BEAUTY & THE BEAST
Written By: Sherri Cooper & Jennifer Levin
Draft Date: January 11, 2012
Two things to note going into this review. One, I have not yet read the ABC / Jon Steinberg B&TB script. There will be no apples to potentially-different-fruit comparisons. Two, the only familiarity I have with the 1987 Linda Hamilton / Ron Perlman CBS series that the CW version is a remake / reimagining of is a quick glance at Wikipedia.
Based on that Wikipedia entry, a whole heckuva lot is different about the 2012 Cooper & Levin version. The only things that really seem to remain are the leads' names. Catherine is our Beauty. Vincent is our Beast.
Catherine Chandler wanted to be a lawyer.
In 2003, she was working as a bar over the summer as she studied for the LSATs and one night, she left her car's vanity mirror open the whole shift. Her car's battery died, so her mother came to pick her up. They were attacked. Catherine's mother died. Catherine ran, and was chased. She was saved by... some creature. A beast. Of course, her psychologists tell her that description is just a trick her mind played on her because her attackers were "beasts."
It's nine years later. Catherine is unlucky in love, has a history of choosing jerks. And a jerk has just pulled her heart out and stomped on it (outside an Adele concert, no less!) Catherine is roommates with her younger sister, Heather (who, thanks to this being a premise pilot, is mostly just a sounding board/counterpoint to Catherine vis a vis her relationship with men, their father, etc... it's a good, fun, believable sisterly relationship and I'm sure in series we'd get to know Heather better). Catherine is also... a homicide detective.
That summer night in 2003 really did change her life.
Catherine and her partner Tess are brought in on the case of a murdered Vogue fashion editor, where the first piece of evidence is a mysterious fingerprint on the victim's clothes. Mysterious not because it's a fingerprint, but because it belongs to Specialist Vincent Koslow, MD, who died in Afghanistan in 2002.
Catherine explores this lead, trying to find people from Vincent's past. He was an ER resident before 9/11, then enlisted after... because his family died in the towers.
Now, I'll pause here. In general, I have a problem with using 9/11 in fiction. I know. It's a thing. We're over 10 years later. You can't just ignore it if you want to tell the truth. It changed a lot of people lives, maybe every American's life and however much further you care to extrapolate/globalize that, directly and indirectly. It's my issue and I have to get over it. But it's still an issue I feel I need to bring up, because I think we're going to be seeing a lot more of this kind of thing. My major problem, being an East Coaster who lived in an NYC commuter area, is when it's used for emotional exploitation (I refuse to see Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close). Thankfully, here it's simply part of a character's backstory.
Okay, back to the script and away from my baggage.
Catherine tracks one of Vincent's old friends (his last known roommate) down... at an abandoned chemical warehouse... and though Catherine and Tess are turned away, we find out Vincent is alive, living in the chemical warehouse, and is the "beast" who saved Catherine's life in 2003 (per a news clipping he's held onto).
What proceeds is a light, banter-y crime procedural with strong character elements. There's an investigation, the murder is solved (are you surprised?), Vincent and Catherine meet and have sexual tension... though I'm not sure if it's UST. The script gives no indication of what, exactly, this "beast" looks like. As far as I really know, he's fast and strong and reclusive and has some rage issues... but not incredibly inhuman (and there is no secret utopian underground society). So I'm kind of picturing a werewolf at this point and not some grotesque monster that needs to hide in the shadows. The backstory there is that he's been experimented on, so he's got some genetic mutations. There's a conspiracy/company (Muirfield) behind it, and he's trying to stay off their radar, but Catherine accidentally alerts them because Vincent (who tried to save the murder victim's life) left some trace DNA evidence that matches exactly to Catherine's mother's murder... and it's not entirely human.
CW needs to crack its version of a crime procedural (yes, yes, they have Supernatural). This may be it, with its mythical Gothic romance trappings. I won't pretend this is groundbreaking, but what it is... is enjoyable. I love the characters Cooper & Levin have created. There's a comfort and familiarity and breeziness to the way they talk and interact on the page and, ultimately, I think that's why a lot of people like the TV they like. Hopefully that translates to the screen.