Daily Archives: October 13, 2012

The new _Beauty and the Beast_: CW’s answer to _Grimm_.

Early in _House, MD_ (probably the pilot, but I forget), House asks Cameron what trauma in her life made her become a doctor, since a woman as good looking as she is wouldn’t bother with medical school and everything unless she had some cause (though the series apparently later just threw this notion aside).

This touches on a common dilemma of TV shows: when *extremely* good looking people are posited as working in very unlikely fields (i.e., police.)

Another is the question of how best to handle the revival, reboot, adaptation or continuation of an existing franchise on television (or movies). Sometimes, it seems that with the original creators intact, tings work better. Sometimes, as in the case of the _Dallas_ revival on TNT, cutting the (surviving) original producers out and making room for totally new talent can be quite successful. The previous two attempts–the reunion movies in 1996 & 1998, and the long-struggling development of a theatrical movie in the past decade–involved the surviving producers and didn’t go well. While I wasn’t particularly thrilled by the popular _Battlestar Galactica_ reboot, it was obviously fairly successful, and involved new producers where, as with _Dallas_, people involved with the original series had tried to revive it for years.

Sometimes, too much loyalty to the “original” can lead to an attempted revival being just a copy of what’s already been done. Sometimes, it can be basically glorified “fan fiction.” Other times, as with BSG, it can become unrecognizable.

Thus, a big part of me was really excited to hear CW was rebooting _Beauty and the Beast_, but I had my cautions. Having just viewed the pilot on Hulu Plus, I’m leaning towards the trepidation side. Ironically, while I was thinking this was the fault of corporal shills making money off of “intellectual property” without concern for the original creative vision, I found out that Ron Koslow, Paul Junger Witt and Tony Thomas (son of Danny) are all involved in the new series (B&B was one of few dramas created by Witt-Thomas, known primarily for sitcoms like _Benson_ and _The Golden Girls_).

The original series was the epitome of a “cult classic”, and lasted a full three seasons, making it relatively successful for a prime time, network series of a more sci-fi or fantasy bent.

My first critique of the reboot is my complaint about just about everything on TV today: it totally lacks the charm or elegance or artistic beauty of the original.
Television (and most movies) today is all “grit” or special effects or “glamour” of a fashion magazine sort.

_Smallville’s_ Kristin Kreuk plays Det. Catherine Chandler, who, along with her partner, looks more suited to a fashion shoot than a crime scene. On the other hand, based upon the first episode, it’s going to be the gruesome murder mystery that’s become all too common in the post Law & Order/CSI TV world: not that murder isn’t gruesome, but there are other crimes out there. The plots on the original series often have more to do with white collar criminals hiring thugs and such than with investigating murders.

Another problem typical of today’s TV, which I frequently lament, is the lack of a score. One of the hallmarks of the original series is the lush, romantic score by Lee Holdridge.

In the original series, Vincent is a mystery–though arch-nemesis Paracelsus claims that he was an experiment. Vincent is a gentle soul who spends most of his time reading classic literature, listening to classical music, and mentoring the children of the “tunnel world” with occasional departures to rescue Catherine from harm. The usual episode plot involves *him* coming to Catherine for help because someone in the Tunnel World or one of their “helpers” is enduring some injustice, and Vincent wants Catherine to use the resources of the DA’s office to correct the injustice.

The whole essence of the original series is that Vincent is visually a “beast” but he’s a deeply loving soul, surrounded by friends living a counter-cultural life of harmony beneath New York, while Catherine is a rich socialite who is changed by being assaulted and by meeting Vincent.

Plus, part of the appeal for me personally was it had the whole theme of people with genetic mutations being more than just freaks.

In the new series, Vincent is an MD who’s been altered as part of some super soldier program. His backstory is really more like the Hulk. More importantly, his backstory is more or less explained in the pilot. There’s a nominal mystery surrounding his backstory, but it’s the same that’s been rehashed on so many shows since _The X-Files_ (military-industrial conspiracy, super soldier experiments, etc.)

Indeed, I think that points to part of the problem: mystery. The original series understands the notion of “mystery” in the sense of something that inspires wonderment and imagination, versus “mystery” in the sense of “facts that have to be uncovered.”

The original series is an attempt to tell a fairy tell in a modern setting; the new series is more like an attempt at copying NBC’s _Grimm_, and that’s about the best I can put my finger on it. It’s _Law & Order_ where the part of the attorneys is replaced by the Hulk.

Maybe time will tell if it can recapture the storytelling of fantastic episodes like, “Once Upon a Time in the City of New York,” “No Way Down,” “Masques,” “Nor Iron Bars a Cage,” “A Children’s Story,” or “A Happy Life,” but I doubt it.

Ironically, CW’s other new series, [The Green] _Arrow_, feels more like the original B&B.