This review may contain some spoilers for the series premiere of "Being Human" on Syfy.
For many fans, it will be impossible to separate the BBC version of "Being Human" with the Syfy version, which premieres Jan. 17.
So before I started passing judgment on the American remake of the popular British comedy, I thought I would give the two "Being Humans" a back-to-back test. How do the series premieres compare? How do they differ? And can one exist despite the existence of the other?
The answer is a most definite yes. There are definitely similarities between the two shows. Both have a werewolf and a vampire move into an apartment where a ghost resides. Both feature these same characters trying to rediscover their humanity. Both will make you laugh, and think at the same time.
But the American "Being Human" sets out right away to be a different type of show. Sam Witwer ("Battlestar Galactica," "Dexter"), Sam Huntington ("Superman Returns," "Caveman") and Meghan Rath ("You Are So Undead," "18 to Life") work to recreate the roles originally portrayed by Aidan Turner, Russell Tovey and Lenora Crichlow. But they are hardly direct copies. Instead, the American actors bring their own take on the characters, brilliantly set up by director Adam Kane and the pilot's writing crew.
This "Being Human" sets itself up to be its own show, with some initial storyline borrowing, but a product of its own being. And that's good, because it not only presents a great new show for fans in America, but introduces new audiences to the BBC version as well.
If you watch the Syfy version after seeing the original, you will notice right away that the pace is completely different. Unlike the British version, where we basically jump to the three main characters already roommates (and Crichlow's character already able to use many ghost abilities), we get more of a lead-up to the three living together and their own journeys.
Yes, the vampire (named Aidan, after the British actor) thinks he's killed someone in cold blood. Yes, the werewolf (Josh) finds himself looking for a room that will secure his full moon self. Yes, our ghost (Sally) pines after the fiance she misses so dearly. But we don't step in with our characters ready to share day-to-day life from their flat. Instead, everyone has plenty of room to grow.
It was nice to see some things picked up from the British version to the American one, but it was better that Syfy didn't try to repeat one of the best scenes from the BBC pilot: Tovey's character of George running through the country hillside trying to find an empty place to transform, only to find that this is one popular hill at night. It was some great comedy, but also foreshadows a bit of self-discovery for George, as he runs into someone of his kind (but doesn't realize it yet).
Syfy is not afraid to push the envelope a little bit, even with sexuality. The first stills released of "Being Human" last year showed Huntington out in the woods, wearing his boxers. In fact, when I had a chance to talk to Huntington about this picture, he assured me that he was not taking the "Incredible Hulk" route with the incredible stretchy shorts, but would indeed be as naked as Tovey was in the British version.
No, he's not showing his butt like Tovey did a lot, but let's just say Huntington's probably very happy he has big hands.
Witwer is a very handsome actor, but he's definitely different from what Aidan Turner has done. He doesn't seem to lack the self-confidence the British vampire has, presenting a character that is really in flux between his vampire and human sides.
But I really like Meaghan Rath's Sally. I never liked the thought that we missed so much of the ghost's spiritual development in the British version, but we get the whole trip here. Feeling trapped and alone is something that totally defines Sally. And before we go off and have her acting practically as a human being, we need to experience that journey with her.
In all, Syfy has a winner here in "Being Human." It pays the right amount of homage to the BBC version without blatantly ripping it off. And it leaves plenty of room for fans to enjoy both.
That's a hard feat to accomplish, but it's done here. And that's worth giving "Being Human" on Syfy your undivided attention.
The pilot was developed from the writing team of Jeremy Carver, Chris Dingess, Anna Fricke, Toby Whithouse and Nancy Won. It was directed by Adam Kane.
"Being Human" premieres Monday, Jan. 17 at 9 p.m. ET on Syfy.
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