"Hello, I'm Shelley Duvall. Welcome to Faerie Tale Theatre."
—Shelley Duvall, at the beginning of each episode.
Faerie Tale Theatre (full name: Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre) is an hour-long live-action children's show that aired on Showtime from 1982 to 1987, though it was actually produced over 1982-85. Showtime had a small subscriber base at the time, so it was also one of the first television shows that, with the exception of an early Clip Show, was released episode by episode on VHS — the last few episodes made their video debuts long before they aired on pay cable.The show brings to life many traditional fairy tales, from standbys like "The Three Little Pigs", "Cinderella", and "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" to more obscure ones like "The Snow Queen" and "The Boy Who Left Home to Find Out About the Shivers". Some adaptations are Played for Drama, others are Played for Laughs. Many were directed by such luminaries as (then a mere upstart) Tim Burton and (then certainly well-known!) Francis Ford Coppola, and — owing to Duvall's professional and friendly associations with many name Hollywood performers — often featured an All-Star Cast.The entire series is available to view on Hulu.
Accidental Pervert: The frog asks the princess if he can sleep with her (as in sleep next to her on a pillow). It goes about as well as expected.
"The Tale of The Frog Prince": Candy Clark plays both Queen Gwynneth and Candy. Roberta Maxwell plays both Queen Beatrice and Griselda. Donovan Scott plays both Hendrix and the French chef.
"Rapunzel": In the first part of the story, Shelley Duvall and Jeff Bridges play Rapunzel's ill-fated parents; in the second part, they play the now-grown Rapunzel and the prince she falls in love with.
"Jack and the Beanstalk": Mark Blankfield plays the old man who gave Jack the beans, the "fairy" that Jack meets while climbing the beanstalk, and he narrates the episode.
"Hansel and Gretel": Joan Collins plays both the evil stepmother and the wicked witch.
"The Princess and the Pea": Beatrice Straight and Pat McCormick play the couple in the museum and Queen Veronica and King Fredrico. Tim Kazurinsky plays the museum guard and the fool. He also narrates the episode.
Also, the wizard from "Rumpelstiltskin". His behaviour is very camp, and he seems a little put out when the King finally chooses a bride.
Art Shift: The scenes at and around Beauty's home in "Beauty and the Beast" are shot on film, while the scenes in the Beast's domain are shot on videotape. This is the only episode in the series that uses film at all — all other episodes are shot on video.
BBW: The Blue Fairy ("Pinocchio"), as played by Lainie Kazan.
The Chessmaster: The witch in "Rapunzel". The first scene she's in shows her bewitching Rapunzel's mother from afar, thus being the one responsible for the mother's craving for radishes. Which led to Rapunzel's father stealing them from the witch's garden, the witch catching him, and stating that she's going to take his daughter as compensation for her stolen vegetables.
Chewing the Scenery: The Genie of the Lamp enjoys screwing around with Aladdin's head by making empty death threats every chance he gets, even though he knows he can't kill him and enjoys Aladdin's company.
Chroma Key: Frequently used for special effects work.
Downer Ending: "The Pied Piper of Hamelin", as it is a direct adaptation of the Robert Browning poem down to all the narration and dialogue being in rhyme. (Browning telling the poem to a young boy is the Framing Device.) This is probably why it's one of two episodes currently available on DVD only in the full-series set (the other being the creepy-fun "The Boy Who Left Home to Find Out About the Shivers"), rather than included on any of the 4-episode compilation discs — it's tough to match it with others thematically.
Dracula: A variation in "The Boy Who Left Home to Find Out About the Shivers": Not actually a vampire, but the sorcerer son of the original Dracula (Vlad the Impaler) played by none other than Christopher Lee himself, complete with a hunchbacked servant, and a coffin scene.
Dramatic Thunder: As the Pied Piper prepares to spirit away the children of Hamelin, he causes the sky to cloud over and thunder to peal.
Fantasy Gun Control: Averted in "Rapunzel" where the title character's father teaches his wife how to shoot a musket.
Fate Worse than Death: The Queen in "Snow White". Rather than dying or being forced to dance in red-hot iron shoes, the Magic Mirror tells her that from now on she'll never be able to see her face in a mirror. Indeed, every time she looks in one of her mirrors (and she has many) from that moment on, it turns black, which causes a Villainous Breakdown.
G-Rated Sex: The series as a whole does not shy away from implied sexuality, but there is one odd example in "Rapunzel" where the title character apparently manages to give birth to twins after one visit with the Prince where they merely confessed their love for each-other and made out for a bit.
In "Cinderella": The stepmother and stepsisters try to weasel in on Cinderella's marriage to the Prince by relying on the fact that the Prince is now her son-in-law. The Fairy Godmother turns them into rabbits.
A sad twist on this in "The Pied Piper of Hamelin" with regards to the lame boy. He never realizes it, but he was left behind as a reward for being courteous to the Piper when he first arrived.
Mood Whiplash: Some of the lighthearted episodes can turn dead serious in a hurry. Likewise, some of the more dramatic episodes can suddenly turn goofy.
Montage Ends The VHS: A compilation trailer previewing the whole series ended the original VHS releases. It was moved up to the start of the videos when CBS/FOX subsidiary Playhouse Video rereleased them at the end of The Eighties.
The Pollyanna: The miller's daughter from "Rumpelstiltskin". She has to marry a Psychopathic Manchild who threatened to kill her multiple times, but she's just happy to be alive, skipping merrily down the halls of the castle. It helps that she's played by Shelley Duval.
Rhyming Episode: "The Pied Piper of Hamelin" (save for the opening scene, which establishes the justification for it being this).
Romantic Comedy: Two different kiddie video critics in The Eighties pointed out that the "Princess and the Pea" adaptation, which toplines Liza Minnelli, is effectively a fairy tale version of the then-recent romantic comedy hit Arthur — not least because she was the leading lady in that too!
Scenery Porn: "Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp" and "Beauty and the Beast" are both prime examples of this.
Shout-Out: In the climax of "The Pied Piper of Hamelin", as the children are enchanted into following the Piper out of the city, a disembodied female voice can be heard saying "He's here!" — ala the signature line of Poltergeist.
In "The Tale of the Frog Prince", the iconic music from 2001: A Space Odyssey plays when the frog retrieves the golden ball from the well.
Show Some Leg: Princess Debbie, in her attempt to seduce the Prince in "Sleeping Beauty".
Wicked Witch: Played straight numerous times, but averted in "The Little Mermaid". The Sea Witch is presented as a neutral party, but tries to talk Pearl out of wanting legs by describing the pain it'll bring.