Tuned In: CW's 'Beauty and the Beast' burdened with 'beast inside'


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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- The CW, home of lots of pretty people stars, debuts a new version of the 1980s CBS drama "Beauty and the Beast" this fall that is seriously lacking in beastliness.

In this new series, premiering Oct. 11 on WPCW, the beast character's primary beastly quality is a scar on his face. Otherwise, the "beast" is a prototypical CW hottie, nothing like the lion-like "Beast" of the original show.

"We thought about the beasts in our lives, and most of the beasts in our lives don't look like actual beasts," said new "Beauty and the Beast" executive producer Jennifer Levin ("Unforgettable"). "They are sometimes charming. There's something about them that might draw us to them. What happens when you do fall in love with a beast, which is what we relate to much more than someone beastly from the outside. It was more beastliness on the inside that was more interesting to us."

But in the new pilot, the beast, Vincent, seems like a hero (a line of dialogue even refers to him as a "superhero"). Kiwi actor Jay Ryan, who stars as the beast, says as the show goes on viewers will get the sense that Vincent is more Jekyll and Hyde.

"The beast is more like a serial killer, and Vincent is trying to suppress him throughout," Mr. Ryan said.

(As an aside: Perhaps none of this is surprising. In discussing a CW zombie pilot that didn't get picked up, CW president Mark Pedowitz explained how a zombie show could work for the network: "The CW dead look a lot better than the 'Walking Dead' dead. You can't believe how good they look on The CW.")

Actress Kristin Kreuk ("Smallville"), who plays the human cop Catherine in this new version of the show, said actress Linda Hamilton, who played Catherine in the 1980s "Beauty and the Beast," sent a note of support.

"She signed photos for us," Ms. Kreuk said. "It was unexpected, surprising and wonderful. I got it on the first day of work, and it's in my trailer. It feels really cool to have her know about what we're doing and wishing us well."

The stars of the new series should not wait for such a note from actor Ron Perlman, who played the beast in the 1980s show.

"I have a predilection against all remakes of any kind," Mr. Perlman said. "I feel like the lack of originality is one of the banes, one of the more disintegrating aspects of our culture. The lack of people having the courage to be original and to explore new things, the act of taking something that was either successful or not and redoing it is ridiculously uncourageous to me."

Of course, Mr. Perlman's "Beauty and the Beast" itself was a new iteration of the classic fairy tale, which had previously been committed to film. Regardless, Mr. Perlman said he has not seen the pilot of The CW's "Beauty and the Beast."

"I'm not gonna comment on how they're particularly choosing to execute whatever their idea for the show is; I just reject the idea altogether of taking something and redoing it," he said. "I will not be tuning in."

Ethel Kennedy documentary

On Oct. 18 HBO will debut the documentary "Ethel," about Ethel Kennedy, the 84-year-old widow of Robert Kennedy, and the film was made by her daughter Rory Kennedy.

Rory Kennedy said she was reluctant to make "Ethel" but was convinced to do it by HBO documentary chief Sheila Nevins.

"I know it's not a comfortable space to be in, but I guess if she's willing to do this, then I should, too," Rory Kennedy said. "It was an amazing experience for me to really sit down -- we don't really sit down in our family and talk about things in this way -- and ask questions and document stories and experiences my mother's had. I felt like in the process of it I was doing something important, relevant and valuable."

Ethel Kennedy's response to a question about her quiet strength was moving.

"It's uncomfortable to talk about, but I'd say my faith had a lot to do with being able to get through everything," Ethel Kennedy said. "When we lost Bobby I would wake up in the morning and think, 'Oh, he's OK. He's in heaven and he's with Jack and lots of my brothers and sisters and my parents.' So it made it very easy to get through the day thinking he was OK."

'Arrested,' 'Up' updates

During a set visit to NBC's "Up All Night" Tuesday, Will Arnett said he'll manage to juggle his NBC sitcom with Netflix's revival of "Arrested Development," which appears to be close to a production start based on star Jason Bateman's tweeted photos from the show's rebuilt set.

Mr. Arnett said production on the new "Arrested Development" season begins Tuesday. He has seen scripts, and he's "very pleased" with them and excited to get started on this revival of the cult comedy that aired on Fox from 2003-06. Word is each new episode focuses on one "AD" character. Mr. Arnett would not confirm that, but a recent photo Mr. Bateman tweeted of a script cover page from an episode titled "Michael" lines up with media reports.

"It's gonna be a totally different way to tell the stories of these characters and relationships that you like," Mr. Arnett said. "I think it's going to be really interesting."

Mr. Arnett will film "AD" on weekends and hiatuses from "Up All Night."

"Up All Night" seemed like a bifurcated show last season, jumping uncomfortably from the life-with-baby home life of Reagan (Christina Applegate) and Chris (Mr. Arnett) to the workplace where Ava (Maya Rudolph, "Saturday Night Live") hosted a talk show as a latter-day Oprah Winfrey. The Ava part of the show, particularly scenes with her assistant, Missy (Jennifer Hall), offered some of the funniest moments.

But with NBC's mandate to broaden its comedies and make them more relatable to a mainstream audience, it comes as little surprise that Ava's workplace has been jettisoned (and Missy along with it; when Missy found out Ava's show was canceled, "She hanged herself," Mr. Arnett joked), although series creator Emily Spivey said the show's writers and networks all agreed on this new direction for the show.

Turns out, Ava's talk show has been canceled. Ms. Spivey said the reset offers the show's writers an opportunity to focus the series and explore how Ava reacts when she has the rug pulled out from under her.

"We wanted to make the whole thing more aspirational," Ms. Spivey said. "This allows her to move about more freely in the world."

Reagan, also out of work, will take some of her Type-A tendencies and apply those to parenting when she stays at home with baby Amy as Chris returns to the workforce.

Reagan's younger brother, Scott (Luka Jones, "Best Friends Forever"), will be a new character to the show. He's a contractor who sets about remodeling the family's home.

"It always felt like we were juggling two tones and they never fully meshed," executive producer Tucker Cawley said of the show's modestly rated first season. This season "Up All Night" will be more centered on friends and family. "Ava is at her best when she's struggling at something."

Ms. Rudolph is on board with the changes.

"This character is really funny when she looks at her own life and tries to figure stuff out," she said. "I love when Ava messes up, and I love when she has flaws."

Channel surfing

Another TV show about the Amish, TLC's "Breaking Amish" (10 p.m. Sept. 9), will feature two cast members from near Punxsutawney, Pa., Abe and Rebecca. TLC won't release their full names; if you know them, please email me at the address below. ... Due to the popularity of the Olympics, NBC-owned cable network Oxygen will delay the second episode of new dance series "All the Right Moves" from Tuesday until 9 p.m. Aug. 14. ... Beth Ostrosky Stern, who grew up in Fox Chapel, will begin production on the new Nat Geo Wild series "Spoiled Rotten Pets" in September.... Latest weird Animal Planet reality show coming in 2013: "Eel of Fortune," about a team of New England fishermen who search for an eel that's a delicacy in Asian countries. Science has renewed "Through the Wormhole With Morgan Freeman" for a fourth, 10-episode season to air next summer. ... Science will air "Mars Landing 2012: The New Search for Life," about NASA's latest unmanned Mars mission, at 10 p.m. Monday. ... MTV has renewed "Snooki and JWoww" for a second season; the network will bring back "World of Jenks" on Nov. 12.

On the web

Read more coverage from the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Tuned In Journal at post-gazette.com/tv.

tvradio

Portions of this column originally appeared in Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. Post-Gazette TV writer Rob Owen is attending the Television Critics Association summer press tour. Follow RobOwenTV at Twitter or Facebook. You can reach him at 412-263-2582 or rowen@post-gazette.com.


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