I Don’t Understand This Being Human Show

Posted: March 23, 2011 in Braak, crotchety ranting
Tags: , , , , ,

I mean, I understand it in the sense that, “A ghost, a vampire, and a werewolf share an apartment, what’s not to understand?” What I don’t understand is why anybody would make it. The original, okay, maybe, but the American remake on SyFy, I don’t know that I get it.

If this were a Doctor Who situation, where a show was really popular in one market, and then someone just bought the rights to air it in another market, okay, I get that. You let someone else do the dirty work of making the show, you see if people like it over there, then you bring it over here.

But they just completely remade it. New actors, new directors, new writers…new plots, new market. Basically the only thing that’s the same is the premise.  (I think one of the actors is the same, too, maybe.)  Why would you think that a thing that was successful in England, would be successful when you brought it to America and just made it COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.

It’s not even that exciting a premise. I mean, what’s the deal here. Three weird supernatural beings share an apartment. You could make the same show out of anything. A priest, a rabbi, and a minister share an apartment. A fireman, a cop, and a construction work share an apartment.   Frasier from Cheers, his crusty old dad, and his dad’s nurse share an apartment.  A guy, a girl, and Ryan Reynolds share an apartment over a pizza place.

They learn lessons about each other, they bring their problems home from work, they all grow as people.

This is crazy. Why would SyFy buy that premise? The premise is essentially the ONLY THING that you’re paying for, why would you do that? If all you needed was a sort of ordinary supernaturalish high-concept, why wouldn’t you just make one up?

“Oh,” I hear you say, “it’s not so easy to make up a supernaturalish high-concept TV show! Not anyone could do it! I’ll bet you couldn’t make up six high concepts right this second!”

Well, FUCK YOU. Watch this.

1. Graveyard Shift

Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen are two zombies who drive an ambulance. They’re trapped between their desire to help humanity, and their need to feast on human brains.

2. Monster Force

Monster-based buddy cop action movie. Lethal Weapon, but Murtaugh is a vampire, and Martin Riggs is played by the Wolf-Man.

3. The Frankenstein Files

Frankenstein’s Creature is a wretched outcast in the modern world, desperately trying to stop a conspiracy masterminded by the now-immortal super-scientist, Baron Victor von Frankenstein.

4. Miskatonic University

A girl, recently released from a mental institution, goes to a college of eldritch horrors invented by H. P. Lovecraft.

5. Exorsisters

The Gilmore Girls, only instead of rich WASPs from Connecticut, Lorelei Gilmore’s family are witch-doctor ghost-hunting demon-quellers.

6. High Spirits

The ghost of Timothy Leary convinces the Golem to open a head shop in Brooklyn. They solve crimes with the help of a psychic hipster and a Creature from the Black Lagoon who lives in the Gowanus Canal.

Bam. Go, do it. That’s a whole season of TV shows on SyFy.

And, look, the problem with the Being Human premise is that there’s no basic synergy, here. What is the arc of the show? Three supernatural monsters have to learn how to be human? They were ALL ALREADY HUMAN, that’s the tragedy of the Wolf-Man condition! So, what, we’ve got three tragic figures, all hanging together and being tragicker? Never-mind that the ghost’s character has to grow, and the only way for her character to grow without being completely fucking depressing is if she became less interested in human affairs as the show went on, SO WHY THE HELL IS SHE HERE.

These concepts have synergy! The zombies have to find a way to be a part of a society that will always fear and hate them, even though they’re helping the world by saving us valuable graveyard space! The Gilmore exorcists gives the family drama so much more juice, because now it makes SENSE that Lorelei took Rory away (because she didn’t want her to live a life of having her soul sucked away by demon hell-beasts) AND the stakes of that decision are higher! The golem wants to attain the human condition by studying humanity, but Timothy Leary wants to transcend the human condition, while the Black Lagoon monster has no interest in humanity, and the hipster’s psychic powers mean she can’t HELP but understand humanity! College is where you learn how much bigger the world is than the life that you grew up with — and at Miskatonic, you learn that it’s ALSO FILLED WITH OUTER SPACE SQUID MONSTERS.

Think about this for a second: Roger Murtaugh is an immortal vampire who is too old for this shit, and Martin Riggs is an invincible werewolf with a death wish.

For fuck’s sake, these things practically write themselves. You could write any of these pilots in a week. Hell, we’ve already GOT a pilot for Miskatonic University.

Why would you buy someone else’s premise when you can just make one up in two minutes?

(Also, while we’re on the subject: when you’re doing a TV show that has Wolf-Man in it, just hire a seven-foot-tall stuntman and put him in a suit. It will be cheaper than your corny-ass CGI crap, anyway.)

(Also, also: The Gilmore Girls is a great show, you shut the hell up, Katastic.)

  1. braak says:

    Actually, the Monster Force idea was from Jeremy Gable, who is a playwright who I know. I think it’s a great idea, though. Jeremy, email me, we can knock this pilot together over the weekend.

    Here, I’ll do another one:

    A guy is part of a secret, clandestine society of wizards. He becomes an FBI agent to help track down demon serial killers. It’s called…MCIS — Magical Criminal Investigation Services.

    The wizard is friends with a succubus aaaaaand….a guy with the ghost of Hugues de Payens trapped in his head.

  2. katastic says:

    I thought Gilmore Girls was already about zombies?



  3. braak says:

    Everybody hates you. I just want you to know that.

  4. katastic says:

    The truth hurts, Braak.

  5. Jeff Holland says:

    Because it is a show with a title and premise that have a built-in audience (I’m not saying BBCAmerica-to-SyFy is a HUGE communal audience, I’m just saying it is considerably more than zero), and the premise requires only three series regulars, one major set, and only occasional special FX shots. So it’s probably a relatively cost-effective show.

    Add to that there’s a current demand for a supernatural soap opera in the True Blood/Vampire Diaries vein (ha!) and…well, SyFy has made dumber programming decisions in its lifetime (WRESTLING WHY WHY SERIOUSLY WHO’S WATCHING WRESTLING ON SYFY).

    Anyway. That’s what I figure.

  6. braak says:

    Yeah, BUT the BBC-to-SyFy audience is mostly just going to complain about how the show is different, werewolves and vampires aren’t under copyright or anything, and you could do any of those shows with one set and basically no special effects.


  7. Jeff Holland says:

    “The potential audience is probably going to complain” has never stopped a network from making something before.

    And, on a more general level, is probably not a good reason to avoid trying something.

  8. braak says:

    No, but it’s not a good reason to actually try something, either. If it doesn’t have an actual built-in audience–because you know, statistically the number of people who defect out of spite is going to obviate the fact that you’d only get X number of people who tuned in to an original premise purely out of curiosity–then what does it actually have?

    That is the question that I need answering; remaking things, we know for sure, *doesn’t* just let you port over a built-in audience, it actually inteferes with it. And since they don’t have that, and they discarded all of the things that a reasonable human being might have considered would have made the original show good (I know it’s a stretch to think that more than one or two people at SyFy think that “writing” or “acting” has anything to do with why someone will watch a show), and the premise (and title) are pretty generic…

    Why would you pay for it, when, as I have show, it’s absurdly easy to just make one up on your own?

  9. Jeff Holland says:

    “Make one up on your own” is also not SyFy’s strong suit.

    Seriously, I am continually amazed we haven’t gotten “Mansquito: The Series.” Yet.

    It’s not like Corin Nemic isn’t available.

  10. braak says:

    If the Creature had a teen sidekick, I think that Frankenstein Files would make a good young adult cartoon show on Nickelodeon.

  11. Jeff Holland says:

    Which reminds me, that one show with the title I can’t remember that’s written by Paul Dini…did that strike you as MKU-esque?

    I was judging a lot by the commercials.

  12. Jeff Holland says:

    TOWER PREP! That was it.


    I see they also have special powers. So…there’s some xmen in there too, I guess?

  13. braak says:

    I don’t get to watch Cartoon Network, due to only having three channels on my television.

    But, whatever. “No thing new,” et cetera and so forth.

  14. sebastian says:

    How about Frankenstein’s Creature is put in charge of a modeling agency when the public’s taste turns from seeing skinny blonds to seeing people with grotesque and weird features.

    His love interest is a young beautiful blond who is frustrated that her career in modeling is now passing her by.

    The Model Monster, coming to SyFy this fall.

  15. Braak: Frankenstein Files with a blind psychic teenage hipster.

  16. braak says:

    Oh, good! Look how it echoes the Frankenstein and the Blind Man scene from the book! Excellent.

    Also, obviously, Victor Frankenstein would be Peter Cushing.

  17. And the creature is Ray Stevenson?

  18. braak says:

    I guess he’d have to be.

  19. Katy says:

    I think the element that seems to be missing from this conversation is an opinion from someone who has actually seen both and/or one of the Being Humans. I apologize if I missed someone who had seen it but I am going to jump out there and recommend BOTH! And if I had to pick one, I would chose the US version. The cast and their chemistry is fantastic, the writing is thoughtful and at times surprising and almost daring, and because the premise is so bare, it has allowed for pretty incredible mythology to develop, particularly in the vampire world. Fundamentalist, Pseudo-Amish 1000-yr old Dutch Vampire Mob-Bosses from upstate New York? Why hasn’t anyone else thought of that?

    Plus, who doesn’t love more opportunities to see Mark Pellegrino shine in a genre show?

  20. Michael B says:

    Chris, that was GENIUS. Where do I go to buy tickets for Number 2, 3, 4? And what is this Miskatonic pilot you talk about? MOAR, PLEZE!

  21. braak says:

    Oh, yeah. In a fit of creative inspiration, Holland and I knocked together some notes for a TV show about Miskatonic University.


    and here

    And then, because TV pilots are actually pretty easy, we wrote one!

  22. Michael B says:

    Ha! Awesome. Will have to read at length.
    And I just heard about a show called Locke & Key. No idea how the TV show (run by Josh Friedman, of TSCC and naming the film “Snakes on a Plane”) will be, but apparently the title of the comic book, issue 1, was “Welcome to Lovecraft”. Some big house with a ton of rooms and, um, stuff.

  23. braak says:

    I read the first GN for Locke & Key; it’s by Joe Hill. The first one was pretty good, though I understand it picks up immensely as it progresses.

  24. Michael B says:

    One other show worth mentioning, then I’ll shut up for a bit: Tower Prep. Mix Sky High & The Prisoner. And IIRC, there is a mad-scientist type. Yeah, it’s a kids show (and I wanted to hate it, because it was live action, on THE CARTOON NETWORK – it’s like they can’t read their own name!), but it does seem to meld thematically with some of your thoughts for MU.

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