TV Review - Beauty & the Beast

Jay Ryan as the ugliest beast in the world
in "Beauty & the Beast"
Why would anyone watch this show? I don't think it's because of the premise. The series is based on the 1989 series by Ron Koslow but developed or re-imagined by Sherri Cooper and Jennifer Levin as a police procedural. It's supposed to be a story about a woman who falls in love with a man who looks like an animal, an ugly or disgusting creature. It's supposed to be about moving past superficial attributes and a romance based an internal qualities. The recent teenage drama Beastly loses this point by giving the guy some scars and tattoos on his face but nothing that made him him that much uglier than Mike Tyson in The Hangover. Cooper and Levin lose the point even more, so their premise doesn't tackle the original theme. The theme or themes it does tackle are sketchy at best.

Why else would anyone watch this show? I don't think it's because of its main actor. Kristin Kreuk stars as Catherine Chandler, the name of a long-running character on the soap opera The Young and the Restless. Kreuk is probably best known for playing Lana Lang, Clark Kent's first girlfriend in the TV show Smallville, a role Kreuk had for eight years. She was essentially the Joey to Tom Welling's Dawson, except she wasn't as smart. She was mostly just the damsel in distress. This show is supposed to be a reversal of that image. Catherine is a tough, New York City cop who knows how to throw a punch and wield a gun, and while she can hold her own in certain situations, in the end, she's still just a damsel in distress, requiring a man to save her. Given that this show was created by two women and puts two women front and center as two strong, female police officers, having Catherine as a damsel in distress undermines that. It's okay to put her in danger but have her get herself out of it.

The show is called "Beauty & the Beast." If Kreuk is the Beauty, then Jay Ryan who plays Vincent Keller is the Beast. Ryan is from New Zealand. For three years, he appeared in the Australian soap opera Neighbours. He briefly appeared in the short-lived Terra Nova. His Vincent Keller was a doctor who after 9/11 decided to enlist in the military. Once enlisted, he becomes a part of an experiment to create super soldiers. The experiment alters his DNA. It gives him super senses and possibly super strength. The caveat is that like Bruce Banner, if he gets angry and loses his temper, he can "Hulk" out. He doesn't turn green, but he does get more veins popping in his face. That's apparently the worst it gets. He does have a slight scar on the right side of his face, but otherwise he's still a tall, handsome guy.

In the first two episodes, Vincent uses his super senses and strength to save Catherine on several occasions. After the first incident in the pilot where he saves her, it should have ended. His subsequent rescues seemed insulting because it reduces her to a damsel in distress, even though she is allowed a few punches and kicks in. I understand that you need to give Ryan who is playing a titular character something to do, but not as a more brooding Tom Welling. Actually, Ryan's character is more akin to Travis Fimmel in the short-lived series Tarzan (2003).

The show follows a standard formula. It's a police procedural with some mythology mixed here and there. The problem is the police procedural part is so low rent and inconsequential. It feels like the cases are scripts tossed in the trash by the writers of Law & Order. The other problem is the mythology part is so hackneyed. The idea of super soldiers were done over a decade ago on The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, although the idea goes back even further to 1967 with the Star Trek episode "Space Seed." Even Smallville dealt with super soldiers too in the sixth season with the episode "Prototype."

I'm not an advocate for remakes, especially near carbon copies, but I almost think that I would have liked this show more if Cooper and Levin kept the original 1987 premise, as it was, and made Ryan ugly by putting him in the lion makeup. I don't have kind words for the acting on display here. My chief gripe is the poor use of really great actors. Brian J. White who has done great work in television programs like The Shield and Men of a Certain Age is wasting his time here. He plays a man of authority, but his role is cliché and no better than a placeholder, which is how I generally feel about this show.

One Star out of Five.
Rated TV-PG-V.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Airs Thursdays at 9PM on CW.


Popular Posts