Series: Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction
Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction? (usually shortened to simply Beyond Belief) was an anthology TV show that ran for four seasons on FOX from the years 1997-2002. Each episode featured five short stories that involved unbelievable coincidences or the paranormal, and viewers were challenged to judge which were Inspired By real events and which were entirely fictional. The show was hosted by James Brolin for the first season and by Star Trek: The Next Generation alumnus Jonathan Frakes thereafter. Although some of the stories, even factual ones, were extremely far-fetched and the acting was incredibly cheesy at times, it remains a cult favorite and a great source of nostalgia for anyone who watched it during its original run.
This series provides examples of:
- Asshole Victim: If someone dies in these stories, chances are they deserved it. Stories like "Used Car Salesman" and "Anatole" are good examples.
- Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Napoleon Bonaparte sat in The Hooded Chair before he lost at Waterloo.
- Blessed with Suck: There was one story about a guy who could kill people by painting their portrait. He tried to make it at least somewhat useful by only painting portraits of patrons who were either in great suffering or very near death. Until he learned his last subject was a perfectly healthy young woman who was depressed after her boyfriend left her, which he did not know. He then paints his own portrait and kills himself.
- Broken Aesop: So the moral of "Couch Potato" is to...love your TV as if it were a real person?
- Can't Get Away with Nuthin' : The prisoner in "The Escape".
- Crazy-Prepared: A security guard teaches himself to use telekinesis just in case of a robbery during "The Perfect Record", and it works.
- Dan Browned: One episode presents the "Bride-to-be steals wedding gown from corpse, dies from toxic embalming fluid soaking into her skin" story, an urban legend dating back over half a century, as fact.
- There was another one about a woman's mother disappearing from a hospital room. According to Snopes, its centuries-old, but again Beyond Belief presented it as "fact."
- Don LaFontaine: And yes, he does say "In a world."
- Downer Ending: A good many, such as "The Wrestler", "Blind Man's Dog", "Bon Voyage", etc.
- Early Installment Weirdness: A couple of the stories during the first season were simply narrated by the host like a campfire tale instead of being filmed for us to see ourselves. Perhaps this was due a lack of budget.
- Every Episode Ending: Jonathan Frakes always delivered a pun at the end of every story, which always related to the story's theme or content.
- Evil Old Folks: Alan Young and Marjorie Lovett in "The Diner" that own a diner who kill homeless people by poison, accidentally killing their son believed to been killed during war.
- Gainax Ending: "Town Of Remembrance", "Room 245", and "Anatole" spring to mind.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: In "For the Record", a man tells his girlfriend, "You're definitely a girl, I can vouch for that."
- Kick the Dog: Anyone who exhibits any meanness will surely get what's coming to them. In contrast, sympathetic protagonists usually receive a happy ending.
- Mugging the Monster: There was one story called "The Gathering" where a guy tries to rob a bunch of little old ladies playing cards... who turn out to be a coven of evil witches.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: The recently deceased hero of the segment, "Where Have All The Heroes Gone" is a western actor named Lash Connors. However, several details about his life, IE a death by gunshot ruled suicide but believed by many to be murder, the fact that he died right before slated to make a comeback in a new TV show, and that he played a beloved character that stood for justice, seem to indicate that he was actually based on George Reeves, who reportedly does still haunt the house where he died. Not unlike Lash, his spirit also been seen in full costume. Since the segment was labeled true, it would indicate that the real story was about Reeves and the writers tweaked the details to avoid any legal issues.
- Pet the Dog: "Mysterious Strangers" which has Frank and Jesse James helping out an old woman pay her mortgage. Also may double as a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.
- Shout-Out: In one episode, a character is reading aloud from a Goosebumps book.
- Things That Go Bump in the Night: In the "Kid in the Closet" episode, the bullying sibling of a child who is terrified of a monster in his closet lets himself get locked in the closet in order to show his friends what a baby his brother was being, and when they open it up, he was gone, leaving just a pile of clothes behind. It turned out to be a Fact. According to Word Of God from the man who collected the true stories though, in Real Life it turned out the child had escaped through a hidden panel and was found living in his friend's attic two weeks later.
- Twin Telepathy: A set of identical twins (both played by Jewel Staite) were able to sense the other's pain, and one was able to use this sense to save the other's life when she was in a serious car accident.
- Un-Cancelled: Kind of; the show seemed to be canceled after the third season aired in 2000, only to be brought back out of nowhere in 2002.
- Urban Legends: A number of stories are based on popular urban legends, such as "killer in the backseat" and "the vanishing hitchhiker". The show shares several stories with Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, another compendium of urban legends.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The show's premise. When a story is revealed to be "true", we are seldom told anything more than something like "according to our research, yes, a similar event did happen," so frankly, any of the stories could be true given how liberal of a definition of "similar" they used. The host would sometimes provide some vague information as to the location or time period in which the event supposedly occurred, such as "in the New York area in the 1950s," but they often they didn't even bother with that, usually just stating something along the lines of "according to our research, yes, it happened" while providing no further information.
- The show would often cite author Robert Tralins as a reference for many of the FACT stories.
- One of the better segments: Titan, subverts this trope. The story was about a guy who wrote a book detailing the events of a ship called the Titan crashing and sinking due to an iceberg fourteen years before the actual Titanic sank. The actual book, which is available through Amazon, more or less is eerily similar to the events of Titanic.