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"The Beast"

By admin Published: January 15, 2009

In case you missed it, my Sunday review of "The Beast," which premieres tonight, is after the jump.

The good news about the new series The Beast is that star Patrick Swayze has remained healthy enough to appear regularly in it.

Swayze has been fighting pancreatic cancer. People looking for signs of his illness may note that he seems a bit thinner than in his glory. His old action-picture moves are considerably reduced in this series, which premieres at 10 p.m. Thursday on A&E.

But let's not forget that Swayze is also 56 years old. His heyday - including Dirty Dancing, Road House, Ghost, Point Break and To Wong Foo - was pretty well done by the mid-'90s. On The Beast, he is the gray eminence to Travis Fimmel, an actor-model who won't even hit the big 3-0 until next July.

Still, while it's nice to see Swayze working, this is something less than an ideal vehicle for him - a brooding and increasingly implausible piece of scheming and skullduggery among law-enforcement folks in modern Chicago. It looks really good at times, but there are moments when you will just shake your head and think, this just makes no sense.

And I say that as a viewer who has repeatedly sat through Road House. And Point Break.

In The Beast, Swayze plays Charles Barker, a veteran FBI agent who has just gotten a new partner, Ellis Dove (Fimmel). They work undercover for the most part, setting themselves up as salesmen to a weapons-smuggling ring, or passing themselves off as drug dealers to halt a new shipment.

At the same time, they have problems other than cases. Dove in particular is forced to rethink everything, such as how to romance a woman when he cannot tell her what he does, and to consider the rule-breaking ways that Barker employs. As the show goes along, it becomes clear that Dove is not the only one worried about Barker's ways.

The show takes full advantage of the dark corners of its settings, with a grim look that underscores the seeming unhappiness in its main characters. In some ways, it reminded me of Swayze's Next of Kin. I fully expect the show's style to displease those viewers who object to the shadow-laden, cinematic style of many TV dramas.

But those characters are a problem, especially Dove, who seems too boyish and unschooled to have made it to this point in his career. That's made worse by Australian actor Fimmel - whom you may remember from a short-lived Tarzan TV series about five years ago. His acting is extremely twitchy, so much that it distracts from the show itself.

And the storytelling is very flawed, the undercover idea an increasing joke as the program goes on, especially when you consider the tactics this crime-fighting duo gets away with.

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