Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Melrose Memo IX: Cahuenga

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 here it is: the pivotal return of Heather Locklear to Melrose Place that everybody involved with the show (and yours truly) is hoping will wipe those ratings woes away like blood off a knife randomly found on a construction sight and identified as a murder weapon with no forensics necessary. Well, we'll have to wait a bit to see how the second coming of Amanda Woodward impacted the numbers, but as far as how I think she performed, we can cover that right now...

-Before I even get down to picking apart the Amanda/Locklear-specific stuff, there's no question her mere presence was a game-changer, as the show took on a different tone and feel, and that's a good thing. Clearly the behind the scenes folks saw this episode as a jumping on point and opportunity to tweak some of the stuff that wasn't working before, and they did a really nice job in many regards. From the first scene where Jonah and Riley were a far more loving and far less bickery couple you could feel the difference--after all, what fun is it to watch an already miserable couple get destroyed when Amanda can obliterate a happy one instead? Also of note, there were a solid three hot hook-up scenes that went to the places a primetime soap is capable of going as opposed to holding back, and besides being another Melrose staple, stuff like that gives the show a needed adult edge. I'm not sure if Heather Locklear gave suggestions, if the writers and producers watched old tapes, or they just decided it's time, but new Melrose felt more like old Melrose in all the right ways this week.

-What can I say: Heather Locklear is Heather Locklear. She didn't get the reputation she has as one of the most entertaining television actresses of her generation on empty hype, she's really really good. And good lord does she remember how to play Amanda Woodward, who remains over a decade late the undisputed Queen bitch of television! Within her first two minutes on the show, Locklear effortlessly rattled off more biting, hilarious, catty lines than the entire cast has mustered thus far, and she did it as if she shot her last episode of Melrose last week! I was a bit concerned the writers might not "get" Amanda in the way they whiffed on Jane or Jo and seem to struggle with Michael sometimes, but Heather Locklear (much like Laura Leighton) clearly doesn't need any help from the script, she knows how to bring this character to life all on her own. Her presence remains immense and definitely every second she wasn't onscreen I was wondering "Where's Amanda?" but a little restraint is good as this is still an ensemble show. As far as how she looks, there is no denying Heather Locklear has finally started to age over the last few years (it took a long-ass time), but she has done it mostly gracefully, though some botox is evident and actually hurt her voice and delivery more than her looks. All in all, I don't know whether or not Heather Locklear can save Melrose Place for a second time or not, but if she doesn't, it certainly won't be for a lack of skill or trying.

-And as an aside, as much as I adore Laura Leighton and Thomas Calabro, Heather back in the "Special Guest Star" spot just feels right.

-So anyways, there were other people on the show tonight as well...

-Auggie looks extremely comfortable in jail. I see a prison drama in Colin Egglesfield's future (or at least a direct-to-DVD movie that takes place in a prison).

-"When you're speaking into a phone, you don't need to lean closer to the glass in order for them to hear you" -Megan on David's conversation with inmate Auggie

-Despite attempts in the media to hype some "Battle of the Bitches," it became evident pretty quickly that Ella is nowhere even near a match for Amanda. Right down to her physicality, Ella/Katie Cassidy is twitchy, neurotic and constantly freaking out about something going wrong, whereas Amanda is supremely confident in every action she takes and never lets any hint of vulnerability or doubt show through. Since it's clear there's no competition here, I hope the writers take the opportunity to tinker with Ella's character a bit and move her further away from just being Amanda-lite (what's the point with the real thing around?) so Cassidy can recapture some of that promise she had in the early episodes.

-Wow, Jonah's subplot with getting his movie made and his relationship with that studio chick vanished faster than Andrew Shue's career.

-While she is still my least favorite character on the show, I am now obligated to like Riley at least a bit more upon learning she is from Boston. Yay for shoutouts for Roxbury, Beacon Hill and The Globe!

-"Stretching the truth" is how it begins, Riles. Megan and I both cackled when she said that line; there's hope for her yet.

-I love that hours after getting fired from his high level job, Caleb is apparently just wandering the streets hoping to warn Ella of Amanda's treachery without a hint of concern for his own future. I guess he was killing time before a Lakers game.

-Auggie played dumb and unaware so naturally when he came back to the apartment complex to find that that little murder charge seems to have freaked out his neighbors slightly.

-I was so worried they gave Ashlee Simpson the night off. Still going to miss her!

-"She probably liked that movie" -Megan, after Vi's great line about "if a guy heads off to Mexico after you sleep together, he's probably just not that into you."

-Nice bowtie and Jimmy Olsen look, Jonah (we're still a comics blog, folks!).

-David continues to be a fucking fashion icon. Just when I thought he couldn't top his summer scarf ensemble from last week, he hits the hat trick this week with the all black leather Night Rider gear, the "world's lowest v-neck" white sweatshirt, and a triumphant denim jean jacket dismount. Well-played sir!

-Speaking of David, I get the feeling he's the only character who stands a chance of holding his own with Amanda and anxiously await their first scene together.

-The triumphant return of Michael's Transformer car!

-Lauren didn't look that great in the outfit she wore to impress David, certainly not as fetching as she has in some of her hooker gear. What does it say about this girl that she dresses up for prostitution and down for her crush? That she's got her priorities straight, that's what!

-It took ten episodes, but Ella's bisexuality finally paid off! Katie Cassidy's ability to recite dialogue while making out with a chick was impressive and obviously the type of thing The CW looks at when casting.

-I was definitely hoping Lauren wouldn't comment on the fact that David was only able to make her that nice dinner by breaking into her apartment as I wanted to make the point here myself. Oh well...

-New Melrose definitely has an edge over old Melrose when it comes to sex scenes thanks to the advancement of multiple camera technology. Miss the generic 90's softcore porn music though.

-"She's on her period" -Megan's explanation for Lauren's failure to close the deal with David

-I must admit, Auggie emerging from the pool like the Creature From the Black Lagoon and scaring the shit out of Jonah and Riley was pretty rad. I'm fairly certain he could literally snap Jonah in two.

-That's pretty irresponsible of the MP residents to have a fully-stocked bar by the pool of their apartment complex which is only guarded from the outside world by a flimsy gate that fails to prevent murder.

-Auggie has incredible chemistry with that bottle of gin.

-Violet's method of proving to Auggie that she believes in him, which was essentially removing her top and having sex with him, was great. Touches like that keep Melrose Place grounded in reality.

-Towards the end, I was a bit concerned that they were going to soften Amanda by having her ease into some sort of mentor role to Ella, so I was gleefully relieved when she called Riley's school and got her fired just to be a bitch. On the subject though, Megan and I were both under the impression you could use sick days to do pretty much whatever you want, up to and including modeling shoots for jeans. I hope that never comes back to bite me...

-Much as I'm glad Amanda has arrived, I still do miss Sydney/Laura Leighton and would be pretty upset if they don't get at least one post-v1 series finale flashback scene together. The ending of the episode was brilliant to the nth degree, as Syd fucking with Amanda from "beyond the grave" is wonderful, as is involving Amanda in the murder mystery, which instantly makes it a hundred times more intriguing.

-Good as this episode was, it was definitely a testing of the new waters, and the temperature seems just fine. The teaser for the next episode looking awesome, particularly with an Amanda/Michael scene! In general though, having Amanda in the building and interacting with all of the characters as opposed to just Ella is a great move, and I'm glad she won't remain on the periphary like Michael kinda has. She's truly one of the best characters ever played by a great actress and all of these young turks stand to gain tremendously from acting opposite her.

-Wonderful start to another bold new era--fingers crossed for that ratings bump! The bitch is back!


Brock G said...

Is Michael the killer? Violet and Auggie were too obvious, and I didn't think it would be a cast member, regardless of their fates. I, too, shall miss Violet/Ashlee.

I can't wait to see how the new guy goes.

Heather just stole every scene, of course. I really love the mystery opened up at the end with the safe. Hmmmmm. Gotta say, didn't see a twist coming linking her to Syd. But would she move back? Not on her salary. She really wants to force Ella into being a harsher bitch. Can't wait to see the journey!

Ben Morse said...

I've gotta say, for all the time I spend thinking/blogging about the new Melrose, I've yet to concoct any sort of working theory for who the killer is. I need to work on that.

Dial "C" For Comics said...

Hey, Ben,
I'm really enjoying your Melrose Place round-ups. I was a fan of the original, too. That and comics did not make me terribly popular in high school, let me tell you...
Anyway, it might be kind of a cop-out, but Michael's current wife seems like a suspect. Syd's necklace appears in Michael's car? After David accuses Michael of murder in front of her?
As for Heather Locklear, I think her lisp may be coming from those new veneers. What's up with those lower teeth? Yikes!

Ben Morse said...

Thanks for reading, Dial C! And I totally would have been your friend in high school.

I'm hearing so many theories that it was Michael's wife that I'm thinking it can't be...can it?

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