Un­com­mon hu­man­ity

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Television - TIM MARTAIN Be­ing Hu­man, Eleven, to­mor­row, 9.30pm

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).

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