I just watched the pilot for the latest manifestation of our current obsession with fairy tales: The CW’s Beauty and the Beast. Instead of just listing the problems (like a total disregard of police procedure—CB’s complaint—and general dissatisfaction—mine) I am going to list a few tips for the writers because, hey. That’s what the TV Consultants are all about.
1. Don’t make it too easy.
When we are first introduced to grown up, post-mother’s-murder Catherine, we learn two things: she ditched law school to become a cop and is dating a guy too pathetic to be called a criminal. “You can smoke pot, I don’t care,” she says. And she breaks up with him he breaks up with her in negative five seconds—literally before the scene even starts.
Later on, we see her continually blow off the educated, gentlemanly, and witty medical examiner Evan. And hear her make comments like, “meth lab—just my type.” Enter paradox. Catherine is a confident, kick-ass, female detective—who would rather date a stoner. Are they trying to tell us she is emotionally damaged, or are they putting all their ducks in a row? If the former, it is a poor (and cliched) attempt—if the latter, way to kill our romantic anticipation.
Prediction: this happens.
2. Let it rain.
A female detective duo? Is that even allowed? Even if it is, statistically (CB can tell you) nobody wants to watch a female-heavy cast. And the Beast (a.k.a. Vincent Keller) alone is not man enough. (Literally… he’s a beast.)
When Catherine and Tess check out a suspect who lives in a creepy warehouse, we get the following scintillating discussion:
CATHERINE: This will be condos in two years.
TESS: The guy needs a new decorator.
My life is so much improved. Later we get a bit of interesting dialogue with the Beast’s old current roommate, JT. When the detectives arrive: “This isn’t about that speeding ticket, is it? Because I’m going to pay,” and when they ask if he has heard from his dead friend: “Like, voices? Or…” The police chief is okay, too—there’s a funny bit when he is eating and they are describing a poisoning. These guys have potential; they just need more screen time.
3. Avoid unintentional irony.
(This line kind of did it for me. Not in the good way.)
4. Back. Up. The. Story.
Update: a woman died and a hair was found at the crime scene. The DNA is “cross-species,” and we all know what that means. The thing is, it is the same DNA that was found at the murder of Catherine’s mother. We literally have ONLY THAT to go on, plus a weird feeling Catherine seems to get about Vincent Keller.
So she goes back to JT’s, bumps into Vincent Keller (a.k.a. the Beast), and again we are simply bowled over by the brilliance:
CATHERINE: You’re Vincent Keller. You look pretty good for a dead guy.
KELLER: I did not kill that woman.
CATHERINE: AND I DIDN’T MENTION A MURDER.
Anyway, after his assurance that he was just giving the dead woman CPR and he did not poison her although he knew she was poisoned because he could smell it—totally believable—Catherine accepts Keller as not just an innocent bystander but an asset. “I need your help,” she says.
And then she sees that he has a newspaper clipping about her mother’s murder and freaks out. Why does he have it? She has to know! And why does everybody need to think he’s dead! “Please,” says Keller. “You know I did not hurt that woman.” SHE KNOWS NOTHING OF THE KIND. All she knows is that a man who killed two people (her mother’s attackers) before her very eyes is now connected to another homicide. But let’s just leave it with a “we’re not done here” and, you know, not take him in for questioning or anything.
5. Do not have fight scenes in the subway.
This is a personal note. I may or may not always stand against a wall while waiting for the subway to prevent a crazy person from pushing me off the platform.
And I may be walking to work tomorrow.
6. Respect the line of believability.
This is a continuation of points 1 and 4. After Keller saves Catherine from the fastest subway train in existence, they are suddenly back at his apartment and he is sanitizing her grotesquely wounded knee.
CATHERINE: So… are we going to… talk about it?
Excuse me, but what two pretty much complete strangers have ever said that to each other?
KELLER: You need to keep this clean and dry.
CATHERINE: Avoidance. One of my favourite techniques.
Tee hee. BUT NOT.
CATHERINE: How about a drink. Can you… drink?
Hold up. So far, aside from being a killing machine, there is nothing to suggest that he is some sort of supernatural being. Did he stop the subway train with his bare hands? No he did not.
KELLER: Not such a good idea.
CATHERINE: Maybe not for you.
KELLER: Look. My roommate is home.
CATHERINE: I promise that I will be quiet. It’s just… three people did just try to kill me. And, uh, you killed two of them.
KELLER: …I think we’ve got beer.
Best line in the whole episode.
7. Try something new—go back to the old.
“What happened to you? Did someone do this to you?” Catherine asks.
Apparently, yes. Keller’s brother died on 9/11. So he joined the army. He was tapped for a special program. He was injected with “antibiotics” and “steroids.” His DNA was altered. He was stronger, faster—better. But whenever adrenaline hit…
He’s enacting vigilante justice now, though, so it’s all good. He’s kind of a combination of Jason Bourne, the Incredible Hulk, Batman, the entire cast of X-Men… Why exactly is he different?
Suggestion: don’t make the government or some conspiracy the culprit. In the original story, the Beast is cursed because of his own failings: he is a beast on the outside because he is a beast on the inside. Here, Keller is a beast—but through no fault of his own. He is an innocent monster. That immediately cuts out half the drama, half the struggle. But no. That dilemma is already solved: “Vincent,” Catherine says. “I just found six cases of you trying to save victims around the city. You’re not a monster.”
Thank you for letting us know. And now, apparently, beauty and the beast are going to have to “save each other.”
I wish someone would save me.