Caffeinated Clint : Back to Melrose Place?


So The CW – a network whose initials come with a warning for its execs ‘Careful, Wankers’ -  is planning to bring back ‘’Melrose Place”.

And I’m just a little bit intrigued.

Yes, I’m intrigued in the same way you other sceptics are – will it be as shitty as the new 90210? – but I’m also interested in whether or not this new version has the potential to re-recruit a few of us back.

I lived there once. Melrose. Never planned to. I didn’t want to like it. But I did. It was like sniffing crack cocaine from a whore’s butt-crack – it was irresistible stuff. And like powdering your face with rave candy, you know it was bad. And yet, you kept watching. I kept watching. I watched about five years of that shit – unfailingly.

I still remember the TV network’s slogan “Tuesday Nights are a Bitch!” (the show aired Tuesday nights here). The flashy TV spots alone were alone to draw a smile.

I was about 17 or 18, I believe, when “Melrose” was at the top of its game. Do you remember how hot that show was? It was the water-cooler show. If you weren’t watching it, you were automatically disqualified from racing in the work potato sack race that year. It was the one show you didn’t get chastised by your peers for watching – because they did too.

“What about when Kimberly took off her wig!?”

“How about when Billy saw Brooke’s ghost emerging from the pool!?”

“What about when Alison realized it was her father that molested her – – on her wedding day!”

“What about when that crazy bitch kidnapped Jo’s baby!?”

“What about Sidney becoming a hooker!?”

“What about Jane killing that designer guy!?”

“What about Matt punching out Mancini!?”

And don’t deny you weren’t in on it too – unless you’re still a baby, like under the age of 25, and were still watching cartoons when the big bro or sis was watching Amanda Woodward was trying to steal another woman’s man (biiiiiitch!). Little friends, you missed out.

I never really got into ‘’Beverly Hills 90210”. To me, that show played like it was sponsored by the local preacher. I think you’ll find that the head of the Catholic Church bankrolled it, in fact. It was too clean…

Its spin-off, “Melrose Place”, was different. Granted, it didn’t start out much different from “90210” – it was so squeaky clean in its first season, not to mention dull, that the network were damn close to giving it to the chop; during that first season, the show was a relatively earnest serial drama with low-key storylines, and focused on how young people come to Los Angeles to realize their dreams. – but by the time Heather Locklear (one of Aaron Spelling’s old lucky charms) arrived on the scene, it’d discovered it’s wild side. Suddenly, everyone was sleeping with everyone, fights were a daily occurrence, backstabbing was thick and frequent, and plot points were as twisted as liquorice.

‘’It was sometimes a little clunky, and I think “Melrose Place” didn’t really come into its own until it really divested “90210” completely, after those first 12 episodes” creator Darren Starr says. ‘’Then we brought Heather Locklear in, and I think it started to become its own show”.

I don’t remember when I started to watch it – but I think it was about half-a-dozen episodes or so before Locklear arrived on the scene. I’m assuming I wasn’t hooked though until the whole Billy-Alison-Amanda love triangle kicked in…. or Michael Mancini turned into a quick-quipping slut. It suddenly became… fun.

One of my first jobs out of high school was a radio announcer. I used to work a Tuesday night shift – the night “Melrose Place” was on.

Though I’d have missed the show by the time my shift was over, I knew there was a VHS tape waiting for me with tonight’s episode. I’m so surprised I didn’t get a few more speeding tickets – because that Mazda Astina was travelling at light speed some nights.

I remember the network here throwing a mega party to celebrate the launch of the ‘new season’. You’d have thought these were tickets to a sold-out Billy Joel concert or something – everyone wanted them. Sure, they were free, but usually there’d be plenty of invites and tickets going around for this sort of thing. I remember having to suck up to a friend at the network just for two pairs – As I said I worked in radio at the time, so I’d use my media connection frequently; of course, I never do that now [cough] – of tickets. And what did this party consist of? I’ll tell you – it was an episode of the series being screened on a fat TV at a bar. And if you were lucky, you’d get a free packet of chips. Maybe a beer.

I was 17, so I was drinking, and it’s possible that’s why ‘’Melrose” worked for me so well back then. But it seemed to work for every girl and gal from say, the ages of 17-25. I remember sitting on the edge of my bed, VB in hand, chuckling at whatever stupid shit Michael Mancini or any of the other residents of the seemingly underpriced apartment block were getting up to that night. For a show to make me stop playing Sonic the Hedgehog on my Sega Mega-Drive… it must have had something.

“That was a certain time in people’s lives,” Courtney Thorne-Smith, who played Alison on the show, says.”Our fan base was so young, and they were just crazy about it.”

I remember having a huge crush on Josie Bissett there for a while. Man, she was a hottie. I’d remember seeing her in this cheesy but fun Christopher Walken/Charlie Schlatter movie called “All American Murder” – if only because she was nude throughout most of it. No such luck here, but she did still keep things spicy for us blokes.

As did Ms Locklear. Even then, Heather would’ve been well and truly over 40 – and she still looked marvellous. I recall seeing a picture of her in a magazine at the time and was just mesmerized by how damn sexy she was. Granted, whenever she opened her mouth, she became just that little bit less appealing (don’t ask me why – maybe it was her snooty way of talking?), but whatever… Locklear… Amanda… was a babe.

The show made most of them into household names. I even remember hearing that Joel Silver was so taken by Andrew Shue – Elisabeth’s brother, who played the dimish Billy on the series – that he wanted to develop an action movie franchise for him (in the vein of “Die Hard”). Never happened. But it’s just another example of how hot this show… and it’s stars… were at the time.

The show was actually quite risqué for it’s time – there was always someone having sex. Though you never saw as much as you do now, say on cable shows like “Dexter” and “Entourage”, it did push the boundaries of what was allowed on TV at the time. And I think that was probably one of the big attractions of the show.

Starr says “[the show] at the beginning wasn’t very racy. And I think at one point one of the executives at Fox said, “Oh, they can have sex, it’s O.K. They’re old enough.” And I was like, “O.K., great.” And the whole tone of the show changed. It didn’t become about issues. It just became kind of shameless fun, and soapy. The antithesis of self-important.”

I, like most other people reading this column, and of a similar age, were hooked on this show – at least up until it became really twisted, and too ridiculous to keep up with (I call this era, ‘The Jack Wagner years’). Have I ever been as addicted to a series since? Well, yeah… maybe… I loved the heck out of “Deadwood”, and I don’t dare miss an episode of “Entourage”, “Friday Night Lights” or “Battlestar Galactica”, but “Melrose Place” was different – it was like a party… it got us talking… and you can’t say that about most shows today. Maybe it’s because we were all watching it at the same time (same night and so on), as opposed to today, where we watch shows at different times – some on DVD, some on cable, some online… that it felt like so special. And also, this was before the internet, so there were hardly any spoilers out there either – Unless you looked real hard in an Entertainment Weekly or something – or not as easily accessible anyway. Everything came as a surprise. And that was great. These days, if someone’s about to die on a show – you know about it four months ahead. And it’s usually because of the internet. It’s great… but it’s not. Do you know what I mean? It takes the fun out of it.

I did stop watching though – and about two seasons before its axing. Did I miss anything people? It wasn’t because I was too busy at university… it was because I’d tired of it. Maybe enough time has passed that I can bring myself around to returning to the address?

So they’re bringing “Melrose” back…. Are they bringing Heather back?

Michael Ausiello has talked to a couple of folks who say that that’s definitely a possibility. But I’d think now that Darren Starr, the original series creator, has passed on returning – she might too.

They have to bring back some of the original guys though. Unlike “90210” – a lot of the cast haven’t gone on to do much else. But more so, it had a much bigger cast too… so there are a huge lot of names you could choose from.

Grant Show has been doing “Swingtown”, so he might not be available to come back, and Andrew Shue is too busy touring the world with a soccer team, so he’ll probably have no interest – I don’t believe he’s interested in acting any more – but some of the show’s most popular stars are as free as H20 right now : Thomas Calabro, whose only main role of late was playing someone’s dad on “Greek”, could easily make room in his schedule to bring Michael Mancini back. And he doesn’t look much older, either.

Michael’s ex-wife, Jane, played by Josie Bissett, could also probably return. She’s not up to much. His other ex-wife, Sydney, played by Laura Leighton, is also free – she could come back too. (Marcia Cross, who played Mancini’s other wife, Kimberly, is one of the hot little stars on “Desperate Housewives” these days so she won’t be back; Doug Savant, who was Matt on “Melrose”, is also over there now, so count him out too).

Jo, played by Daphne Zuniga, could be roped into returning; Courtney-Thorne Smith could probably take time out from her busy sitcom schedule to do a guest-appearance as the eternally frumpy Allison, and tell me Jack Wagner wouldn’t love to escape the inane world of daytime soaps to return to prime-time? (though personally, I never went for his character – but since he ended up with Amanda on the show, it’d probably make sense that he does come back).

The only original  – well, she didn’t appear on the show until its latter days – actress who said she may be a part of it is Kelly Rutherford. The actress, who played Megan on the original series, stated there is a possibility of her reprising her ‘’Melrose Place” role – and if only because she’s currently working for the network (She appears on “Gossip Girl”).

If they are going to try and get some of the original players back – they should try recruiting those that were apart of the earlier seasons; when the show was at its best and at its most popular. Nobody wants to see – characters from the latter seasons like – Antonio Sabato Jr’s character, or Linden Ashby’s, or Brooke Langton’s, or Denise Richards’ character… they want to see Jake, Jo, Billy, Allison, Matt, Amanda, Michael, Jane, Sydney and…the pool . That was “Melrose”.

More importantly, what will the tone of the show be? Will it try and go for the topical issues and consequential stuff, or will it dive straight into the wild and risqué stuff? I’d think it’d have to – be a little wild because even those that didn’t watch the show – know what it is… was. Maybe if they went for a nice mix – they should check out “Grey’s Anatomy”, it seems to have found a good balance between the meaningful and the maniacal – it might work too.

I’m in a much different place now than what it was then. I’m 33 now, I’m married, with child, and no longer a happy-go-lucky D.J but a disgruntled-and-exhausted talent manager and film producer who still can’t seem to quit his past life as a writer. Do I have time for something like a “Melrose Place” at this time in my life? Or will it always remain a remnant… or reminder… of my teenage-hood? And will the drinking game make a comeback if I do decide to watch this new version?

Those questions answered next year when “Melrose Place 2.0” airs.