Friday, 18 March 2011

'BEING HUMAN' (USA) 1.5-1.9 catch-up

Friday, 18 March 2011

1.5 - "The End Of The World As We Knew It" (*½ out of four)
1.6 - "It Takes Two To Make A Thing Go Wrong" (** out of four)
1.7 - "I See Your True Colors... And That's Why I Hate You" (**½ out of four)
1.8 - "Children Shouldn't Play With Undead Things" (*½ out of four)
1.9 - "I Want You Back (From The Dead)" (**½ out of four)
I stopped reviewing Syfy's Being Human after a month because the performances didn't really grab me, it was clashing with the BBC version (I only have mental space for one vampire/werewolf/ghost triumvirate), and the storylines were contentedly following in the original's footsteps. It was therefore hard to feel invested in a plot I knew the broad outcome of. It was becoming a weekly game of spot-the-difference, which was fun... but it got boring very quickly. But I've still been watching the show every week, and promised I'd chime in with more thoughts in the near-future. Now that Being Human has wrapped its third series in the UK, that time has come. So how has BH:USA progressed since I stopped reviewing it after episode 4?

Well, my general opinion hasn't altered that much from where I left off. It's funny seeing the show continue to "sex up" the characters (no offence to Sinead Keenan as Nina, but her counterpart Kristen Hager is more "conventionally attractive" as Nora), although the show still isn't as sharp and edgy as I'd like. There are moments when it comes close (like the scene where Josh's primal urges took over and he had doggy-style sex with Nora at work), but other times it backs away from genuinely surprising twists (such as the moment when Josh started to transform in front of Nora, which was revealed to be a lazy dream sequence.) It's mostly a cuter version of BH:UK with half an eye on the emo crowd (how many times was the Donnie Darko arrangement of "Mad World" played during episode 9?) Whenever it dares stray from the UK's core storylines, it's on instantly shakier ground -- like that dumb scene with Sally (Meaghan Rath) and a gathering of weird ghosts writing on hospital walls in luminous green, what, ectoplasm?

In a weird coincidence, both Being Human's had a "meet the parents" episode for Josh/George in the same week; and while Syfy's episode was a predictable farce, with Josh having to keep his lycanthropy a secret from his parents as a bad vampire prowled around outside trying to get in, the BBC's episode was a more imaginative story about a "dead" milquetoast father reacquainting with his secretive son. There's just more heart, creativity, and risks on the British show, which trumps the enviably higher production values of Syfy's remake. No spoilers here, but the events of BH:UK's series 3 finale alone would be almost unthinkable to reproduce in this Americanization.

And despite claims the Syfy version diverged from the UK version around mid-season, that's not wholly accurate. There are some differences and a few new subplots, but nothing substantial that's taken the show into uncharted territory. I think people have just forgotten the arcs of Being Human's first year. Annie's story with her killer ex, haunted love rival, and materializing engagement ring are identical. Aidan (Sam Witwer) even received a "vampire sex tape" that was accidentally seen by a little boy called Bernie in the neighbourhood, whom he took a shine to. A silly subplot stolen from the original I thought the remake would wisely avoid. No sign of Aidan being persecuted as a pedophile in the US version, predictably, and the sex tape itself was robbed of all creepiness because vamps in Syfy's remake have reflections. So it wasn't an eerie vampire snuff movie of a man being killed by what appears to be an "invisible woman", it was just a soft porn clip where a vampire lady smacks her bloodied lips at the camera lens. It's hard to understand why Aidan found it so titillating, really. Yes, I understand that Syfy are pitching the show to wider, slightly younger audience, so they can't be quite as gritty as the original. That's fine. But as someone who watches the original, you can't help comparing the two shows.

To its credit, the US version attempted to do something moderately interesting (with a Let The Right One In vibe), by having Bernie die in a car accident and return as a vampire (against Aidan's wishes), but that story was concluded within the hour! The idea of Aidan having to deal with a "son", whose very existence causes him greater pain than his untimely death, could have fuelled a run of episodes, so why drop it so soon?

The remake's still an entertaining show, if smothered by sappy guitar-based pop songs, pretentious voiceovers, and a tonality that's nowhere near as witty, creative and unpredictable as its British parent. It also seems to like keeping the core trio apart, each stuck in their own individual stories, with less emphasis on the idea these are three people who love and support each other.

As I keep saying, I'm sure Being Human's more of a treat for fans of the genre going in fresh, but I can't erase my memories of the original, and the show refuses to let me stop comparing the two because it's so slavish to the show I know and love.


  • If you haven't already heard, Syfy have recommissioned Being Human for a second season, as it's averaged 1.8m viewers over its run so far. That makes it their highest-rated winter series launch for six years.
  • Admittedly, Syfy's CGI werewolf is an enviable improvement on the BBC's "hairy-brown-carpet-suit" (see photo above.) That said, the remake's actual transformation scenes are still far less upsetting, intense and horrific.
  • Kristen Hager appeared in the monumentally atrocious Alien Vs Predator: Requiem. She can cram that skeleton into her closet all she likes, but it's not going anywhere.
  • I wonder if Aidan playing football soccer with Bernie was a nod to the show's British roots, or do American kids play soccer more than "catch" with baseballs these days? I also noticed a ghost wearing a Union Jack T-shirt at the hospital.