Beauty And The Beast 1.01 "Pilot" Review

TV REVIEW Is it a beauty? Or is it beastly?

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Beauty And The Beast 1.01 "Pilot" REVIEW

Episode 1.01
Writers: Sherri Cooper & Jennifer Levin
Director: Gary Fleder

THE ONE WHERE Nine years after her mum gets killed, a woman grows up to be a cop and meets a hot bloke with a scar.

VERDICT After seeing vampires and werewolves and other beasts of a mythical nature become the love interests in countless film and TV shows over the last decade, it was only a matter of time before the classic Beauty And The Beast fairy tale was wheeled out again. Or rather, a rehash of the premise of the ’80s CBS TV show version of that tale.

Not that this new version of the show borrows all that much from the Linda Hamilton/Ron Perlman show. It’s based in New York and the main characters’ names are the same (Kristin Kreuk plays Catherine Chandler and Jay Ryan’s Beast is called Vincent) but that’s pretty much where similarities end. Beyond that, it makes you think of ten other shows instead. Ten other better shows.

This pilot is made up of tropes we’ve all see many times before: murdered parent who was possibly involved in some shady business; a man whom everyone thinks is dead; the loner-vigilante living in an abandoned factory (by a bridge, of course, because bridges make the skyline look more interesting); dodgy secret military super soldier experiments; a 9/11 connection; the revelation that the beastly side of Vincent only emerges when he’s angry will make anyone with any kind of popular cultural awareness at all (ie, owning a television) think of the Hulk.

The writers throw everything at you in a very short space of time. The result is a show that screams of being unsure what it wants to be, and the lack of clarity seems to filter down through every layer of production.

There’s some pretty bad acting from the two leads. Kreuk brings all her various frowns and telegraphed meaningful looks that people will remember from Smallville . Ryan spends a little too long doing the steely mysterious posing and little else. The rest of the cast are of varying strength, though everyone is a little bit too good looking, and nobody really stands out as one to watch yet. One thing we are sure of already, though; the “Dear Mum” voiceovers should go. They’re going to get really irritating really fast. Check that. They are already irritating by episode one’s end.

The crucial, serious flaws in thus pilot, though, both concern the central concept. The pretty-boy-with-a-scar-who-gets-a-bit-lumpy-faced-when-pissed-off seems like a lame, cop-out, and hardly worthy of the title “Beast” at all. It’s clearly the result of a network scared to have a show with a male lead who isn’t the classic hunk, and makes nonsense of the usual message behind the fairy tale.

Worst still is how Catherine and Victor and brought together; she chooses to believe a creepy-scarred-stalker-pretending-to-be-dead-hiding-in-an-abandoned-factory guy because… well because there wouldn’t be a show otherwise. That this guy also happens to have a photo of her from a nine year-old newspaper article should have her running for the door or calling for back-up, not going all doe-eyed.

The ongoing story of the show will be about the relationship between Catherine and Vincent, so you’d hope their first meeting might be a little more… Memorable? Significant? Believable at the very least. This feels very much like they become allies because that’s what’s supposed to happen and the writers think that’s enough to convince us it should.

The police procedural aspects of the show aren’t particularly thrilling either. Most of the crime lab and detective work scenes look the result of some extensive research sessions involving watching old episodes of CSI and not quite getting what makes it work.

All that being said, this is a pilot episode and decent shows have developed from similarly unpromising pilots ( The Vampire Diaries for example). The show isn’t quite as bad as we expected. And yes, it may re-use old tropes and themes but it may yet also do something original with them. So, it’s a bit of a ropey start, but there are glimpses of what this show could be. But will the audience ever fall in love with this Beast ?

BEST FIGHT SCENE You’d think this would be an award destined for the Beast, but most of his “action” happens off-screen, in the wings, with maybe a hint of a shadow. Instead it’s Kristin Kreuk’s detective Chandler who proves to be the top scrapper, proving she can hold her own in a fight. Sure, the fight scene in the subway station made us think of The Matrix and she’s no Trinity, but this well-choreographed combat was one of the few real highlights of the show.

MURDER DEATH KILL The police investigation in this episode reveals that the murderer killed her boyfriend’s wife with poisoned hair products. Wasn’t poisoned hair products how they got Anna Hutchison’s character to snog the moose/wolf in Cabin In The Woods ? Check your shampoo ladies.

SOUND EFFECT CHECK At around 28 minutes 34 seconds there’s a Wilhelm Scream. The scream was made famous by Ben Burtt in the original Star Wars and Indiana Jones films and is now used by many film and TV makers as an in-joke.

Catherine: "Three people just tried to kill me and ah, you killed two of them..."
Vincent: "I think we got beer."
Catherine: "Great."

Steven Ellis @Steven Ellis

Beauty And The Beast will be shown on Channel 5, but has no UK airdate as yet