Since the CW resurrected the hit TV series Beverly Hills 90210, about a group of teenagers in the aforementioned city and zip code, it was only obvious that the resurrection of the early 90s spin-off Melrose Place would follow. So far, the show seems poised to follow the same path of its predecessor. If so, it may take until 2010 before Melrose becomes interesting.
Assuming the show isn't cancelled due to low ratings, fans of the original 1992 Melrose Place saw that series start to take off in its second year when Heather Locklear became a permanent fixture. The Golden Globe-nominated Locklear started as a minor character and eventually dominated with her headstrong, ambitious and sexually forceful Amanda Woodward.
I think if you ask any of the fans of the original series what or whom they remember most, the majority of them would say Locklear as Amanda. The show started with eight, interesting and diverse characters, but all of them receded into the background when compared to her. Locklear was that show. She was that show from the time she became a regular to the very last episode in 1999. She made it fun and powerful, as well as frustrating and titillating.
So far, this show doesn't have a character quite like that. Just as the original, the new Melrose centers on eight characters. One of those characters, Sydney Andrews, dies in the first episode. Actually, she's murdered, stabbed and left in a bloody pool. The following episodes revolve around figuring out who killed Sydney. Of the remaining seven, one is very much Amanda-like. Her name is Ella Simms, and she's played by Katie Cassidy (Supernatural and Harper's Island).
She's younger than Amanda and not as blonde a bombshell. She's certainly beautiful and intriguing but nowhere near as compelling. Instead of the cutthroat world of advertising, Ella is a junior publicist at a talent agency in Los Angeles in the equally cutthroat world of star representation. If you know about Ari Gold from the HBO series Entourage then you have a clue to her character. Ella says she wants to be the next Pat Kingsley who, if you read Variety, was the most powerful celebrity publicist before her retirement earlier this year, having represented Will Smith and Al Pacino.
Ella hopes to net big-name clients like that and run her own company, but first she has to impress and get through her gay boss Caleb, played by Victor Webster (Mutant X and Charmed). He's taken aback at her willingness to do anything to get a client but how she's effective at getting that client by not having to do much at all. Just as Amanda did, Ella becomes a kind of de facto landlord after Sydney dies.
The police investigate Sydney's death. Through flashbacks, we learn that several of Sydney's tenants had motive to kill her. Four seem like they aren't suspects. The first is Ella. Two are a couple, Riley, a young schoolteacher, and Jonah, an aspiring filmmaker. The other is Lauren, an unintended call girl.
At the start, Jonah, played by Michael Rady pops the question to Riley, played by Jessica Lucas (Cloverfield). Both are cute and sweet, and do seem to love each other, but Riley doesn't accept. Instead, she opts to wait. She later tells Lauren that her reason is because she thinks Jonah is too immature. Also, she doesn't like how Ella can be all over Jonah and Jonah not resist as strongly.
Lauren, played by Stephanie Jacobsen, is the fourth resident who has nothing to do with Sydney's death. Lauren is too distracted to think about murder. She's a med student of Asian descent who can't pay her tuition. An indecent proposal from Toby, an actor visiting from New York, leads her to a Pretty Woman moment, though she's no Julia Roberts. All she wants is the cold, hard cash.
Except for one, the other three residents aren't officially on the police's radar, but again, through flashback, do reveal they have motive for murder.
At the outset, David, played by Shaun Sipos, a playboy-type who is definitely in with the Hollywood elite, looked the guiltiest. Prior to Sydney's death, she and David were having an affair. They were, that is, until Ella told him that Sydney was also screwing David's estranged father, Michael Mancini. Michael is played by Thomas Calabro, an actor from the original series. David hates Michael and the news only exacerbated his relationship with Sydney.
The second most likely killer of Sydney is Auggie, played by Colin Egglesfield, a former All My Children soap hunk. Auggie used to be in Alcoholics' Anonymous where he first met Sydney. Auggie is a cook at a swank restaurant who, with his Tom Cruise good looks, could be doing more but is haunted by the death of his first girlfriend. Auggie used Sydney sexually to numb the pain, and Sydney went along with it at first, but when she wanted to stop, Auggie got angry.
Violet, the last suspect, played by Ashlee Simpson-Wentz, may in fact be a crazy stalker. Her flashback reveals that she believes she's Sydney's daughter. Violet, however, doesn't approach Sydney like a normal person. She sneaks and steals a strand of Sydney's fiery red hair and tests it. Sydney's reaction is total denial, which Violet doesn't take kindly.
Is Violet the killer? Perhaps, it's Auggie or David. This will be a persistent question probably through half the season. The writers would be ill advised to drag it out any longer than that. The direction of these people's sex lives will be explored as well as the direction of their careers. Most often it will be melodramatic ups and downs, which is what one expects. Hopefully, the writers and producers will be able to maintain the original show's fun kitsch.
Three Stars out of Five
Running Time: 1 hr
Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on CW