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'Being Human,' with an American accent

Syfybeinghuman Q. Why would a television network remake a show that’s not only still airing on another network but also winning critical acclaim and setting ratings records there?

A. “That’s a question we asked ourselves,” says Mark Stern, one of the top programming bosses at the Syfy cable channel. “That’s a question we asked ourselves a lot.” And when Syfy’s version of the hit British show Being Human debuts Monday, we’ll see what the answer was.

Hollywood has been pumping out Americanized remakes of successful British programs since NBC hijacked the groundbreaking satirical revue That Was The Week That Was in 1964. The singing casino magnates of CBS’ Viva Laughlin!, the time-traveling cops of ABC’s Life on Mars, the clueless white-collar drudges of NBC’s The Office: All were adapted from originals on the London telly.

But all those shows had either never been seen in the United States or had completed brief and little-noted runs on BBC America. Being Human, a drama about supernatural outsiders craving a return to human existence, is a whole different kettle of creatures. The British version racked up some of the largest audiences in the network’s history when it aired on BBA America in 2009 and 2010. A third season (the British show is still in production) is coming later this year.

None of that fazes Syfy executives or the creative team they assembled to re-do the show.

“It’s somewhat unconventional to remake a show that fans and audiences already love, especially, when that show is still on the air,” says Stern, Syfy’s executive vice president for original content. “And we love the British version, too. But from the first moment we saw it, we thought there was a real opportunity to take what those guys had done, Americanize it, give it more scope and explore its world more deeply. . . .

“As we get deeper and deeper into the season, we think the two versions are going to feel more like cousins, complementary but not echoes.” Read the rest of my story on how Syfy adapted Being Human for American audiences in Sunday's Herald.

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