I’ve been doing an awful lot of yelling at the screen, lately.
Why? Because some “genius” decided to do a remake of a TV show called Beauty and the Beast. No, no, not the talking-heads show where a loudmouth misogynist makes excuses to get yelled at by a group of three or more ladies… the one that’s halfway between modern drama and fairytale fantasy.
Or at least, that’s how it was with the original.
Strap in. I can feel this is going to be a long one.
Some of you, I’m well aware, may not know what the flying hell I’m talking about. Most mainstreamers in my experience don’t have much in the way of pattern recall beyond, say, re-enforcing a tired stereotype. But that’s another rant for the queue. So before I really dive in with my rant/analysis/introspection, I should get a few terms defined.
WAWB: World Above, World Below. I will explain the full meaning further on.
CC1/CC2: Catherine Chandler(s) prime and remake.
V1/V2: Vincent(s) prime and remake.
BATB: Beauty and the Beast. This can talk about anything ranging from the shows, to the original literature, to various takes on the literature throughout time.
I fully understand that as a possible ASDer, I don’t like change. This may be why I hold an anti-CGItis view towards the original Star Trek, why I insist that Han shot first [I mean, apart from the whole “it makes more narrative sense” argument] and why I give the hairy eyeball to any and all remakes in my field of interest. People may exist who have encountered both shows and actually like the new one better.
Here’s why I think those people will be rare on the ground.
Character development: When we first meet CC1, she’s a sheltered rich kid with all the New York survival instincts of a meringue in the rain. She’s accosted within the first five minutes and presumably left in an alleyway to die… where V1 scoops her up in an act of what turns out to be character-typical samaritin-ism. When we first meet CC2, she’s about to go to college and joking about the same with a fellow waitress I originally thought was a sister/best friend. They took half an episode to explain they were mom and daughter [Seriously, casting dept…. WTFF? You do not cast two women of about the same age and expect us to swallow the idea that they’re mother and child]. Anyway. It again takes five minutes before the shit hits the fan and mom is gunned down in front of daughter. CC2 takes off into the woods and is rescued by V2 in an act of what turns out to be character-typical tanty-chucking.
CC1 gets to know V1 before she sees him. CC2 doesn’t know squid about V2 until they meet again 5 years later… where he’s still a dangerously raging potentially abusive psychotic basket case.
Why, yes, new BATB, I can see exactly how this is going to lead to romance… In a pig’s eye!
V1 is a Mystery Man™ who’s family heritage and continued ability to thrive is left as a big question mark for 80% of the first season. V2 is explained within the first fifteen minutes of the premier. Way to keep the interest going, new BATB…
V1 looks like a lion. V2 looks like a chippendales initiate with a scar on one side of his face. Except when he’s angry, when they use increasingly cheap and brief special effects to make him look less monstrous than a Buffy the Vampire Slayer type vampire.
Of course that explains why neither of them can walk down the street in public… (eye-roll)
Environment: V1 has an entire society to protect in the World Below, a hidden society of drifters and drop-outs who rely on each other just to get through the day. V2 has his buddy and an amazingly portable
meth lab -er- I mean, gene lab to indulge his hobby of finding a cure for nasty special effect tantrums.
It’s 2012. The audience can no longer swallow the idea of a bunch of glassware and bubbling stuff as advanced science. No, don’t throw a Jacob’s Ladder in there and pretend it’s scientific. Everyone knows what they are, now. Come on. Throw together a little labyrinth of homemade computer whatsit. Or at least have an old gas chromatograph in there.
But no. We get a mess of glassware and a fucking Jacob’s Ladder. Fuck you, set dressing department. We really love having our intelligence insulted around here.
Sigh. I should really remember that sarcasm is wasted on the slow of mind.
New BATB has a gubmint/army secret project doing yet another attempt at the Enlisted Man as a reason to hide/protect V2. Honestly. Everyone and their kid brother’s pet dog knows that attempts at the Enlisted Man just plain do not work. They should also be aware that the gubmint/army upper echelons are largely populated by people caught in sex scandals on a regular basis. And if they’re not in a sex scandal, they’re in a peculation scandal.
Seriously. If they can’t conceal hookers or having their hand in the cookie jar, they can’t cover up SQUAT. Stop trying to tell us there’s a black ops organisation out to get the common American. It’s starting to get ludicrous.
Character Flaws: In the original BATB, V1’s anger is a rare flaw often sparked by his love for CC1. In the new version, V2’s anger is a once-an-episode obligatory tantrum often sparked by CC2 talking like a rational person.
CC1 spends exactly one episode in her battle to find and bring to justice the people who mugged and mutilated her. CC2 is obsessed by the battle to find and bring to justice the folks who shot her mom. I can already tell that this is going to drag on for at least a season.
CC1 was an ivory-tower lawyer who is inspired to become a DA and fight for the little guy™ by witnessing the WAWB dichotomy for herself. CC2 is a gutsy, no-nonsense detective who evidently became so to chase her mother’s killers whenever she likes. CC2 also follows the police drama pattern of the cop who never does their actual job.
Only police dramas are allowed to get away with this, folks. In real life, any detective who regularly gold-bricks their current task onto their partner so they can follow their gut/the white rabbit/a hunch/their leprechaun friend only they can see… is a very quickly unemployed detective.
Positive points where they exist: At least CC2 can hold her own in a fight against a man. Except now that V2 is in the picture, she’s beginning to lose those special skills. That, and the first two episodes passed the Bechdel Test.
Immersion: V1 lived in the World Below, and it looked like he belonged there. Sets were made up out of apparently scavenged/patched/homemade items and so was the wardrobe. CC1 belonged in the World Above, where everything was at least organised and people dressed with a Message. V2 wears Levis, t-shirts and the odd hoodie. He live(s/d) in an abandoned toxic factory building with his buddy and
meth lab science experiment. CC2 also wears Levis, T-shirts and at least has serviceable cop boots.
BATB1 quickly abandoned the idea of a cop out after V1 in favour of a more star-crossed-lovers angle between the two leads. BATB2 quickly abandoned the idea of using beastly makeup or CGI to make V2 look at all… beastly.
Camera Work: BATB1 used pan and tilts in the World Below, as well as mood lighting to accentuate both the fairytale element of the World Below and V1’s overall alienness. BATB2 uses steady camera angles all the damn time and lights V2 so as to hide his scar.
Most series are set in their ways five episodes in [Except for the fan-infamous Space Rangers, which was retooled every episode and cancelled by episode five…] when they’ve finished changing their mind about everything and start doing character episodes.
The new BATB has that long to do something I deem worthy.
As in: devote a little more attention to not making V2 into the new Edward Cullen, keep CC2 a strong character with more than one dimension, give her something else to do other than hunt down the villains what killed her mom, and give us a goddamn reason to want to fucking ship CC2 and V2 at all.
Overall, the new BATB is not as satisfying or well fleshed-out as the original. The first show had a plethora of characters that broke the mould. Most of them in the World Below, which was literally made for iconoclasts. The new one has maybe five people and a plethora of cardboard cut-outs. And those five people aren’t that deep. It’s like they took the characters directly out of the cookie-cutter jar and didn’t bother with any further details.
It’s like they took everything that hooked the fans of the original show, and immediately threw it into the insinkerator, because that stuff doesn’t sell, anymore.
And I’m sure I’m going to cop some flack from the people who love it already and swear it’s so… something… I don’t know. I’m not feeling it.
I welcome arguments in its support, because I really want to know what’s so appealing about the new show.
So… new Beauty and the Beast. Why do you love it?