TVonDVD: Beauty and the Beast, Season Two; Mile High, Season 2 – Parts 1 & 2; Gunsmoke, Season One

The Second Season - Cover ArtThe second season of Beauty and The Beast finally addressed the question: if you have a Beast in your show, what is it that makes him bestial? Sky One’s airborne soap, Mile High, continued to mix and match relationships, pranks, parties and unexpected moments of drama in its final season, while John Wayne introduced what would become the longest running primetime drama in North American television history, Gunsmoke.

 

Beauty and the Beast – The Second Season

One of the most interesting things about Beauty and the Beast was that the show’s creator and writing team took a great deal of care to ensure that their hit drama was never mere fluff. In the second season, the show dealt with drugs and the homeless [in the season opener, Chamber Music, the plot centers around a former child prodigy who is now an addict on the street]; the loss of a parent [in Orphans, Catherine’s mother dies and she tries to flee the pain by living in Vincent’s world]; loneliness [in A Distant Shore, Catherine follows a murder case to Los Angeles – 3,000 miles away from Vincent], and in the three-part season finale [What Rough Beast, Ceremony of Innocence and The Rest Is Silence], the co-founder of the subterranean civilization returns – to destroy Vincent and Father.

Throughout its run, Beauty and the Beast managed to deal with all manner of current issues without being preachy, or ham fisted. It was a singularly elegant series, shot like a movie [which wasn’t often the case in the eighties] and frequently written in style that approached poetry. Ron Perlman’s Vincent epitomized the romantic hero: strong, intelligent, and wise beyond his years. Linda Hamilton’s Catherine was an eighties woman: fiercely independent, strong yet compassionate, and as willing to give as to receive.

Beauty and the Beast - The Second Season - Cover Art

Their love was worse than merely starcrossed because they could never really be together in the romantic sense, yet they were together all the time in terms of physical proximity. Though Vincent frequently saved Catherine from various potentially nasty fates, she also saved him from situations that were no less potentially damning. Somehow, they found a way to make their love work on a pure, platonic level. And, murders, rapes and various other ills aside, Beauty and the Beast worked on those levels as well as an adventure drama.

Season Two may not have had the immediate impact of the first, but it deepened the Vincent/Catherine relationship in ways that added to the lyrical quality of the series without ever veering into the maudlin. By season’s end, when Catherine follows the distraught, out-of-control Vincent deeper into the underworld, the two are so inextricably intertwined – emotionally and spiritually – that there is nothing else she can do.

The sole feature for the season two DVD set [which is one more than the season one set] is a series of introductions to four key episodes by Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton].

Beauty and the Beast: The Second Season – Grade: A

Features – Grade: D

Final Grade: A-

 

Mile High: Season 2, Parts 1 & 2

The adventures of the pilots and flight crews of Fresh Air continue in the second season of Mile High, a British soap that showcases the humor, hedonism and drama of the lives of several employees of that budget airline. Over the course of the season, new characters arrive and old ones depart as the airline is bought out by the hugely in debt globe-spanning airline Goldstar. The second season, which is twice as long as the first, is split over two 13-ep sets.

As the second season progresses, audience touchstone and good guy, Marco [Tom Wisdom] becomes more and more mired in the excesses of those around him: the hard-partying queen, Will O’Brien [Adam Sinclair]; the beautiful single mum, Lehann Evans [Naomi Ryan], scam artist Jack Fields [John Pickard] and pilot Nigel Croaker [Chris Villiers]. A turning point arrives when he saves the life of Jack’s 17-year old sister, Poppy [Stacy Cadman], and she fakes id and references to get a job at Fresh so she can hook up with him.

Several first season characters have vanished and new ones arrived. This is treated as a matter of course – as it would be in a work environment where such changes happen all the time. Of course, the mix-n-match relationships and the drugs, booze and rock ‘n’ roll might seem to be taken a bit over the top, but according to fans of the series who work in the business, Mile High may actually be understated!

Season 2, Part 2 - Cover Art

Season Two features, among other things, a persistent suitor for Lehann; two character deaths [one heroic, one… not so much]; an attempted suicide [by the last character you’d think]; an overly zealous FAA investigator who’s out to get the airline’s senior purser [Janis Steel, still beautifully performed by Jo-Ann Knowles] – or, failing that, a pilot; an attempted rape; and a hysterical weekend gathering of one pilot’s ex-wife and girlfriends [allegedly to swap stories about his abilities].

Party boy Will also does his thing as union rep to frustrate some of the more outrageous efforts of the newly merged airline – and is rewarded by a promotion to [gasp!] management! …which promptly goes straight to his head…

By season’s [and series’] end, the series has gone places that are completely unexpected, but without seeming in any way contrived. The finale, which revolves around the abovementioned weekend gathering and "The Incident", is a fitting end to the series, giving us one last look at the wild world of airline employees and the new dreams of the most surprising duo of the lot.

There are no bonus features.

Final Grade: B+

 

Gunsmoke: The First Season

When Gunsmoke debuted in September of 1955, it had more than a talented cast and creative going for it. The premiere episode, Matt Gets It, was introduced by John Wayne – the ultimate cowboy. That introduction is included with the episode in the DVD release of the show’s first season.

As Wayne noted in his intro, Arness was perfect for the role of U.S. Marshall Matt Dillon. Dillon was the kind of hero who didn’t much enjoy having to be a part of gunfights or brawls. He was an intelligent, dedicated, observant kind of guy – a guy who would notice if one of his friends was down, or whether a homicidal gunslinger was more worried about being fast or accurate.

Supporting the Marshall were a trio of unlikely associates: lame Deputy Chester Goode [Dennis Weaver], who had to compensate for a bum leg; Doc Adams [Milburn Stone], a crusty country doctor type, and Miss Kitty [Amanda Blake], owner and operator of the Long Branch Saloon [originally intended to be a hooker with a heart of gold, the network wasn’t quite prepared to be that realistic…].

The First Season - Cover Art

Gunsmoke episodes ran twenty-seven minutes – and it’s amazing what a difference five minutes makes in telling a story. Most Gunsmoke eps had a couple bursts of action and a more-than-average amount of character time. The scripts were smart and laced with just enough humor to keep them from lapsing into the realm of the overbearing. The cast chemistry was so amazing that the
series ran longer than any other primetime drama in North American TV history.

Episodes dealt with typical Western plots – the quick drawing killer of Matt Gets Help; the titular married miser of Obie Tater; lynchings [Hot Spell] – but behind the usual plots were comments on mob justice, the blindness of love and knowing one’s limits. Occasionally, an episode would feel a bit rushed – an ending a bit forced – but most of the first season episodes work as well as any quality series being produced today.

The only feature is a collection of four TV spots: three for L&M Cigarettes and one for Remington electric shavers. It’s a bit odd to see Arness and Stone casually flogging cigarettes, but the ads are representative of their time.

Gunsmoke: The First Season – Grade: A-

Features – Grade: D

Final Grade: B+

Review Posted by Sheldon Wiebe

Originally Posted 07/12/07

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