Tracy and I pretty much gave up watching up most crime shows some time back. The formulaic way they go about each and every episode finally was too much for us to bear.
Admittedly, it was probably true even back when I was a kid, but the producers are even lazier now. Send a few scantily-clad women parading as crime scene personnel to investigate a murder scene, substitute banter for detection, and offer us both one-dimensional heroes and villains.
Or you can tip the scales in the other direction and offer unrelenting grittiness and grim-faced characters who make their families just as miserable as they are.
The one real bright spot in crime shows is Dexter on Showtime. We first discovered Dexter a few years ago when CBS had to fill a whole in their programming, and even though their attempts to disguise the swearing was laughable, the series was fascinating.
Dexter, a serial killer, was raised by Harry, his foster father police officer who saw early inn his life the young man’s proclivities for, well, finding ways to amuse himself that others might find somewhat repulsive.
Over the years Harry taught young Dexter a way to channel his impulses to kill in ways that might benefit society, so to speak. Today, Dexter Morgan works in the crime lab for the Miami Police Department, and stalks and dispatches serial killers.
It’s a show with heart, excellent writing, and one of the best opening sequences on television today. I have always sort of wished the CSI Miami crowd (once entertaining, but now the most pretentious of crime fighting shows) would tangle with this guy.
We all know he would run circles around them.
Anyway . . .
One of my favorite shows growing up a kid - and I still watch episodes when I catch one - was Bonanza, the story of Ben Cartwright and his three sons on the mighty Ponderosa ranch in Nevada in the late 1800s.
A lot a shows don’t stand the test of time very well, but Bonanza (much like Gunsmoke) does, and very well. There was always one thing that sort of bothered me though.
The Cartwright Curse.
A curse, you say? Well, it seemed as though every time one of the Cartwright men, father or son, fell in love with a woman, she was destined to die. And badly, too. Not just the Disease of the Week, as TV likes to give us, but by Indian arrow, explosion, bullet, fire or what-have-you.
And the patriarch of the family? Ben Cartwright?
Three wives. One for each son.
I know that living in the Old West was tough, but not that tough. If Sheriff Roy Coffee of Virginia City had his wits about him, he would have put two and two together and realized the truth.
Ben Cartwright was a serial killer. Not only that, but he was passing the skills along to his sons, who were pretty good at it.
We have a trend of re-making old TV shows, most which efforts are sheer crap, save for a few shining examples like Battlesra Galactica. But just imagine, if you will, a “re-imagining” of the Cartwright legend with a little of the Dexter influence laid in.
As much as I love the old Bonanza, I’d go see that movie.
The Cartwright Curse didn’t end with Bonanza
Just to prove my total geekiness today, I’ll prove that Lorne Greene/Ben Cartwright carried the Cartwright Curse with him throughout his further TV incarnations.
The television series Griff, in which he played a detective - he was a widower.
Code Red, in which he played a fire chief - he was a widower.
Battlestar Galactica, in which he played Commander Adama - his wife is killed when the Cylons attacked their planet. I’m not saying he told them where to find her, exactly - but . . .
Beauty and the Beast: Seriously, this guy needs a hobby . . .
Once upon a time, in a kingdom far away, there was a fairy tale romance, of lovers fair and true - oh, you’ve heard this one already? Well, what if I told you the kingdom far away was New York City, and that it wasn’t all that long ago, but a mere two decades ago?
Of course, in Television Time - which is sort of like Dog Years, if you take short seasons and abrupt cancellations into consideration - it might as well have been hundreds of years ago, especially when you consider the fact that CW is going to “re-imagine” the series this fall.
In 1987 Ron Koslow created Beauty and the Beast for CBS, featuring one of the most interesting stories the small-screen has ever seen unfold. It told the story of corporate attorney Catherine Chandler (Linda Hamilton - The Terminator, Children of the Corn,) who is mistaken for someone else, and almost murdered. To her rescue comes Vincent (Ron Perlman - Hellboy) a mysterious cloaked figure who literally slashes her assailants to death before taking her down to his home below the city to nurse her back to health.
Vincent lives in an underground world of misfits and artists who have fled the cruelties of the outside world and created their own society - one based on Utopian principles. They are guided by man known as “Father” (Roy Dotrice) who fled the upper world after some sort of incident in the red-baiting 1950s. The Below World is a fine fantasy creation. Just think of parts of Fayetteville’s culture during the 1970s, only without the benefit of sunlight, and you’d have a pretty good idea of how cool a place this really is.
Oh, and more thing. Vincent? Well, he sort of looks like a lion. He stands on two feet, and recites poetry, but he’s got claws (and knows how to use ‘em!) and his features are more catlike than human. It is never resolved in the series as to how Vincent came to be, or where he came from.
It is sometime before Vincent allows Catherine to see his true face. By then, of course, she has fallen in love with him.
After she is healed, Catherine returns to the outside world, where she joins the staff on the District Attorney, working for Assistant District Attorney Joe Maxwell (Jay Acovone), and become a sort of crime fighter.
The first season is fairly action oriented, though with heavy emphasis on the growing love between Vincent and Catherine. Much is also made of the emotional/spiritual bond between them, which enables Vincent to sense whenever she is in danger, and come to her aid.
In the second season, the decision was made to try and move away from the action-oriented stories and develop more “relationship” stories. In essence, this is the Harlequin Romance season, with many actual scenes seeming to ape romance novel book covers.
This season might also be known as the Sappy Season. Though my wife might tell you otherwise, I like romantic stories as well as anyone, but you can go back to the well a little too often.
And herein lies the problem with DVD collections - when you watch a season on DVD - and watch several episodes a week - the flaws jump out and can’t just be ignored, whereas they might be when the series was just shown on a weekly basis.
That being said, there were several excellent episodes that second season, including one haunting episode on child abuse which is still powerful twenty years later.
At any rate, at the end of the second season, the producers moved back into high gear, telling stories about Central American death squads, and drug dealers, and giving Vincent several chances to flex his claws.
At the beginning of season three, Linda Hamilton departed the series, and was killed off in the opening episode, after giving birth to their son, who is promptly kidnapped by a truly evil character named Gabriel. The pursuit of Gabriel takes most of the short season.
The truth is that the Catherine/Vincent relationship had been getting stale. He’d go up to her balcony and read poetry to her, they’d sit under city grates (only on TV would they not stink) and listen to concerts in the park, and he’d sit around the underworld (his version of the Batcave, I suppose) looking pensive until the bond between them would alert him to the fact that yet again Catherine was doing something stupid and putting her life in danger. Vincent to the rescue!
A new woman was brought into the mix in the third season - Diana Bennett (Jo Anderson), a sort of police profiler assigned to solve Catherine’s murder. Though the series only lasted a handful of episodes that third season, it’s pretty exciting and well-written. A new sense of purpose seemed to have been found by the writers, and one thing it isn’t is stale.
Fans don’t like it when characters leave, even when the show may be just as good, if not better. Look at The X Files when Mulder left.
For my money, the Jo Anderson character had a lot more potential than the Linda Hamilton character ever did. She was smart and tough, and didn’t really need to be rescued every week. But not only does she not get pictured on the DVD box for season three, her name isn’t listed. That’s her thanks for job well done.
Trivia notes: Many of the episodes were written by noted fantasy author George R.R. Martin, a name familiar to many from the HBO series based on his books, Game of Thrones. Vincent’s makeup was designed by famed Hollywood makeup man Rick Baker.
Quote of the Day
"On with the dance! Let joy be unconfined." - Lord Byron