Scar and rasp hardly a Beast

ALASTAIR PAULIN
Last updated 12:50 24/01/2013
Lucy peach
TOO PRETTY: Jan Ryan is a hunk, and therefore unconvincing as a Beast.

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Beauty and the Beast 9.30pm Fridays, Prime

Here's a fairytale for you. Once upon a time, there were two Kiwi actors who went on a journey over the seas to find their fame and fortune. One of them was a Starr (Antony, ex-Outrageous Fortune), and he landed the lead role of a hunky, hot-headed ex-con turned sheriff on Banshee, a production on premium cable channel Showtime that was overseen by television guru Alan Ball and debuted to largely glowing critical reception.

The other was Jay Ryan (ex-Go Girls), and he landed the lead role of the hunky, hot-headed ex-soldier turned Beast on Beauty and the Beast, a remake of a 1980s series, on The CW, a network that primarily targets teenagers. It was dubbed an "overheated, badly written, wretchedly acted and unconvincing drama" by the San Francisco Chronicle. I guess the moral of the tale is: be careful what you wish for, not all pots of gold are as glistening as they may first appear.

But the real point is that fairytales are supposed to have a moral. These stories are potent because they have symbolic power that has endured through the ages. Beauty and the Beast works only if the Beast is scary, or at least - in The CW's warped worldview - unattractive. The moral is that you need to look beyond the surface to find a person's real worth, and that by treating the Beast whom others regard as untouchable as someone deserving of humanity, you will be rewarded.

But by making the Beast character both hunky and noble, this remake has managed to drain every last speck of power from the fairytale and rendered its own premise completely ridiculous.

Ryan is Dr Vincent Keller, who was an emergency room doctor in 2001 when his brothers died in the Twin Towers on 9/11.

Blinded by grief, he enlists in the army and is tapped for Operation Muirfield, a secret programme to create super soldiers. He is given injections that he is told are vitamins and steroids. "They made us stronger, faster, better. They heightened our reflexes, our senses . . . but when the adrenalin kicked in we became monsters," he explains to the Beauty, New York detective Catherine Chandler, played by Smallville's Kristin Kreuk.

The programme is shut down and the participants "eradicated". Keller is listed as having been killed in Afghanistan in 2002 but has in fact been hiding out for a decade, helped by his former hospital buddy and chemistry nerd JT Forbes. The pair have been trying to create an antidote to cure the Beast.

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The Beauty is linked to the Beast because 10 years ago, two thugs killed her mother and then turned the gun on her.

Out of the woods came a terrifying beast that killed the thugs, saving her.

She was told it was probably a wild animal and if she believed she had seen anything else, it was post-traumatic stress.

Now she is a detective and in last Friday's pilot episode, is assigned a case where some strange DNA turns up on a murder victim. It turns out to be the same "cross-species DNA" that had been on her mother's body and our heroine is drawn into the mystery.

She tracks down Keller, extracts his backstory, and is saved by him yet again when shadowy figures trying to cover up Operation Muirfield attempt to kill her in a kick-ass fight scene on a subway platform that included, for no good reason whatsoever, a fourth-wall-breaking spray of blood on the camera lens.

As the red spray indicates, the show is a hot mess of glossy surfaces that signify little.

If Keller's only deformity is a scar that serves to make his face even more attractive and his dark secret is that he's been secretly trying to save New York murder victims, then where is the risk for the Beauty is becoming close to him?

We do see Keller go monster when he tries to tell "Cat" Chandler that the goons behind Muirfield are on to her.

He throws a rubbish bin, his voice changes into a deep rasp, his face is disfigured and 30 seconds later he shakes the whole thing off. There is no risk, no tension and nothing at stake in their relationship. But I guess Beauty and the Kiwi Hunk wouldn't have made for a snappy title.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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