Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Melrose Memo IV: Vine

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!

-The good news up front: despite poor initial ratings, the CW has picked up Melrose for six more episodes, proving once again it is the network that at least gives new shows a chance to find their audience...unless you're The Beautiful Life: TBL (but really those initials doomed it from the start). Seriously though, glad to hear The CW feels the show is "on the right track creatively," as I tend to agree, and am glad that merits the faith. On to tonight's episode...

-...and while it wasn't the worst, and was still highly enjoyable, it wasn't the new Melrose's best, despite some bright spots (which I'll get into). The main failing of tonight's ep I think came from a lack of Laura Leighton and Thomas Calabro, as while the younger cast definitely seems to be coming into their own, there's no doubt those two add some spice that differentiates this show from being just another CW soap. Clearly the writers felt that Josie Bissett's return as Jane would cover for the lack of Sydney/Michael action, but that's very much trying to jam a square peg into a round hole (more on Jane in a bit). Breaking from the flashback structure that had been established was also a bit awkward (thankfully they seem to be back next week).

-On the bright side, this was David's strongest episode yet in my eyes, as he is steadily climbing from one of my least favorite characters to the credible male lead the show needed. He had an odd chemistry with Auggie (definite bromance potential) and then a far more obvious one with Ella, so all his scenes were solid. He also broke out a decent cross-armed lean against a brick wall in an back alley as well as nice cocky douchebag moves while blackmailing, both headliner events in the Melrose Olympics. And hey, if you're a male character in primetime who wants to win over Ben Morse as a fan, throwing punches at the most inopportune time and preferably destroying at least one piece of furniture in the process is the way to do it.

-So it's been a decade, but Josie Bissett still hasn't really mastered the art of conveying believable emotion, at least with this character. It's not all poor Josie's fault though, as perhaps the folks behind MP 2009 didn't watch enough of the original to know that Jane is at her absolute worst when she tries to play the villain, and tonight was no exception. Having watched the character for six seasons, I know not to take her seriously when she tries to blackmail or threaten, but I'm wondering if virgin viewers felt the same way. She also got totally owned by Ella and even David, not just from a character sense, but an acting one as well. She was fine as a plot device/nostalgia guest, but I'm not anxious to see much more Jane unless she's interacting with other original characters.

-The one thing I am glad to see is that Jane remains a terrible fashion designer who can't understand why people don't love her hideous dresses, so at least we had a nice bit of continuity.

-Speaking of continuity, however, I'm bummed they didn't at least give some explanation of where Jane's husband, Kyle, and the baby she was carrying in the series finale of the original Melrose were. I get that Josie Bissett and Rob Estes got divorced in real life plus he's on 90210, so an actual Kyle spotting is unlikely (I can dream!), but even a throwaway line would have been nice.
-Two questions about the scene where the cops come to interrogate Violet: 1. Did that detective really just compliment her lamp? and 2. Did she jump out the same window Alison used to ditch her wedding to Billy?

-Y'know, I totally forgot Ella was bisexual until she asked Lauren if that female intern was hot--I have a feeling the writers did too.

-On the subject of Ella, Katie Cassidy continues to be the absolute breakout star of this show, absolutely shining in every scene she's in as well as elevating any character she comes into contact with. She is brilliant with the little touches, from the self-important way she holds her hands and arms while walking to the fast-talking/mumbling she tried to employ to get Jane hired by her boss. She does a great job balancing the over-the-top melodrama of classic Melrose with the more earnest approach this incarnation seems to be going for and is just a joy to watch.

-Ella's boss is in a Capture the Flag league? There are Capture the Flag leagues?!

-I don't get why Lauren is surprised that a guy propositions her in a hotel lobby when she is clearly wearing a hooker dress (Megan disagrees). In any event, the client who refused to pay was an interesting twist in Lauren's ongoing plot, but I think her whole thing needs to go somewhere, as the novelty is wearing off; thank goodness Kelly Carlson of The Marine fame showed up as a madam to make that happen (and holy crap does this show need a John Cena cameo now)!

-Nice to see the "every important event ever happens at Shooters or Kyle's" trope from the original has re-manifested with the restaurant Auggie works at here.

-I'm glad Jonah actually appreciated Riley's efforts to schmooze in order to advance his career as opposed to them getting into another predictable argument (it definitely seemed like they were headed there). Jonah is also getting his best moments as the guy getting increasingly frustrated that nobody else can see that Violet is batshit crazy.

-And speaking of everybody's favorite psychopath, more quality stuff from her this week, particularly her delusions about how happy Sydney was to learn about her and how much she seems to buy into said fantasy. I'm glad the stuff about her being Syd's daughter is out in the open but there is still both lies and mysteries surrounding the character. From what I'm reading about upcoming episode descriptions, the best is still yet to come with Vi as it sounds like once she meets Michael, the shit really hits the fan (in a good way).

-"Like I'm going to go bail out Marge if she's in jail." -Megan on why she wouldn't help out our deaf 80-year old neighbor like Riley did for Violet.

-Let's wrap things up by celebrating a trio of lines that made me start to like David this episode...

-"You did pretty well for your first time. The steering wheel can be a bit tricky." -David after having sex in the driver's seat of his car with some random chick.

-"Next time you divorce a paranoid psychopath, change your computer password." -David to Jane on Michael having dirt on her.

-"It makes sense, she does have red hair." -David on how obvious Violet being Sydney's daughter is in retrospect.

-But wait! Line of the night still goes to Ella, who brushes off David's claim that they had a "good time" hooking up the night before with this gem: "Don't flatter yourself, David, I always have a good time."

-As a final note, I have yet to understand the meaning a of a single episode title since "Pilot."


KP said...

The episode names all come from other L.A. streets that aren't Melrose. It took me a bit to figure that out too.

Ben Morse said...

You're a genius.