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.

Plot
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!




  • Aidan, Josh and Sally have been replaced by Mitchell, George and Annie

    I think you got that backwards.

  • MediumRob

    “Aidan, Josh and Sally have been replaced by Mitchell, George and AnnieI think you got that backwards.”
    You are not wrong. Oops! Thanks – I’ll fix it in due course.

  • Electric Dragon

    “Mark Pellegrino (Jacob in Lost and Lucifer in Supernatural) is a better Bishop than Jason Watkins’ Herrick (and possibly even Adrian Lester’s)”
    Respectfully, Sir, I must disagree with the relative merits of the Herricks. I thought Lester was a fairly bog standard sinister vampire lord. Whereas Watkins really brought over the idea that he could be your chummy neighbourhood beat copper one minute, and biting your neck out the next.

  • MediumRob

    “I thought Lester was a fairly bog standard sinister vampire lord. Whereas Watkins really brought over the idea that he could be your chummy neighbourhood beat copper one minute, and biting your neck out the next.”
    I think Watkins’ Herrick is indeed nicely ordinary. I just find him less than convincing. I think Pellagrino’s a better actor.

  • Donna Torchwood

    So in other words, This remash/remake/ripoff thinks that American and Canadian audiences are too stupid to actually infer anything without being told. Heavy sigh.

  • I know. Disappointing, isn’t it?

  • I was hoping they would just keep the basic premise and re-invent everything else. But no, they had to keep the jobs in the hospital, there had to be a vampire heirarchy looming out there, every plot detail had to be replicated.
    Maybe I’ll check in again once the scripts are no longer built on the old plotlines. But in the meantime, I’ve seen this show already, and with a better version. I can put that hour of TV to better use each week.
    So, off to an alternate TV dimension it goes!

  • “I’ve seen this show already, and with a better version. I can put that hour of TV to better use each week.So, off to an alternate TV dimension it goes!”
    Yeah, I know what you mean, I just can’t quite get excited about such things. Roll on Sunday (tho I’ll be out and playing catchup)

  • The other David

    “Being Human is a smart, contemporary, young and imaginative series….”
    Well, having seen the US-remake of BH and re-watched the BBC pilot, I can say that statement is totally without foundation. The subtlety and nuance of the original pilot is totally blown out of the water. I will admit that having read this review before watching the US-version has perhaps biased my judgment, but where oh where is the imagination?! Every ounce of mystery and discovery is prefaced or explained immediately afterwords by some set piece of dialogue. I felt like I had a four-course meal shoved down my throat in comparison to the original pilot. What a shambles!
    I have to agree with the Right Hon. Mr. Buckley that the Aidan actor, Sam Witwer, is your cookie cutter, early 21st century, American incarnation of the purse-lipped, pathos-driven vampire. While I had read that the actor doing the Mitchell character in the BBC pilot (Guy Flanagan) had been switched out due to his having the ‘classic’ vampire look, they’ve obviously chucked that idea out of the window with this incarnation. And another aspect that really bothered me about this version, in the BBC BH, Mitchell can eat and drink like normal humans (just, presumably, not being able to draw sustenance from it). But in this facsimile of a remake, there is the intimation (never expressly stated, just hinted at) that the Aidan-character can’t even eat regular food at all. Right, so, we’re supposed to connect with a character who can’t even pretend to be like a normal human? Hint to the producers, the clue is in the title of the show.
    One thing that wasn’t remarked on by the member from TMISNE, and which I particularly love (besides seeing the enchanting Ms. Andrea Riseborough) from the pilot, was the lack of any accents to the characters. Now, this aspect has been largely removed in the BH-series, but to my ear, a lot about a character can be brought into play with the right accent. Ms. Riseborough’s Geordie accent (that’s right isn’t it?) in the pilot or even Ms. Crichlow’s London (hope I’m right with that) accent lend themselves to filling out the character. Whereas with this abortion of a pilot, all’s you’ve got is the same, generic, monotonous Midwestern accent. What I wouldn’t have given to have heard a clipped Dakota accent (think ‘Fargo’) or a nasally Bostonian (did you notice the ‘Boston’ police badge on the cops interviewing ‘Aidan’?)
    For my money, besides the somewhat more comedic element Mr. Huntington brought to the ‘Josh’ character (although raising no laughs from me and the fact he couldn’t act himself out of a wet paper bag compared to Mr. Tovey’s performance [but I wish he would do something about those ears]), many aspects of the original were removed (e.g., George/Mitchell being presumed to be a gay couple when choosing the house), suppressed (e.g., the remark, which is seared into my brain, about the ‘men with sticks and rope’ waiting for you when you die), or just whitewashed over, leaving a blank, sad, and tasteless piece of excrement compared to the original BH. If Mr. Howe thinks that he should be “excited to adapt this for an American audience”, either he shouldn’t be running a network (albeit a emaciated, withering husk of one), or he thinks Americans are blithering idiots. I — and I am unanimous in this — cast my vote for both resolutions and hope the whole house will join me in wanting to see this sad program join the legion of other failed US/Canadian remakes. And I commend these remarks to the House.
    P.S.: Please excuse the ‘parliamentary’ (and perhaps hackneyed) tone of this comment, but having just watched PMQs, it seemed appropriate here.

  • MediumRob

    “One thing that wasn’t remarked on by the member from TMISNE, and which I particularly love (besides seeing the enchanting Ms. Andrea Riseborough) from the pilot, was the lack of any accents to the characters. Now, this aspect has been largely removed in the BH-series, but to my ear, a lot about a character can be brought into play with the right accent. Ms. Riseborough’s Geordie accent (that’s right isn’t it?) in the pilot or even Ms. Crichlow’s London (hope I’m right with that) accent lend themselves to filling out the character.”
    But it’s not touched upon much in the series. Mitchell’s Irish now, but that’s not been mentioned at all. Riseborough is a Geordie, but she doesn’t sound it to me in the pilot – I think she’s got something a bit more Barnsley going on, to be honest.
    “Whereas with this abortion of a pilot, all’s you’ve got is the same, generic, monotonous Midwestern accent. What I wouldn’t have given to have heard a clipped Dakota accent (think ‘Fargo’) or a nasally Bostonian (did you notice the ‘Boston’ police badge on the cops interviewing ‘Aidan’?)”
    But you know what you get when you ask people to do Boston accents? Julianne Moore in 30 Rock, that’s what. I’d give some leeway to Pellagrino, since his character is supposed to be 100s of years old and English, so I’d imagine he’d do a Hugh Laurie and go standard mid-West, but the others, not so much. But then BH Britain has had about three people with a Bristol accent in it, so it’s not exactly an exemplar. But it would have been nice, you’re right.

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