Jul 17 2012 6:00pm

New Genre TV at SDCC: Beauty and the Beast and Elementary

The CW and CBS both debuted genre offerings at SDCC this year. Ballroom 20 played host to both the CW’s Beauty and the Beast and CBS’ Elementary with wildly differing results. For one panel, the pilot was excruciating, and both the panelists and the audience members struggled to pretend that they genuinely cared. For the other, the pilot was a lovely surprise, the series stars were warmly welcomed and displayed wonderful chemistry.

Which is which? Find out after the jump.

Beauty and the Beast (CW)
Starring: Kristin Kreuk and Jay Ryan
Premieres: October 11

The Premise: An adaptation of the 1980s series starring Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman which is, in itself, a modern retelling of the classic fairy tale.

The Pilot: Let me start with the fact that in this version of Beauty and the Beast, the “beast” is actually attractive. Apparently, the Beast is a beast because he was a soldier in Afghanistan who took part in a military experiment to create super-soldiers. When the test subjects became unstable and uncontrollable, flying into fits of rage, the government kills them all... except, of course, for our Beast, who escapes and goes into hiding. That is, except for the occasional saving damsels in distress. He saves one from assailants who’ve killed her mom in front of her. Years later, that damsel is a cop who runs into a hot dude whom she somehow recognizes as the Beast who saved her.

Let me explain something to you, CW. The whole point of the Beauty and the Beast story is that the Beast is ugly. This is important because the Beast looking like a Beast all the time affects who he is as a person and how he behaves in his relationships with other people, who tend to recoil from him instantly. His looks also help us see what kind of person the Beauty is, as she’s supposed to be fallling for him despite his appearance. His beast-ness has to be obvious, not something that happens sometimes, in order for the story to have resonance. This version of the story is less Beauty and the Beast and more The Incredible Hulk.

And then there’s the matter of a tiny woman like Kristin Kreuk kicking the crap out of two huge men and their henchwoman without a gun. Catherine isn’t a superhero (or a Slayer), nor does she have magic powers. Now, I love “ass-kicking women” as much as the next person, but Catherine’s a cop, not a ninja. The big fight scene in the middle of the pilot looks cool, but was so ridiculously unrealistic that it pulled me out of the story.

And the accents. Oh, the New York accents. Or should I say “Noo Yawk.” Here’s a tip, Hollywood. While some New Yorkers do have that stereotypical “Noo Yawk” accent, most don’t and haven’t since newsboys in the 1930s were singing about going on strike. In the Beauty and the Beast pilot, everyone sounded like they were trying their best impressions of Marissa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny. It made me laugh — when I wasn’t crying.

The show’s one redeeming quality? The fact that it centers around two female detectives. Two female police partners is a rarity in television, and it was cool to watch the two ladies on this show interact. However, cringe-worthy dialogue, mediocre performances, and just... the sheer CW-ness of it all make this a show you can skip without fear. That is, unless you enjoy torturing yourself.

The Panel: The vibe in the room was already uncomfortable as Ballroom 20 wasn’t even close to full for Beauty and the Beast. After the poor pilot, it got even more uncomfortable as both the panelists and the audience struggled to pretend that they cared, so that the hour-long time suck wouldn’t feel like a complete waste. And most of the questions in some way referenced the fact that Kreuk was on Smallville.

The Verdict: The swag the CW gave attendees was better than the actual show.


Elementary (CBS)
Starring: Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu
Premieres: September 27

The Premise: Sherlock Holmes is a former police consultant and drug addict who’s arrived in New York from London after a mysterious tragic event. His father has hired Joan Watson to be his sober companion for a six-week stint and integrate him into life after rehab. They both soon realize that what they each need to heal from their physical and psychological wounds is to solve crimes together.

The Pilot: I’m only going to say this one time, so I hope you’re paying attention...

This is NOT a “rip-off” of Steven Moffat’s Sherlock. As a huge fan of the BBC’s Sherlock, I can tell you that this is a totally different show with only a protagonist in common. Moffat didn’t invent Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did, and it’s because of him that Holmes is such an intriguing, multi-faceted character that he can withstand multiple, divergent interpretations. Whereas Cumberbatch’s Holmes is a self-proclaimed sociopath, Miller’s Holmes is afraid of human connection. As Watson says, “You can connect to people. It just frightens you.”

Much ado has been made of Watson being a woman, and having seen the pilot I have to say that it’s a refreshing change. Joan Watson is a perfect partner for this brilliant but insecure Sherlock, and what’s even more wonderful is that there’s nothing sexual about their relationship. It’s nurturing and intimate, yes, but not romantic. Miller and Liu have amazing chemistry, and I think it will be fun to watch them grow and evolve as a duo.

Something that’s gotten less attention, but has a lot to do with what I think makes this pilot successful, is relocating Holmes to New York. Having this quintessentially British character living in the United States is an intriguing choice. Taking Holmes out of his element, both with his new sobriety and his new city, will potentially do some great things for the character and allow him to evolve in ways that a mere modern day makeover alone can’t do. Also, Watson is a Mets fan, which makes me extremely happy! It makes a lot of sense, too, character-wise that Watson would root for an underdog New York team.

Miller makes a fascinating Sherlock and Liu excels as Watson. The take on these two is more emotional without sacrificing the cerebral, and the writing of the pilot was equal parts suspenseful, intelligent, and heartbreaking.

The Panel: The Elementary panel took place immediately after the Beauty and the Beast panel, and people filled in all the empty seats. Miller and Liu were warmly welcomed by the crowd, and both the pilot and Liu-As-Watson was greeted with cheers.

The Verdict: If you’re a Sherlock Holmes fan, or even if you’re not, I encourage you to give this pilot a try when it airs in September. There’s room for more than one modern-day Sherlock on television, and Elementary provides an intriguing addition.

Teresa Jusino hopes that Kristin Kreuk has no trouble finding another job once her current show is inevitably cancelled. Her Feminist Brown Person take on pop culture has been featured on websites like ChinaShopMag.com, PinkRaygun.com, Newsarama, and PopMatters.com. 2012 will see Teresa’s work in two upcoming non-fiction anthologies, and her “Moffat’s Women” panel will be featured at Geek Girl Con in August! For more on her writing, Get Twitterpated with Teresa, “like” her on Facebook, or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.

John R. Ellis
1. John R. Ellis
Yeah, that was my thought upon viewing the promos: "So, now Vincent is a bargain basement Hulk instead of a soulful, poettry-loving inhuman outcast? Lame."

Add the fact that Kristin Kruek doesn't have anywhere near the acting chops Linda Hamilton did and color me uninterested.

The original is cheesy and oh-so-80s...it also managed to work as a good urban fantasy show.

Glad to hear "Elementary" holds promise.
John R. Ellis
2. wandering-dreamer
Aw, the two lady cops part of Beauty and the Beast actually got me interested but it seems like there's nothing else redeeming about the show, guess I'll stick to Once Upon A Time for my fairy tale fix then. And glad to hear that Elementary seems to work, was worried that they might take the easy(?) route and make Holmes and Joan romantically interested in each other but if that's not the case then I'll give it a shot!
John R. Ellis
3. scpukk82
Teresa Jusino
4. TeresaJusino
wandering-dreamer @2 - I really think they're going to try and stay away from that. To hear Lucy Liu tell it, one of the things that drew her to the role was the fact that they weren't taking that easy route. I don't think she'd be speaking so openly about that if Holmes and Watson were going to be hooking up in a couple of episodes. :)

scpukk82 @ 3 - No, not really.
John R. Ellis
5. Andrea Chase
I'm glad to hear there is promise for Elementary! I was completely put off by all the initial media coverage, and being a huge fan of the Doyle series and of Moffat's Sherlock, I was resistant and weary of a new interpretation being done poorly. But with your recommendation I look forward to giving it a shot!
Kristen Templet
6. SF_Fangirl
You fooled me Tor. I thought because of the hype the surprise would be that Elementary was bad and Beauty and Beast with no hype and from CW would be good. But ugggg, CW is entirely missing the point of the basics of the B&tB mythos. I guess there's a rule that unattractive (much less beastly people) cannot appear on CW.
John R. Ellis
7. chaya311
So nothing too surprising. I'm glad the Holmes and Watson relationship isn't a romantic one. I think that more than anything would turn me off of Elementary. Hopefully, there will be a few seasons before they try to introduce that concept to the relationship.

Also, I'm going to be that girl and point out that Newsies is set in 1899.
John R. Ellis
9. Pendard
Delighted to hear Elementary is good.

I think the reason people have been accusing Elementary of ripping off Sherlock is not because it's a Sherlock Holmes series -- it's because it's a Holmes series adapted to be set in the modern day. Maybe Moffat's series wasn't totally original, since it was adapted from Conan Doyle, but at least the concept was fresh.
John R. Ellis
10. Resa Haile
I don't know what's so fresh about a concept of setting Holmes in modern day. Every adaptation in the silent era was set in the modern day (of the time, which is the only modern day you can really have; otherwise, it's future-set)--Eille Norwood, John Barrymore, etc. The early talkies were set in the modern day--Clive Brook, Reginald Owen, Arthur Wontner, etc. The Basil Rathbone series (after the first two films, which were, unusually, set in the Victorian era, and a move to a different studio) set in the modern day. There were two TV movies on CBS bringing Holmes to the modern day (although he was imported from his earlier time for those, rather than coming from the modern era). And what is so original about setting it in the modern era if you're going to keep all the main characters white and male?

And yes, it is possible to like many adaptations at once. In the literary world, there are always pastiches coming out with many different takes on Holmes; why is it forbidden on television?

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