This post will give away a lot of secrets before you’re ready if you haven’t seen any of either show. In that case, take the title for truth and be on your way. 😉
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still watching the Syfy and I find it completely charming. It’s just that BBC America has conveniently put the first season of the original Being Human on demand in full, just when I was wondering what the differences were. I didn’t actually expect to come away convinced that the BBC version is far superior, but that’s what happened.
I’m no TV critic, just a fan. This is just my opinion. But if you read my other post, you know I’ve had a problem warming up to Syfy’s Sally. Now I know why, and I’ll start there. (Last chance; go no further if you haven’t seen the entire first season of BBC’s Being Human and the 4 episodes of Syfy’s version as well.)
There is a scene in the first episode where Sally cries over her fiance because he’s in the house and can’t see her. If you’re as into angst as I am, then you might have noticed that actress Meaghan Rath is going through the motions but there isn’t a single actual tear on her face and her eyes are clearly dry. That is supposed to be the love of her life, right? Compare that to the first episode in BBC’s version, when Annie is shown at her own funeral attempting to communicate with her loved ones, and her face is a mess of tears. Watch the scene and try not to feel empathy for her. Plus, Sally seems to have been written almost childishly innocent, whereas while Annie does have a vulnerability to her which leads George and Mitchell and others to want to protect her (and seems to attract predatory men), she is certainly a grown woman and puts her two roommates in their place when necessary.
Speaking of the writing, I really don’t think Syfy’s is as strong. To be fair, BBC’s eps are an hour long with no commercials, so maybe they’re able to draw things out better with all that extra time.
Let’s stick with Sally vs. Annie for a while. We first see Sally pining over her fiance and struggling with him moving on, this time not with a shallow frenemy that crushed on him while she was alive, but with her best friend. In episode 4 she finds out what Danny, Syfy’s answer to Annie’s diabolical Owen, has done to her. She’s upset for a while, then goes to his house and uses ghost mojo to ransack the place, leaving her ring as a sort of threatening signature.
Even though Annie finds out in only 3 episodes, there manages to be foreshadowing and build-up that comes before the reveal. For instance, George’s werewolf friend Tully becomes aggressive with her and she accidentally calls him Owen. The memories she relates to 80s ghost, Gilbert, are also telling if you know what to look for: moving in with Owen and missing her family and friends (showing that he isolated her), waiting on Owen and his screaming at her every morning, “Annie, where’s my fucking keys!” She tells them in a loving manner, but if you stop and think…not exactly loving behavior.
Speaking of Gilbert, the American version, Tony, is great but I liked Gilbert’s storyline better (though why he can smoke when ghosts can’t ingest food is a bit inconsistent). Tony has to resolve the love he’d had in life before he moves on. Gilbert’s story is much more touching. He’d never loved in life but while helping dear Annie, he falls in love with her. That it turned out to be his unresolved business was really sweet, and far more satisfying than when Tony just shows up and says, ‘You’re right! Turns out I still had feelings for my ex. Hey, look, a Door!’
As for Annie and Owen vs. Sally and Danny, well, obviously I’m only 4 eps in, so maybe their interaction will get better. But I thought that with BBC, between the build-up, the death scene, and Annie’s slow struggle to defeat Owen, you actually get a great description of an abusive relationship. Recall the scene where Owen is crying over Annie’s dead body until there aren’t witnesses, and then he smiles possessively, pridefully over her corpse. Greg Chillin, who plays Owen, completely lives up to his name with his rage and cruelty toward Annie. Can Gianpaolo Venuta be as creepy?
Judging from the death scene alone, I’d say no. Both characters are irrationally angry but only Owen is downright scary, in her face and rabid, Annie crying and terrified in a way that clearly suggests this isn’t the first time she’s been faced with his violent side. In contrast, Sally seems simply upset and confused, and this time the shove is the first physical contact between them in the scene, maybe ever? The show hasn’t told us otherwise yet, unlike its predecessor. Once Annie knows the truth, she admits to Gilbert that she remembers Owen’s temper but just assumed she’d always been the problem, by being “annoying and pathetic”. I don’t know why the Syfy version has left out the depth of the relationship, but so far clearly they have.
And let’s talk powers. Sally doesn’t know what she can do yet; she’s just learning to physically interact with things and she’s never touched Aidan or Josh, so I assume that she cannot. Yet as I mentioned, in her anger she is able to wreck Danny’s house. Annie has always been able to move around and touch her roommates and things, but she has to work herself up to facing Owen with the truth. In fact, her first attempt is a major Fail, since she has no idea how to use power to frighten him. Also, when she and George hilariously save Mitchell from the vampires, she picks up a chair just like any human would and hits the vampire Seth with it. It’s only in the finale, when she has already faced down Owen, turned down death, and believes that Mitchell will probably die and George has left him to it, that she is able to burst into the vampire lair and start tossing vamps around with poltergeist impunity. Her confidence has to be built up to that point and my heart was with her on the entire journey. Where is Sally’s journey? Is she going to show us the vulnerable victim of an abusive relationship and how she picks up the pieces after, faces her abuser and other attackers?? So far, the answer is a disappointing and resounding no.
Giving Sally a break at last, there’s Herrick vs. Bishop. I got caught up in pretty Bishop’s face, but Herrick is really something special. He’s charming, funny, and frighteningly evil in the most unexpected scenes. I’ll have to pay more attention now to see if Bishop’s dialogue, if his presence can match Herrick’s. Check out the scene where Herrick threatens Annie with his, “Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock”, smiling all the while…or when he’s doing magic tricks in front of some delighted patients. It’s such a small moment, but he’s surrounded by innocently clapping patients and the expression on his face when the change is falling from his palms is pure malevolence. Just like that, he defines the entire character. That has to be a hard act to follow.
I’ll just say right now that I don’t think Nora, the American Nina, is going to be able to pull it off. Nina is this tiny little force of nature (super-nature?), cynical but compassionate and completely fearless…doesn’t everybody know somebody like that? But they’ve Americanized her in Nora, and by that I mean they picked someone taller and stick-thin, modelesque in the way that we insist a proper love interest should be. Granted she’s only had a couple of scenes, but I’m put off by the change. I don’t find her intimidating, I find her fake. Maybe the actress will actually have talent and help me see past it.
On the Syfy plus side, (and there is a plus side) I do like that Sally’s best friend is the one dating Danny. It puts more at stake for Sally to face him and save her friend from the same fate. George’s werewolf friend Tully is a vampire hating womanizer who seems to have lost touch with his conscience and suggests George would soon do the same…but you feel sorry for him. You still feel sorry for Ray, the American Tully, but the scene where he gets Josh to help him violently attack vamps makes it easier to believe that Josh does the right thing by telling him to get lost. They also leave out the scene where George tries to change in his house, which I thought was sort of silly. A crazed werewolf can’t find his way out of a house aside from the front door? I don’t know about that. Instead, Josh’s sister is accidentally locked in with him when he’s about to change, and they end the episode without telling you whether she survives. That was a lot better, if you ask me.
I think I’ve made my point. The BBC version touched my heart and actually made me cry a few times and I don’t know if Syfy can do the same. Lenora Crichlow, Russell Tovey, Aidan Turner, and their supporting cast have produced some powerful acting and they are doing justice to Toby Whithouse’s brilliant and crafty writing. While the show remains worth watching, I just don’t know if Syfy’s cast and writers can fill their respective shoes.