A little while back, I read a write up stating that 'Being Human' was a pretty decent show. Not knowing anything about it, I got my hands on season one and decided to see what the buzz was about.
Much to my surprise, it was British. Inside of six minutes I was hooked. The introductory scenes of Mitchell and George were fantastic. Twenty minutes later, we meet Annie and the premise is set…the line and sinker joined the hook.
Firing up the second episode I was confused. Did I accidentally start a different season? Am I playing out of order? What's going on here?!? I was devastated to learn that from the pilot, 3 of the 4 main characters had been recast. And in a show that had hooked me on its characters and their interactions, this meant trouble. I watched series two and three and am currently sticking with the show through series four, but figured I'd check out the version I thought I was getting and see how the US version stacked up.
To be honest, I wasn't optimistic. With the memory of what the US networks did to 'Life on Mars' and still seeing the butcher job they're doing to 'Top Gear', I figured this would be another in a long line of UK shows to be ruined. Having viewed season one and seeing that season two is going off in a different direction, I figure I've got a big enough sample to compare the two.
Spoilers to follow
Mitchell vs Aiden
* Caveat: Guy Flanagan as Mitchell in the UK pilot wipes the floor with everybody, and had he continued in the role, there would be a referee stoppage during the introductions. Sadly for the UK version as a whole and the US version for a standard set, Guy isn't Mitchell
UK: Mitchell has moments of genius and moments when a smack in the back of the head is the only reasonable course of action. For a guy 100+ years old, he sure doesn't seem to know how the world works sometimes, but when he's on, HE'S ON! Tragically broken, despite all of the evil he may have done you still feel for him in that even when he's doing wrong, it's for the right reasons…or at least for reasons people can understand (see Boxcar 20). The story arc of him and Annie from the mid point of series two and towards the end of series three really is legend. And while not fair to Aiden since he hasn't had the opportunity, Mitchell's heroics and portrayal cannot be over looked.
US: Oh Doomsday…err…Aiden, what are we going to do with you? Aiden is everything Mitchell is, only just a little less. He's not quite as emotional. He's not quite as damaged. He doesn't seem to struggle quite as much with his addition. He is more of a badass, but I don't think that's what makes the character. It's his humanity, not his vampirism that makes him great. If this were a straight up vampire contest, Aiden wins hands down. But, the show is called 'Being Human'
Winner: Mitchell by TKO. Aiden is just Mitchell Light
George vs Josh
UK: The sole survivor of the pilot and for good reason…he's fantastic. Funny and awkward, he's the comic relief without being a side kick and that's no easy task. The issue I have with George is that the longer the series runs, the less I like him. Questionable decision making, a startling lack of empathy towards his friends and little admittance when he's wrong. Like Annie, much of his flaws become clearer in series two, but they certainly are present in series one. George is a brilliant character and this really should be a no brainer when put up against his US counterpart, but…
US: Josh is George, but seemingly 5 years wiser. He's every bit the moral hyprocrite, but without being quite as sanctimonious about it. When appropriate, he'll follow the experienced lead of a guy who's got centuries on him. Were George have to deal with the beating of Emily, I have no doubt that after confronting Aiden, he'd have tried to fix the problem himself and only make it worse. The look on Josh's face when he realized he'd set everything in motion with his beating of Marcus is something I never saw in George…acknowledging he's only "two years old", doesn't know everything and that sometimes bad things have to be done to bad people. Which included the offer to and staking of a vampire, something George never would have done at this point in his development...certainly not without getting all dramatic about it. I can only pray that the same mistakes made with George aren't made with Josh
Winner: Josh with a 10th round referee stoppage and easily the biggest surprising upset
Annie vs Sally
UK: Our lovable Annie, the tea making glue that held the house together. Like Mitchell, I much preferred the pilot character when played by Andrea Riseborough as opposed to Lenora Crichlow, but it is what it is. My only real complaint about Annie is the inexplicably stupid things she does in season two. Since I'm only talking about season one, I can't really hold that against her since her US counterpart may be equally clueless…time will tell. I can't say that I'm particularly thrilled they did away with much of the brother/sister banter with George nor do I much care for the idea that she had absolutely no idea she was engaged to a sociopath.
US: First and foremost, I know this is a remake and aspects of the show need to stay the same, but seriously, did they have to dress her the same. Is what she's wearing to vital to the premise? Booo! I also can't say I like the fact that they've removed her quirkiness. Cooking food she can't eat and tea she can't drink really was a great device for how Annie deals with things. That said, I do love the fact that Sally's not nearly as clueless, far more self aware about her shortcomings, open about her past and doesn't forget that she's not completely helpless. The details about how she went from ambitious student ready to conquer the world to meek fiancé are sorely lacking in Annie
Winner: Sally by split decision. I love Annie's quirk, but in the long run, I think Sally's depth will bring more to the show than just a good cup of tea
Herrick vs Bishop
UK: Herrick is a bad man, but he doesn't look like a bad man. Very Benjamin Linus like
US: Speaking of Ben Linus, nice to see him going head to head with Jacob
Winner: Draw…with nothing to choose between either portrayals (thus far) a tie seems the fairest of verdicts
Lauren vs Rebecca
UK: Lauren's date with Mitchell in the opening scene of the pilot was fantastic and had me liking this show 6 minutes in. Her character going forward though confused me. She never really struck me as needy nor confident and her portrayal of both sides of that coin always just seemed a touch out of place. But, she was not without her great moments to "Wait, I want to be here when she finally puts it together", that's good stuff. As was her brief spiral with Mitchell in various motels whose cleaning staff must still be traumatized. But I never actually figured out where she stood. She was a little wishy washy. Never quite committing to Harrick nor Mitchell. She was a lost soul just trying to find her way and putting on what ever face she thought she needed at the time.
US: Rebecca's character is essentially the same though more refined and used "properly" by the writing team. Her insecurity while alive is very much apparent and her willingness to do what ever it took to be accepted by one side or the other was as well. She was all in. But what I like very much is the evolution and progression of her relationship with Aiden. Mitchell seemed to humour Lauren out of guilt while Lauren clung to Mitchell because she didn't know what else to do. Aiden and Rebecca seemed to genuinely care for each other a great deal. Her death is sad and poignant unlike the UK version which seems to be more of an inconvenience to their escape.
Winner: Rebecca by unanimous decision
Julia vs Emily
UK: An almost nothing character in the UK version that did play a role in a couple key plot details. Firstly, it was seeing his former fiancé that tipped George over into wanting to move in with Mitchell in the first place. This scene omission in the US version had me weary since Josh went from "I don't think so" to "Oh, okay" for no particular reason. Her dbag boyfriend provoking George showed us that yes he has a temper and that just prior to a full moon, he's exceptionally strong & lacks self control. Given that she was only in the pilot, this was a clear win for the UK side
US: But, in one of the few detours taken by the US side, Emily isn't the ex fiancé, she's the sister. And in the same early story arc as the UK version, she's completely useless other that provide an excuse for a girl/girl kiss. But a few episodes later come a fine bit of writing. She's a plot device to teach Josh that the supernatural world is WAY bigger than he thought and that his actions have consequences. But the brilliance comes from the introduction of Josh's family...a thread that fell completely flat in the UK version. This was well done. Dad was pushy. Mom was a little stepford. Sister the rebel. Josh the "perfect" child. While a touch cliché, it did allow for further growth on Josh's part after a very honest conversation with Aiden about how his prior life is/should be gone.
Winner: Emily in a quick 1st round knockout
Nina vs Nora
UK: Similar to Annie, Nina starts off as a strong character and progressively gets more and more annoying to the point where by the end of season three, I welcomed her death. But, since I'm trying to limit myself to their commonalities, Nina is once again let down by the writing team. I can't hold her betrayal against Mitchell against her, but I can with regard to her pregnancy, "miracle child" and blatant hypocrisy. When it comes to moral sanctimony, she's George on steroids
US: Probably the two most similar characters on the show despite significantly different adaptations. There's a very good chance that Nora becomes every bit the irritant Nina did, there's also a good chance that she becomes a most intriguing "villain". With the baby issues out of the way and her relationship with George over, I'll be curious to see what kinds of changes she undergoes as she heads off with the lone surviving wolf twin. Could they become the equivalent of McNair and Tom?
Winner: Were this a to date bout, Nora would easily knock Nina out. But, keeping within similar plot lines, it's just a win by unanimous decision
With a decisive 4-1-1 record, the US version is victorious? Ya, I'm as shocked as anybody.
The reason for this I think is that the roles have been reversed. Typically, the US will take a great premise for a show and fail in its execution, especially when compared to the UK version that was well done the first time around. With 'Being Human', the Brits had a fantastic idea for a show, but between casting and writing, dropped the ball. Now, the US had the idea and a couple of seasons of seeing the flaws and what not to do, and they've seeming touched up most if not all of them.
It's hard to say what direction the US version will take. Seeing as how there's only 22 UK episodes to draw from and there's already been changes that alter many future story arcs, by the end of season two, the landscape could be entirely different and as US monsters head out completely on their own…which I think could be a very good thing.
Thus far, there haven't been a lot of story changes, but what differences there have been I think entirely fall on the side of the US version having done a much better job in the writing department:
- In the UK version, it's Mitchel who turns the neighbourhood boy out of guilt, instead of Lauren who does so out of a twisted sense of family. It's a plot line I never did buy with the UK version. Mitchell's guilt over turning Lauren in the first place caused him not do the same for his date after she was attacked by Lauren, yet he's going to turn a 10 year old boy and ship him off to live happily ever after with his mother?
- A complete departure of when Mitchell/Aiden take over their respective cities. While I respected Mitchell's attempt to have his entire clan in bloodaholics meetings, it was always a storyline destined to fail. Aiden embracing his role as leader in part for his own means and in part to hop off the wagon for a while is a very nice parallel to what Josh is going through with Nora as well as Annie and her reaper. Add to that intriguing new characters in Suren and Henry and this could go on for a while in multiple directions
- The circumstances of Nora's pregnancy being what they are completely change the landscape for what would be UK's season four…which is a good thing, because it's a train wreck. Nice to see them get that out of the way, though I suppose they could revisit a wolf conception in the future.
- Unlike Herrick's resurrection, Bishop "returns" as a hallucination playing Aiden's alter ego. I don't really have much issue with Herrick's return, just not a big fan of where it took the storyline as a result I'm not entirely sold on this idea of Annie being a reaper but it's certainly a whole lot better than her working in a pub.
The supernatural interpretations always kind of bugged me about the UK version. As far as I could tell, the only advantage vampires had over people was that they lived forever. They weren't faster or stronger, nor could they compel. I always took that as staples of the vampire diet and as such, weren't all that threatening. I was on the fence when it came to Annie/Sally. It wasn't until I saw the "traditional" non material Sally that I started to see Annie as just another person. With so many supernatural creatures, most people could see her and she could interact with them physically. Not very ghost like. Not until the very end of season one can Sally have any physical ability to touch anything around her and that gives that extra feeling of sympathy as she tries to transition and figure out where she fits in the world.
There is something to be said for small town England, but I'm not sure how much that comes into play. Sure, there's the pub up the street where Annie goes to work (see previous paragraph) and the whole community turning on Mitchell with the whole Bernie incident (also see above). But seeing as how they abandoned their home after series two, it's not like the neighbourhood was a character onto itself. At least, it wasn't for me and certainly not something that couldn't be recreated in a Boston suburb.
Those UK viewers I think can (or at least acknowledge) that series four is, at best, a complete departure from what made the show good in the first place. If you're like me, it's a complete and utter disaster and you're only sticking with the show to see how bad the carnage is. It's unfortunate because what plagued series four is the same thing that plagued episode two…recasting. I don't know what happened to the actors in the pilot, but the way it was acted and written, everything after was a let down to one degree or another. Once you accept and grow with these "new" characters, they're gone too. Not the show's fault those actors moved on, but I'm just not diggin' their transitions or replacements.
In the end, what makes the US version better is that they've identified the major flaws of the UK version and gone about correcting them. Thus far, I think they've done a pretty good job.