Faerie Tale Theatre 4.05: “Cinderella”

Once upon a time, in a magical decade known as the Nineteen Eighties, a then-modest little cable network called Showtime decided to launch its very first original television series. Although today known best for programs about serial killers, drug-addicted caregivers, and criminal suburban mothers, this was a quainter, more distant era, all but lost to the mists of time, and thus it was pronounced throughout the land that this first production wouldn’t be an edgy tragicomedy at all but rather an anthology series composed of beloved children’s tales known as Faerie Tale Theatre, produced by the actress, Shelley Duvall, who assembled all of her closest Hollywood celebrity friends to appear in modern dramatizations of the most cherished children’s stories of yesteryear.

As a child, I fell in love with Faerie Tale Theatre and watched it whenever I could. Unfortunately, however, my family didn’t have premium cable back then, so I was only able to see whatever episodes were available to rent on video and/or my mom’s friends were able to record off their TV for me, and/or eventually showed up on PBS. And so, while out of the 27 filmed episodes, there are some I watched over and over until I practically wore out the tapes, others I still haven’t seen up to this point.

And now, years later, I’ve decided to finally revisit this cherished series from my childhood, in order, continuing with the twentienth episode, Cinderella, which first aired on August 14, 1985, when I was just over 4 years old…

Cinderella

Cinderella

With this episode, Faerie Tale Theatre finally tackled what is arguably the most famous fairy tale of all time and did so with mostly excellent results. Ironically, Jennifer Beals’ performance as Cinderella is likely the episode’s only true weak spot. Her line readings are just a bit too bland, making her seem not fully emotionally invested in the role. At the same time, it’s pretty incredible that Jennifer Beals of Flashdance fame and a pre-Ferris Bueller Matthew Broderick played Cinderella and her prince on TV, making them possibly the Eightiesest screen couple to have ever Eightiesed, at least when it comes to the then-youth demographic.

A totally 80s Cinderella and Prince.

A totally 80s Cinderella and Prince.

Add to this the beloved Jean Stapleton, best known from her iconic role as Edith Bunker on All in the Family–making her third Faerie Tale Theatre appearance, counting her performance as the Giant’s Wife in Jack and the Beanstalk and her out-of-character appearance in Greatest Moments–as a decidedly Southern Fairy Godmother who loves yanking Cinderella’s chain almost as much as she loves the girl…

Fairy Godmother

Fairy Godmother

…and Hollywood legend Eve Arden as her reprehensible yet oddly honest stepmother…

Stepmother

Stepmother

…and you have one of the most all-star casts that Shelley Duvall ever assembled for an episode of the show.

Author: Robert Berg

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