Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Melrose Memo I: Pilot

The facts: the original Melrose Place is probably my favorite television show of all time. I could write an essay on why, but let's just leave it at "it is" for now. I have waited patiently for a decade, and now at long last my beloved Melrose has been remade for a new generation...but will it be any good? That is what I will explore here each Tuesday night (or Wednesday evening) in the Melrose Memo. I understand that those of you coming here for comics, movie or general geek news probably have little to no interest in hearing my thoughts on this program, but people--it's Melrose Place.

Now, as my friend Sean would say, read on if you wish, but do not allow me to spoil the elaborate mythology of this show for you; in other words, watch before reading!

-Ok, before the show even started, I was not in the best place to view it because fellow Marvel Melrose fan Jim McCann texted me while Megan was still watching 90210 to let me know there was no opening theme. I'm hoping maybe because this was the pilot that was a one-time only deal. C'mon, Hollywood, why have you forsaken the time-honored tradition of opening themes?! And the original MP had one of the best themes ever! Anyhow, again, hoping it was just the pilot and we get an updated version of the classic tune next week.

-That said, get past the lack of a catchy theme and this episode had a great opening! Right off the bat we get a sense of all the key characters as David (or "new Jake") gets a call from Sydney (as he is totally scoring with some chick!), who is in trouble, and quickly makes the rounds at the club he's at so we can meet the other principals, then calls another one over the phone. More importantly, the atmosphere definitely feels grown-up and hot--you know you did not accidentally tune in an hour early, in other words.

-David (played by relative newcomer Shaun Sipos) is a bit rough around the edges, but he definitely reminds me of original season one Jake in terms of his manner and his look. I don't think he's necessarily the guy to build the show around because frankly he's surrounded by far better actors, but he's a solid piece of the puzzle.

-It is both very cool to see the old sets (or reasonable facsimiles) like the hospital and of course the apartment complex and yet trippy to see 2009 special effects and camera cuts being used within them.

-Laura Leighton has not missed a fucking beat as Sydney Andrews, one of the best characters in television history! 12 years after exiting the original Melrose, she still knows exactly how to step into Syd's shoes and it was awesome to see. Her "I'm threatening you...oh wait, I'm so vulnerable" turn with David in her first scene was classic Sydney! She also looks damn good for 41; she may showed her age in a couple shots when she pursed her lips, but she still looked smokin'.

-Onto the pivot of the show: the "new Billy and Alison" happy couple, Jonah (Michael Rady) and Riley (Jessica Lucas). After one episode, they're already more likable together than Billy and Alison. I dig the fact that they've been together five years when we meet them, so we don't need to go through the whole getting to know you phase with them; there are plenty of other characters on the show for that (overall, in fact, I like that the whole cast of character has an established shared history). The decision to make Jonah an aspiring filmmaker who loves comics is of course a slam dunk for me personally and I'm betting they hooked a lot of other random dudes who may have been watching with their girlfriends (maybe). And the fact that his main cross to bear is that his fiancee wants him to grow up but deep down she still loves him being a manchild is fucking money. Shit, I am totally emotionally invested in this TV couple and am going to be a wreck when they are inevitably corrupted and ruined, I know it--I've missed you, Melrose!

-"Douchebags get to me." Great line from David while in interrogation for Sydney's murder.

-Oh, did I not mention Sydney is found dead face-down in the pool before the first commercial? Yeah, we all knew it was coming since EW reported it months ago. Like most MP fans I was pretty pissed upon learning we were getting Sydney back only to lose her again, but ok, now I'm game to see it unfold. I was worried the central murder mystery would overwhelm the rest of the show, but at least in the first ep they did a good job of making it just another intriguing subplot, so hopefully that keeps up.

-Jeez, Megan and I just saw Adam Kaufman on an episode from the first season of Mad Men earlier tonight at which time I noted he was also on Buffy and Veronica Mars--dude is following me!

-Thumbs up to giving Laura Leighton and Thomas Calabro the "Special Guest Star" spot once occupied by Heather Locklear--nice nod to history!

-The creators of the show clearly already understand a key aspect of what is necessary to make this thing work: it must take place at a breakneck pace. On most shows, the fact that everybody is going about their lives, hitting on one another and going to work like any other day hours after their landlord got murdered would be weird, but on Melrose Place it is perfect.

-Abra Calabro! The great Thomas Calabro returns as Michael Mancini, the role he played to brilliance on the original Melrose for seven glorious seasons. The bombshells drop right off the bat as he is David's dad, "happily" married with another kid, and was sleeping with Syd (again) before she died. Given that Michael was married six times on the original to four different women and all of his marriages ended in infidelity, it was interesting to see him as supposedly matured and subdued, but you could just tell the old Michael is bubbling beneath the surface, particularly in his last scene, as the camera pans over his blissfully sleeping wife and son to Calabro, wide awake in a state of obvious discontent. Can't wait for the beast to be unleashed once more! And Calabro is 50?! Get out.

-Oooh...wasn't sure if they would touch on the fact that Syd supposedly died in the season five finale of the original show so soon, but we already learn that Michael helped her fake her death somehow and the incident left her addicted to painkillers; I am intrigued (and glad we're going to continue to get copious amounts of Laura Leighton, even if only in flashback).

-I don't exactly what qualities she possesses that make it so, but Katie Cassidy, who plays Ella, most definitely fits the model of an actress who belongs on Melrose Place. Her frenetic bitchy persona definitely calls back Amanda, as does her seeming unlikely interest in puppy dog Jonah. The Ella-Jonah-Riley triangle should be a good one as it's three of the stronger actors on the show and the two girls are very different but both have good chemistry with the guy. Oh, and she's (very) openly bisexual, which I suppose won't hurt the ratings.

-Ok, I was admittedly feeling a bit old seeing my old favorites like Sydney and Michael as the senior citizens of the show, but apparently Jonah is 25, and he seems like one of the younger characters, so I'm ok.

-Sydney and Michael back onscreen together: magic.

-The core of Melrose Place is putting good people in bad situations and seeing what happens, so Jonah being given the opportunity to advance his career via blackmail and Lauren (Stephanie Jacobsen) being hard up for cash and possibly turning to prostitution to pay for med school again demonstrate that the folks making this show get it.

-I haven't mentioned Auggie (Colin Egglesfield) or Violet (Ashlee Simpson-Wentz) yet because I found them (along with Lauren) to be pretty bland, but in the final moments, both start to show there is likely more to them than meets the eye. I think Simpson-Wentz has the chops to bring Violet around, though I'm less convinced about Egglesfield/Augie (dude sure can look menacing on a dime though).

-Jonah and Riley announce their engagement at Sydney's funeral by the pool--and everybody is all smiles! Wonderfully inappropriate!! Wonderfully Melrose!!!

-Montage! Dark secrets! David steals paintings to make cash! Lauren decided to become a hooker after all! Violet grabbed a picture of Syd from the funeral and seems to know her despite having just moved in! Auggie rides his motorcycle to an alley and tosses some bloody clothes in a fire then looks super intense! And Michael is not happy!

-This was a very good first episode and they're already light years ahead of the original Melrose Place's bland first season, so if they just follow the tried and true groundwork, this is going to be a great show. They're still in that necessary period where everybody is friends and nobody has traded romantic partners yet, but when they all turn against one another and things get crazy, that's when shit's gonna truly get real--but they have to earn that and they understand it, which is awesome.

-Welcome back, Melrose Place.


KP said...

I think I'm going to read these only while watching the replay of the episodes on Sunday night. I'm not sure the show can keep my interest without your Wizard-esque "Director's Commentary."

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I fully encourage that.

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