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Fans Accept Turn of Events on ‘Beauty, Beast’

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TIMES STAFF WRITERS

All through the summer, loyal fans worried and wrote letters protesting CBS’ placing “Beauty and the Beast” on hiatus for retooling. They worried about pregnant “Beauty” Linda Hamilton leaving the show to have her baby. They fretted over the producers’ decision to stress action over romance to woo the male viewer. Most of all, they worried that CBS would never bring “Beauty and the Beast” back at all.

But Tuesday night, the “Beast” was back--with a two-hour season opener that killed off Linda Hamilton’s character, featured much violence and mayhem and proved that chaste romance can’t last forever as Catherine gave birth to a child fathered by Vincent.

Despite the fact that, as CBS warned, “it’s not a fairy tale anymore,” however, fans appeared Wednesday to have accepted the changes with little protest.

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CBS reported “no more calls than usual” following the episode, and Witt-Thomas Productions received no immediate protest, said co-executive producer Paul Junger Witt.

“We did our best to explain what the situation was, and to reassure (fans) that the essence of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ would be retained. . . . We honestly don’t think we compromised,” Witt said.

Fans, for the most part, agreed. None contacted by The Times on Wednesday objected to the end of Catherine and Vincent’s chaste status. And only one of those interviewed, Donna Koich, 44, of Warminster, Pa., criticized the new, more violent Vincent as “a furry Incredible Hulk.”

“I was well-pleased,” said Stephanie Wiltse, 35, of Albany, N.Y. “You have Romeo and Juliet, except that Romeo survives, and there’s a child. I don’t think the violence was gratuitous; there was a balletic feel to it.”

Kimberly Hartman, 33, of Fullerton remained eager to see how the story will develop, but wished that Catherine and Vincent had gotten married before consummating their relationship, in the tradition of mythic fables.

Julie Hamburg of North Hollywood did not mind Catherine and Vincent’s getting a little closer: “It was getting almost contrived that they could go for two years without even a kiss,” she said.

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But she doesn’t want Vincent to fall in love with another woman this season. “I’m going to have a major problem with this, after they set up Catherine as being his life, his soul,” she said.

The program garnered a 13.3 rating (about 12.2 million homes) and 24% of the available audience. Last season “Beauty and the Beast” averaged a 10.6 rating (9.6 million homes) and an 18 share.

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