The central unsolved mystery of television: Which is the bigger influence on programmers, the abuse of illegal drugs or congenital insanity? There is no easy answer. You watch the Real Housewives shows and feel certain that only sociopathic madness could make somebody unleash this stuff on the defenseless public. Then along comes Beauty and the Beast, and you just know everybody involved was stoned to their eyebrows.
How else do you explain the revival of a 25-year-old show that never had enough viewers to even raise it to cult status? How else do you explain the decision to remake a sweet romantic fantasy about the transformative power of love into a viciously brutal police procedural in which a cop and her werewolf lover are hunted by government assassins?
Not that Beauty and the Beast is bad, exactly. Dark and moody, not unlike a lot of the teenage girls of its target audience, the show has a certain bloody panache. If I could shed 40 years and a Y chromosome, I, too, might admire a cop heroine who, when a boyfriend breaks up with her, has him busted on dope charges.
But why not just build your new show from scratch? Why go to the trouble of reengineering something that wasn’t successful a quarter of a century ago? Mushrooms, I’m telling you, and lots of them.
That concludes the biochemical portion of today’s review. DEA guys, you can skip the rest and turn to the Steroid Briefs column on the sports page.
More conventionally speaking, if that term can be applied to a show about cross-species sex, this Beauty and the Beast is produced by the same guys who did the 1987 CBS version starring Linda Hamilton as a corporate lawyer and Ron Perlman as the noble lion-man with whom she falls in love.
This time around we’ve got Kristin Kreuk ( Smallville) as Catherine Chandler, a recent Ivy League graduate who sees her mother murdered by gunmen who go after her, only to be foiled by a ferocious wild animal that darts from the woods. Skipping forward five years, Catherine is working as a homicide detective in New York.
When fingerprints on the clothing of a victim point her toward a handsome doctor named Vincent Keller (Jay Ryan, Terra Nova), she discovers he has a big drawback as a suspect: He’s dead, killed while serving in Afghanistan a decade ago. Can you guess where we’re going? Yes! Vincent is Osama bin Laden’s love child by Lady Gaga! Naw, just kidding, though if anybody from The CW is reading this, I’ll betcha we see a pilot for Osama’s Girls next spring, starring everybody who just got kicked off of Glee for being too old.
Anyway, where was I? Oh, right. Vincent is still alive, haunting Manhattan’s subway tunnels. He was part of an experiment in Afghanistan to produce better soldiers through chemistry that either went badly off-track or succeeded beyond everybody’s wildest dreams, depending on your perspective. The Pentagon shut the program down and has been trying to kill all the participants ever since. And, oh yeah, Vincent is the creature from the woods who saved Catherine.
Beauty and the Beast is a little hacky at times, with the characters leaping dozens of plot points in a single bound. But Kreuk and Ryan keep their faces straight and their bodies hard, which is what CW shows are mostly about, and all in all, it could be a lot dumber than it is. For a fit of reefer madness, that’s not bad.