Four and a Half Torches (Out of Five)
I realize I might take some heat for this, but … I’m thinking that Syfy’s new remake of the UK show Being Human is better than the original.
I know, I know: anyone who reads this site regularly knows how down I am on the fact that so much coming out of Hollywood these days is either a remake, a sequel, or a “reimagining.” Let’s have some original thinking, please!
But maybe the reason I think a US remake of Being Human isn’t such a terrible idea is that I also think the original wasn’t wholly successful to begin with.
Yes, I appreciated that they were willing to go “dark” (and blend “dark” and “funny” in interesting ways), and the cast was certainly appealing.
But the pacing was sometimes off in the original (a lot); I thought Annie was a crazy-sexist stereotype (at least at first); and I am so beyond-tired of “good” vampires struggling against their natures — not to mention wars between vampires, or between vampires and werewolves.
Syfy’s Being Human keeps the tired vampire elements, but the storytelling is simply stronger and more consistent here. And the character of Annie doesn’t take a whole season to stop being a whiny, passive stereotype — she’s confident and active right from the start (despite being a ghost with agoraphobia issues).
Weirdly, this actually turns out to be the perfect show for Syfy. It’s got that great “high-concept” premise to attract attention (a ghost, a vampire, and a werewolf get an apartment together…). It’s also basically a one-location (the apartment), one-town, small-cast show — and it’s special effects-light — all of which means it can be produced at least semi-cheaply, but it doesn’t have to look cheap (like, um, the more “epic” Warehouse 13, with its incredibly cheesy “warehouse” effects and ridiculous “foreign” locations).
Syfy made the first three episodes of this new show available for preview by critics, and I was surprised how different it was from the original. I found it interesting that they took plot-elements that they thought worked (the mystery involving Annie’s death, the big brother-little brother rapport between the werewolf — “Josh” here — and the vampire Aiden), and they completely jettisoned the stuff that doesn’t work (like Annie’s passiveness). In addition, Josh’s backstory seems stronger and more fleshed out, and the mechanics of the Annie’s afterlife are spelled out and grounded more quickly too.
It’s also worth noting that can’t do much better than Mark Pellegrino (”Lucifer” on Supernatural) as the Vampire Ringleader.
Will Syfy’s Being Human be as “dark” as the UK version? At a panel last week at the Television Critics Association, the producers went to great lengths to emphasize that it will.
I’m not so sure (but I’m also not so sure it matters). Sure, they may include some of the UK version’s particularly provocative plot-elements. But this is simply a different show — no less smart, but broader, more “mainstream,” and also more accessible. It’s a “reimagining” in a very real way — but in the good sense of the word.
I’m not trying to start an argument with any fans of Syfy’s current and past programming. But with the notable exception of Battlestar Galactica, I think the channel’s programming so far has been mostly sub-par (I’m still holding a major grudge for the apparently script-free Haven!).
Being Human is something different. This time, no allowances are necessary to see fantasy programming on television — this one plays in the big leagues.
Being Human premieres Monday, January, 17th at 9 PM.