October 8, 2013

THE SKED Season Premiere Review: “Beauty & the Beast”



Referring to any CW series as a “bubble show” is sort of a misnomer, because with the exceptions of The Vampire Diaries, Arrow and Supernatural, everything the network airs is pretty much on the bubble.  Even though BEAUTY & THE BEAST seemed to have hit something of a creative groove late in its initial season, it was considered precarious enough that it underwent a change in showrunners during the off-season, with Brad Kern replacing series creators Sherri Cooper and Jennifer Levin.  Unfortunately, at first glance Kern’s new vision for the series is sharply unpromising.

Basically, the network and Kern have decided to amp up Beauty as an action series, doing away with the quirky humor and even much of the romance of the original version.  In the Season 2 premiere, written by Kern and directed by Stuart Gillard, three months have passed since we saw Vincent (Jay Ryan) get airlifted away by the evil Muirfield corporation, which had turned him into a super-soldier beast in the first place.  When Catherine (Kristin Kreuk) and JT (Austin Basis) next see him, he has–what would hack TV writers do without it?–total amnesia, and doesn’t recognize either of them.  Also, as little as Jay Ryan was ever a “beast” in the first place, he’s now 100% male model, with his one scar mysteriously gone and even his full-out alter ego make-up toned down.  He’s back in super-soldier and possibly assassin mode, following orders that he doesn’t know are being given by Catherine’s secret biological father, the FBI agent (?) Reynolds (Ted Whittall).

The result is a generic low-budget thriller (no show does a worse job of simulating New York on Canadian locations) that doesn’t play to any of Beauty‘s former strengths.  Although no doubt the ultimate plan, if the show lasts long enough, is to reunite Catherine and Vincent as a couple, those of us who made it through their gradual romance in Season 1 will have to endure an alternate rendition all over again, not to mention all the exposition of Season 1 that Vincent has now forgotten.  Ryan, never a particularly expressive actor, doesn’t even get to have the romantic obsession for Catherine that Vincent had the first time around, and he’s a block of wood when he’s playing stolid.  While Kristin Kreuk is a very appealing series lead, she’s one of the least convincing TV cops on the air, so this approach does her no favors either.  The missteps even extend to the supporting cast, as the premiere has almost no byplay between Catherine and her partner/best friend Tess (Nina Lisandrello), and wihle Sendhil Ramamurthy has been resurrected after his character Gabriel’s apparent death in the Season 1 finale, he’s been (apparently) de-Beasted, giving him little to play as the new head of Catherine’s and Tess’s squad.

Beauty 2.0 is quickly lost in the same thicket of shadowy government conspiracies and mysterious nefarious plots as dozens of shows before it, and the things that made the series work, its sense of humor about its own silliness and wholehearted romance, are in the background.  What had been a minor guilty pleasure is suddenly just guilty.  Perhaps Kern knows what he’s doing and Beauty will find itself again as its season goes on, but bubble shows have little time for that kind of self-discovery.  Beauty & the Beast seems to have altered its own DNA for the worse.


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."