Beauty and the Beast: Complete Series
There are many stories that are timeless. They are passed down from one generation to the next through history. Some are formalized into the mythology of a culture. Others are related as fairy tales providing information for all ages. One of the most enduring of these tales is about a beautiful young woman falling in love with a man cursed to look like an animal; Beauty and the Beast. This simple story has been made into countless movies one of the most famous was through Disney. As with all classic stories it is the responsibility of each generation to take it and adapted in a fashion that is suitable to their time and place. One of the most interesting and imaginative renditions of the story was done for television in 1987. It reworked the basic tale to one of urban mystery and romance. It quickly developed a cult following and is considered on of the great romantic series of all time. In its translation to television some changes in the fundamental plot and themes had to be made. The beauty was changed from a damsel or princess to a modern career woman with a strong sense of justice. The beast is a physical abnormality that is shunned by the world at large and forced to live underground. What remain untouched are the enduring themes of romantic love, strength of character and loyalty. There was something about this series that managed to touch the audience and in a rare occurrence pulled in both men and women. This is a modern day fairy tale that captured the imagination of the audience and provided something previously unseen on television. It was well crafted and managed to hold on for most of its three year run. Some say that it jumped the shark when the beauty left and had to be replaced. The individual season sets have been on DVD for awhile now but CBS Paramount has now released the complete series in one package. This is a perfect opportunity to get this series and enjoy it. Actually if you don’t have the individual sets this is the best way to get them all. The cost of this package is less than it would cost to get the three seasons separately.
The series was created by Ron Koslow. He has a long history in scripting mostly with dramas with a few made for TV movies in the genre thrown in for good measure. He garnered Emmy nominations for the first two seasons of the series adding a little fuel to the jump the shark time frame. He may have taken some time off but most recently worked on the TV series ‘Moonlight’. This was in keeping with the star crossed lovers theme using a mortal woman and a vampire. In many ways this was also are modernization of the beauty and the beast motif. Koslow knows what he is good at and stuck with it bringing the tale to yet another generation. Fundamentally this is a story about contrasts. The beauty lives in the world we all know while the beast exists in an underground world unknown to most people. This is actually not far from the truth. There was a whole set of underground streets here in New York that have long be unused.
Season one naturally opens with an introduction to the characters and situations that will drive the series. Catherine Chandler (Linda Hamilton) is a lawyer in the very successful firm owned by her father. One evening she is brutally attacked and slashed in Central Park. Her assailants leave her for dead but the young woman is found by Vincent (Ron Perlman), a powerful deformed man who has the appearance of a lion. He takes the injured Catherine back to the subterranean tunnels where he lives. He nurses her back to health and introduces him to Father (Roy Dotrice) who used to be a doctor on the surface but now is the leader of the people living in the underground. Catherine promises to keep their secret and returns to the surface. Catherine is profoundly changed by her experience. She takes martial arts training and quits her job in her father’s firm. She then takes the job of Assistant District Attorney for the City of New York. She is determined to fight the type of senseless crime and violence she became a victim of. During this first season the stories were primarily concerned with advancing the relationship between Catherine and Vincent. They are somehow connected by a strong emotional and physic bond. Whenever Catherine is in danger, which happens at least once per episode, Vincent rushes to the surface to save her. There is an unfulfilled romantic attraction between them and when they are in ‘down below’ plenty of opportunity to talk in candle lit rooms. In one episode this season Catherine begins to fall for a very successful man and Vincent has to come to grips with how he feels for her. Along with the romance there is always some dastardly crime afoot that the pair has to solve.
In the second season the ratings began to falter and the producers introduced several changes. The basic theme of unrequited love remained but there was more of a focus on the differences between the ‘World Below’ and the ‘World Above’. Catherine is now generally accepted by the tunnel community as a person above who is sympathetic to their living arrangement and is willing to help. There is also more in the way of character development frequently concentrating on the back stories of Vincent and Father. At times the violent beast nature of Vincent would come out and threaten those around him. In order to help move away from the episodic bad guy of the week format the writers introduced a recurring villain, Paracelsus (Tony Jay). The main contrast in this season was between the strong community bonds in the World Below and the rampant crime and personal isolation in the World Above.
The third season held the biggest changes in the format of the series and as a result lost many of its fans. Linda Hamilton was pregnant and decided to leave the series so the writers kill her off. This did set up one of the corniest death scenes in history. They replaced her with Diana Bennett (Jo Anderson), a special police investigator. Although she doesn’t share the same kind of bound with Vincent that Catherine had Diana has a highly developed scene of intuition that helps her connect to Vincent and solve cases. Some of the plot lines here tended towards a fantasy soap opera. It turns out that Catherine was pregnant and it was accelerated so the baby comes around in record time. The baby is special and sought by the new recurring villain Gabriel (Stephen McHattie), the biggest crime lord and drug boss on the east coast.
This is a series that is certain to stir fond memories with a lot of people. Paramount has been releasing complete series sets after all the single sets are out, especially for shows that only ran a few seasons. ‘Beauty and the Beast’ was one of the more interesting shows of the eighties and was visually one of the best made in New York.