Late in 2007, A&E Television green-lit a pilot for a new crime story called The Beast. Starring in the production was Patrick Swayze. For the Dirty Dancing icon, this was his first return to episodic television since 1982 when he played in the Mod Squad-like show, The Renegades. Unfortunately, that show survived for only six episodes. The Beast was a far cry from that first crime show. It’s darker and grittier, and there would be no scenes with Swayze jumping on car hoods and swinging his butt (Yes, that does happen in one episode of The Renegades).
Swayze’s return to television, however, was marred by real life. After doing the pilot, he went to the doctor and was eventually diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Normally, that diagnosis equals a death sentence within a year. As of this writing, it’s been roughly 21 months since the diagnosis, and he’s still fighting and living his life. Early on, Swayze assured the powers that be at A&E that he could complete the 13-week commitment for a series. The doctors agreed, and he followed through, keeping his word.
The first show, the pilot, aired in January 2009. It was heavily promoted across network and cable television, written media, the internet, and the radio. I was very pleased to see A&E go all out with a superb website that included a lot of downloads, wallpapers, and photos. There were extras and behind the scenes footage, all the things that a good show should have to support it when it airs.
Swayze stars as an FBI agent who may or may not be out for personal gain. Charles Barker has shade to him, but what that darkness means is up to your imagination at this point. Viewers are left to decide for themselves.
Travis Fimmel appears in The Beast as Ellis Dove, a brand new agent hand picked by Barker to be his new partner. Fimmel is as green as Dove is, though there is some effective chemistry between Swayze and Fimmel as they interact. Barker attempts to train the newbie agent in much more than paperwork. To his chagrin, Dove is often Barker’s gopher. Of course, as Dove attempts to get on equal footing, there is the opportunity for humor and fun as the partners get to know each other better.
Adding to the grittiness of The Beast is its Chicago locale. There is a bunch of night shots, with el trains speeding by and lights amid the darkness. I’m not really a fan of that type of production, but The Beast keeps it appropriate by not stooping to the level of blood and guts that many other shows of its kind do. There’s action, but it’s nowhere near as violent as it could be.
Swayze is great as Barker, a character of depth and secrets. As I watched this first episode, I was definitely looking forward to more.