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Oh the Being-Humanity…

Josh, Aidan, and Sally

It sounds like the lead-in to a joke, right? “A Vampire, a Werewolf, and a Ghost are sitting in their living room…” But it’s actually the premise on which America’s ostensible science-fiction network, SyFy, has based a new original series called Being Human, which they’ll begin airing on January 17th, 2011. The story concerns a vampire named “Aidan,” a werewolf named “Josh,” and a ghost named “Sally.” They all “live” together in an apartment in Boston, where they deal with vast vampire conspiracies, packs of roving werewolves, solving the mystery of their own deaths, and where they have deep conversations about how life has changed for them since they variously became monsters. It’s quirky, it’s fun, it’s new and original and it’s a Series! Except…

Except this is not a “New Original Series,” in any way that those three words make any real sense.

[ad#longpost]What we have here is an American version of a BBC3 property, repackaged and repurposed to fit in with an American sensibility, in much the same vein as BBC2’s The Office and NBC’s The Office. This time, however, unlike their aforementioned successful Americanisation, NBC/Universal don’t seem to have bothered to do the same kind of innovative thinking of which they’ve shown themselves capable. What I mean is, after the pilot episode of the American version of The Office, the decision was made to portray these characters as working in the American offices of the company first introduced in the British version of the show. If you’re not a regular watcher of the show, understand that the best thing about this is the kinds of opportunities it provides, especially in terms of an automatic “out” for explaining changes such as the characters, the company structure and, most importantly, the different style of comedy.

With Being Human, SyFy has changed the names, the country, and the city, but they seem to have kept every other dynamic of interaction as exactly the same (There are other forms of undead/monstrous creatures, you know? Why not some of them?). With The Office, the American network integrated the creative force behind the original material into the production structure of the new version. In this case, the creator of Being Human, Toby Whithouse, seems to be liminally involved, and credited as “Writer” of “unknown episodes,” but this is a far cry from being credited as an executive producer and co-creator, as was done with Ricky Gervais.

Mitchel, George, and Annie
The original trio from the BBC version...

Okay, so, by now it’s no secret that in the past I’ve been a little upset with SyFy, but I like to think that I strive for justice and fairness in my judgments. With that in mind I’ve decided that I would reserve any and all summary judgment on this attempt, prior to having seen at least the first three episodes. To their credit, SyFy have made it a bit easier for me to do so, by way of their assembled creative team (who, at time of writing, still seem to be being assembled). I’m just going to rattle off a few names, now; you can click through to see why you should be impressed and/or worried: Jeremy Carver(!), Chris Dingess, Anna Fricke, Adam Kane, Elissa Lewis, Irene Litinsky, Michael Prupas, Toby Whithouse, Nancy Won.

Go ahead and read the credits. I’ll wait.

Done? Good. So you see how one might begin to form a particular type of picture, in one’s mind, yes? One with soap-opera drama and awesome special effects and maybe some sparkles but resist that picture! There are some amazing credentials in that list and, as a group, these people could do wonders. But we won’t know, for sure, until we see it for ourselves.

And that’s exactly what I’ll keep reminding myself, as I watch the first three episodes. That done, I will report back to you what it is that I’ve seen.


  • “Except this is not a ‘New Original Series,’ in any way that those three words make any real sense.”

    Actually it is a new original series in a way that those words make sense if you understand that networks use the term “original series” to indicate a show has been made in house, rather than buying the rights to reair a show that was established somewhere else. It’s a rather commonly used phrase in the industry that does not mean “we came up with this all on our own”. The Office, too, is considered an original series for NBC; as are the remake of shows like Battlestar or the adaptations of shows like The Walking Dead or Dexter (which certainly took their entire premise and major storylines from existing media)

    The creators of Being Human UK are involved in it’s new inception, at least to the degree they wish to be involved. Championing them while criticizing the allegedly poor decision of another network for remaking it, without acknowledging that they gave their own blessing for the project, is perhaps a bit misguided.

  • @Lynn: Actually I state rather clearly that what I’m doing here is attempt to NOT criticize, until I’ve seen what’s actually on offer.

    And, so far as “Created In House” being a used as blanket synonym for “Original Series,” the fact that it’s an industry practice doesn’t actually make it make any Sense. What it does is seem to create an easy way to prop something up, to instill it with an sense of creativity it may or may not have. Now, the BSG reboot took an older premise, revived it, and took it in a Wildly Different Direction than the original series. The Walking Dead, even in being an adaptation from a different form, acknowledges its source material in nearly every shot of the season, and Robert Kirkman was on set, a fair amount of the time. I’ve not read the Dexter novels, so I can’t speak cogently, on those. What I’m saying is, I think that those acknowledgments of where they came from gives those shows more “originality” than what I’m seeing of the new Being Human, so far, but I’m willing to admit that I could be very wrong, in my initial reaction.

    I’m a huge fan of Carver’s work and I know the kinds of writing of which he’s capable, and if Whithouse is involved “to the degree he wishes to be,” as you suggest, then, yes, this whole thing could become the next BSG, or The Office, filled with a life and creativity all its own.

    My worry, however, is the worry I have for all “Original” Americanizations: That it won’t live up to the vision and potential of the original. If that is the case, then it was a poor decision. If not, then I’ll be the first to say that I was worried for nothing.

    Thank you for your comment. I really hope you keep coming back.