ANOTHER American retrofit of an already successful TV show begins this week with the Australian premiere of the US version of Being Human on Monday night on Eleven. And as a huge fan of the BBC original, this one worries me.
The British series began in 2008 and has three solid seasons under its belt, following the lives of a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost sharing a house and trying to live normal lives.
The concept lends itself to some excellent black comedy but, as the story went on, it became darker and more dramatic, using these supernatural beings to explore what it means to be human and whether we are monsters because of what we are or what we do.
The American version, which premiered in the US in January, is a joint production between the US SyFy Channel and Canada’s Space Channel. Although set in Boston, it was filmed in Montreal and stars a mix of US and Canadian actors.
They’ve changed the names of the three main characters from Mitchell, George and Annie to Aidan ( in reference to Aidan Turner, who played Mitchell in the BBC series), Josh and Sally respectively.
The new series has been well received by American viewers and has even found some love among viewers from other parts of the world. But fans of the BBC original have been lukewarm or dubious at best.
The common verdict is the US version looks prettier but has had its gutsier themes bleached out and dumbed down for an audience that is used to having its TV drama pre-digested and spoonfed.
Where the low-budget original used physical effects and animatronics to create its realistic werewolf transformation sequences, the flashier US version relies heavily on CGI – resulting in something much less convincing.
Perhaps this series’ biggest flaw is that it doesn’t quite know whether it wants to be a carbon copy of the original or something new based on the same concept.
After the first couple of episodes, the story apparently diverges significantly from the British series. Not only have the US producers copied ghostly Annie’s costume almost to the stitch for Sally, they have also cast an actor ( Meaghan Rath) of a similar complexion. This strikes me as tokenistic and weird.
Difficult-to-understand accents and unfamiliar colloquialisms have been cited among the reasons for doing a US version.
I could describe HBO’s True Blood in the same way, but I doubt anyone would try to re-shoot it in Bristol to make it appeal more to British viewers.
It is what it is and its unique Louisiana identity is an integral part of what made it such an addictive series.
So re-making Being Human strikes me as the ultimate unnecessary adaptation but, who knows, it might be worth a look.
DUMBED DOWN: Sam Huntington, Meaghan Rath and Sam Witwer ( above) star in the US version of which is not as gutsy as the UK series with Aidan Turner, Russell Tovey and Lenora Crichlow ( inset).