Review: Being Human (US) 1×1

More is often less

Being Human (US)

In the US: Mondays, 9/8c, SyFy
In Canada: Mondays, 10E/P, Space

Do you see that headline? “Being Human (US)“. That’s a lie that is.

Because although everything up to now would have told you this was a US remake of the hit BBC3 show about a vampire, werewolf and a ghost house-sharing and coping with life together, this is actually a Canadian remake: it’s made by a Canadian production company in Canada.

Does that change your expectations? I have to confess it lowered mine. Sure, Canada now makes things like Being Erica, but it also makes things like The Listener and Lost Girl, and has a whole history of rubbish fantasy shows for us to point at and worry about.

Either way, you probably want to know what they’ve done to it to adapt it for the US (and Canada). Is everything identical, just set in America and with different actors? Or is this an altogether different show?

You probably also want to know if it’s any good. Follow me after the jump to find out. Once you’ve watched the trailer, that is.

Being Human is a re-imagining of the acclaimed BBC original series that follows three 20-something roommates: A ghost, a vampire and a werewolf who are struggling to keep their dark secrets from the world, while also helping each other navigate the complexities of living double lives.

“Being Human is a smart, contemporary, young and imaginative series that reflects Syfy’s new brand positioning. We are very excited to adapt this for an American audience and bring it into Syfy’s family of programming,” said Dave Howe, President, Syfy.

The series will star Sam Witwer (Smallville, Battlestar Galactica), Meaghan Rath (The Assistants), Sam Huntington (Cavemen, Superman Returns) and Mark Pellegrino (Lost, Supernatural).

Rounding out the creative team is Adam Kane (The Mentalist, Heroes) as director and co-executive producer, with executive producer Michael Prupas (The Kennedys, Pillars of the Earth) alongside husband and wife executive producers/writers Jeremy Carver (Supernatural) and Anna Fricke (Men in Trees, Everwood).

Muse Entertainment will be producing 13 compelling 1-hour episodes for Syfy.

Is it any good?
What’s good tends to be what’s been taken from the original series; what’s bad tends to be everything else. That’s not gold, but it’s true.

This first episode is pretty much a retread of the pilot episode, with just a bit of the first first series episode thrown in for good measure, so it seems to clip along a reasonable rate. The trouble is that it lacks atmosphere as a result. Worse still, because there is an assumption that the audience are idiots, everything’s explained. Nothing is much of a surprise. And there’s no real depth.

Mitchell, George and Annie have been replaced by Aidan, Josh and Sally, but largely their personalities are the same. Aidan and Josh have been promoted to nurses but they still have the same problem of needing somewhere to live. We jump over to a new place, we meet Sally’s ex-fiance and before you can say “complete lack of menace or intrigue” we’re being told that Sally used to live there and is dead.

Guess what happens next.

Yes, they find Sally. But let’s not delay any here. Before so much as a line of dialogue has left Josh’s mouth, Aidan is telling him she’s a ghost and she’s dematerialising herself to prove it. There – you didn’t need any surprises did you? Didn’t need a single moment when the plot wasn’t entirely clear to you, did you?

A lot of the writing is like that. Everything gets explained a lot. So gone is the lovely opening monologue from Mitchell about the nature of ‘being human’ in favour of a long speech about how it’s hard to be normal when you’re a creature of the night, for example. That’s assuming you can hear anything that isn’t being drowned out by the soundtrack. The set design is poorer. The vampires are generic vampires you’d expect anywhere, rather than the more mundane, everyday vampires of the the original. Little things that make life harder get ironed out – Josh no longer has a fiancee he abandoned but bumps into his sister with a girlfriend instead (no kick arse Josh for this version). Everything is just inferior.

As for the actors, Sam Witwer is okay but he’s not exactly in Guy Flanagan or Aidan Turner; Sam Huntington doesn’t quite have the depth of Russell Tovey’s performance, but is a little better at comedy; while Meaghan Rath… well, let’s not saying anything bad, hey?

If there are a few areas where this version is superior is that it makes Aidan’s addiction much more real than the Mitchell’s, Mark Pellegrino (Jacob in Lost and Lucifer in Supernatural) is a better Bishop than Jason Watkins’ Herrick (and possibly even Adrian Lester’s) and it’s funnier. When the British version tries to do comedy, it always feel like it’s trying too hard, whereas this version feels like it knows what it’s doing when it comes to laughs.

Surprisingly, rather than end where the British pilot ended, this episode ends on cliffhanger, putting off George’s rescue and the unveiling of the vampire plan until part two. Clearly, things are going to diverge over time and plot threads are being set up.

But on the whole, I’d say stick with the British version because this one is pretty inferior in most aspects. A shame really, because this did at least have the potential to be good.

Oh, and UK series three starts on Sunday. Yey!


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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