I love a good fairy tale, and television’s current fairy tale obsession couldn’t make me happier. But even I was slightly taken aback by the CW’s revamp of Beauty and the Beast. I mean, it’s one thing to put a fairy tale into the 21st century, but I just couldn’t buy into the idea of Belle — now renamed Catherine — as a crime scene investigator.
The show opens with Catherine’s mother being shot before her young daughter’s eyes. Catherine is rescued from the shooters by a mysterious monster figure, but no one accepts her description of her rescuer. Fast forward several years, and Catherine (Smallville’s Kristen Kreuk) is a successful detective. One of her cases leads her to find that a supposedly dead soldier, Vincent Keller (Neighbours’ Jay Ryan), is secretly alive. He’s living with his old college roommate J.T. Forbes (Austine Basis) and hiding from the government, which is out for his blood.
Catherine discovers Vincent is a failed government experiment — a soldier who was injected with some convenient superpowers. The government killed all the other human guinea pigs used for the experiment, so Vincent has to keep a low profile. It doesn’t take Catherine long to realize he was the monster who rescued her from her mother’s killers. As it turns out, when adrenalin pumps through Vince’s veins he turns into a monster — a monster that looks like he walked out of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer set. The rest of the show focuses on the unlikely and secret partnership between Catherine and Vincent as they combat urban crime and also try to work out why the heroine’s mother was shot.
Both Kreuk and Ryan are stereotypical for a CW show: They have flawless looks and mediocre talent. I was a fan of Kreuk in Smallville, but her acting abilities here leave much to be desired. She overacts in every scene and seems to put way too much thought into her expressions rather than just behaving naturally. And it’s not hard to believe Ryan won his role primarily on account of his muscles and a pretty face. Don’t get me wrong, neither of them is a absolutely terrible actor. But they’re just average.
The show’s plotline is similarly mediocre. I hardly think Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, who wrote the oldest known version of the “Beauty and the Beast” story, had this sort of crime procedural in mind. Apart from the presence of a romance between a man-beast and a beautiful heroine, the CW show and its alleged source material have virtually nothing in common. Don’t watch it hoping to find a fairy tale. I did and was disappointed. Take it on its own terms, as a typical CW show that drips with action, sexual tension and plot twists — in other words, a good study break. Catch an episode on the CW at 9 p.m. Thursdays.