Being Human – Television Show preview

By Michael Vass | January 17, 2011

The SyFy Channel is nothing if not filled with executives that think the general public are idiots. Only such reasoning explains why the cable network would suggest that Being Human is an original concept. Fact is, SyFy Network is lying.

Being Human is a British television show, already into its 2nd season. In fact, fans of the show who watch BBC America are about to see the next season just as SyFy is trying to take credit for the program on American cable. I dislike liars intensely, and this just gets worse from here.

If you are willing to forgive SyFy Channel, and via ownwership the clods at NBC, and still watch the program you will not be in for a treat. The concept is simple and proven. 3 twenty-somethings live together in a mid-sized unnamed city. Partially because of the money, but just as importantly because they are different. Sound good so far?

There is the female ghost/poltergeist – who cannot exit the apartment which is her place of death. There is the werewolf, who desperately wants to live a normal life but is filled with guilt and dread over his monthly conflict. There is a vampire, a bit of a cross between twillight and Buffy. Its all the supernatural beings that American viewers could ever want, wrapped up in a coming of age type drama with rent due. Win-Win right?

Well the big problem is that unlike the cast in the British original, the SyFy copy doesn’t mesh. Yes there is still the minority female ghost. Yes the 2 male leads are White and vague American. Yes, the script is a direct ripoff of the British original. But there is no real chemistry among the characters. Their interactions feel about as fresh as the apartment which is the major backdrop of the whole show. Without this chemistry, the rest of the show fails.

Another problem is that more often than not, especially currently, American copies of British television shows don’t work. That’s because the copies often go word for word, which really doesn’t work with the cultural differences. Coupling proved that a fantastic show in England, is a miserable failure in the US. Most of that was the fact the script was nearly verbatim – though the horrible casting didn’t help.

When American shows copied a British original idea, in the past, they at least had the decency to not copy the verbatim scripts. Three’s Company had the good sense to make it about American values and cultural conflicts, not Britian’s. The same is true of All In The Family, as Archie Bunker became the symbol of the damage a small-minded American bigot could be instead of the British bigot it was based on. But Leverage, Coupling, Life on Mars, and more than likely the majority of Being Human just steal page after page of script. If plagarism wasn’t such a common practice in Hollywood, the lawsuits would be lightning fast.

There are plenty of examples out there right now. Top Gear (USA version), Skins (US version), it just keeps going. It just doesn’t work. Not because of the original material, and sometimes you can’t even blame the actors. It’s just that sometimes trying to copy a great original will only get you Bizzaro.

Here’s another reason why this show likely will not work. It stars a warm and fuzzy vampire with a kind heart, a werewolf with anxiety and apprehension, and a ghost clinging to lost blind love. Those are all great things in a European whatever, but not America. The Twillight phase is a new concept that works for kids entering puberty, but it really doesn’t play with the rest of American audiences – and therefore not TV.

Americans like a Lon Chaney Jr. werewolf, or An American Werewolf in London, or Dracula (basically any version), or if we want to be less serious Ghostbusters. In fact the less a monster says, the less emotion they display, the more we love to see them being a monster. Halloween and Michael Myers, Friday the 13th and Jason. Even Nightmare on Elm Street – where the more Freddy spoke, the less audiences enjoyed the films. That’s American culture and our monsters. Being Human just doesn’t make the grade.

Perhaps the very best news for anyone that likes the core concept of the badly copied British television shows these days is that once the program is canceled in America, you can just watch BBC America to see a far better version of the full story.

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