Beauty and the Beast is an American fantasy-drama series which first aired on CBS in 1987. Creator Ron Koslow’s updated version of the fairy tale has a double focus: the relationship between Vincent (Ron Perlman), a mythic, noble man-beast, and Catherine (Linda Hamilton), a savvy Assistant District Attorney in New York; and a secret Utopian community of social outcasts living in a subterranean sanctuary. Through an empathetic bond, Vincent senses Catherine’s emotions, and becomes her guardian.
The series follows the developing relationship between the characters and the division between New York and the hidden world beneath it. In a twist from the original tale, however, this “beast” does not transform into society’s idea of beauty after gaining the love of Catherine. Rather, Vincent’s inner beauty is allowed to remain the focus of who he is, and it is Catherine’s life that transforms from her relationship to Vincent.
In the third season after the death of the character Catherine, Jo Anderson became the new female lead playing Diana Bennett, a criminal profiler investigating Catherine’s murder.
As the title indicates, the premise of the series is inspired by the fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast”; in particular, there is some connection to the Jean Cocteau’s 1946 French film, La Belle et la Bête.
In 2004 and 2007, Beauty and the Beast was ranked #14 and #17, respectively, on TV Guide’s Top Cult Shows Ever.
Catherine Chandler (played by Linda Hamilton) is abducted, beaten, slashed and left to die in Central Park because she was inadvertently mistaken for somebody else. She is rescued and cared for by Vincent (played by Ron Perlman) who has taken her to Father (played by Roy Dotrice), head of a hidden community of people dwelling in tunnels below the city of New York. Ten days later, Catherine returns to the surface with the promise of keeping Vincent’s secret and the challenge to go on after her terrible attack. After completing her recovery, her life begins a serious transition: she takes self-defense lessons, leaves her comfortable job at her father’s law firm and joins the Manhattan District Attorney’s office as an Assistant District Attorney. Her first action involves her asking Carol Stabler about those men that attacked her, where she states that they were part of an illegal escort service run by Martin Belmont. When Catherine is attacked by Martin Belmont’s men, she is saved by Vincent, who mauls the men.
During the course of the first season, the production team fashioned a blend of romance and crime drama, which used both Catherine’s position as an ADA and her will to help Vincent and his world to place her in moments of physical danger that would bring the idealized romantic figure of Vincent to the surface world as her guardian angel.
During its second season, the series shifted its focus slightly to add more character development, as the central characters spent considerable time exploring their relationships with the inhabitants of the Tunnel World, where Catherine had finally been accepted as a friend and “Helper” (someone who assists the Tunnel community with what they need to survive and by keeping their secret). More people from the World Above turned up for emotional support and healing in the secure environment of the World Below.
Near the end of the season however, in an effort to boost faltering ratings, the action orientation returned as a result of the misleadings of the recurrent villain Paracelsus (played by Tony Jay). In a cliffhanger final episode, Catherine is seen walking down a tunnel into a chamber, where Vincent is suffering from a violent madness.
When the series returned for its abbreviated third season late in 1989, Linda Hamilton had announced her decision to leave the series as she was pregnant at the time. It was a decision that, along with the network’s desire to attract more male viewers, would have serious repercussions for the show’s continued survival. In the resolution to the previous season’s cliffhanger, Catherine rescued Vincent from his inner demons but was kidnapped by a man named Gabriel (played by 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. Catherine’s boss and close friend Joe Maxwell (Jay Acovone) hired Diana Bennett (Jo Anderson), a criminal profiler with the police department, to track down Catherine’s killer. Quite naturally, her investigation ultimately led her to the now darkly obsessed and grieving Vincent.
Although still popular with its dedicated fans, the darker, more resolutely violent aspects of the reworked concept, coupled with the fatal loss of the all-important central relationship between Catherine and Vincent, led to further declining ratings and ultimately cancellation.
- Catherine Chandler (portrayed by Linda Hamilton) – A corporate attorney in her father’s law firm. After she’s abducted, beaten, and her face slashed upon being mistaken for Carol Stabler, Catherine was rescued and tended to by Vincent. After that experience, Catherine changes her life completely and becomes an investigator for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. In Season Three, Catherine becomes pregnant with Vincent’s child and is captured by Gabriel. She is later killed by Gabriel who overdoses her with morphine.
- Vincent (portrayed by Ron Perlman) – A man of extremely large build with the facial characteristics of a lion (fanged teeth, a flattened nose and a cleft upper lip) and fingers tipped with claw-like nails. He is also much stronger than ordinary humans and, when enraged, growls and roars like a lion. He wears a hooded cloak to hide his appearance from strangers while walking the city streets at night. His parentage is unknown as he was found as a baby near St Vincent’s Hospital and brought to Father by Paracelsus’ wife Anna. Vincent has empathic abilities that let him know when Catherine is in danger. Following the death of Catherine, his baby son was captive in the clutches of Gabriel prompting him to take down Gabriel’s operations. He does end up surrendering to Gabriel when he hears that his son is ill. This leads up to a rescue mission by Diana and the rest of the “World Below”. Following the death of Gabriel, Vincent saves his son and names him after Father’s real name; Jacob. Vincent’s makeup was devised by veteran Hollywood makeup artist Rick Baker. It was Baker who fought for Perlman to be cast and ultimately started a long lasting friendship.
- Diana Bennett (portrayed by Jo Anderson) – Diana is a criminal profiler with the “210 Division” of the New York Police Department, which investigates unusual cases beyond the scope of the normal police. She debuted in Season 3 where she was called to investigate Catherine’s murder. She later becomes a friend of “The World Below” and plays a part in the final battle against Gabriel.
- Avon Books published three books novelizing various episodes from the series:
- Beauty and the Beast by Barbara Hambly – October 1989 – ISBN 0-380-75795-8, a novelization and expanding of the pilot episode
- Masques by Ru Emerson – September 1990 – ISBN 0-380-76194-7, a novelization of the episodes “Arabesque”, “Masques” and “The Watcher”
- Song of Orpheus by Barbara Hambly – November 1990 – ISBN 0-380-75798-2, a novelization of the episodes “Fever”, “Song of Orpheus” and “Shades of Grey”
- Image Pub of New York published published another book based on episodes and characters from the series:
- Beyond Words, Beyond Silence by Nan Dibble – January 1993 – ISBN 9992999292
- 1First Publishing published two graphic novels based on the series written and illustrated by Wendy Pini:
- “Portrait of Love” – June 1989 – ISBN 0915419505
- “Night of Beauty” – April 1990 – ISBN 0915419750
CBS DVD (distributed by Paramount) has released all three seasons of Beauty and the Beast on DVD in Region 1. They also released Beauty and the Beast: The Complete Series, a 16-disc boxset featuring all 56 episodes of the series.
On 11 November 2014, CBS Home Entertainment released a repackaged version of the complete series set which featured a lower price but did not include the bonus disc that was part of the original complete series set.
Fabulous Films has released the entire series on DVD in Region 2.
Shock Entertainment has released the entire series on DVD in Region 4.
An active fan community (self-titled “Helpers” or “the tunnel community”) arose during the show’s run, helping organize a petition drive to assure that there would be a third season. They have published the usual fanzines, fan fiction and collections of filk music inspired by the show, and as of 2013 continue to hold various fan conventions around the world.
CBS Television Studios, which owns the rights to the series, developed a reboot for the series. Ron Koslow, the creator of the original, is executive producing, along with the earlier show’s producers, Paul Junger Witt and Tony Thomas. The reboot has been described as a “modern day romantic love story with a procedural twist.” In the United States, it airs on The CW.
The television series stars New Zealand actor Jay Ryan as Vincent (the “beast”) and Canadian actress Kristin Kreuk as Catherine (the “beauty”). The pilot was filmed in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in March 2012.