I’ve been hearing about the BBC’s Being Human for quite a while, and finally caught up with Season One [Amazon U.S.] [Amazon Canada] [Amazon U.K.] this weekend. (I’m two episodes into Season Two; Season Three begins in the U.K. on January 23, and I’ll be there to see it.) I love love love it. It’s smart, dark, passionate, engaging, brutal in places, funny in others. It’s a fairly realistic approach to the supernatural: If monsters really existed, this might be how they’d fit into the larger world — there’s nothing campy or winking here, though it is full of warmly human humor. I’m madly in love with the characters: Aidan Turner’s Mitchell, a conflicted vampire who’s trying to be good; Russell Tovey’s George, a werewolf who is terrified of hurting some innocent who wanders into his path during his “time of the month”; and Lenora Crichlow’s Annie, a ghost who mourns her lost life but keeps finding reasons not to move on to the next realm.
If the premise of the show — can three supernatural beings share a house without driving one another crazy? — sounds like a sitcom, that’s exactly what Syfy’s Americanized remake turns it into. Mitchell and George want to live lives that are as normal — as human — as possible, and Proper Being Human grants them that by making them fully rounded, complex characters: the U.K. version of the show is most certainly not a sitcom. Mitchell and George bicker with each other, sometimes, and with Annie, and they all tease one another, and they don’t always get along. But there’s never a sense that they don’t really care for one another. There’s always a sense that they’d do anything for one another… and they often do take enormous risks on behalf of their friends.
In Syfy’s pointless remake, however — seriously: just watch the British series — Aidan the vampire (Sam Witwer), Josh the werewolf (Sam Huntington), Sally the ghost (Meaghan Rath) can’t seem to stand one another. Their interactions have been reduced to childish sniping. In case you didn’t grasp the notion that they’re all trying to be human but must come to terms with the fact that they are monsters, they will constantly remind one another of these things. (I don’t think the word monsters is ever used in the U.K. show; it certainly isn’t a constant refrain.) The British original assumes you are not so stupid that you need to be reminded of the premise of the show every five minutes, that you will be able to discern what the characters want and what they are seeking from, you know, their words and their actions. The British show assumes you are capable of grasping subtext… and let’s be clear: the original Being Human, while wonderfully clever and deeply satisfying, is hardly abstruse or difficult to interpret.
What Proper Being Human does have is nuance and subtlety. All of that has been stripped out of Syfy’s Being Human. The ordinary house in Bristol the British monsters live in is now an Addams Family layer cake in Boston… because where else would monsters who want to be human live, except in a house that just about announces they’re weirdoes? The U.K. show opens with the three already sharing quarters and figures we’ll be able to pick up the backstory (it’s not at all complicated) — the U.S. one spells out every single little detail of everything that’s going on.
It’s infuriating. And enraging. And completely unnecessary.
Being Human debuts on Syfy tonight at 9pm Eastern. I do not recommend it.
edited to note: I previewed the first three episodes of the Syfy version