Throughout the 22 episodes of my favorite show last year, I prayed that somehow, despite dismal ratings, “Beauty and the Beast” on the CW would be renewed.
It ended with one of the most awesome cliffhangers I’ve seen on a drama series, and I’ve seen a lot of dramas and a lot of cliffhangers.
Well, my prayers were answered — sort of. The show was renewed but moved to a different night. And, somehow, it became a different show.
After the first two episodes, I almost felt like tuning out.
What happened? Was it just me? No, online fans echoed many of the sentiments I had: We didn’t like that the two lead characters were kept apart from a seemingly epic romance. The personality changes were too great. And the overall tone of the show was dark and lacking some of the same magic that kept us on our seats’ edges for season one.
So it had to be the show.
It appears “Beauty and the Beast” was cursed by the dreaded sophomore slump.
That’s a phenomenon not unusual for a new series renewed for a second season. The belief is that most TV shows experience a creative lull in the second season. The sophomore slump gets many explanations, everything from writer’s block to actor fatigue to even fan restlessness.
In an overzealous attempt to widen its fan base, a show can sometimes alienate the viewers it does have. Such is the case with “Beauty and the Beast,” which when seeking to appeal to male viewers took on more of a science-fiction feel with scripts focusing on beast mythology and the so-called Beast of the Week, while romance took more of a back seat.
It didn’t help, either, that the program got a new showrunner whose vision differed from that of the original executive producers. One of the strongest aspects of the show was the romance between the lead characters Catherine Chandler and Vincent Keller. But when Vincent had his memory wiped, he became a different man, or less of a man and more of a beast. Viewers felt betrayed. The emergence of Gabe as a love rival for Catherine’s affection coupled with Tori, a female beast vying for Vincent’s love, was almost too much to bear.
We wanted our old show back. We wanted VinCat. Together. Not apart. Not with other love interests. Some viewers tuned out completely. I hung in there, still missing the magic of season one.
“Beauty and the Beast” is not alone. Many shows, including “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Glee” and “Lost,” suffered the sophomore slump.
The best case in point goes back several years to “Desperate Housewives.” Popular consensus more or less forced executive producer Marc Cherry into adding a black family to Wisteria Lane. But did he have to chain the son in the basement? By the time the mystery was solved, viewers wanted to chain Mr. Cherry to his office chair and demand he rewrite the whole second season for us.
Showrunners also deny us the enjoyment of burgeoning romances from season to season. Just how many times could Mike and Susan be kept apart on “Desperate Housewives”?
As for “Glee,” the star-studded cameos were a novel concept for the first season. But then, oops, they did it again in season two, and, sorry, but Britney Spears just didn’t work. Neither did the hokey storylines such as Rachel kissing Blaine and Will’s drunk dial.
Fans began to check out of season two of “Grey’s Anatomy” when Izzie stole a heart for Denny.
Showrunners must strike a delicate balance between saving core elements that appealed to initial fans and keeping the momentum going to gain new ones.
Sometimes the most ardent viewers (that’s me!), just have to grin and bear it and buckle up for a bumpy ride in season two.
As J.T. would say “Beast up!”