Beauty and the Beast" has been

adapted numerous times. There's French director Jean Cocteau's lush and surreal film from 1946. We've seen the CBS show from 1987, featuring Linda Hamilton ("The Terminator") and Ron Perlman ("Sons of Anarchy"). And today's generation of mid to late 20-some-

things were all raised on Disney's animated 1991 musical.

Tonight, the CW launches its own "Beauty and the Beast" (9 p.m., TV-14), a less-than-enchanting adaptation that fits well within the network's schedule of dark,

violent fantasies.

The action begins with mystery and bloodshed. Working her way through law school as a bartender, the beautiful Catherine "Cat" Chandler (Kristin Kreuk, "Smallville") is set upon by machine gun-wielding bad guys who slaughter her mother before her eyes. And ours. Cat looks like a goner as well until she is saved by an otherworldly creature that quickly disappears.

The show fast-forwards to the present day, where Cat is now working as a sassy New York police detective teamed with the no-nonsense Tess Vargas (Nina Lisandrello, "Nurse Jackie"). While investigating the death of a model in a posh hotel, they come upon a strange anomaly. Fingerprints on the victim belong to Vincent Keller (Jay Ryan, "Terra Nova"), a doctor-turned-soldier reported dead in Afghanistan a decade earlier.

Cat's sleuthing leads her to Vincent, who is holed up in an abandoned factory (not unlike the hero on CW's "Arrow") and protected by his nerdy best friend, mad scientist J.T. Forbes (Austin Basis, "Life Unexpected"). Cat discovers that Vincent was part of a military experiment gone awry and that he remains the loose end of a conspiracy that nefarious government types want to

terminate. And if they have to bump off Cat in the meantime, so be it.

Mutually assured destruction turns Cat and Vincent into confidants. Was her mother's murder part of the government plot? Why does Vincent keep a file on her and show up every time she needs help?

While many shows on the CW can be dismissed as shallow comic books, the 21st century version of B-movie pulp, it's precisely this kind of throwaway fare that can reveal odd quirks in society's subconscious. Vincent isn't the first real or fictional character to have gone off to war or another adventure only to return with the fear that he left his humanity behind.

He's got good company on the CW. Characters on "Nikita," "Arrow" and "The Vampire Diaries" have all been transformed into something monstrous. And the guys on "Supernatural" spend half their time traveling to and from hell. There sure are a lot of pretty things on the CW. Pretty disturbing things.

---Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan meet in the Vice Presidential Debate (9 p.m., ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CNN, Fox News, C-SPAN, CNBC, MSNBC).

Separated by a nearly 28-year age difference, both men arrived in Washington, D.C., as young men. Biden was elected to the Senate when he was just 29 years old. Ryan was elected to the House when he was 28.

SEASON PREMIERES

---Elena adjusts to her new non-lifestyle on "The Vampire Diaries" (8 p.m., CW, TV-14).

---Dennis and Dee are facing

a life-or-death choice on "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" (10 p.m., FX, TV-MA).

---The gang anticipates a new NFL draft and a new baby, in that order, on "The League" (10:30 p.m., FX, TV-MA).

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

---A news satire upsets Jack on "30 Rock" (8 p.m., NBC, TV-14).

---Kylie discovers the truth on "Last Resort" (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).

---Tim heads to the finalists' hometowns as "Project Runway" (9 p.m., Lifetime, TV-PG) moves into its homestretch.

CULT CHOICE

A loner (Mel Gibson) becomes a reluctant hero in the 1981 Australian thriller "The Road Warrior" (8 p.m., G4).

SERIES NOTES

---Sheldon hires a fetching assistant on "The Big Bang Theory" (8 p.m., CBS, TV-PG).

---More tryouts on "The X Factor" (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14).

---Thrill-seeking on "Two and a Half Men" (8:30 p.m., CBS, TV-14).

---A bad penny on "Up All Night" (8:30 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).

LATE NIGHT

---Paul Thomas Anderson is scheduled on "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" (11 p.m., Comedy Central).

---Denis Leary, Steve Byrne and Cristelo Alonzo appear on "Conan" (11 p.m., TBS, r).

---Bryan Cranston, Michael Yo, Kerri Kenney-Silver and Mo Mandel are booked on "Chelsea Lately" (11 p.m., E!).

---Chrystia Freeland sits down on "The Colbert Report" (11:30 p.m., Comedy Central).

---Daughter performs on "Late Show With David Letterman" (11:35 p.m., CBS).

---Jay Leno welcomes Terry Bradshaw and Grizzly Bear on "The Tonight Show" (11:35 p.m., NBC).

---Kevin James and Ezra Miller appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (midnight, ABC).

---Christina Applegate, Nick

Offerman and Jackson Browne visit "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" (12:35 a.m., NBC).

---Craig Ferguson hosts Neil Patrick Harris and Gerry Dee on "The Late Late Show" (12:35 a.m., CBS, r).

Kevin McDonough can be reached at kevin.tvguy@gmail.com.