by Robert Bianco, USA TODAY
There's a reason the fairy tale isn't called Beauty and the Beauty.
Not that you can't fashion a love story around two pretty people; Hollywood has been dining out on those for decades. But up to now, Beauty and the Beast had always been something apart: both a morality tale about the transcendent importance of inner beauty, and a swoony fantasy romance about a woman whose faith in a seemingly horrid catch is richly rewarded.
CBS got a cult hit out of the story in the '80s by casting Linda Hamilton as Catherine, a beautiful New York district attorney in love with Ron Perlman's leonine tunnel dweller, Vincent. But this is the age of procedurals, and this Beauty and the Beast (Thursday at 9 ET/PT; *½ out of four) is on CW, so Catherine is now a homicide-solving cop (Kristin Kreuk), and Vincent is now a hunk (Jay Ryan) whose only signs of beastliness are a strategically placed scar and a tendency to uncontrollable violence when he gets riled. Which means CW has managed to negate both the fantasy and the morality, while sending a one-would-hope unintended message to its young female audience about the attractiveness of men with anger management issues.
Let's just say when a man screams at you, "I could kill you in less than a second. Now go! Go!", the proper response is to go.
But hunkifying the story's testy beast boy is not Beauty's only bad idea. The show also has given him a new back story that makes him the victim of a military experiment gone wrong, dropping the original's fantasy take in favor of a tired, sci-fi-based government conspiracy. Because if there's one thing we haven't seen in at least, oh, 30 minutes, it's a show driven by some shadowy government conspiracy.
It makes you wonder how government employees have time to do anything else. And it makes you wish TV executives would come to the realization that every story does not benefit from being updated and reimagined - particularly when it's done with this little imagination.
There's a murder solved in tonight's opener, but the murderer is so obvious, it's hardly worth worrying about. Odds are you'll spend more energy trying to decide whether Kreuk and Ryan are more sinning than sinned against: They're terrible, but the material may have left them with no other option. Luckily, in this world of 1,000 channels, you have plenty of other options.