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!
-Much of this episode centered around Auggie, a character who didn't get much play in the pilot, as apparently they're going to structure the Sydney-centric flashbacks Lost-style with one character a week getting the bulk of the focus (this could of course be proven wrong next week and was already somewhat by the end of this episode). My opinion from last week of Auggie not being that interesting but the actor playing him (Colin Egglesfield) being able to look crazy intense has changed to the character actually having some intriguing baggage, but the actor playing him is pretty awful. Megan pointed out to me the irony of Egglesfield being probably the most experienced of the younger actors, having done several hundred episodes of All My Children, but once she noted that as his biggest prior gig, it made sense to me. I'm sure even Jim McCann, Marvel's guiding ligt, would agree with me that while there are many talented actors on daytime soaps, the skillsets required for those shows are vastly different than those used in prime time, even on a show like Melrose Place; Egglesfield, possessing a very daytime soap set of acting chops (he has a great look and plays high emotion well, but his delivery is stilted and kinda inhuman), sticks out a bit like a sore thumb here. But y'know what, that's a good thing in my estimation. The original MP was founded on the nuanced actors splitting the screen with the hams, and so must its successor endure.
-They built up a nice sense of community in this episode, from the opening interaction between David and Lauren (two characters who didn't really speak in the pilot) to that final pool part/BBQ. I dig this.
-Detective Rodriguez proudly carries on the grand Melrose tradition of shitty extras being cast as cops.
-I don't care how many times I said it last week, it bears repeating: Laura Leighton is still cute as a damn button and knows how to turn on the sex appeal! Her flirtation at that AA meeting with Auggie segued into getting it on was Sydney at her finest; she could have acted that scene with a broomstick and still made it work.
-Fuck you cold open/lack of theme song! Oh well, I do at least like the new logo and how they worked the pool in.
-On the flipside of Colin Egglesfield, Katie Cassidy is so wonderfully at home on this show and is rapidly owning it as the breakout star. She's very good at balancing intensity with humor and just the right amount of campiness to remind you this is Melrose Place after all. She's also quick with the blackmail, be it with David or some British actor, and blackmail is an essential survival tool at the Place. I do hope they don't overexpose Ella's character too too much (she was already juggling a lot of storylines and scenes this episode), but I think if anybody on the cast is up to that challenge, it's Cassidy; Amanda was at the heart of three or four plots at any given time on the original, and while I'm not quite ready to proclaim Katie Cassidy this generation's Heather Locklear, she could certainly get there.
-David is doing the opposite of growing on me. He's trying to coast on the brooding Jake routine, but he's no Jake; he just doesn't have that it factor that Grant Show had. Even the fact that he's short, usually a surefire way to win me over to your side, isn't doing it for me. He reminds me of the dude on the first season of the new 90210 who was supposed to be the cool jock but I didn't buy it because he just looked like a nerdy weasel. I expect more from you, spawn of Mancini.
-"It is a business of referrals." -Megan on Lauren's burgeoning career in prostitution.
-And speaking of Lauren, her storyline is just the right mix of absurd and "wait a minute...could this shit actually happen?" that I love it. I'm definitely seeing what other people saw in the character, even though Stephanie Jacobsen lost her accent a couple times (or as Megan put it: "It's hard after a night of sex to keep up your American accent").
-"We've been sleeping together three months and now you tell me you have a girlfriend?" Great line from Syd to Auggie.
-I do not buy for a second that Sydney would stop sleeping with Auggie (or anybody) out of the goodness of her heart. I think there was more than meets the eye going on there, as later events would seem to indicate. What was she using Auggie for?
-I love that Jonah was sitting watching the footage from the surveillance camera he set up, because in my mind that means that the whole security system idea was founded on the premise that he would watch every second of footage every day at some point. There was a throwaway line later that Ella had told him to specifically watch the tape of Riley and Auggie, but I'd prefer to go on believing that he's sitting there at 3 in the morning watching David piss in the pool or something.
-Last week I mentioned that I dug Jonah and Riley being a pre-existing couple as opposed to a developing romance ala Billy and Alison (that was a relationship that really only fit season one of the original show, and that's not an era that needs to be revisited), but the downside of this is that they can really only be written as having been together five blissful years until they need to start arguing and being jealous and shit and then they seem more like they just started dating. I don't really care, as it's just one of those necessary evils, but Megan found it annoying. Also, Riley totally has a double standard on the Ella/Auggie thing.
-In general Megan doesn't like the Jonah/Riley relationship because it reminds her of Billy/Alison and she really really did not like Alison. I see it as being integral to the show that there is that one happy couple and one storyline involving more mature, grounded issues, but just like the audience turned on Billy/Alison in favor of crazy shit with Amanda, Sydney and Kimberly, I see the same happening here, the difference being I think the creators are expecting it and are likely prepared.
-The pop culture references need some work. I can't remember the last time Josh Hartnett was topical.
-Sydney-Michael intrigue! The episode was definitely hurting from lack of Thomas Calabro, but hearing Auggie mention in his final flashback that Sydney was involved in some sort of presumably elaborate revenge scheme against Michael before she died made me smile huge.
-And then there's Violet. I was thinking the whole episode how I'm digging Violet in small doses but will be curious to see how she does and how well Ashlee Simpson holds up when more about the character gets revealed, but then holy shit they went ahead and dropped the "She's a psycho!" bombshell to end the episode and it was excellent! I knew about the fact that Violet is supposedly Sydney's daughter before the show started as it had been tossed around in interviews and stuff, but the flashback scene where she shows up and does the doe-eyed stalker routine was tremendous! "You won't get rid of me that easily...not again." Eeeeee! Love it! I'm not sure if Ashlee Simpson is really all that as an actress, but she has the perfect look and demeanor to play a crazy person and it is science that crazy people make for better Melrose. In fact, after nearly two episodes of thinking they did a good job casting Violet to look like Sydney, I was all of a sudden struck during the flashback and final pool shot how much she kinda looks like Kimberly! How amazing would it be if Violent was Kimberly's daughter out for revenge against Sydney and maybe Michael?! Ok, gotta be careful not to dream too big, but this revelation was certainly a welcome one.
-Overall, by the time we had DVRed our way halfway through the episode, I was amazed and annoyed we only had half left, and that's a great sign.