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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2012-2013 season, now in its seventh year! Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season (or one that didn't make the cut) and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. Keep in mind that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on the original sales presentation which was screened to us privately or supplied by a third party NOT an informational, not-for-review screener provided by the network in question.]
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (The CW)
(written by Sherri Cooper & Jennifer Levin; directed by Gary Fleder; TRT: 43:41)
The network's description: "Detective Catherine Chandler is a smart, no-nonsense homicide detective. Several years earlier, 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. The series stars Kristin Kreuk ("Smallville," "Chuck") as Catherine, Jay Ryan ("Terra Nova") as Vincent, Max Brown ("The Tudors," "MI-5") as Evan, Nina Lisandrello ("Nurse Jackie") as Tess, Nicole Gale Anderson ("Make It or Break It") as Heather, Austin Basis ("Life Unexpected") as J.T., and Brian White ("The Shield," "The Cabin in the Woods") as Joe. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is from CBS Television Studios with executive producers Jennifer Levin ("Without A Trace," "Felicity"), Sherri Cooper ("Brothers and Sisters"), Bill Haber ("Rizzoli & Isles," "Thurgood"), Paul J. Witt ("A Better Life") & Tony Thomas ("A Better Life"), Ron Koslow ("Moonlight") and Gary Fleder ("Life Unexpected")."
What did they leave out? It's loosely based on the 1987-1990 series of the same name, which executive producers Tony Thomas and Paul Junger Witt previously tried to revive at UPN in 2001. And in the original script Vincent's surname was Koslow, presumably in honor of said creator, Ron Koslow. That plus the pilot will make its world premiere today at Comic-Con International: San Diego.
The plot in a nutshell: "Everyone told me it was a wild animal, a coyote, a bear, that this thing I'd thought I'd seen was just the result of my concussion or post-traumatic stress," Catherine Chandler (Kristin Kreuk) recounts in the opening narration. "I believed them... until now." Nearly a decade ago, someone - or something - saved her after two gunmen inexplicably gunned down her mother and tried to do the same to her. Today though she's a detective with the NYPD. Her latest case: a fashion magazine editor is found dead in a five-star hotel and the only fingerprint on the victim improbably belongs to Vincent Keller (Jay Ryan), a medic killed in Afghanistan in 2002. A visit with J.T. Forbes (Austin Basis), a former roommate of Keller's, proves to be a dead end and yet something doesn't sit right with Catherine.
Her intuition proves to be right as Vincent is very much alive - albeit with a nasty scar and beastly skills to boot - and not only tried to save the aforementioned woman but also Catherine herself all those years ago. Such a fantastic story nevertheless proves hard to swallow but after he comes to her rescue yet again under equally aberrant circumstances, she can't help but believe. Ultimately, Vincent comes clean about his military experiment origins and the curse of his supernatural abilities: any spike in adrenaline turns him into a monster. Further he warns her that asking any more questions - especially about how her mother ties into everything - will put them both on the very deadly radar of those responsible. This of course doesn't stop Catherine and thus their new partnership is born.
What works: Those content with soulful glances and Top 40 needle drops will find something to latch onto here. And why not? The pretty girl who's loved by the tender monster trope is as pervasive as ever nowadays so why not Kreuk's Catherine and Ryan's Vincent? Certainly it's CW-ized - this Vincent could easily walk around in broad daylight - but it aims for all the same beats.
What doesn't: That being said, oh doctor, is this show a mess as logic and common sense are shuttered in the name of getting to the aforementioned moments. Even worse, the end result is just plain silly: Vincent comically sticks to the shadows and yet looks like the star of a CW show the overwhelming majority of the time. I get why he'd want to hide himself while enraged but there's nothing keeping this guy from shopping at Best Buy or fixing himself a Slurpee at 7-Eleven. It's like almost like a bad parody: a monster on The CW is somebody with a scar! The horror! Everyone get your pitchforks!
Not that Vincent is the only offender: Kreuk's Catherine is likewise perfectly coifed and expertly styled at all times, great at her job but just can't get her personal life together - you know, your typical NYPD detective. (Her partner Tess - played by Nina Lisandrello - at least gets to have the stereotypical New York accent.) It's as if supermodels are solving crimes and a shock that everyone doesn't ask to see their badges. Not helping matters is the pilot's case of the week - which zigs and zags for no other reason than that's what cases of the week are supposed to do - has little to no emotional follow through. It's just filler until the next time Catherine can lovingly touch Vincent's face. I could pile on some more - the random appearance of a badly CGI-ed possum; Vincent's half-hearted attempt to "White Fang" Catherine or how Vincent's decades worth of stalking Catherine is swept under the rug, because, you know... he's soulful - but you get the point here.
The bottom line: It's a pass to say the least.