Dec 8, 2011

[TV] Being Human US: Season 1

When I first watched the original BBC version of Being Human, I had mistakenly expected some sort of a comedy since placing it in Cardiff seemed inherently funny to me. But despite initially watching the show for all the wrong reasons, the resulting series was gripping, intelligent and surprisingly fresh. And I was all the more glad for that kind of television.

Fast forward to 2011 and a US version of the show finally airs via the oddly named Syfy channel. The news of this adaptation already had me nervous as to what might be done to the show. I know it seems like too much of a snobbish generalization when it comes to US adaptations of British shows tending to be bad, but then there are those times that they do work out rather well. Thus the only way to really find out for sure what the show is to be like, it requires one to suspend judgment.

And that's never an easy thing.

It's curious to think that this show still made an effort to follow the original series. While the British version only spanned 6-7 episodes (depending on how you count the pilot), its US counterpart lasted 13 episodes. Thus I leave it to you to figure out where all the extra material came from.

The US version of Being Human remains to be a supernatural drama but this time broadcast on the Syfy channel. The show was originally created by Toby Whithouse and was adapted for US television by husband and wife Jeremy Carver and Anna Fricke.

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 23:  (L-R) Actors Sam Hun...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife
Like the original version, the show is based around three supernatural beings who find themselves living together in an house. Friends and hospital co-workers Aidan (Sam Witwer) and Josh (Sam Huntington) rent a house from Danny (Gianpaolo Venuta). Of course the only reason that the house is on the market is because Danny's fiancé Sally (Meaghan Rath) had died there. However Aidan is actually a vampire while Josh is a werewolf and their supernatural natures give them the ability to see that Sally is still in the house, but as a ghost, albeit one with no memory of how exactly she had died.

Thus the show follows their exploits as they try to live "normal" lives while trying to stay under the radar. Obviously Sally is determined to find out more about her recent past while she tries to find a way to either make a place for herself in this new reality or move on to the next. Josh continues to struggle with his curse while trying to make social connections with humans. And Aidan is trying to deal with the rather influential vampire clan in the city led by James Bishop (Mark Pellegrino, who is also the vampire who turned him in the first place.

At first the show nicely followed the original series, something that I generally appreciated. This is not about me being some geek purist but more about me wanting to make sure that the original story was respected because it was a pretty darned good one to begin with. And clearly Syfy saw the value in the show as well given how they did a decent job of sticking to the original plan.

But as expected, the show started to take a number of deviations. This included the change in the whole vampire clan story arc and how that oddly expanded to feel like a weird attempt at Underworld with a touch of Amish mixed in. And of course there's how Sally's story was expanded into this weird mess that totally missed the mark in terms of how the original one had been conveyed. Josh's story remained largely the same, which is something to be thankful for.

English: The actor Sam Witwer at San Diego Com...
Image via Wikipedia
The casting was generally spot on for the most part, although I have a lot of issues with the supporting characters. Sam Witwer was a good choice for Aidan given he does carry the whole vampire bit well and admittedly he's the kind of fresh meat that you need to draw in more female (and inevitably queer) viewers to the show. Sam Huntington was a decent Josh, although at times it felt too much like him playing his character in Fanboys instead of his werewolf role.

I didn't like Meaghan Rath as Sally from start to finish. I felt that she never truly captured the kind of emotional complexity that the original show had managed, which is a shame since Sally's story was definitely one of the more powerful ones in the series. I also felt Gianpaolo Venuta was a lousy Danny - and it didn't help him either that Danny was significantly re-written in ways that diminished his character.

The show also changed little bits of the "lore" of the show that I felt changed things a bit too much or at least resulted in things feeling rather weird. For example. now vampires can be video-taped (and this affected a major plot point from the original show) and Sally seems to be able to travel freely as a ghost almost from the very beginning. Small points, but they do have significant effects on the show as a whole.

To be fair, the show is still decent on its own but it's definitely a very different flavor of Being Human. I can only wonder how things will change in the second season - based on what we see now, I'm not too hopeful about how it will turn out. It still merits 3.5 stupid things that the vampires now do (including werewolf cage fights for sport) out of a possible 5.

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