Syfy’s Being Human was cancelled a couple of weeks ago after a four-year run. I didn’t find out about it until the other day and when I did it saddened me greatly. I never expected that kind of reaction and it made me realize how much I’ve come to enjoy this remake of the cult BBC hit of the same name.
The original version of Being Human is quite excellent and worth seeking out. When I first heard that Syfy was doing a U.S./Canadian version of the program I was very skeptical. How could they recreate the charm, quirkiness and chemistry that the original actors had? For anyone who hasn’t seen either TV show, Being Human is about a vampire, werewolf and ghost sharing a place of residence. Yes, it sounds like a joke in the vein of “a priest and a rabbi walked into a bar” but Being Human had this sincere quality that made it endearing.
The show focused on the characters, they were the most important thing on Being Human. This emphasis helped flesh out the characters and did so by having them deal with the mundane things so they were very relatable. We cared about them when they were in trouble or going through an emotional crisis. Their dilemmas and how they dealt with them was one of the tenets of Being Human. In the show, the supernatural characters tried to hang on to a semblance of normalcy and their humanity. They didn’t relish being who they were, they wanted to be as human as possible, though in the end that was ultimately impossible. But they emulated the best parts of what makes us human–our compassion and empathy.
So I really doubted the American version of Being Human would successfully emulate those aspects.
After watching a few episodes, I have to admit I was very glad to be wrong.
Of course, the new version of Being Human couldn’t quite replicate that core essence of the original; at least at first. The first season of the show largely followed the storylines of the first season of the original show and it was kind of clunky because it had a longer season (13 episodes as opposed to six episodes in the original season). Still it was well acted and written enough to keep me watching.
Things became very interesting for me during its second season. Being Human branched off in different directions plot wise from the original show. This meant that the new version became unpredictable and fresh. The characters explored new territories and had unique personal arcs.
Take the ghost in the trio. In the original version, the ghost Annie Sawyer (Lenora Crichlow) remained a ghost for that show’s run and became a powerful poltergeist able to interact with the material world. In the new incarnation, the ghost now named Sally Malik (Meaghan Rath) was resurrected last season but turned into a flesh-craving ghoul as her flesh deteriorated. This season she returned to her ghostly state but with a witch’s powers.
Aiden Waite (Sam Witwer), the vampire character in the new version of Being Human has had to contend with a vampire virus that wiped out most of the world’s vampire population, a reunion with his supposedly long-dead wife, and mentoring a new leader of the remaining vampires. John Mitchell (Aiden Turner), the UK version, hasn’t had to deal with those issues during that show’s run.
When it came to the werewolf of the group, Josh Levison (Sam Huntington), the character’s arc followed a similar path as the original werewolf, George Sands (Russell Tovey). Both turned their future wives (Kristen Hager and Sinead Keenan) into werewolves and got them pregnant. The major difference is that the American couple lost their child through miscarriage, while the UK couple didn’t. Also, Josh has tried to come to terms with the werewolf within him and had a curse earlier this season where he remained a werewolf long after a full moon passed.
All these differences really helped to make the current version of Being Human stand out from the original. It wasn’t a rethread and its unpredictable nature kept me tuned in. This doesn’t mean that the original is flawed only that this version of the show wisely went into an alternate path. Sometimes I wondered if both versions of the characters somehow existed in the same universe and it’s too bad there weren’t any kind of crossovers or cameos by the original actors.
When the new show’s production team strove to make this version of Being Human different they still kept what made the original so endearing. The focus on characters and their struggles with their souls and the perfect balancing act of being wry and dramatic. It never went into histrionics and events and character reactions felt so natural and genuine. It’s a testament to the acting abilities of the main actors, kudos go to all of them. They didn’t have an easy job, but they pulled it off, they made many people, including me, forget about the original actors. It was all these elements that made the U.S. version of Being Human heartfelt and special. Unlike many of these supernatural TV shows on the air now, it’s human quality made it stand out from the rest.