The beastly side of Patrick Swayze

The Baltimore Sun

The Beast is a new drama series starring Patrick Swayze as a maverick FBI veteran who gets teamed with a rookie (Travis Fimmel). But with that rather conventional premise, can it ever be a beast in the ratings?

It's pretty much impossible to describe The Beast - which debuts tonight - without getting tangled in the underbrush of potboiler cliche. Hard, unorthodox veteran who breaches the bureau's code of ethics to get the job done. Clear-eyed kid who worships the grizzled vet. And so on.

But do you honestly think anyone will pan Swayze's performance - especially after the five-hankie interview with Barbara Walters about his battle with pancreatic cancer? Not going to happen.

The good news, in fact, the wonderful news, is that Swayze really is good. He does look bad - a man, and character, peering over the precipice - but his performance is both compelling and harrowing. (10 p.m., A&E;)

Shipwrecks ahoy!: It's a treasure hunt that really goes deep. Treasure Quest takes viewers to the ocean floor in search of artifacts from a few of the 3 million shipwrecks beckoning from far below. The 11-part series combines adventurous quests with the tales of ships whose riches lie waiting. (10 p.m., Discovery Channel)

Staff shake-up: Tonight on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, we bid a sad farewell to Gil Grissom (William Petersen), with whom we've shared so much: gruesome decapitations, transgender serial killers, decomposing pigs - ah, the memories. (9 p.m., WJZ-Channel 13)

Late-night guests: Actor Kevin James visits The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and actress Kyra Sedgwick stops by Late Show with David Letterman.

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