October 11, 2012

THE SKED FALL PILOT REPORT: CW’s “Beauty & the Beast”


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BEAUTY & THE BEAST: Thursday 9PM starting 10/11 on CWIf Nothing Else Is On…

Disclaimer: Network pilots now in circulation are not necessarily in the form that will air in the Fall. Pilots are often reedited and re-scored, and in some cases even recast or reshot. These critiques shouldn’t be taken as full pilot reviews, but rather as a guide to the general style and content of the new shows coming your way.

There’s a famous anecdote, which may even be true, that when Greta Garbo saw Jean Cocteau’s 1946 film version of  BEAUTY & THE BEAST, and at the end the fantastic creature transformed into an ordinary good-looking prince, she cried out loud “Give me back my beast!”  (Probably annoying the hell out of everyone sitting near her.)

Garbo would have hated the new CW TV version of the story, which owes more to Marvel superhero comic books and movies than to the original fairy tale.  That tale, of course, has been the archetypal basis for any number of psychological theories and pop culture off-shoots, including the successful 1987 TV series with Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton (the new show is technically a reboot of that series), the giant hit 1991 Disney cartoon and subsequent Broadway musical, last year’s teen vehicle Beastly, as well as Phantom of the Opera in all its many forms and every vampire romance of the past 20 years.  This time around, the script written by Jennifer Levin and Sherri Cooper–previously of, variously, Everwood, Felicity and Brothers & Sisters— gives us Belle–er, Catherine Chandler (Kristin Kreuk), who’s had a 21st century revamp as a feisty NY police detective who was once rescued from the attackers who killed her mother by a mysterious not-quite-human something...  Now, while investigating a murder, she turns up a fingerprint belonging to someone who’s supposed to be long dead.

The print belongs to Vincent Keller (Jay Ryan), who far from being any kind of beast, is a CW hunk who could have stepped off the set of 90210.  It turns out that like Captain America, when Vincent enlisted in the Army after 9/11, he was part of a secret genetic manipulation experiment designed to create super-soldiers.  And like The Hulk, he’s a good-hearted guy except when his adrenaline spikes, in which case he becomes, well, someone you wouldn’t like if he got angry.  Unlike Hulk, though, he’s sufficiently in control of his fits that even when he’s in them, he only hurts bad guys.  Naturally Vincent/Beast was the one who rescued Catherine 10 years ago, and the continuing mythology thread of the show will involve that attack and the reason her mother was really murdered.

The Beauty & The Beast pilot is pleasant enough, but there’s nothing particularly compelling about it.  Considering that 90% of the time, Vincent could be posing for an Abercrombie & Fitch ad, his hiding in the shadows with a single friend (Austin Basis, basically playing the same role he had on CW’s Life Unexpected) seems like an overreaction, and robs him of any mythic weight.  Consequently, Catherine falling in love with him has no alluring tinge of forbidden, heedless love–on the contrary, he seems like a perfectly reasonable alternative to Evan (Max Brown), the nice-guy coroner who’s never going to be Catherine’s type. It takes effort to create a duller supernatural romance than Twilight‘s Bella and Edward, but this Beauty & The Beast is already managing it.

The main reason to watch is the show’s Beauty:  Kreuk, a veteran of CW’s Smallville, has offbeat charm and more charisma than the rest of the cast put together.  Everyone else is bland, and Nina Lisandrello, as Catherine’s partner Tess, is a bit worse than that, pushing the dese-and-dem “NY” accent for all it’s worth.  (The show was actually shot in the Canadatown part of New York.)  Gary Fleder’s direction can’t mask the budget shortcuts, and he shoots the one big action scene, a fight on a subway platform, as though he’d just seen The Matrix for the first time.

CW has given Beauty & The Beast its showcase timeslot, airing after The Vampire Diaries at 9PM on Thursdays.  The rationale is obvious, but Beauty doesn’t have any of the wit, or suggest any of the plotting skill, that’s made Vampire a hit.  The timeslot guarantees an initial tune-in, but ultimately, as The Secret Circle discovered last season, the show has to live (or not) on its own.  Beauty needs to find some distinctive beastliness, or else it’s going to reside in the subway tunnels with TV’s other routine retreads.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."