Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Melrose Memo X: June

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!

-This latest episode, the first full post-return-of-Amanda installment of the new Melrose, was not as bad as some of the late-October/early-November stinkers, but certainly represented a drop-off from the superlative Cahuenga from two weeks back. However, if this is the baseline of a "bad episode" with Heather Locklear back and the direction of the show rejiggered, I can certainly take it, as there were certainly more entertaining segments than not and the newer, racier feel stayed intact from the first David-Lauren scene through to the end. Obviously there is a rebuilding process going on that can be painful for a series less than a dozen episodes old, but I still feel like we're on a good track here.

-The biggest problem this week was that the whole episode just dragged and felt way longer than it was. I should never be checking the clock wondering how close we are to the end credits on Melrose, but I was close at times here. Just a lot of running-in-place scenes and a general unimperative sense of pace. Interestingly, journeyman actor David Paymer was behind the camera as director, but I'm not sure he's at fault here any more than he was for Howard the Duck (and I'm thrilled that I can now connect Howard the Duck and Melrose Place--thanks, Dave!).

-Particularly irksome was the Jonah-Ella subplot, which I simply do not care about, which is unfortunate considering I was much more intrigued by it in early episodes. The minute I heard Ella's familiar "Jonah, you are a highly talented director" in the recap, I cringed (speaking of which, what an extensive recap this week, which maybe should have set off warning bells for a plodding ep to come). Katie Cassidy killed me this week with her epilectic acting; if she had been faking during that cliched tale of her troubled youth, maybe it could have redeemed her, but the fact that she wasn't only made her more irritating. Michael Rady has actually regained some ground in restoring that sympathetic quality that made Jonah likable to start, but his whiny tantrums at the office were a bit much tonight; quit being such a sadsack given that you're mid-level attractive at best and yet have girls knocking down your door, dude! It's nobody's fault but your own that you have not been able to parlay meeting more top-level directors and producers in three months than most aspiring filmmakers do in a decade into even a modicum of success. Believe me, Ella leaving your name off that Spice Girls-lite video was certainly not the nail in your coffin.

-That said, Megan and I both appreciated, brief though it was, the Amanda-Billy parallel of Ella getting Jonah hired for a job that had seemingly nothing to do with his field of endeavor; that they kinda explained how he was qualified ruined that.

-With Violet being phased out and the vets only used marginally, Shaun Sipos' David continues to be absolutely the best thing this show has going for it. His ability to balance quality acting with over-the-top theatrics and perfectly placed zingers makes me wish he had come along a decade sooner in time to mix it up with the original Melrose crew on their turf. That said, I'll settle for his awesome scenes with Michael as well as the beginning of what looks to be a beautiful adversaryship (made-up word? U Decide!) with Amanda. The freeway showdown between David's Knight Rider and Michael's Transformer followed immediately by verbal barbs at half a pace was a joy to behold. And David's first interaction with Amanda--fucking gold! Those two are definitely the only viable threats to one another amongst a field of amateurs, so watching them duke it out will be fun. Even David's stuff in the police station with ol' Lantern Jaw Gonzales was a lot of fun, and of course he continues to make Lauren's character infinitely more appealing while also braving a full facial hickey every time they make out and having to settle for never getting her back to his place since she wouldn't consider those to be billable hours.

-"I think the neighbors should see what your husband can do after a 17-hour Trans-Atlantic flight." -Michael with some vintage Mancini as he tries to talk his wife into some hanky panky in full view of their picture window with what I'd have to call the line of the night.

-Here's a practical question: how can Ella hire new IT guys? Isn't she still a junior publicist? Can I hire my unemployed friends as tech support at Marvel? Could I justify it by saying "I saw it on Melrose Place"? I'm getting flashbacks to when the original series had me convinced I could succeed in advertising if I could make junior high-level posterboard presentations...

-Megan is pretty consistently frustrated at Riley over many things, but this week she added that she isn't utilizing her considerable unemployment-fueled free time to take a nap.

-The biggest disappointment of this episode would have to be a fairly underwhelming Amanda-Michael reunion. The fact that they had already seen each other "in New York" off-camera and that her explanation for why she un-faked her death and ditched Peter on an island somewhere, thus reversing the prior series finale, amounted to "I was bored" sucked. On the other hand, their cliche-filled back-and-forth was the stuff of Melrose legend, and both can still bring it in that department. On the third hand, their exchange mostly just made me feel old. Hopefully better stuff to come in this department.

-All that said, Michael telling Amanda to track David down with "I think you know the address" elicited a full-on audible cheer from me. Great line, perfect delivery.

-Violet's psychotic meth-head adopted brother/lover Levi may just be the sensational character find of 2009. I didn't think anybody could out-crazy Ashlee Simpson on this show, but he sure gave it the old college try (insert obligatory weekly grousing from me about how I'm gonna miss Vi here). There hasn't been enough adopted sibling incest on TV since Boone and Shannon bit it on Lost, so this was a welcome development from where I sit. Megan just kept bringing up Flowers in the Attic. Did I mention how much better the out-of-nowhere "you're back on meth?!" revelation made the whole thing?

-Levi locating Vi due to her careless tweeting should be a cautionary tale to all of you.

-Fuck you for dissing Jonah's "comic book code of morales," Ella!

-Did anybody else do a double-take when Lauren said something to David about understanding what it's like to have a bad relationship with your dad? Wasn't her dad working two jobs to put her through med school in the first episode or something?

-I really realized the episode was dragging when I started wondering more about whether or not Trip was gonna die on the next Gossip Girl because they kept promoing it. I don't even care about Trip.

-Gotta love that Michael's exemplary medical ethics remain intact, re: forging fake documents in regards to a patient's heart surgery in order to blackmail Lauren into blackmailing David. Just as I feel I could be running an ad agency in Melrose world, I'm also pretty certain I could at least be a decent pediatrician in a reality where Michael is a world-renowned surgeon.

-"If Marge's meth addict brother showed up at her door, I would not give him $450, I would just walk away." -Megan once again using our 80-year old neighbor to prove a point in how dumb she thinks Riley is.

-I really enjoy that David basically sees Michael the same way anybody who has actually watched the show would, not even for a second hesitating to think him guilty of any and every crime possible. David as a completely self-aware character in the bizarro land of Melrose would be a great show in and of itself.

-Note to self: try and get that ella.sims@wpk.backstabbingliars.com e-mail that Jonah mentioned.

-Fuck, Michael's office has an incredible view. And you gotta dig how at no time during his confrontation with Lauren does he make any denials about David's accusations of him being a monster because he simply. doesn't. care.

-Wow, I can't believe Lauren's subpar performance was enough to bait the Great Mancini into such an obvious trap. How the mighty have fallen.

-Amanda's entrance at the end and that final shot could not have been better.

-Very high hopes for next week as we're getting the return of Laura Leighton for some Amanda-Sydney goodness, David apparently making major headway in the murder investigation (which may actually get resolved as it's episode 12) and Jonah apparently getting it on with Ella, which I'm far more interested in than seeing them bicker about crappy music videos. All this and Auggie makes his triumphant return in what should no doubt lead to a dramatic performance the likes of which America has not seen since Alf captured our hearts! See you next week!

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