Editorial: CW’s Beauty and the Beast
I knew that when the CW got their hands on this property it was all going to go down hill quickly.
Let me start off by saying that I was a kid when the Linda Hamilton/Ron Perlman Beauty and the Beast came out. I wasn’t truly all that interested in the show because it was a romance story. What I did remember, and thought was absolutely awesome, was the lion faced Vincent. Perlman has always done a great acting job when behind makeup. This was a definite chapter in that legacy.
Let me give you the Wikipedia rundown on the original series:
Beauty and the Beast is an American drama series which first aired on CBS in 1987. Creator Ron Koslow’s updated version of the fairy tale has a double focus: the relationship between Vincent (Ron Perlman), a mythic, noble man-beast, and his Catherine (Linda Hamilton), a savvy assistant District attorney in New York; and a secret Utopian community of social outcasts living in a subterranean sanctuary. Through an empathetic bond, Vincent senses Catherine’s emotions, and becomes her guardian. The series follows the developing relationship between the characters and the division between New York and the hidden world beneath it. In a twist from the original tale, however, this “beast” does not transform into society’s idea of beauty after gaining the love of Catherine. Rather, Vincent’s inner beauty is allowed to remain the focus of who he is, and it is Catherine’s life which transforms from her relationship to Vincent.
You’ve got two excellent lead actors and a host of supporting characters that made up a show that didn’t last very long, but it gave a true sense of storytelling. How do I know? I know I can hear the question of why I can make such a bold statement, since I didn’t watch it much as a kid. It’s simple enough to answer; one of the show’s contributors was George R.R. Martin. I don’t think I have to tell you who he is. Look up any article on this website with his name on it and you’ll know all you have to on my feelings. The little I did watch kept itself building on a mythology. This wasn’t a show for me, might not be even now. However, I can’t knock what it was. This was for the romantics at heart that were forced not to be together, yet did all the could to be anyway. It’s classic, like Romeo and Juliet, but the part of Romeo is played by a man who looks like a lion. The only reason this show tanked was because Linda Hamilton decided to leave. I just learned that she was pregnant with her son at that time, and I’m sure the grueling TV filming schedule and pregnancy don’t mix very well.
Detective Catherine Chandler is a smart, no-nonsense homicide detective. When she was a teenager, Catherine witnessed the murder of her mother at the hands of two gunmen. Catherine would have been killed too, but someone – or something – saved her. No one has ever believed her, but she knows it wasn’t an animal that attacked the assassins…it was human. Years have passed, and Catherine is a strong, confident, capable police officer, working alongside her equally talented partner, Tess. While investigating a murder, Catherine discovers a clue that leads her to a handsome doctor named Vincent Keller, who was reportedly killed by enemy fire while serving in Afghanistan in 2002. Catherine learns that Vincent is actually still alive and that it was he who saved her many years before. For mysterious reasons that have forced him to live outside of traditional society, Vincent has been in hiding for the past 10 years to guard his secret – when he is enraged, he becomes a terrifying beast, unable to control his super-strength and heightened senses. Catherine agrees to protect his identity in return for any insight he may have into her mother’s murder. Thus begins a complex relationship between Catherine and Vincent, who are powerfully drawn to each other yet understand that their connection is extremely dangerous for both of them.
Now, let me start by saying that I didn’t expect this to be the same show as the one above. I expected changes to keep it up to date, but in this case, it takes a hell of a change from where it was. The woman playing Catherine is Kristin Kreuk. She played Lana Lang on Smallville and Chun-Li in Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li. No offense to her, but I don’t enjoy her in any performance. There’s something about her that automatically shuts down my ability to want to see her doing anything further. I was never big on Smallville in the first place (seems a common theme, eh?), but she’s one of the biggest problems I had with it in the beginning. The other problem is it feels like she’s trying to step into Linda Hamilton’s shoes. I know that isn’t the case, but somehow it still has that feeling. You can’t step into a role originated by someone like her with someone like this. Linda Hamilton has played the good girl, the warrior-born, and the sophisticate. Kreuk has tried playing the girl next door and Chun-Li. Yeah… I have to take it with a grain of salt, because the show is so different from the original, but the lead actress is a turn off.
As for the Vincent role; that is a definite switch to the character. Perlman’s had nothing to do with being in the military, no being anything but a man with a lion’s face. There was a fearsome quality, but there was also a gentleness to him. Something inside that tamed him from being this truly vicious creature. As you can tell by the synopsis, that’s not how this turned out. From the preview clip I’ve seen, it shows a completely human person that looks like a Joss Whedon vampire attacking the guys who killed Catherine’s mother. Other than his appearance, this sounds like a powered down Hulk than Vincent. Again, I don’t expect it to be the same as the original. Still, there’s almost a part of my wanting to see if he’s going to utter that famous line; “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” This role is taken by Jay Ryan, recently from Terra Nova. He’s been in quite a few other things from what I can tell, mostly one off parts. I can’t say I know him or his acting that well, so I unfortunately have little to add about why or why not. The only reasons why not I can see is in the storyline itself.
Now let me attack the new show’s storyline a bit. First off, we have Catherine’s mother being gunned down in front of her. Okay, not quite Batman here, but sadly that’s where my brain goes. The difference here is that she’s not 8 and I don’t have a clue where her father is. The only reason she isn’t killed too is because of Vincent who comes out of the woods and saves her. He only calms down because he sees her frightened look. Deciding that she’s okay, he takes back off into the night where apparently she’s not to see him again for another 10 years. At this point, she’s become a detective and has stumbled across new information. This is helpful since no one believed her in the first place, just chalking up what happened to a wild animal attack. Yeah, they went there. The one clip I’ve seen from this, shows the scene where her mother is killed and the rescue by Vincent. I don’t know what to say except that I look at this and don’t see Catherine and Vincent. I see Kristin Kreuk and Angel (of Buffy: the Vampire Slayer/Angel fame). Except this guy doesn’t say much and acts like an angry muscle bound animal. He’s a doctor that turns into something vicious when enraged. It’s too in your face not to be noticed. I made reference to Batman as far as Kristin Kreuk’s Catherine is concerned. I see that in very broad strokes, but Vincent is so on the nose.
In the end, I don’t know what to think until I see the full episode. I hope I can stomach it, or keep from laughing inanely as I look at the rip offs of other changed storylines to get to this point. This also goes back to what my colleagues and I have said numerous times; treat it with respect and reverence. When you’re doing a show like this, you have to have a working respect of the material that you’re using. It doesn’t mean that it has to be 100% what the other one was, but it should improve upon it. Add something to it, subtract the bad elements, and if nothing else keep the spirit of the show alive. What I see in this so far has that Teen CW mark all over it. I could be wrong about that, but from what I’ve read and seen this hasn’t instilled a lot of confidence in me. Then again, I’m likely not the target audience for this. Only time and the first few episodes will tell. I plan on watching the old series (or part of it anyway) and comparing it to this new one. I’ll be curious to see how this one stands up.