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Friday, March 21, 2014

Beauty and the Beast - The Television Series

I'm sure that we all have those moments from our childhood that we have very vivid memories of, but for whatever reason are unsure why we have them, or even where they came from.

Well, today's blog entry begins as exactly that.  A childhood memory that has plagued me for years and I had no idea where it even came from...

...until now.

Okay, so let me set up the story by telling all of you that my memory of early childhood is quite vivid.  I remember things that probably a lot of other people my age might have forgotten.  For some reason, I remember lots of fragments about my early childhood.  Not full memories, but bits and pieces.

For instance, I remember when I was younger, my older sisters were practicing sewing skills, and they took some of their old clothes and made stuffed letters for me to play with.  And, I also remember that they were trying to get through the whole alphabet but for some reason only managed to make it to the letter "J" before giving up.  They either got too busy or they ran out of clothes!  But you know, it was a brilliant way to learn the letters of the alphabet.  Or, at least the first ten letters of it anyway.

(I wish I still had those letters.  They were really neat.)

I also remember that we had this little blow-up clown doll that I absolutely despised, and whenever I passed by it in the hallway, I would charge towards it and try to knock it down.  Unfortunately, I remember knocking it down, and it getting back up again.

(And, now I have Chumbawumba stuck in my head.  Silly me.)

What else do I remember?  Well, I remember watching Polka Dot Door and trying to memorize every single host of the program.  I still remember a few of them, but I won't list them here.  I'd take up too much space.  I remember being sick with the flu and watching "The Hilarious House of Frightenstein" in between throwing up when I was really young.  I only remember that moment because it was the first time ever that I woke up before the sun came up!

I remember unwrapping Good Luck Bear underneath the Christmas tree when I was really young.  I remember watching "Romper Room" while riding on my rocking horsey.  I remember that there was a guy who used to walk by my house when I lived downtown and I used to call him "Bob with the Smoke" because he was always smoking a pipe when he strolled down the street.  Funny thing is, the man didn't even mind.  Even played along!

And although I was only four, I still remember trying "New Coke"...and not liking it very much. 

But of course, not all the memories of my childhood were all that pleasant.  Certainly there were some bad moments mixed in as well that have stuck by me.  I remember a group of boys tackling me in the schoolyard during the winter months to wash my face out with snow.  I remember developing a slight fear of dogs after the dog across the street mistook me for a walking pork chop.  And, I even remember having to move in with my grandparents for a bit of a spell because of some financial issues that my family was having at that time.  But, you know, looking back on that time, I saw it as a fun adventure - the way that most four year olds would.  Of course, it was also during this adventure that I almost drowned in a neighbour's pool and the experience terrified me of water so much that I didn't learn how to swim for fifteen years after it took place!

Like I said, it's amazing how many memories flow through your brain during a lifetime.  And, I suppose that by writing about these memories, it's a reminder of a life gone by so far.  A life filled with the good and the bad.

So, how does this relate to today's TV topic?

Well, one memory I remember having happens to be a very scary one.  You see, my parents used to watch television in the evenings, and keep in mind that I grew up during a period in which there was no V-chip.  Back then, parents controlled the television, and they were also supposed to make their own judgment calls over what programs were acceptable for their kids and which ones were not.

I will make the claim now that my parents were not strict when it came to what we watched on television.  Quite often than not, I wasn't really paying attention to the television when I was that young.  While my parents watched "Dallas", "Knots Landing", or "The Dukes of Hazzard", I was too busy playing with my toy cash register or playing on my Tomy Tutor Play Computer to notice.

But there was one scene that had me screaming from the television set and hiding in my toy box (yes, I actually hid in my toy box when I was scared).  All I remember about the scene was that there was a woman who was in a bed, and I assume that she was going to go to sleep, but then she noticed a whole bunch of gigantic spiders crawling up the covers, and she freaked out trying to get the spiders off of the bed.

The show I couldn't remember for the life of me, but I do remember that scene.  And, afraid that my mind was playing tricks on me, I did a quick Google search recently to try and find out if the scene really did exist, and what show it came from.

Well...I couldn't find the scene.  But I did find out that the scene was in fact a part of a first season episode of a 1980s drama that only ran for three years.  And, many fans of this series were shocked by that, as they had expected the show to go for much longer.  But as you'll soon see, the reason why the show met a quicker than expected end was something that was completely out of anybody's control...and as a result, it remains a cult classic.

Today we'll be taking a look at "Beauty and the Beast".

No...not THAT one.  Although the Disney one is a fantastic movie, I already did that for a topic.  And besides, there were no spiders in that movie.

No, I really mean this CBS drama, "Beauty and the Beast", a show that ran for three seasons from September 25, 1987 until August 4, 1990.

And the show featured two people who are very big in the world of entertainment.

Playing the role of "Beauty" is actress Linda Hamilton, who is best known for her turn as Sarah Connor in the first two "Terminator" movies.  But she most recently appeared as the estranged mother of Chuck and Ellie in the television series "Chuck", which wrapped up production in 2012.

And, in the role of the Beast, we have actor Ron Perlman, who is best known for several roles.  He played Hellboy in...well, "Hellboy".  He played the role of Clay Morrow in the television serial "Sons of Anarchy".  And, if you've ever seen the television show "1000 Ways To Die", Perlman was the narrator of the show!

Now, as far as what the plot of the show was all about...well...just picture what the fable "Beauty and the Beast" would look like if it was set in Manhattan, New York circa 1987. 

Catherine Chandler (Hamilton) is an Assistant District Attorney in the heart of New York.  Bright, beautiful, and unwilling to back down to anybody, Catherine is a public figure who attends a lot of social events, and she is one who takes her work seriously.  So seriously that she often makes as many enemies as she does acquaintances.

One fateful night, Catherine is brutally attacked by a gang of thugs who mistake her for someone else.  And poor Catherine really has some of the worst things happen to her in one day.  She is kidnapped, beaten, slashed, and left for dead in the middle of Central Park. 

And you thought YOU had a bad day!

Well, fear not.  Although Catherine is badly injured, someone does come and save the day.  A man by the name of Vincent (Perlman) happens to be in the park and nurses her back to health.

Oh yeah.  I should mention that Vincent happens to be a beast-like character.  He appears more human than the Beast found in that Disney movie, but he'd still probably have people running away from him if he happened to stroll down Times Square. 

On a related note, I wonder how long Ron Perlman had to stay in that make-up chair each tape day?  I mean, sure, make-up is nothing new to Perlman, and he did have twice as much on his face when he played Hellboy.  But man, that's commitment!

Of course, Vincent decides that if Catherine is to recover from her injuries, she must do it in a safe place, so Vincent decides to take her home to his place.  But what Catherine isn't aware of is the fact that his place just happens to be underneath the streets of New York City, where a hidden group of people happen to live down below.  I suppose you could call them the Misfits of the city.

(I wonder if they ever happened to cross paths with Michaelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo, or Raphael?)

Anyway, Catherine recovers after a week and a half, and she returns to the surface with the promise that she will keep Vincent's identity a secret from the world, as well as keeping the secret of the hidden community below.  But Catherine soon discovers that just because she survived the attack the first time doesn't mean that she is safe by any means.  She immediately begins taking self-defense classes, switches law firms, and begins her new career by tracking down the intended victim of the attack that she sustained, Carol Stabler, to find out why she was attacked.  But when Catherine discovers the real reason behind the attack, and is once again threatened by evil creeps, Vincent comes out of hiding to protect Catherine from harm.

This actually becomes a recurring theme during the first two seasons of the show.  Catherine investigates and tries to prosecute Manhattan's most dangerous criminals, she ends up getting into serious danger, and Vincent saves her from doom every time.  Is it any wonder that Vincent and Catherine begin to develop feelings for each other and start to fall in love?  Of course, as the intro says, their love is such that they can never really be together as society would deem it wrong, and because Vincent would be hunted down and killed if his identity was revealed. 

It certainly made for some interesting viewing.  Imagine falling in love with someone and not being able to be with them due to circumstances out of your control.  It's better than some of the soap operas on the air these days.

And, as the series progressed, Catherine soon found herself accepted by Vincent's underground community, and many of the storylines saw Catherine trying to help some of the people down below by doing some work on the surface. 

But by 1989, the show would transform from a light-hearted tale of forbidden love to a dark action series - a move that was spawned by two major developments.

First, CBS wanted to change the format of the show so that more men would tune it (the main demographic of the series were women aged 18-45).  And, well, many people have the idea that while change was good, why fix something if it wasn't broken?  And, well...prior to 1989, the show was gaining a good following.

But reason number two was even more telling.  In 1989, Linda Hamilton had gotten pregnant, and because of that, she decided that she would leave the show so she could have her child.  And, considering that Catherine was a main character of the series, there was only one way to write her off.  And, well...I won't exactly reveal how Catherine was written out of the show, but it was such that the show never did recover.  How can you continue a love story when one of the two halves is removed from the canvas?  The show did try to bring in another female lead, but the damage had been done, and the show aired for the final time in the summer of 1990.

But for a show to run three years, it definitely was a show that was quite unique, but surprisingly worked.  It's a shame that it didn't last longer, but take comfort in the fact that had it not been for the show, Ron Perlman wouldn't have been cast in other projects.

Or, maybe he would have?  What do I know? 

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