So I have this friend. Let’s call her Miss Coy (but Miss Entirely Unshy if you’re nasty). And she was apparently trying to do something nice for me. See I’d recommended various TV shows which she’d gone on to love (Buffy, True Blood, Glee) and she wanted to repay the favour. To be fair she is the reason that I ended up watching Misfits which I definitely do enjoy, but she wanted to do more.
So she recommended Being Human to me, and I must admit that I was a little wary. Despite some crossover we do tend to have quite different televisionary tastes, and opposing ideas of what constitutes “cheese” (for her American teen dramas fit the description, for me it’s the vast majority of British shows). But Being Human is about a vampire, werewolf and ghost living together and trying to get by which sounded supernaturally fun and like it might be dark rather than particularly cheesy.
In British television’s defence there are some things it does well- panel quiz shows (QI, Have I Got News For You, Mock the Week), teen drama (Misfits, The Inbetweeners and- at least according to everyone else since I’m yet to watch a single episode- Skins), sketch shows (The League of Gentlemen, Monkey Dust, Smack the Pony) and fucked-up sitcoms (Peep Show, The Book Group, The Office). And some of these are examples of my favourite shows, so it’s not that I’m a self-hating Brit.
Nonetheless there’s something about a lot of it that sets my teeth on edge, but it’s frustratingly difficult for me to put my finger on what it is exactly.
Maybe in part it’s because although there are some Brit shows that I love it, as I was growing up it felt like they were islands in a vast ocean of generally crap nonsense, whereas I might feel this way about American shows if I’d been exposed to the great mass of them- but British networks, and I myself, filtered and chose the best of the bunch. British shows often look cheap compared to glossy American series which may have something to do with it, have too many ugly people in and are often horribly over-acted, which doesn’t help.
There’s also this irritating grey area between the odd pants-wettingly funny comedy (The Inbetweeners) and something quite dark and interesting (like Sherlock or Life on Mars perhaps), I suppose an attempt at dramedy, which tries too hard to please everyone. Instead I don’t know how it can please anyone- it’s a horrible mish-mash lowest common denominator monster like Merlin.
Yeah, that’s Merlin and Arthur being the same age. Seriously the show makes no sense.
Being Human is certainly an example of this kind of beast, and an ideal contender for Fan Death.
I think that it honestly has a very interesting premise, but it certainly doesn’t live up to its potential. Although I didn’t adore the pilot it kept my attention, and had quite a dark tone. However when the show went into full production most of the roles were recast, and the show took on a lighter, more comedic (and ultimately less interesting) sensibility.
It’s not only that the actors were replaced- Aidan Turner took over from Guy Flanagan as the vampire Mitchell and Lenora Crichlow became the ghost Annie, previously played by Andrea Riseborough- but that the characters were given a makeover too. Mitchell loses his broodiness (surely de rigueur for a vamp character?) and Annie her scariness. From the second episode on the characters, and the show, feel almost entirely cleansed of anything vaguely threatening.
It’s also irritating because the relation of the pilot episode to the rest of the series is never really made clear. It feels like it shouldn’t be considered canon because the characters seem so different, and yet events that happen in the pilot (such as Mitchell turning Lauren into a vampire) have clearly occurred. It’s hard to know exactly how to place things, and the show might have seemed smoother if this had been addressed with a completely new introductory episode.
None of the characters seemed particularly likeable, especially after the reboot. Mitchell didn’t seem particularly vamp-like, which clashed rather strongly with the Lauren story arc, George (the werewolf) was irritating- not helped by Russell Tovey’s tendency to over-act and over-enunciate (I find it hard to believe that he was the only one not recast after the pilot, he’s the one I’d most like to see replaced)- and Annie’s obsessiveness about her fiancé was grating. At least her discovery that he was responsible for her death put a stop to that (and was an interesting twist) but it turned him into a cartoonish evil villain (which contrasted sharply with his pleasant demeanour in earlier episodes), and this sense of him being a caricature was only heightened by the over-the-top portrayal of his girlfriend Janey. Janey’s depicted as stupid, materialistic… and tango.
I quite like Lenora Crichlow (Sugar Rush), in fact Annie may well have been my favourite Being Human character. This is quite odd for me as I generally get especially annoyed by British actresses (they have a tendency to sound far too RADA and to appear like they’d be much more at home hamming it up in theatre). I find it hard to say much positive about the other female characters however- Janey was ridiculous, and Sinead Keenan (Nina, George’s love interest) andAnnabel Scholey (who played Lauren) were pretty good examples of what’s annoying about many young British actresses.
It was pretty hard for me to sustain interest in the first season, despite it being only six episodes long, and I was left with very little desire to pursue the show further. There were definitely some interesting ideas but they didn’t feel well executed, and given that there’s plenty of genre shows which I find much more interesting I think it’s a shame that Being Human didn’t focus more on being about the interactions of three twenty-somethings who just happen to be a vampire, werewolf and a ghost rather than on issues like giving up blood, trying to control turning into a wolf and moving on to the other side which feel like they’ve already been done to death.
However I was quite intrigued by the idea of an American remake, especially as I wasn’t sure how true it would aim to be to the source material. And when I heard that Jeremy Carver (Supernatural) was involved I started to hope that perhaps the remake might remedy some of the problems of the original. However having watched the pilot episode I was sorely disappointed, and don’t plan to continue watching.
The writing wasn’t particularly bad, but the delivery seemed awful. The accents of all three main characters seemed incredibly jarring too. Perhaps it’s because I’ve seen the British version that it felt weird hearing American accents but given that I’m not attached to the original version and haven’t watched it that recently I can’t see why, especially as I watch far more American than British television and cinema. Maybe it was the actors’ attempts at amping up the weirdness of the Bostonian sound- although a quick google found me a description of “poor accents taught to them by L.A.-based dialect coaches”. Ouch.
Nonetheless the fact that I’ve already seen the original version of the show does make me even less inclined to keep watching- I’ve got a good sense of what’s going to happen which removes the mystery and intrigue- and that’s not really the show’s fault. It was strange to see which aspects of the show they decided to keep (such as Sally’s outfit, which is almost identical to Annie’s) and what they didn’t, like names. I don’t have a problem with the idea of remakes for a different audience, I’m not sure that they’re strictly necessary, but British and American audiences are quite different- and certainly there may be British slang which would be unfamiliar and off-putting to an American audience. However I was a little confused by why they changed the character’s names- in addition to the ghost being renamed Sally (Meaghan Rath), Mitchell became Aidan (Sam Witwer), George turned into a Josh (Sam Huntington), Lauren was renamed Rebecca (Sarah Allen) and Mark Pellegrino’s character, Bishop, seems analogous to Herrick- the powerful vampire, played by Jason Watkins, who turned Mitchell into a vampire in the BBC series. Interestingly Bishop is apparently supposed to be British, making the name switch seem even less necessary. I don’t imagine that George, Lauren or Annie are particularly uncommon names in North America (there’s a whole musical about an Annie!) and Mitchell and Herrick are the character’s surnames- and hardly only comprehensible to Brits.
I did quite like the introduction of Sally- they’d kept a modicum of scare- and her Twilight jokes. And Josh’s sister Emily (Alison Louder) didn’t seem particularly irritating- and refreshingly neither did her accent. This focus on a family member seems like an interesting departure from the original Being Human, but the scene at the end of the episode where she gets locked in with her brother while he’s changing into a werewolf echoed a scene in the BBC season one finale where George’s girlfriend Nina accidentally saw a similar transformation. It seems as if Josh’s sister might end up playing the significant role in his life rather than a girlfriend-although perhaps a nurse such as Cora (Katy Breier) might end up having a similar role to Nina (as the werewolf’s girlfriend) did in the British series.
There seemed to be a few references to lycanthropy as a “condition” and bringing in Josh’s sister might be an attempt to give the supernatural a biomedical slant, which I’d find rather disappointing. Already in the one episode there seemed to be quite a focus on the hospital setting (where Josh and Aidan work, and Rebecca had before her untimely vamping), whereas in the British series it tended to be more cursory- unless featured as a vampire feeding ground- with the main characters’ shared home being the most important location.
In essence the American version of Being Human certainly isn’t better, and may well be worse, than the original creation. It’s just as cheesy and frustrating, and the added lure of Mark Pellegrino (Supernatural, Lost) is tempered by him most certainly not being presented at his best:
I like the concept so much, it’s sad that neither version of the show hits the spot. In terms of supernatural drama I’d much, much rather be watching Buffy, Angel, Supernatural or even The Vampire Diaries than Being Human.