Although the show and characters share names with the CBS series introduced a quarter-century ago, any resemblance between the CW’s “Beauty and the Beast” and its predecessor is purely coincidental. Beyond silly, and rivaling “Hart of Dixie” for the title of Least Convincing-Looking Protagonist in a Profession, the series trades fur and claws for a single scar, and seeks relevance in a tired military-experiment-run-amok cliche. Even paired with the tonally compatible “The Vampire Diaries,” it will take more than love’s true kiss to cure what creatively ails this “Beast.”
Kristin Kreuk (“Smallville”) stars as the aptly named first half of the duo, who witnessed her mother’s murder before being rescued by a shadowy form. Flash forward nearly a decade, and she’s blossomed into the world’s tiniest NYPD detective, when she runs across a strange incident echoing that earlier encounter.
The trail gradually leads her toward Vincent (New Zealander Jay Ryan), the other half of the marquee. Only instead of traditional beastly trappings, he’s spared heavy makeup, with a buff physique and not-particularly face-ravaging blemish, while possessing inordinate strength and speed acquired, vaguely, from secretive super-soldier experimentation during his time serving overseas. The interlude left Vincent changed, and the world — other than the dweeby friend (Austin Basis) who provides his shelter — presuming him dead.
As such, Vincent is less a monster than a sort-of costume-free Captain America, with a touch of Batman (there’s a lot of that going around at the CW) given his penchant for shadows and vigilante justice. When he leaps into action, bodies fly hither and yon, but as presented in the pilot, it’s almost invariably executed in such a frenzied, quick-cut manner, it’s difficult to tell exactly who’s doing what to whom.
Catherine’s job and Vincent’s do-gooder instincts create the perfect framework for a procedural crime-of-the-week component, while the larger mythology will presumably involve his backstory and quest for a cure that, in success, will have to wait awhile.
There’s an interesting discussion to be had, perhaps, about what motivated the producers (the reboot was scripted by Sherri Cooper and Jennifer Levin) and CW to make the Beast kind of dreamy in their quest to attract young girls, but that risks over-thinking the whole enterprise.
The earlier series, and indeed original story, were always steeped in romance, and the notion of seeing beauty beneath the surface. While he paper-thin revival might benefit from the presold title, its approach sidesteps any such dilemma — and as constructed, should be hard-pressed to get under viewers’ skin.