It may simply be a matter of extreme self-correction, but as women's roles on television finally grow a bit more diverse and less stereotypical, men are increasingly squeezed into a few narrow boxes: child-man, anguished hero and monster.
The "Twilight"-inspired obsession with ravening predators and the women who love them grows more unsettling with every passing year — the thrill of surrendering one's heart to a man who must continually fight his rage-filled blood-thirst is far too close to the pattern of domestic abuse for comfort, even if the man in question is a glittering vampire or the regretful product of a military experiment gone wrong.
The latter is the conceit of the CW's new "Beauty and the Beast." The latest incarnation of the original man-imal love story owes as much to the Incredible Hulk as to the fairy tale or even the CBS cult classic starring Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman. Essentially, though, the conflict remains the same — extreme emotion of any kind makes him lethally crazy, but she loves him anyhow.
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We meet Catherine, "Smallville's" wide-eyed beauty Kristin Kreuk, as a bar-tending college student who, on one eventful night, witnesses her mother's brutal murder and is saved from a similar fate by a mysterious beastly stranger who vanishes into the forest as quickly as he arrives. Fast-forward to the present, and Catherine is a New York detective investigating a fashion editor's murder.
But what's this? Not only do fingerprints at the scene lead to an allegedly dead soldier, but there's also strange and corrupted blood type involved. Of the same sort found on the butchered bodies of her mother's killer. All of which leads to a warehouse (set design: creepy) in which lurks one Vincent Keller (Jay Ryan), a.k.a. Sexy Beast.
The only survivor of one of those super-soldier experiments that screenwriters love so much, Vincent becomes an animal when aroused by anger and, one assumes, any other strong emotion. Afraid for his life and the lives of others, Vincent has spent the last five years in relative captivity trying to find an antidote, with only his dweeby pal J.T. (Austin Basis), video games and a flat screen to distract him.
This has given Vincent plenty of time, apparently, to catch up on past seasons of "Dexter," because he controls his homicidal tendencies with a similar code — he only disembowels and decapitates bad guys. Including and especially those threatening Catherine.
None of the which is even as mildly interesting as it sounds, and, indeed, I grew weary even as I watched, despite Kreuk's hypnotic eyes, the broody lighting and roiling soundtrack. It is all so dreadfully familiar — the lovely, headstrong and feisty heroine, the nice guy who wants her (in this case, the medical examiner played by Max Brown) and the broken bad boy she loves instead.
Even the overlay of a government conspiracy seems tired; the only point of light is provided by Catherine's partner, Tess, who, as played with great common-sense appeal by Nina Lisandrello, clearly deserves to be on a better show. One can only hope that this marks the last limping leg of the inter-species romance, because in real life, true love should not include a partner whose first instinct is to kill you.
'Beauty and the Beast'
When: 9 p.m. Thursday
Rating: TV-PG-V (may be unsuitable for young children with an advisory for violence)
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