Yes, I know that this series was remade, in 2012.
But the remake really only had characters with the same names.
I watched the original show with my babysitter as a kid. I must have only been about 3 or 4 , and I remember being a bit scared of some of the crime focused story lines, but I was also fascinated. It was the first time I realized that fantasy and fairy tales had adult appeal.
Many years later, when the show was released on DVD, I decided to check it out. I was a bit nervous. After all, what’s fascinating, and groundbreaking to a 4 year old, won’t always been thrilling to a twenty-something! But I discovered that the show was a sweet, delicate hybrid of fantasy, romance and crime drama. Yes, there’s some 80’s cheesiness, but that’s part of the charm.
The show follows Catherine, a privileged NYC lawyer, who works for her father’s firm. She has everything she wants but isn’t quite happy. One night, she leaves a party early, and is mugged. Her face is slashed with a knife, and she’s left for dead on the city streets.
She awakens in a strange place, under the care of a doctor called “Father” and a mysterious man-beast called Vincent. Father and Vincent live in the Tunnels, with a community of misfits. They live in abandoned subway, railroad, and flood tunnels, below the city streets. Father found Vincent, abandoned as a baby, and brought him to the Tunnels to raise him, knowing that he’d be a target for persecution if anyone Above were to see him. Vincent discovered the injured Catherine, and brought her to the Tunnels, so that Father could give her the medical treatment she needed. Catherine swears that she’ll keep their underground world a secret. Vincent and Catherine bond during her time recovering in the Tunnels, but then it is time for her to return to her real life.
When she goes back Above, Catherine makes some changes to her life. She takes self defense classes so that she won’t ever be in such a helpless position again. She also quits her father’s law firm and gets a job as an Assistant District Attorney, where she feels that she can work on behalf of people who have been exploited, oppressed, and victimized. But she maintains an empathetic bond with Vincent. He visits her at night, when the risk of him being seen is less likely. They work together on her cases, and a romance emerges.
Over the first two seasons we see Catherine struggle with having a lover who she can’t go anywhere with, can’t introduce to family and friends. We also get to know the inhabitants of the Tunnels and their backstories and get some occasional hints as to Vincent’s origins.
Unlike the reboot, Vincent in this series is a beast all the time. And in a twist from the original tale, Vincent never transforms into a socially acceptable idea of “beauty”. Rather, his inner beauty is clear from the beginning. He is a kind, compassionate person, who loves books, poetry, and classical music. Catherine undergoes more of a transformation when Vincent comes into her life. She begins to live more selflessly, and to fight for the things that she believes in.
The show was written and produced by George RR Martin, before he wrote the Song of Ice and Fire series. I recommend it to fairy tale fans looking for a fairy tale inspired TV show that is lovely, unique, gentle, and exciting.
You can find the show on DVD
The series has also developed a cult following since it initially aired. So there’s a 25th Anniversary Beauty and the Beast Companion, there’s also a graphic novel, novelization of several episodes. On the show, Vincent frequently reads and recites poetry to Catherine, and the soundtrack features Ron Perlman (who won a Golden Globe for playing Vincent) reading several Shakespeare sonnets, as well as poems by Lord Byron, Wordsworth, Rilke, Shelly, and more. There’s also a follow up soundtrack with additional music from the series.
Just a viewing suggestion that I’m putting below a cut because it includes HUGE spoilers:
If you want Catherine and Vincent to have a happy ending, stop watching at the end of the second season. Personally, I like to pretend it never happened and that Catherine and Vincent and company are still living happily in the Tunnels beneath NYC.