Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Melrose Memo III: Grand

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!

-So obviously tonight's new episode got a bit overshadowed as the world of the Place was rocked by the immense news that Heather Locklear will be making her return to 4616 Melrose in November, but before we get there, we've no doubt got plenty of crazy shit ahead even without Amanda, so let's get to it.

-Unfortunately this was a bit of a letdown from the first two tremendous episodes. It wasn't a total stinker and there was much good which I will get into below, but I think the heavy focus on Jonah, Riley and their relationship really exposed how weak those characters and that dynamic is next to the cooler stuff and dragged the episode down a bit; more on that as we go as well.

-Ok, they should just make it a mandatory rule that every recap end with a close-up of Violet's crazy eyes; the art of the crazy eyes is most definitely one Ashlee Simpson has nailed pitch perfect and that this show should exploit to the max. Speaking of Vi, after having a bit of trouble getting a read on her value to the show and just how good Simpson would pull off the character the first week then being surprised by the nuttiness last week, this time around she seemed to totally settle into the character and became absolutely indispensible in a matter of scenes. Just as Ella is carrying that Amanda torch, Violet is quickly developing into a suitable Kimberly surrogate (nobody can match the original, of course) with a nice dash of Sydney thrown in for good measure. The scene with her hiding in Syd's closet, everything with her wearing that dress, her weird bonding with Riley, her flirting with Auggie--it was all the perfect mix of entertainment and discomfort and I'm really pleased with what she brings to the table. The inevitable throwdown when she finds out Auggie is into Riley should be glorious. Hopefully Kimberly left some gasoline containers and duct tape in the laundry room.

-The other bright spot of this episode was Thomas Calabro getting the spotlight and letting a bit more of classic Michael Mancini bubble to the surface as opposed to his more subdued and mature act in the pilot. Michael degenerated into a bit of a goofball in the final seasons of the original Melrose, and that was a lot of fun, but I'd forgotten that his turn as evil bastard/stone cold manipulator was one of the sparks that ignited the show, and it was neat to see him getting back to that. I have no idea what angle he's working with Lauren, but I'm just happy to see him latching onto one of the naive new cast members and working his magic. He was also such a douche in their interview I had to smile; and of course it's not a matter of if he will bag Lauren, it's when and whether or not he'll be compensating her for it financially.

-Just as Michael was back to classic Michael in the present, Sydney was totally classic Sydney in her flashback scenes with him, which were all great. Obviously those two have always had a wonderful chemistry, and it was nice to see the flirty, needy, blackmailing schoolgirl side he brings out of her one more time (hopefully not the last time). It was also nice to see Laura Leighton playing opposite somebody closer to her age for once as it didn't make me feel like she was old, which depresses me.

-Speaking of Sydney and Michael, there's a lot about her faked first death that still doesn't add up and I certainly hope this isn't the last time they'll revisit it. For one thing, I have trouble buying that Michael actually cared about Sydney enough to put his neck on the line for her and pull the con in the first place. Michael loved Jane, was inextricably tied to Kimberly, was infatuated with Megan and wanted Lexie really bad, but Syd was only ever a plaything for when he got bored; either that tender moment they shared in the morgue was part of a bigger scheme on Michael's part or the writers didn't do their homework. I also didn't really understand what Sydney was saying as she was wheeled in about "somebody from her past" being responsible for what happened as it was definitely Samantha's dad who hit her with a car, and I'm pretty sure nobody has any interest in revisiting that character; I think she also said something about her husband, which would have been Craig at the time, and I can't see David Charvet getting a call to resurrect his deceased character either. Of course there's also the fact that when the event originally went down back in Melrose season five Syd was pronounced dead at the scene, but if they wanna retcon that I'm not really gonna bitch.

-So like I said, Jonah and Riley were pretty terrible in this episode, which was a shame given that they got the lion's share of the camera time. The "you haven't told your parents we're engaged" argument is such a lame cliche and I'm disappointed they went there. It feels like they're just manufacturing stupid shit for these two to bicker about every week so that they can have a romantic apology session at the end of each episode ala early Billy and Alison, and that's going to get real old real fast (it already is). And again, if they've really been together "like forever," how can they be having these mundane fights for the first time now?

-When they were separated, I felt like Jonah's stock in particular fell this episode as his bit with the pop star was lame and the whole set-up of him directing a music video on Ella's recommendation was implausible on a show built for the implausible. He still had some decent lines, but he was overall neurotic and annoying and it's tough to see why practically every lady on the show is throwing herself at him (this coming from a neurotic, annoying guy).

-That said, he did make that video much better.

-With Riley, I actually started to see glimmers of potential if she can just develop a bit of an edge like Alison did when Amanda came along. On one level pairing her with Auggie is a terrible idea if only because he's a pretty awful actor (unclench your teeth when you talk, dude), but on the other hand, it's more interesting than where she's at now and would put her on crazy Vi's radar.

-"His lips are really chapped and it's grossing me out." -Megan on Jonah's closeups.

-How did Syd get a piano in her apartment? Why did Syd have a piano in her apartment?

-Mention of both Facebook and Twitter in this episode reeked of them trying to be too relevant. Do something really bold and have Violet still be on Friendster, pissed off that nobody in the apartment has friended her.

-Riley suggested Vi make Auggie a mix CD?! Really?!?!

-That said, I would have loved to have heard it.

-"It's interesting that I don't find the girl with the gun to be the craziest person on the show. I think that's good." -Megan on the firearm-wielding pop starlet.

-Ella had an off episode, and again, I think it was an issue of being in proximity to the black hole of Jonah/Riley. Much as I like Katie Cassidy, even Heather Locklear had trouble making her part as the third wheel in the Billy/Alison relationship really work, and there's only one Heather Locklear (coming soon to this show!). I just don't buy her being interested in Jonah; if they had more chemistry, I'd have no problem buying a bitchy girl/nerdy guy hookup, but I'm just not feeling it.

-As for David, I still don't like him, but he lucked into having Michael as a dad, meaning he gets to share mucho screen time with Thomas Calabro and can basically just be a set piece while the man does his glorious overacting.

-"Even after all these years, I can't believe Michael is really a doctor." -Megan, having trouble picturing Mancini: The Med School Years (holy shit that needs to be a spin-off)

-Despite the fact neither of them wowed me tonight, both Auggie and Jonah had great lines with "Relationships are complicated--cooking comes with instructions" and "I'm pretty much the least intimidating person I know" respectively.

-I can honestly say I have no idea who killed Sydney; they're doing a great job thus far with the mystery.

-Another dynamite final shot! Michael has computer files on not only most of the new cast members but a bunch of the old ones as well! Obviously Jane and Jo are on there because they're confirmed to guest star, but did they somehow get Courtney Thorne-Smith as well or is Alison a weird red herring? And did he have files on more newbies than just David, Ella and Auggie and those are just the ones we saw or is that a clue?

-Despite this probably being the weakest episode yet, I was still thoroughly entertained. And next week: Jane's back! Jane is one of my least favorite characters from the original and Megan's absolute least favorite, but we were both jumping up and down during the preview (ok, just Megan was) which just shows how much we love this fucking franchise.


shamontemple said...

that was the best review dude keep it up .

Ben Morse said...

Thanks! :-)

Sara said...

Aw snap. My husband will be thrilled there is another guy as into the new Melrose Place as we are. Awesome reviews.

Jim McCann said...

Just read TV Guide- they landed Alison!!! Andrew Shue declined, he literally said it was because he's too busy runny Cafemom.com. LAME. But I'll take Alison over Billy ANY day!!!