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Television Collision: The Troubles With Being Human

Written by: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer


Note: At the time of writing this, I have not yet seen the pilot episode of the US version of Being Human, which premiered last night on SyFy.

I believe American audiences are being robbed and kept intentionally “limited in their exposure“. I can find no other – valid– reason why a show like Being Human needs an American remake, when it is originally a product of the UK, and hence in a language Americans can understand, no pesky subtitles needed.
I refuse to believe Americans wouldn’t understand phrases like “He’s a wanker“ or “I have to go to the loo“ or would be disturbed by the fact that our protagonists live in Bristol and like to drink lots of tea.

The real reason Being Human has to be “adapted” from its original version is this: the UK show is too explicit for the American market (we see a naked man almost every episode and some fairly explicit sex scenes) and the episodes of the UK version are too long for American television (they range between 45 and 56 minutes).

I believe it would do American audiences some good to see a more realistic version of how two people behave during and after sex and the pacing of the UK episodes is pretty awesome (especially in the first season) ranging from deliberately slow to blink-and-you’ll-miss-it fast, hence the show may be severely compromised by the attempt to confine everything to 42 minutes. We shall have to see how the US version handles these aspects.

 

The principle, of course, isn’t new, to adapt a British show and make it “more American“, see The Office. But while I can see how the British work environment differs quite a lot from the American one and hence the show may not have been easily accessible to an American audience, that line of reasoning for a remake evaporates with a show like Being Human. Because when you talk about a show with a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost, the rules of their world are pretty universal and work the same way in America as they would in the UK.
And the makers of the US version of course try to defend their reasons for the remake while maintaining a high level of praise for the original, but it isn’t working on me.

 

The premise of Being Human is one many will groan about, because there are simply too many vampires, werewolves and other supernatural creatures traipsing about these days, but studios still think such franchises are money cows, so they will continue to scour high and low to find more material. And SyFy stands to make a lot more money if, instead of showing the original, they adapt Being Human, which then allows them to “come up with original storylines” and “go into another direction”. To me this argument basically reads “We were too lazy to come up with our own idea, but someone else had a great one, so let’s piggy-back on that!”

Now, to clarify, the UK version of Being Human isn’t anything innovative or exceptional in the world of TV, but it is a pretty good show and precisely because it is made in a country other than America it has a fresh feel to it. The most notable thing to me personally is the wonderful Russell Tovey, who plays werewolf George in the original (whose name has been changed to Josh in the American version, for no apparent reason at all). Tovey is by no means the most classically beautiful guy to have graced a television screen, with his distinctive ears and deep-set eyes, but he is believable, he is lovable, he is funny, he is endearing and he is sensitive (in a female’s book that always equals “major hottie”). And he is a werewolf. Tovey gives his character an emotional depth rarely seen on TV and he does so not only by effortlessly crying when his role calls for it (something I hope the US version won’t eliminate, because it so much makes the character), he also adds substance by being completely unassuming and charmingly hapless.

Actually, the character of George may be the best thing about Being Human in general. To take such a genuinely nice, gentle, sensitive and fairly nerdy and goofy guy as George and have him have the bad luck to encounter a werewolf and be turned into an uncontrollable beast is a poetic irony a show like Vampire Diaries with its lame character of Tyler Lockwood could never pull off.
Accompanied by the “naturally beautiful in no artificial way” Lenora Crichlow, who plays a ghost called Annie, Russell Tovey and Lenora Crichlow pull off a friendship dynamic so believable and heartwarming, I doubt Sam Huntington and Meagan Rath will be able to match it in the US version. Sam Huntington is too pretty to play the character of George in the way the UK version imagined him anyway. I suppose that is the reason why his character’s name was changed, because they want to take him into another direction altogether anyway.

The vampire of the bunch – Mitchell in the UK, Aidan in the US – is the weakest character of the three, who live together and try to blend in with humanity. He is supposed to be fairly old and have done terrible things and be “a legend” of sorts before he “went dry” and decided not to drink blood anymore. Maybe it was Aidan Turner’s acting abilities or his ridiculous gelled hair that never made Mitchell come to life for me (sorry for the pun, I am talking about an undead vampire here), but I suspect it was more the fact that Being Human’s vampires are just incredibly lame in general. They aren’t terrifying (a la True Blood) and they aren’t cuddly (a la Twilight) either. And for some reason they are hell-bent on world domination and killing almost all humans, which is such a stupid idea, because as famous vampire Spike once put it: “The truth is, I like this world. You’ve got… dog racing, Manchester United. And you’ve got people. Billions of people walking around like Happy Meals with legs. It’s all right here.”

Yes, the vampires of Being Human remain fairly unscary for a long time (Season 2 makes up for it a little bit), despite the bloodshed that is actually shown on screen. A big part of the unscariness is the fact that they talk too much and don’t portray any supernatural strength I could attest to. They can, however, walk in the daylight, no magic rings a la Vampire Diaries required, and I think that is pretty cool, because it subverts the oh so comforting idea that we are safe from “the creatures that go bump in the night” during the daytime. Hey, would you look at that: that thought just sent a shudder down my back. Maybe there is some residual scariness to the vampires of Being Human after all.

The storyline of Annie the Ghost stretches the suspension of disbelief sometimes, what with her denying death several times and shifting in an out of visibility, but then again who can claim they know what the rules are for ghosts anyway, right? And Annie is funny and charming, making tea she can’t drink all the time, thereby being the center and heart of the show and the friendship between the three unlikely comrades. No matter what horrible deeds they commit, you want those three to stick together and be happy and find a way to “be human”.

I am so happy the third Season of the UK version of Being Human is hitting British television screens at the end of January. So even if the US version is a flop, and I suspect it just might be, I don’t have to worry about it too much.
I can strongly recommend watching the UK Being Human to anyone who likes conflicted central characters, believable romance and friendships and a bit of the supernatural mixed in to spice things up (you can catch it on BBC America).

The quality of the original is already verified as “good”. You may have no such luck with the rip-off. Are you willing to take that risk?

Author: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer

Born in Germany, lived in the US, now in the UK. Always taking my love for TV and writing with me. Life participator. Blogger. Gaming enthusiast.

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