SyFy’s ‘Being Human’: The Right Way To Remake A British TV Show

Published 3 years ago by , Updated February 10th, 2012 at 8:01 am,

syfy being human SyFys Being Human: The Right Way To Remake A British TV Show

This January, SyFy will be premiering their re-imagining of Toby Whithouse’s popular BBC series Being Human. In it, Sam Witwer (Smallville, Battlestar Galactica), Meaghan Rath (The Assistants) and Sam Huntington (Cavemen, Superman Returns) star as the loveable, but supernaturally unenthusiastic characters Aidan (vampire), Josh (werewolf) and Sally (ghost) with Mark Pellegrino (Lost, Supernatural) rounding out the cast as Aidan’s minacious mentor Bishop.

Like it’s UK counter-part, Being Human will follow these three paranormally conflicted roommates as they attempt to shield the world from their metaphysical secrets, all while trying to live double-lives and assimilate themselves into a world that they feel  alienated from. Unfortunately, their quest at “being human” is more difficult than any of them could have imagined.

As any purveyor of television can attest, American audiences have been victim to some of the worst, most convoluted adaptations of UK television series known to man. From the 1978 horrible interpretation of the iconic Fawlty Towers with Betty White, to the most recent abomination that dared to call itself Life on Mars. American television has become the proverbial dumping grounds for over-produced drudge that serves no other purpose than to fill time before its imminent cancelation, while sullying the name of the original series from which it sprang.

Fortunately, SyFy’s Being Human appears to be the exception to that rule. During last week’s SyFy Digital Press Tour, we were able to take a look at some clips from Being Human and talk to the show’s stars Sam Witwer, Meaghan Rath, and Sam Huntington. During the panel, they discussed the pressures of remaking an already beloved series (that’s still airing on BBC America), the differences between SyFy’s version and the original BBC series and how they’re not trying re-invent the series, but to supplement it by expanding specific storylines and providing further back-story to the characters.

syfy behing human panel SyFys Being Human: The Right Way To Remake A British TV Show

To be completely honest, the Being Human panel was one of the most exciting, entertaining and reassuring panels of the entire event. Upon finishing, I was left feeling that SyFy’s Being Human is not only an extremely competent adaption of a UK series, but one that may surpass the original series in the hearts and minds of fans around the globe. (This is something that I don’t say lightly, as I proudly consider myself one of the biggest anti-US-remake Anglophiles around.)

If my word alone isn’t enough to make you a believer, keep in mind that Jeremy Carver (the man behind some of Supernatural’s best episodes) will be serving as Executive Producer and writer with his wife, Anna Fricke (Men in Trees, Everwood).

Below, you’ll find highlights from the discussion and the complete 30-min video of the panel with Sam Witwer, Meaghan Rath and Sam Huntington moderated by SyFy’s Executive VP of Original Programing, Mark Stein. If you have any interest Being Human or need reassurance that what I’m saying about the series is indeed true, I implore you to watch the complete panel.

being human aidan rachel SyFys Being Human: The Right Way To Remake A British TV Show

On adapting a show that already has an existing fan base and the possible fan backlash:

SAM WITWER: A lot of shows that have existing fan bases have had difficult — well, not difficulty, but they’ve had a growing period, the burn-in process. For example, no one talks about anymore that when “Battlestar” came on, that there was this huge fan backlash because Starbuck was a girl and all this crap. No one really talks about that anymore. Now we just remember, “Oh, everyone loved ‘Battlestar.’” It’s like, “No. No, we didn’t. They didn’t.” So I’m fully prepared for whatever they want to throw at us. The fact of the matter is what we’re doing, I believe, having seen two episodes, is very good. I don’t think people are going to not enjoy it, but they also have absolutely the right to like the British version if they do.

SAM HUNTINGTON: I’m a fan of the British show. You know what I mean? So, like, I understand that, and I think that — I haven’t seen that much of it, but from what I’ve seen, it’s a lovely, amazing, original incredible show. So I want to say, like, “I’m with you.” Like, I love that show too. But I think ultimately what we’re doing is different and awesome.

MARK STEIN: And I think the first thing that was very important for us was we brought in British exec producer. So Rob Pursey’s involved as a consultant on the show with us and was very much involved with Anna and Jeremy in terms of what was working, what mistakes they’d made that we could avoid. Toby Whitehouse is now also involved. So it was very, very important to us that we do justice to the original because we did like it. And I think we’re very mindful — and there are definitely going to be people that are just going to have a knee-jerk reaction about why do an American version and why mess with success? And believe me, we were the first people to ask those questions.

being human aidan josh SyFys Being Human: The Right Way To Remake A British TV Show

The differences between the US version of Being Human and the original UK series:

SH: Having this — it’s one thing to create something original, and it’s another thing to try and have original ideas through something that’s already been woven. I mean, it’s tricky.

SW: Having only seen one episode, hard to say. But what we can say is that what they did in six episodes for their first season, we have 13 to go through that sort of — that storyline. So there’s a lot of things that we’re doing that they did not do. In the beginning of the first episode, I inadvertently turn a girl into a vampire. Hey, guys, you can’t blame me. She’s beautiful. But that character is a lot larger of a character and has much more influence on my character than the British version. She’s like a legitimate love interest, whereas in the British version, from what I understand, it’s not quite that way. So there’s a lot of things that where we’ll take maybe an idea that they have and expand it into entire plotlines. And of course, there are other things that go in completely different directions because they didn’t have the screen time.

SH: Yeah, my sister is a character on the show, on our show, which is not in the British series. And so that helps me, the character of Josh, kind of — it helps the audience kind of understand his journey. That actually kind of is through the entire season.

MEAGHAN RATH: And then I think for ours, in our version, we get to see a lot more of these characters’ backstories and how they became the way they are. So we have a lot more time to develop these people than the British one had.

SW: With Mark Pellegrino as Bishop, we get a lot more time with him than, say, we got with the Herrick character on the British series.

MR: And they’re introducing this new sect of vampires that wasn’t in the British one.

Continue to more of the Being Human panel and video…

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  1. I can tell everyone right now, there is simply no way this will surpass the original. No freakin’ way!

  2. I have seen the first two series and I can’t imagine how any American TV show will be able to pack that much plot and dialogue into a 1 hour show. It is that pace and intensity that I feel makes the show. I can’t say I have high hopes for the remake.

    In fact at the end of the first series I remember thinking, “wow this would never make it in the U.S. in this format, it would take 13-14 episodes to get that much story and plot out in what they did in 6.”

    • The first season will be 13 episodes.

  3. My argument here is this; same as The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, there is nothing wrong with the original, so what is the point of wasting the talent, time and money.

    Do American film and tv makers have so little imagination that they have to take the ideas of others? I don’t believe that? Because the talent is there somewhere.

    It’s just creative laziness.

    • Amen brother!

    • It’s like a disease.

  4. Sorry, but a nothing will surpass the original because it was just that, original. SyFy is just further proving they are creatively impotent and have no ideas of their own. Good or not, this show shouldn’t exist. SyFy is continuing their stedfast belief in the 2 “re”s. Rerun and Rehash.

  5. I just read “better than the original” on FB.
    That’s quite a claim, considering it is one of the best shows…sorry, THE best show to come out of BBC 3.
    I’ll give the U.S. version a chance, but frankly, considering the cast, i’m not optimistic.
    The current British cast have proven themselves to be excellent actors all around. Comfortable with drama and comedy…Being Human is in part comedic and light-hearted.
    I really can’t emphasise too much just how great the acting and drama is in the British show.
    Further, there is a certain “heightened reality” with British drama that you rareley see on American screens (“The Wire” excepted). I dunno if it’s the filters they use on the camera, but the softened, coloured tone is immediately evident compared to British T.V. and this has the effect of slightly removing the viewer from the spectacle.
    I’m not against this, as I am a huge fan of American drama, believing it to be the best in the world, and has been for some time (Thanks HBO and Showtime). However, it would dilute the original’s immediacy and realism.
    Finally, the 2nd series dealt with a nasty Christian fundamentalist. Sci -fi (NOT Scyfy-that’s rubbish) is not HBO, so i’m wondering if they will body swerve that storyline as too unsettling for middle-American Conservatives.
    Basically, I see this as a teen-friendly, tame-horror, light-drama in the manner of “Supernatural”. That’s not a bad thing I suppose, as “Supernatural” is pleasantly entertaining…but I don’t watch it.
    However, I’m eagerly awaiting series 3 of “Being Human” and the return of a certain sadistic vampire.
    That should tell you all you need to know about my thoughts on this “Reboot”.
    P.S. The Vampire’s name is Mitchell, MITCHELL goddammit!!!

    • Out of respect, they named the vampire in SyFy’s Being Human after the actor who plays John Mitchell in the BBC version, Aidan Turner.

      • Oh ..well that’s nice! I hope that respect fashions a courteous regard for the original and not a bastardisation.

      • And? Out of respect they should have made the actors watch the original. ;D

  6. SH – It’s, I mean I don’t know what’s going on..but it’s gonna be AWESOME dude.

    SW – Yeah, totally. Like I get this hotbody chick man, which is cool. They don’t got no time on these French shows, so i’m thinkin’..maan, we could just TOTALLY blow those snailmunchers away with this franchise. I’m stoked.

    Meagan – Absolutely, (To SW: “It was a British show…JERK!”), i’m really grateful for the time we had on this beautiful,wondrous show. I think it says a lot about how carefully and delicately the producers have fashioned this amazing re-imagining of such a wizened and intelligent show.

    AO (To Meagan)- Have you seen the original?

    Meagan – erm, no…but I hear it’s pretty rad..like out there y’know!!

  7. I have to admit that reading the words “may surpass the original series in the hearts and minds of fans around the globe” gave me a negative, knee-jerk reaction. I’m American and an ardent fan of the original. The things that I love about the show is the edginess and its ability to be able to balance dark plots with laugh out loud humor. But more than that, it’s the chemistry of the cast, both on and off screen, that makes it special. Is it possible for lightening to strike twice here?

    I’m not totally writing off the American version. As Toby Whithouse said at Comic Con this summer, this version will have no impact whatsoever on the original (he also hinted that he might be getting a piece of the pie). I will still cherish the original and I’m willing to give this new version a try. And SyFy has proved with Battlestar Galactica that they can produce quality television based on other shows.

    However, a few scenes with potential does not “surpassing the original” make. I’m going to need a lot more convincing than that.

  8. Perhaps you should watch the panel.

    As the series creator, Toby Whithouse will most certainly receive compensation, but he’s also working with SyFy on their version along with Executive Producer of the BBC series, Rob Pursey.

    Watching a few clips from Being Human is not what sold me on this series, it was the the cast and they way that they interacted with eachother and the passion they have for this show and getting it right. They’re a very close group that works extremely well together, on and off screen.

    And I don’t want anyone telling me that this is how a cast “acts” when promoting their show. It’s not. I’ve seen my fair share and they don’t “act” as well as you might think – especially if they don’t really like eachother. I won’t say any names, but cough-burn-notice-cough is one.

    • I just finished watching the panel. They seem like lovely people who get along, but I think the astounding chemistry of the original cast is going to be hard to surpass. Maybe it was different actually being in the room, but I’m not really seeing it as much as you are. And even if I did, they could have all the passion in the world and it wouldn’t mean it’s going to be incredible.

      At any rate, my point is that I’m willing to give it a try and maybe it’ll be amazing. But I won’t believe it’s going to surpass the original until I actually see it with my own eyes.

  9. Ok, so they have chemistry together, i’ll buy that.
    It is not a remake, it’s a re-imagining, so clearly they’re sticking with the basic premise of a ghost, vamp and wolf living together and trying to be human. So far so ok.
    My feeling is that Toby had this terrific idea that he’s sold to the BBC and it’s a hit – but he’s constrained by typically low BBC budgets. They probably feel that there is more that can be done with a bigger budget. I also believe that they are ambitious, and I certainly can’t fault them for that, and so to sell the programme to SCi-fi must be a dream come true for Toby and Rob, both in terms of getting their names and work out there and also the financial rewards.
    I also believe that a lot of Brit directors and producers envy their American counterparts ability to make high production value shows with typically beautiful actors, good locations, costumes etc. In my mind theyr’e going “We’ve got a great show, imagine how it would sell to an American audience if we shot it in LA and got Laura Vandervoort and Jared Padalecki on board and got Digital Domain for the effects? Man it’d be a hit..a big, fat titted hit!!”
    It’s Toby’s baby in the end and so I wish him and the show well. I just think the original actors are all beautiful, the effects are terrific, costumes and locations are fine. Script, plotting and acting are superb, so why not sell series 3 to Sci-fi and keep the original cast…is it because they are British? Do we really need a buff American to play Mitchell/Adrian. What’s wrong with just going with Adrian as Mitchell instead? Are American audiences so vacuous that they can only accept US shows with US accents?
    I feel gutted for the original stars, because I think this will sell well and could go for 5 series at 12 episodes per series or more. That’s a lot of work and a lot of money that they won’t get to see.
    There is no need for a re-imagining other than to sell Coke, Ford, Mastercard, Budweiser, Intel and Apple every 12 minutes, and as much as I like Coke…I don’t need to drink it that much.

  10. Wow u guys are babies……give it a chance before u break it down. You cant hate what you haven’t even seen whether based on past experiences or not. You act as if american fictional television cant be as well made…..ever hear of Buffy,Angel,Firefly,Supernatural,Fringe,Xfiles,etc…..dont assume cause its a remake it can”t be good granted that is usually the case, but just let your guard down and you may be surprised. And if i am wrong its fine you will have your bbc version and you can sleep well knowing your correct about big bad and evil american remakes sucking.

    • Well friend, that’s a real manly cussin’…ah’m hurtin’ reeeal bad.
      Ah figure ah oughtta pa-de-dew wid yew on few things ah done noticed, namely:-
      Buffy – it’s ‘riginal
      Angel – it’s a spinoff but kinda ‘riginal
      Supernatural – it’s ‘riginal
      Fringe – it’s ‘riginal
      X Files – yup, yew guessed it, it’s ‘riginal too.
      Matter’fact ain’t nobody be doggin’ ‘Mer’can shows at all, ‘n that ‘cludes yours truly.
      Now, I ain’t the shiniest quarter in th’cup, but even I knows thit… if ya git a nice steak at home..an’ it’s the best steak ever made..but then ya decide ta thinkin’ ” mebe i’s try that new fancy restaurant round the corner an’ try me some o’ thir steak”. An’ ya do an’ ya don’t like it…see ya go back on home fer that good steak. Then mebe’s ya git ta thinkin’, “I’s gonna try n’other eat out”, an’ ya do an’ it ain’t no better’n t’last time. So ya do this runaround a few more times an then it finally dawns on yew that mebe ya better just stick wid yer own home cookin’. Sure, ya might find a real nice eat out once ‘n a while’s, but mama knows best!
      Yer Mama must cook a mean steak seein’ as how yew admit that t’steak yew normally git outside ain’t fit fer t’pigs.
      N’bye the bye..ah already done known ’bout those “Evil” ‘Mer’can remakes.. an’ I’s sleepin’ sounder’n a baby suckin’ on a whiskey tit.
      Y’awl take care now y’hear. Now g’awn son.

      • What about All in the Family, The Office, Queer as Folk, Sanford and Son and Three’s Company? All extremely well made (and extremely popular/successful) fictional series that were remakes of British shows.

        Don’t forget that one of the people that helped make Supernatural so “original” and wrote many of the series great episodes (not to mention being a story editor on the show) is the writing and executive producing SyFy’s Being Human.

        • I’ll take your “Sanford”, “Office”, “Family” and “Queer” and raise you “Life is wild” (Cancelled),”Teachers” (Cancelled),”Spaced” (1 pilot),”Red Dwarf” (Unaired pilots),”Men behaving badly” (Cancelled),”The IT Crowd” (Cancelled Pilot),”Coupling” (Cancelled),”Blackpool” (Cancelled).
          Why do you have the word original in quotes?
          I said earlier that the show would have some affinity to “Supernatural”, so i’m not surprised about the writing influence.
          I’ve already stated that i’ll give this show a look, but at the end of the day remakes/reboots/re-imaginings are not about honouring the original’s vision or piously invoking to bring some groundbreaking social commentary to a wider American audience. It’s about hopefully creating a well made and acted show, getting a hit and watching the advertising dollars roll in.
          That’s why I like HBO. Always ready to gamble on entirely original programming. They’ve got more nuts than a Snickers factory.

          • HBO hasn’t been making money in quite a long time.

            • They’re still on air though.

  11. I’m kind of excited for this series. It is one thing to re-imagine a concept with 20 years between shows (“Battlestar: Galactica”) and another to re-imagine a show still on the air.

    I’m American and I don’t have a problem watching original UK series. The only problem is they’re never on a channel I don’t have to pay extra for (like BBC America).

    I appreciate SyFy taking the risk of back-lash with this series. After so many wrongs turning British shows in American knock-offs, they have to know how to do it right by now.

    • Nice blog Jessie…easy on the spoilers tho’…I started to read your review of “The Social Network”, but had to stop as I haven’t seen it yet.
      Yeah, “Dragon Tatoo” is marvellous.

      • @ Highlander: I read your comment then went back to read that review. You’re right! I didn’t realize that when I was typing it up. I was just so pumped about the movie! I’m going to go add a disclaimer now…

        • Love the Dr.Who pic b.t.w ;-)

  12. Props to you for putting this out there. I was kinda hoping someone would be brave enough to say what I was thinking. This looks quite well thought out and each of the participants has me going onto a little miniature squeefest here.

    I really won’t go on about the fact that yes, there can be some good remakes. I think Battlestar Galactica- by this same network is all you need to hear.

    I’d really like to conclude with- as a HUGE fan of Bbc’s Being Human, I am a little disappointed at how much this show is getting attacked. You can like both, they’re not mutually exclusive.
    Circle of television people!

    • Nobody is attacking the show per se, as nobody has seen it yet to give it an appraisal.
      What I, and others are decrying is the need for it.
      Actually, in the main they ARE mutually exclusive. Same creator, same, characters, same set-up.

      • …in essence which is the true “Being Human”?

        That comment by Sam H – “circle of television”, I thought that was crass. Also the way both he and Sam W disparaged potentially disgruntled fans of the original…that wasn’t classy at all.

  13. I do not know. I never heard of the show. However if it comes on the same week as The Other Side, I might take a look at it. I however for now have stopped watching SyFy.

  14. Sam Witwer being involved will make me try it out. He’s an actor just waiting for a break out role. I can’t imagine he will disappoint.

  15. I will give it a try, it looks good. Scifi has proven they can make good telivision with BSG that produced a prequel- Caprica.

    Although since Toby will be involved and a good set of writers. It can survive hopefully. But I will have to see it to pass a good judgment.

    Wait a second, guys, didn’t Aidan Turner said something that this show is in the same universe as the British one?

    Or will the vamp and wolf have a different look?

  16. Well, think about it this way, three talented actors plus many others have jobs now. I love the original but I’m glad one of my favorite actors, Sam Huntington, is going to be in the reimagaining.

  17. no offense to the actors cause i am sure they are doing their best.. but this just looks horrid. The original is brilliant.. why fix something when its not broken.

    i can’t see this show lasting very long

  18. i like the show… its very interesting, but sometimes it could use some more tense moments… but its mostly good…

  19. No I do not like Being Human. And if SyFy can order new episodes of Battlestar Galactica, they can do the same for SGA. This is why I have quit watching SyFy except for reruns of SGA and when A Good Day For It and The Other Side come on SyFy this year I will watch.

  20. your ao called right waty to remake is british tv show is a whole load of bull. the actors seem to be trying too had to be the ‘annie, mitchel and george’ characters from the uk version. especially the ghost character could think of anything else to put her in.

  21. This kind of movie is so refreshing not at all like all other vampire,werewolf, Goast horrers. The storyline is really interesting. Three beings trying to control who they are as best as they can. Aiden, Josh, and Sally suport trust in, and help each other along their jurney. Josh and his girlfriend conect romantically. Josh finally gives in to
    animallistic heat and has sex with his girlfriend she gets pregnant, she walks into the basement where Josh stays during his time of the full moon, he pushes her out of the door scratching her arm, she watches him through a small window of the door and sees him change into the wolf, she has compassion for Josh, she loses there baby on the basement floor. Josh does not realize he scrached her. Now she will also become a wolf. And the story goes on. I am looking forward to the new season.

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