Thursday, 3 February 2011

'BEING HUMAN' (USA) 1.3 - "Some Thing To Watch Over Me"

Thursday, 3 February 2011

I'm still uninspired to write about Syfy's Being Human remake in great depth, but that's not a reflection on its quality. It's not a bad show, really -- it's just a toothless version of an even better show. Also, because the characters and most of their storylines exist elsewhere in another form, which I watched 3 years ago, it's hard to feel engrossed. That said, "Some Thing To Watch Over Me" was a perfectly enjoyable episode that borrowed elements from its progenitor, but also moved forward with some new ideas of its own. To be positive, here's what I actually prefer about the US remake:

Inevitably for a North American series, there's a more engaging grasp of its supernatural elements. Ghost Annie (Meaghan Rath) disappears leaving wisps of energy hanging in the air, the vampires are more powerful (they hypnotize people, can erase memories, and have super-speed and strength), and werewolf Josh (Sam Huntington) exhibits more canine traits in his human guise. I know the UK's George retains a keen sense of smell, but for the most part he's a regular guy until a Full Moon, whereas Josh is more obviously struggling with his "inner animal" whenever he gets angry and turns violent. Interestingly, the remake's decided it likes the low-fi take on the afterlife from the UK series, as this episode debuted "The Door" to the other side, which retains its humdrum nature. No ostentatious "tunnel of light" CGI, which wouldn't have been expected, just a spooky door.

I prefer the American take on the lore. It's always annoyed me that the BBC series keeps all of that so low-key, likely because of budget concerns. Ghost Annie tends to materialize off-camera (is it THAT expensive to do vanishing effects?), vampire Mitchell has fangs but I don't recall him having super-powers, per se, and I've already mentioned George. In fact, it's sometimes hard to remember why the British characters find it so difficult to "be human" -- Annie may be invisible to normal people, but she can touch things in the UK series; swap blood with heroine and Mitchell's no different to a common drug addict; and George is 100% human nearly all month.

So yes, the US version's doing a better job making us view the trio as more obviously non-human people. The problem with the US version is that the trio don't feel real to me, unlike the UK characters. Here they're three actors playing roles, and you can sense it -- especially in the case of Sam Witwer, who's doing the am-dram version of "brooding vampire".

Also, Mark Pellegrino is good as Bishop. Despite his odd hairstyle, the actor's pursed smile and numinous vibe is more appealing to me than Jason Watkins' original character Herrick. There was more humour to Herrick, who made for a slightly absurd leader of vampires (being a short, red-haired, middle-aged cop), but I believe more in Bishop. He's a genuine threat, physically, and I can live without the comedy Watkins brought to the role -- which always felt misplaced to me, in the context of what Herrick should be representing for Mitchell. I mean, I can believe that Witwer and Pellegrino were depraved vampire friends for decades. Did I ever believe Aidan Turner hung around with Jason Watkins in the Swinging Sixties? No.

Overall, I think I'm saying that Being Human USA is a decent remake for Syfy audiences (with some superficial improvements I approve of), but the original's raw attitude didn't survive the trans-Atlantic trip, together with the verisimilitude the British actors brought to the table.

written by Jeremy Carver & Anna Fricke / directed by Jerry Ciccoritti (SYFY, Mondays @9/8c)