Friday, January 23, 2009

The Beast, "Two Choices": Don't mess with D

Brief spoilers for the second episode of "The Beast" coming up just as soon as I tell you how I like my coffee...

Based on both the minimal comments last week and the surprisingly low premiere ratings (good reviews or bad, you'd assume at least a little rubbernecking factor), it doesn't seem as if too many people around these parts are interested in "The Beast" talk. And that may be fine: Thursday nights are a traffic jam for me, and I'm still on the fence about the show through these two episodes (which are the ones I got to see in advance).

There were some improvements here from the pilot, namely Larry Gilliard Jr. getting promoted from one of a bunch of guys trying to get Swayze's partner to flip on him into the only guy doing it. No doubt the producers liked what they saw out of Gilliard in the pilot (that or they watched "The Wire" season one) and decided to get more out of him.

But I think the show's still being too vague about what Swayze's allegedly doing and why it's bad. I'm not asking the writers to put all their cards on the table by the end of the second episode, but right now things are so unclear as to be uninteresting, and Swayze's gruffness and Gilliard's piercing stare will only take me so far.

I'm also not in love with doing these relatively self-contained undercover operations. There's often a desire for shows like these to have a procedural plot in each episode to make it easier for new or casual viewers, but what's always interested me about undercover work are the long-term aspects of it: the difficulty of having to live your cover for an extended period, the risk of growing too close to your target, and all the other things that made a show like "Wiseguy" so good. Showing Swayze and Tarzan getting in and out of a cover by the end of each episode not only makes those cases forgettable, but it makes what they do seem less special somehow.

Anyway, I'm in for a few more weeks, and we'll see how much two of the three main performances are going to keep me interested beyond that.

What did everybody (or anybody) else think?


Anonymous said...

Thursday nights are very crowded indeed, but I got through the first two episodes last night.

For what it's worth, I like the show so far and I hope to read more comments from you about it.

I agree about the vagueness issue and I don't know why I should just go along for the ride why the blade server is more secure on his coffee table in what looks like a pretty bad neighborhood than in lockup, nor why the partner didn't ask why either.

Rev/Views said...

I'm definately locked in for watching the first season, if only for Swayze and Gillard's performances. There's something in the show that indicates it could be more than it is right now, I can't help but feel it would turn into something really special with just a few tweaks and I'm hoping they'll pull them off before the end of the season.

Or I could just be clutching at anything which reminds me of The Shield and hoping. Either way I'm sticking with it for the next dozen episodes.

Anonymous said...

what life does this show have when their star and the only reason to watch is so near death

Anonymous said...

Im in for the time being. The show could be a lot better, I think some of the problems might be the budget. I like the younger guy's character so thst part is good.

Heather K said...

And I have been watching to see my office make an appearance as "Platinum Cats" the strip club, and it did. My office however looks nothing like the inside of PC.

Unknown said...

This is a relatively minor point; check that, it's an incredibly minor point, but we have no friggin' street vendors in Chicago! It's honestly the only thing I envy about NYC. Well that, and their pile of World Series trophies.

Unknown said...

Thursdays are crowded but A&E is running it a lot during the week.

I like Swayze's performance and the Chicago backgrounds but the individual cases so far have been weak. If you didn't know what the George Dzundza character was going to do then you've missed every cop show for the last 25 years or so.

The overall arc about Swayze's issues with IA works. I look at it as "The Shield" where you had the case of the week but the money train robbery or Antwon Mitchell story line were key parts to every episode.

What I don't get is the Travis Fimmel performance. He seems to confuse ticks with acting.

Anonymous said...

The show is big dumb fun when Swayze's onscreen (Dumping the coffee, the "off the menu" commentary, shooting himself in the frigging shoulder for no real clear reason at all, since he just had to stall the guy for less than three minutes) and just a slog when he's not. Make Pulsipher his daughter (intermittent role), Gilliard his partner, and Kevin O'Connor his conflicted handler and you've got a relatively lean show which Swayze could hold together. But Fimmel's just not very compelling at the center of things, and the high stakes corruption angle just doesn't make sense. After all, in the premiere an undercover FBI agent -- Stick Fingaz, I think -- saw Swayze shoot an RPG (obtained without authorization?) at a federal vehicle on a city street. How is this not enough to bring charges for recklessness? What the heck else do you need?

And I agree that a longer arc would improve things, but I don't have high expectations that the show will go that way. Given how weak the writing is, what is amazing is how Swayze manages to hold much of the show together.

Anonymous said...

I caught a repeat over the weekend. I was really surprised to see Johnny Kastl (Doug from Scrubs) playing a cop and doing so convincingly well.

Rev/Views said...

Maybe they're setting up for a moment where Barker guns down Dove and then the show becomes Gillard vs. Swayze.

Add in some B-rank FBI agents involved around the cases they're working and you've got something.

Actually if Travis is there to get killed off it would make a lot of sense, because he sure isn't helping on the charisma/acting front. :P

Alan Sepinwall said...

Maybe they're setting up for a moment where Barker guns down Dove and then the show becomes Gillard vs. Swayze.

I wouldn't object to that, except on the grounds that it would make the show even more of a "Shield" rip-off.

But I don't expect it to happen, if for no other reason than that the producers have to hedge their bets for if the show is renewed but Swayze isn't healthy enough (or worse) to keep doing it. Not that I think Fimmel's up to it, but I could see a scenario where Barker winds up corrupting Dove enough that the show becomes Fimmel vs. Gilliard.

Anonymous said...

I am enjoying the show and hope it gets picked up for Season Two if Swayze is up to it health wise. I like seeing Chicago shot from less than typical areas, and like Burn Notice, I appreciate it for what it is.