||BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
Updated version of a fairy tale as an assistant District Attorney teams up with a man-beast to fight crime.
56 Episodes of 60 minutes duration. CBS 1987-90
One of the most unusual and charming fantasy romances ever to reach prime time US screens, Beauty and the Beast was a modern day gothic romance set against the often violent, always bustling backdrop of New York City.
Created by Ron Koslow and executive produced by the award winning team of Paul Junger Witt and Tony Thomas, the series premiered on the CBS network in September 1987 and ran for three seasons until August 1990. The basic premise for the series was simple, but effective: Catherine Chandler (a pre 'Terminator', Linda Hamilton, was a young assistant District Attorney from a privileged background who had been brutally attacked by criminals and left to die in Central Park. It was there that she was found by Vincent, (noted stage and film character actor, Ron Perlman, enjoying a rare leading role), a powerful man-beast with the soul of a poet but the facial features of a lion, who lived in a strange, hidden world of caverns and tunnels deep beneath Manhattan Island. Vincent took badly injured Catherine to this underground haven and with the help of "Father", the leader of the unsuspected community (British actor Roy Dotrice), he nursed her back to health. Later, following her full recovery, Catherine returned to her life on the surface world, but not before forming a mystical bond with her rescuer, who she had fallen in love with, despite his beastly outer appearance and the vast differences in their worlds. (Ron Perlman's elaborate, wholly convincing beast make-up was created by Academy Award winning effects genius Rick Baker).
From this basic scenario, the production team fashioned an almost hypnotically compelling blend of romance and crime drama which used Catherine's position as a DA to place her in moments of physical danger which would bring the idealized romantic figure of Vincent to the surface world as a dark and dangerous guardian angel.
During its second season the series shifted its focus slightly as the central characters spent considerable time with the inhabitants of the Tunnel World, where Catherine had now finally been accepted as a protector and friend. More people from the outside world turned up for emotional support and healing in the Tunnel World's welcomingly secure environment, while with the added input of award winning fantasy novelist George R.R. Martin, the show began to explore and expand on its internal mythology. Deep in mourning following her father's death, Catherine decided to abandon the upper world and move full-time to the Tunnel World, but eventually realised that despite her love for Vincent, her destiny belonged with the surface world. The season-ending three-parter closed with an emotionally distraught Vincent, who was the unwitting victim of stealthy manipulation by an unsuspected villain, fleeing into the depths with Catherine following.
When the series returned for its abbreviated third season late in 1989, Linda Hamilton had announced her decision to leave the series. A decision that would have serious repercussions for the show's continued survival. In an exciting resolution to the previous season's cliff-hanger, Catherine rescued Vincent from his inner demons but was kidnapped by Gabriel, (Stephen McHattie), the ruthless head of a huge criminal empire she had been investigating, which was trying to corrupt the D.A.'s office. She was killed, but not before giving birth to Vincent's son, who was held hostage by the evil Gabriel.
It was at this point that the producers introduced a new female interest for the man-beast hoping to recreate the powerful chemistry that had existed from the outset between Hamilton and Perlman. Catherine's boss and close friend, Joe Maxwell, (Jay Acavone) hired Diana Bennett, (Jo Anderson), a private investigator, to track down Catherine's killer. And, quite naturally, her investigation ultimately led her to the shadowy, now darkly obsessed and grieving Vincent. Although still astonishingly popular with its dedicated group of core fans (comprising mostly of women), the darker, more resolutely violent aspects of the rework concept, coupled with the fatal loss of the all-important central relationship between Catherine and Vincent ultimately led to the series' cancellation.
At it's peak, Beauty and the Beast was an imaginative, sensitively written and wonderfully played modern day urban romantic fairly tale which deftly combined elements from disparate genres into a sweepingly exciting and thoughtful whole.
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