Know Your Audience

Lessons come from a variety of sources. Which goes back to the idea that no one is an island, and writers grow into their talent based on their experiences in life and in art. Primarily, we’re a genre household. My influence, of course. The closest thing I’ve got to literary work is a collection of William Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets. Even The Road by Cormac McCarthy, winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, owes more than a nod to genre tropes.

And genre television offers a quick fix. You’re able to test lots of different shows (some to most don’t remain on the air for long, even though each cancellation only makes room for the next generation), and eventually find one that lasts more than a few episodes or one season.

Today’s lesson is courtesy of the youngest daughter, who has the talent to become a good writer herself if I say so myself. It’s not without some pride that I note she’s written a few poems and penned a short story about the Revolutionary War for school a few years back that made tears well in my eyes. Said tears due as much to pacing/plotting as the story itself.

Currently, we’re watching both the U.S. and U.K. versions of Being Human. For those unfamiliar with the show, the setup sounds like one of those bad jokes you hear on occasion, except it’s not about three disparate characters walking into a bar as much as three disparate characters–a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost–attempting to create some normalcy in their lives. The U.K. version premiered its third season this weekend on BBC America, and this provides a nice contrast to the U.S. version, which started its run a little more than a month ago SyFy.

UKBH has everything you’d expect from a British production. At least, if you’re an American. Quirky characters that are probably normal across the pond. Colloquialisms that sound more like a foreign language than English. And lots of tits and ass. Which I understand is a norm for European television. USBH is pretty much a straight retelling so far of season one of UKBH. Plot, characters, situations, but all with “American” actors and colloquialisms, because U.S. audiences are supposedly too dense to understand the source material.

Both have merits, though youngest daughter and I agree we like the American werewolf more than his British counterpart. American Josh comes across less shrill than British George. Not that Russell Tovey isn’t as good an actor as Sam Huntington when it comes to portraying a werewolf who is uncomfortable in his new skin. It’s just that Tovey, when presenting that he’s offended by what’s happened already to him and what continues to happen to him, goes into a higher decibel register. One that reminds me of the voices of the Monty Python guys whenever they played in drag.

Youngest daughter, however, summed up the differences by focusing on the language. There’s so much slang and profanity in UKBH that often you’re not sure what they’re saying. And her opinion is that it seems dirtier because she doesn’t understand it. She isn’t able to filter whether something is appropriate or not. Understand that she’s cut her teeth on Buffy, Angel, Supernatural, and Charmed, as well as Big Love, Criminal Minds and 24. She favors graphic novels, primarily season eight of Buffy and Angel’s sojourn in Hell. She’s dabbled in The Walking Dead in the wake of the television adaptation that recently ran on AMC. Sitting down Sunday night as a family to watch a zombie apocalypse or the soapy travails of Mormon polygamists is pretty much par for the course in our household. Our daughters weren’t shielded from the world; they were exposed to it and taught right from wrong. So they’re able to watch a show like How I Met Your Mother and recognize how the character of Barney Stinson, played by Neil Patrick Harris, is both a caricature and an accurate portrayal. They understand satire.

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About stephenwnagy

writer, father, husband. not necessarily in that order.
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