Being Human – UK vs US
A Vampire, a Werewolf and a Ghost share a house together…Nope it’s not the beginning of a rather mediocre joke, it’s actually the premise of possibly one of the best TV shows I’ve ever seen from the UK! “Being Human” has been highly favorable on both sides of the pond and grows strength to strength right through to its current third season. And after Comic Con in San Diego in 2010, fans of the UK show became slightly dubious as it was announced an American ‘Spin Off’ was on the horizon, it then came to air in America in mid January 2011. But how do the two shows compare with each other? Is one more superior to the other? Ah hell, Shakespeare said it best: “Let me count the ways”!
***WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS***
So lets talk about the English version for a minute, originally set and filmed down the road from me, we see Werewolf George Sands (Russel Tovey) and Vampire John Mitchell (Aidan Turner) moving into a quiet house in the Bristol where they meet resident Ghost Annie Sawyer (Lenora Crichlow). We see a very different spin on the supernatural genre with this show, for example: We discover Vampires can walk in sunlight, they image cannot be captured by ANYTHING not only mirrors, Ghosts can be seen by ANY supernatural beings and with practice by other human beings as well. At the start of the series we learn that Mitchells Sire Herrick is planning to raise the species into public eye and eventually take over the world, this then becomes the underlying story for the remainder of the first series; through this we also see new relationships bloom between George and Nurse Nina, Mitchell chooses sides of right and wrong, not to mention Annie discovers her death was not an accident! Series 2 sees further complications including a new supernatural addition in the form of Georges girlfriend Nina Pickering (played by Sinead Keenan), The trio are also subject to the growing attentions of a mysterious organisation looking to cure Werewolf symptoms, destroy the Vampires and exorcise Annie! Vampires going through group therapy led by Mitchell and his old friend Ivan, and not to mention seeing an absolutely unstable outburst from Mitchell which has lasting repercussions which echoes all the way into series 3! BBCs third installment sees the gang move to Barry Island while Mitchell secretly seeks penance for his sins of the Box Tunnel 20 by finding a way to get Annie back from Purgatory! Nina & George are faced with pregnancy and discovering more werewolves! we see old enemies, meet new and much older threats and tragically lose old friends!
On the American side of things it’s a little different but it’s pretty much the same. Is the American show not as subtle as the English? Perhaps, but it’s a different audience all together, seasons run for 13 episodes as opposed to Englands 6-8 episodes, so there is a need to spread things out and fill in the gaps to style it how they require. This actually works pretty well so far as the USA and from what I can see it’s only getting stronger. The prime aspect for me is the universality, I think America will love it and the UK won’t resent it. This time around we have Vampire Aidan (Sam Witwer), Werewolf Josh (Sam Huntington) and Ghost Sally (Meaghan Rath). The pilot episode is taken straight out of the original UK pilot, it delves further into the journey they take before they move into the house Sally died in/haunts, as well as the conflicts each of the character encounter, not to mention the usual vampire threat via Bishop (the US version of Herrick, played by Mark Pellegrino) The Vampyric aspect to this incarnation is slightly altered, a Vampires image can be captured but they can still walk in the sunlight (naturally they still wear sunglasses!). We also learn more about Joshs past and his family through his sister Emily (a recurring character), again a pretty American aspect to have a certain emotional attachment to a protagonist, especially as it took three series in the UK to see any of Georges family; this isn’t a dig in any way, it’s simply another device to allow the audience to connect, a device that consistently works. The major differences for the first season are staggering though, we see the Werewolf pregnancy story has just shot into play (albeit sadly not for long) when it took England 3 years to get to this point (certainly looks like America is going hell for leather in the drama department), Aidan executing Bishop, the Vampire Council from Boston, there is literally a whole new canon emerging from the States which looks to be growing even more so for the next season.
Character wise there have been some very subtle differences but overall the premise remains the same. I find this is was a good direction to go as it would keep things on an even keel for both sides of the Atlantic. Aidan and Mitchell comparisons are a rather interesting one, personally the Vampire in either series could be my favorites equally, there’s always so much more conflict they seem to deal with. US version appears to keep his personal conflicts away from his friends. Mitchell just relapses every so often, but when he falls off the wagon he does so in spectacular fashion; and yes I’m talking about the Box Tunnel 20 massacre which Mitchell and Daisy are responsible for in series 2. In spite of how good Sam Witwer is in the US version I honestly believe there’s more of a diversity from Aidan Turner. Could this be because I’ve watched him as Mitchell for longer? Perhaps, but it doesn’t make it any less accurate!
Josh and George, now this is tricky, both Russel Tovey and Sam Huntington do excellently at their respective roles. As I mentioned before, we learn a lot more about Josh past a lot quicker than we do about George, I was a little surprised at how much of a difference Syfy instigated for their US version of George. Having said that, there is a distinct darkness in both of them, the conflict they face in any instance is brilliant. It does seem sometimes though that Huntingdon can be less whinny than Englands own Tovey in some respects but that tends to bring out the weakness and conflictions more than Huntingdons slightly more angry equivalent. Mind you, it could have been a lot different if the original UK pilot had anything to do with it. Here’s a little snippet from possibly the only decent thing about an average first attempt at the series…
Now we come to the neighborhood Ghosts, UKs Annie and USAs Sally! Again, decent performances between the two versions; however, the only thing I don’t really like is that Sally is a more of a weaker character in comparison to Annie. I think Lenora Crichlow is very talented and has had some brilliant moments in the show, but Meaghan Rath doesn’t really seem to have the spirit (I’m really sorry if you saw a pun in there) that Crichlow has blessed the UK with. Once again I can see why they would string out the progression of the story, makes for a longer season run, but in UKs first season Annie kicked ass taking down the Vamps in the Funeral Home, so far Sally has only just been able to step outside the house, the potential hasn’t quite been reached as of yet. Yes I’m probably being a little premature with my outlook, but with season 1 having just aired, I have to be rather curious as to what the powers that be have in store for a resident poltergeist.
In conclusion, I have to say I find it tricky to decide which has been my favourite version. Gun to my head, I’m going to have to side with the BBC on this one though. primarily because it’s the original, it’s where it all started! Creative characters portrayed by an ever impressive cast. Syfy have done a commendable job at keeping everything they needed to and expanded very well on their own ideas to expand the canon and I’ve been nothing but entertained by everything and everyone involved. With a second season officially sanctioned in March this year, what could we possibly see in future? will we see lab experiments via Kemp and/or Lucy in the US version? How about the Box Tunnel 20? Will Aidan make the same sacrifices Mitchell has had to? Who is the Vampyric ‘She’? I’m not going to lie, I cannot wait to find out!