Monday, August 12, 2013

A few thoughts on 'Melrose Place,' Age 37 ...


1. You probably remember "Melrose Place" as having all sorts of still-in-a-coma, husband-stealing, miscarriage-having plot lines. Truth: the first half of Season One of "Melrose Place" is a total snooze fest. This is surprising: an Aaron Spelling production with seemingly more in common with the PG-rated Afterschool Special than his other nighttime, floor-length dress, illicit shower sex, amnesia dramas.

But. When the series first aired, each episode had a self-contained story line about the low-to-middle class, moderately attractive 20-somethings living in the West Hollywood apartment complex. The writers seemingly eschewed the hot to trot intrigue in favor of the issue-based programming that had been en vogue since the 1980s. (Arnold vs. The Child Molester, Six Has a Shoplifting Addiction, Uncle Ned Drinks Vanilla Extract).

In keeping with this trend, "Melrose Place" has:
Jane, a Fashion Designer, Gets Pregnant, Goes to Get an Abortion, Changes Her Mind, Miscarries
Jake, a Modelesque Mechanic, Gets His GED
Sandy, a Waitress, is Stalked by a Jilted Beau
Alison, in Advertising, Can't Quit the Married Environmentalist
And later: Alison, Dumper of Married Environmentalist, is Stalked by Someone ... BUT WHO COULD IT BE?
A Really Good Doctor is Abusing His Wife -- And Jane Knows It
Jake and Jo, a New York Transplant, Take AIDS tests

The introduction of Dr. Kimberly Shaw, a colleague of Dr. Michael Mancini, marks the first seeds of the scandals that will later define the show. (Husband stealing, coma, return from the dead, etc.) And when Sydney, Jane Mancini's sister, bops into town all bright eyed and bouncing scrunchie, it further seals the show as one where Shit Will Go Down. (Husband stealing, drugs, prostitution ring, etc.)

2. Seemingly, the show revolves around Alison, an advertising hopeful stuck behind the receptionist's desk at D&D Advertising. In the first scene, Alison's roommate has skipped town in the dark of night. Our girl has a matter of minutes to put tuck her blouse into her jeans and find someone to share the burden of rent before she's evicted.

Enter the boyish Billy Campbell whose lips are saying "We can live together platonically," while his big brown eyes and asymmetrical face say "But the sexual tension could cut right through the seams of your granny panties."

Alison's boss at the firm takes a shine to her and offers up opportunities for advancement well beyond anything Ali deserves. In one episode, Ali calls in sick to spend a sexy day with her creepy-eyed married environmentalist boyfriend. That same week, she ditches an after-hours project for the same face sucking dolt. Still, she climbs the corporate ladder. She's regularly told how great she is at her job. Evidence to the contrary: She almost bangs a client.

For a single episode her boss Amanda gets on her case about slacking, but Amanda's boss continues to drop big time projects on her because she's a major talent. Still: In Season 2's holiday episode, Alison asks her boss if she can take the day off to finish her Christmas shopping. Christmas shopping.

3. Speaking of awful characters: There is Billy Campbell, whose signature move is pulled straight out of a toddler play book. He doe-eyes, pouts and baby talks his way into the ladies' acid washed overalls.

"His nickname should be Biwee," Chuck said as the infantile character said something similar to "Meow meow no likey."

This is unsexy man behavior. No one, except Alison and Amanda apparently, wants to imagine their romantic partner dripping pureed pees from his chin, shooting out mustard-colored craps with the fire power of a paintball gun.

Incidentally, IRL, the actor Andrew Shue went on to invent cafemom.com, so.

3. Sandy is a short-lived character who plays a sort of drawling Southern belle in early episodes. She's Jake's former lover, she's a waitress, she is an actress. She's a fortified Blanche Dubois, full of ogles and fanning herself. It's all heave and dramatics with this one -- until about the fourth episode when she completely drops the accent.

"That accent isn't going to work," someone in authority probably said to her. "Kill it or we'll kill you."
So she ditches the twang but it's not enough. She's written off the show -- off to New York to star in a soap opera -- before the mid-point of the series.

She fares better than her roommate, an aerobics instructor who finds love with a richy-rich. Rhonda just slowly disintegrates from existence.

4. The go-to story line on "Melrose Place": I'M PREGNANT AND THE DUDE AIN'T GONNA LIKE IT. Followed closely by: A. I'm banging someone else's husband (or someone is banging my husband/boyfriend/roommate/neighbor I'm hot for); B. Someone is stalking me, it couldn't possibly be my ex -- could it?

5. The premise of this show seems to be Adult People Bullying Other People With the Same Address. Yet, it never occurs to anyone to move further away than the two-bedroom next door. When siblings Syndey and Jane go talon to throat, Syd moves off Jane's pull out and into a vacant place upstairs; When Billy and Alison break up, he flops with Jake, who, a few episodes earlier, moved out of Jo's place and back into his original apartment. And when Amanda, the show's universally recognized menace, takes over as owner of the space everyone moans and groans but no one files change of address paperwork.

Likewise, the crew always, always hangs at a local bar called Shooters. As if, in West Hollywood, it's really the only place to go.


This incestuous mix of masochists seem to only have each other as friends and/or family. Whenever one is in the hospital -- Alison's uterus gets clogged; Michael is in a wicked car accident; Matt gets jumped by hate crimers -- the waiting room fills the apartment's residents.

In actuality, this show does not have to be set in Los Angeles. It could just as easily take place in Byron, Minnesota.

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