switching to DISH Network. As a DISH Network customer and employee I switched from cable TV to DISH, and have never been happier with my pay TV service.

April 20 2011 at 9:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
alvarito

Love the US version so far and I expect good things from it. The British version is a well-established show so any comparisons thus far are premature. But the comparisons are unavoidable, even when they're unwarranted, as in the case of The Office. The British version is a classic, but it only lasted 20 episodes or something. I can easily pick 40 episodes of the US version equally good or better than their British counterparts. So, no, I don't think the British version is better. I predict the US version of Being Human will have to endure comparisons even if its run is longer than the British original.

February 01 2011 at 1:30 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Isaiah Bradford III

I passed on watching the US remake of Being Human. The BBC version had it's inconsistancies and unevenness, but I enjoyed watching it and I thought the performances were all quite good. I think my issues with the show was that it was a US remake and I personally felt like it was just a Twilight/Vampire Diaries attempted. And the second was that it was Syfy Channel, their decisions in the past 2 years have been EXTREMELY troubling. From the cancelling of Caprica and SGU (argue that issues another time), to the greenlighting of ridiculous "reality"shows Face Off and the cooking show that's coming from them soon.

Maybe I'll give it a shot, just to see what it's like which is only fair. But it's really going to have to wow me to keep me coming back.

January 24 2011 at 6:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kevin Bachelder

The second series, especially the back half, of Being Human UK was some of THE best drama you'll see on TV. Nuff said. :)

January 18 2011 at 12:26 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
rangerleroy

After watching the premier last night I feel that the main problem with the US version may be more with the direction than the actors. The whole tone of it reminds me more of Twilight than it does the British series. It's all moping and being hyper-serious with a blue tint to all the shots. The sardonic humor of the UK version gives extra impact to the horror elements. I may give it a little time to improve, but so far I'm not impressed.

January 18 2011 at 12:26 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
rachelc258

Okay, so I enjoyed the original but I'm definitely aware of its flaws...but also the things that gave it is own flavor. My complaint might seem odd- I think they didn't change it enough. And not necessarily strictly in a 'addressing the flaws' sense. But, for example, to me (and having lived in the UK) it made sense that the show was so urban (well, relative to Bristol). But I don't understand why it had to be set in New York. Surely, given the characters and their various angsts, they would have set out for one of the cities or decent sized towns in one of the many, many places in North America that are a stone's-throw away from sparsely populated, vast wildernesses.

Really, anywhere other than the most densely populated areas on the continent.

Okay, minor point, but I think it illustrates the point- adaptations should be more than shoving a premise into some near equivalent without considering the shifts in contexts.

January 18 2011 at 1:44 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Matt Fondel

If you watch the pilot of the BBC's Being Human, you will see that the original vision of Being Human didn't exactly work. Two of the Three Lead Roles were re-cast with only the George the Werewolf role having the same actor in the pilot and the eventual Being Human series. I would say that the "main attraction" of the BBC's Being Human series was/is Aiden Turner, not the show's stupid premise. I absolutely never got the impression that the characters in the BBC's Being Human were in their twenties. Sam Huntington, in my opinion, could take the US Being Human above its idiot premise and single-handedly be the reason people tune into the show, exactly what Aiden Turner does for the BBC's Being Human. -- The episode of the BBC's where The Vampire first meets the down and out and suicidal Werewolf is very impressive and has a lot of subtext. However, in my opinion, the BBC's BH is mostly silly and it would have US audiences laughing at it, not with it. It is very hard to mix comedy and murder.

January 17 2011 at 3:49 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
john

does the uk ever copy any of our shows.

January 17 2011 at 12:58 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to john's comment
BC

Oh, yes. There are obvious ones like 'Law & Order: UK' which reverses 'Being Human' by remaking US scripts with British casts and minor alterations to account for the legal system. Then there was 'Coupling', which was 'Friends', but interesting and funny. 'Silent Witness' was arguably inspired by 'Quincy'--a number of the crime genre shows bounce back and forth with subtle variations.

Because PBS and BBC America tend to show (most of the time) the better quality British programs, people forget that there's a lot of dross on UK channels, just like the US.

January 17 2011 at 4:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gens

Decent list / overview

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_American_television_series_based_on_British_television_series

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_British_television_programmes_based_on_American_television_series

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_British_television_series

January 17 2011 at 6:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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