Beauty & the Beast premiered last Thursday at 9/8c. in traditional CW style – with high doses of melodrama and just enough viewers to keep it alive for the rest of the season. The first five minutes of the pilot managed to appeal to me – a diverse cast, a “hot new Ivy-educated bartender” protagonist (college graduates across the country sigh in sympathy), and a sweet, believable mother-daughter relationship.
Some mysterious assassins set the plot in motion and it all goes downhill from there.
Catherine Chandler (Kristin Kreuk), the Beauty, becomes a detective after her mother’s murder and her own mysterious rescue by a “beast.” She spends her years seeking knowledge and revenge for the event, because that plot trope hasn’t quite been beaten to death yet. Besides a few witty lines of dialogue from her spunky partner, Tess (Nina Lisandrello), Cat doesn’t seem to have much fun – she is instead driven by a single-minded determination that greenlights the formation a healthy romantic relationship by the end of the series.
In the course of investigating the death of a fashion editor, Cat becomes intrigued by the DNA—cross-species DNA, even—left on the scene by a man presumed dead in the war in Afghanistan. She finds her beast in the abandoned chemical plant home of his best friend and roommate, J.T. (Austin Basis), and is given a hackneyed tale of government experimentation and consequent (attempted) elimination. Vincent (Jay Ryan) may be a dangerous beast, but he only manages to look unattractive when angry or in bad lighting.
Vincent then rescues Cat twice more, bringing the episode’s total Beast-on-Beauty rescues to three. Between these rescues, Cat solves the fashion-editor mystery (we are all shocked to find that her husband’s mistress did it – and even had an abortion, the hussy!) and rewards herself by touching Vincent’s face a lot. Did I mention that Vincent used to be a doctor and loves to rescue people so he can “feel human again”? You’d want to touch his face, too.
The episode ends with Cat staring out of a large window at a ritzy party with Vincent watching her from afar in a totally romantic, non-stalker sort of way. Something tells me that this show will be defined by its sharing of mutual, longing stares.
It goes without saying that the CW’s 2012 Beauty & the Beast is a far cry from the 1987 CBS series of the same name (and we won’t even touch on the fairy tale). Gone is the subterranean underground of misfits and veiled themes of discrimination and acceptance. Gone, along with Vincent’s lion face, is the “inner over outer beauty” moral. The B&B remake instead retains all of the tropes that make both series hackneyed and unwatchable – primarily, an animalistic “savior” figure and a woman that thinks she can “fix” all of his negative attributes.
Besides that, CW’s B&B is just straight up stale writing. I don’t expect the CW to be groundbreaking or deep, but I do anticipate TV that is either entertaining or so-bad-it’s-good (i.e. Supernatural). B&B is neither of these, and came close to putting me to sleep within the first twenty minutes; with no mystery or originality, the writers toe the line between adaptation and poorly made, updated replica.
Basically, don’t bother.
But don’t take my word for it: check out the CW tonight at 9 for the second episode, or catch up at CWTV.com.
Emily Nordling likes good books, bad tv, and superior tea.