In 1987, Beauty and the Beast, a romantic crime drama about a beautiful assistant district attorney fighting for justice in New York and the sub-dwelling creature that protected her, first aired. It was the breakout role for stars Linda Hamilton who played assistant DA Catherine, and Ron Perlman who played gentle, poetic Vincent. To this day it retains a cult following.
Watching the first four episodes, I loved Beauty and the Beast's promise and potential, but was disappointed by its execution. It immediately sets into a formula: Catherine investigates a crime, gets in trouble, and needs to be rescued by Vincent, who spouts poetry while doing so. It has that huge, glaring problem of so much romantic fiction: a lack of character development. The writers would rather have Vincent heroically save Catherine than get to know her; the story even sets Vincent up with empathic powers so he can feel her feelings, so they never have to talk! Rather than romantic, that's boring and predictable.
That's the problem with creating characters too good to be true; they're not interesting enough to stand up to development, so writers have to keep the plot moving around them. Catherine in particular is about as interesting as a lump of dirt, concerned only with Doing the Right Thing. Vincent shows more promise; he's part of an underground society of outcasts, an artistic and eloquent soul with a whole life before Catherine that's not explored even though he's at his most interesting when she's not around and he gets to do something other than sigh over her. My favorite scene so far is the opening of Episode 3, where he listens to an old man play piano, and then they talk about the man's poor and dying town.
Reading interviews Ron Perlman took the role because he liked Vincent, and I can see why. I empathize with Vincent, and want to know more about him. I've heard as the series goes on it gets better, and though there was a lot I didn't like, the writers and Perlman together made Vincent strong enough, and his home, the World Below, intriguing enough, that I think I'll keep watching anyway to see if we learn more.
To sum up: There's a lot here to like, but it's bogged down in sap and a flat heroine. I wish more people thought that flaws and full personalities were romantic; I just don't get why cardboard characters, ridiculous dialogue, and static predictability seem to be required in so much romantic fiction.
Click here for my review of disk two
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