Being Human & Its Different Path

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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 being human ukhelped 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.

sally and corpseTake 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.

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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 BH4wry 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.

Annette DeForrester

Nice Werewolves Finish Last

This time of year, all you see are countless shows and movies featuring vampires and zombies. True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, Twilight, Dawn of the Dead and The Walking Dead for example. They’re very popular so why isn’t there a craving for werewolves?

Sure they pop up as supporting characters or villains in vampire productions (see True Blood, Being Human, Underworld and Twilight) but it seems like any attempt to have werewolves as the main draw falls flat.

The most recent example was last year’s film The Wolfman that came and went without much notice. In fact, I believe the last breakout films about them were The Howling and An American Werewolf in London (and their sequels were awful). That was back in the ’80s when their makeup was revolutionary. Maybe it has to do with the way they are usually shown nowadays. Often they use obvious CGI or actual wolves whereas vamps and zombies are done with makeup that still carries the day. Filmmakers need to perfect a new way of presenting werewolves that doesn’t look like CGI.

The Undead Reach New Heights

Some may argue that since the ’90s vampires have been portrayed as very sexual and alluring hence their popularity. That take on vampires actually began with Bela Lugosi’s portrayal of Dracula back in the ’30s. But it wasn’t until Anne Rice’s vampire books that the concept of sensual, tortured vampires truly took off then went to an entire different level of popularity when the Twilight phenomenon started. The result was that the vampire became the superstar of the monster world leaving werewolves and others biting the dust. In terms of novels, there are many werewolf romance novel but they have yet to capture the public’s eye like Twilight has.

For zombies, they appealed to those wanting pure horror soaked with blood and guts and a dash of the apocalypse. When it comes to gore, werewolves can’t compete with cannibalistic zombies in the ick factor. As everyone knows the modern zombie genre started with George Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead film and its sequels. Zombies also gained a strong presence with other media like Max Brooks’ World War Z novel, Robert Kirkman’s comic book The Walking Dead and numerous video games such as Resident Evil and House of the Dead. How can a poor werewolf compete with hordes of the undead rampaging through the streets? It’s gotten so bad that a recent episode of Spike TV’s show Deadliest Warrior featured a matchup of vampires against zombies with hardly a mention of lycanthropes.

Sign Of The Times

Many say that the public’s fascination with creatures of the underworld has to do with the times. Modern zombies are seen as a statement about modern materialistic society. IOW we are the undead; mindless drones who only consume. They’re also the great equalizer in the so-called social class struggle. As they feed on the rich and poor alike without regard, zombies have shown that we are all equal when it comes to food. Werewolves aren’t associated with the end of civilization and the one thing they had over zombies, being fast and savage, has been co-opted by recent zombie films.

Vampires not only explore themes of forbidden sexuality but of adapting to the new age while lamenting the old world and its more dignified culture. But the werewolf theme of man losing his humanity and giving in to his bestial nature is a compelling subject. Being Human explored this very well to the point that the werewolf protagonist is a well developed and sympathetic character. Other examples include The Wolfman, Marvel Comics’ Werewolf By Night and the American Werewolf films. There have been attempts to explore the sexual aspects of werewolves, most notably Neil Jordan’s film In The Company Of Wolves and Mike Nichols’ Wolf with mixed results. The gist of werewolf sexuality is the attraction to the rough, bestial nature of someone cursed as a werewolf. The ultimate good girl likes bad boy concept.

Nice Werewolves Finish Last?

Sookie Stackhouse in True Blood has a fascination with the werewolf Alcide that goes beyond her love for Bill and Eric. The attraction could be because Alcide comes off as more human and kinder than the vampires in the show and books. In many of these incarnations, the main character is shown to be a really nice, meek middle class person who uncontrollably releases the primal side. The film Wolf embraces this theme as Jack Nicholson’s character succeeds in life when he embraces his bestial side and stops letting others step all over him. Or take David Naughton’s character in An American Werewolf In London who is a comical, everyday kind of guy who transforms into a murderous lycanthrope with tragic results. The entire concept can be interpreted as an examination of how humanity is cut off from their true bestial selves that need expression.

It’s difficult to pinpoint why werewolves haven’t quite captured the general public’s eye like all the apocalyptic zombies and emo vampires. Perhaps it’s because werewolves aren’t the undead just specialized shape-shifters. Everyone is fascinated with death and the afterlife and zombies and vamps give us a glimpse of this in a way that werewolves cannot. Maybe it has to do with timing and frankly I wonder how much longer the vampire and zombie fascination will continue. To me it seems we’re oversaturated and the public’s attention will eventually shift to something else.

But the real reason for the lack of popularity probably has to do with the story itself. Recently there isn’t a truly captivating character or storyline that grabs the current zeitgeist. It can happen out of the blue; times and taste will change and the lycanthropes will capture the public eye with a crossover novel, game or film. They’ll get their moment in the moon before long.

Waldermann Rivera