Beauty and the Beast: Pilot

Full disclosure: The CBS series Beauty and the Beast was a big deal in our house 25 years ago. We had some mad, bad love for Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton. If ever a show squandered massive good will by killing off one of the leads, that was it. But before that—so much affection.

That said, while I was initially a bit territorial about the idea of rebooting it for a Millennial audience, I don’t hate what the CW did with it. I’m going to be the voice of dissension on that because I know that the show has been hammered left and right, but I say embrace the cheese. I thoroughly enjoyed watching it as end of the week brain candy.

It has the cooperation of the original producers Paul Junger Witt and Ron Koslow and that bodes well. I’m less twitchy when the original folks bless a rejiggering their own ideas. Second, I really do genuinely like Kristin Kreuk. I was happy for her when she got the hell out of the way of the folks who just hated Lana on Smallville. She’s been off TV long enough that I hope people are past whatever they felt about her before and give her a shot. I want good things for her.

Here, she fills Hamilton’s shoes as Catherine Chandler, but instead of a district attorney, she’s a detective, and this go around, Vincent isn’t a genetic hybrid but instead a military experiment gone very wrong—think Jason Bourne meets Wolverine (he also gets a last name–Keller). He was a doctor and 9/11 enlistee who jumped into the service after his brothers died in the Twin Towers and then made himself a guinea pig out of a misplaced sense of guilt.

In this version of the series, he and Catherine have a history. Nine years ago, Catherine’s mother was gunned down in front of her and when she fled into the woods she was saved by a man beast she couldn’t quite identify who was written off as a wild animal. Fast forward to the present and while investigating a case, fingerprints come up that belong to Vincent, who’s been presumed dead for a decade.

Catherine feels a sense of knowing when she sees his picture, and it’s confirmed when she meets him face to face, hiding in an abandoned factory office where his roommate conceals him, and she realizes how she knows him and he fills in the blanks for her. The downside to his heroics is that he rages out, sometimes for good, but as a soldier, he couldn’t harness it. We get a glimpse of this when he rages at Catherine in an effort to show her he really is unstable and she should steer clear. But if she did, we’d have no series.

Sidebar: there was a piece earlier this summer that cast aspersions on the show for negatively reinforcing abusive relationships because Catherine pursues Vincent in all his rage and I think that’s giving this show way too much credit. It’s not a news show, documentary or serious drama, and none of the shows on the CW are blueprints for healthy relationships, so…

We find out that the group that experimented on Vincent was responsible for Catherine’s mom’s death and that her pursuit of his ties to the current case has put both of them back on the group’s radar for extermination. And that’s pretty much our setup for the season: he saves people to atone for what he’s become, which he feels is inhuman, and she feels the need to protect his identity because he’s saved her life, once nine years ago and again during the pilot when she’s duped into meeting a faux FBI agent and because he can maybe help her solve her mother’s murder.  And Florence Welch would like us to believe they’re destined for a great love as “Never Let Me Go” closes the episode.

Jay Ryan plays Vincent and he’s new to me, but I dug him. If you get past the fact that Ron Perlman’s version of Vincent can never, EVER be duplicated, you’ll be alright. Gary Fleder directed the pilot, and he’s done a ton of things I like, many of which tap that creepy vibe, so he’s right at home here. The show films in Toronto and right out of the gate we had the fabulous Peter Outerbridge and Yannick Bisson, so I expect subsequent episodes to tap from the same well of talent.

I could watch this every week. It’s a great looking show and you don’t have to overthink it. We get a silly procedural (many of which have kept CBS healthy in viewers for years, y’all) and a wounded warrior love story. I’m down with that. Everything doesn’t have to be rocket science. Think of this as your frothy guilty pleasure after you’ve exhausted your emotions during The Vampire Diaries.

Beauty and the Beast airs Thursdays on the CW in the US at 9 pm/8 Central and on Showcase in Canada at 9 pm/6 Pacific.

Photo courtesy of  Ben Mark Holzberg/The CW.

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