Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Melrose Memo XIII: Stoner Canyon

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!

How could an episode with an amazing name like "Stoner Canyon" go so horribly wrong? I'm not sure, but boy did this one get way off the quality tracks early and often. I daresay this may have been the worst installment yet of a remake that hasn't inspired much confidence in awhile.

Heck, despite my wit and brilliance I'm not even sure this blog will be any good, but I owe it to you, reader(s), to at least try. And so I will.

-When David is talking up Ella to Jonah in the first scene and Jonah expresses reluctance to go after her because he's generally attracted to what he basically describes as bland girls like Riley is both incredibly telling and nails spot-on a big reason why he and the show are floundering. I wish I thought the writers were giving an ironic wink as opposed to being completely oblivious as they DIAGNOSE THEIR OWN FUCKING PROBLEM.

-Michael nearly killing his patient by missing his Penicillin allergy is fantastic both because Michael has been a renowned doctor for years and because his response to Lauren's concern about him essentially amounts to "I'm Michael Mancini--I shake off dead wives and murder charges in my sleep." Even if everything else is going wrong with this show (and it pretty much is), Thomas Calabro may still be reason enough to tune in.

-"Ella can get Jonah on the cover of Variety but not get promoted above junior executive?" -Megan with her usual astuteness.

-Oh good lord they are making Amanda such a weakling. This isn't just bad writing on a bad show, it's the destruction of one of the best female characters in television history. She's really using WebMD because she's having chest pains and getting diagnosed with panic attacks? This is a woman who BEAT CANCER IN THREE EPISODES! I don't WANT to be able to relate to her!

-This episode is driving me to CAPS!

-Billy Campbell has more charisma than most of the cast.

-Between Jonah's ridiculous success getting his movie sold and Riley parlaying her first-grade teaching experience into a job at Ben's multi-million dollar company, this show is making professional success in L.A. seem way to easy. To be fair though, so did the original; I was seriously considering going into advertising following college simply because I figured if Billy and Alison could do it so well by essentially making high school-level dioramas, it couldn't be that tough.

-Hold up--Jonah's movie is a romantic comedy? I'm pretty sure he outlined it a couple episodes back and it was some sort of sci-fi Butterfly Effect rip-off. Are they just retconning it so they can milk the situation for MORE Jonah-Riley drama? Ugh! And it doesn't get much more dumb and contrived than "I'm a big-time Hollywood actor who loved your script, but I will only do the movie if I can meet your girlfriend who the female lead is based on." Stupid.

-Did they give Brooke Burns money for that voiceover? If so, they overpaid.

-I'll note that Megan was virtually silent through this episode.

-It took me nearly three quarters of the show to remember the new guy's name was Drew. He went from forgettable to horrible pretty quick. He has me longing for the Shakespearean nuances of Auggie.

-I hate when this show has Jonah/Ella/whoever making a big deal about whatever fictional Hollywood power player they're meeting with that week since it always sounds ridiculous, like we're somehow supposed to know this made-up celebrity played by whatever actor they found outside the lot.

-Ok, once again Calabro brings the goods with dramatic chops I didn't event know he had during the scene where David cops to being Noah's real dad. And then a callback to the Peter/Michael "crashing through a window" fight! See, this is what pissed me off (among other things): they obviously showed the David/Michael stuff as being prominent in the trailer for this episode because those characters are the most interesting on the show and yet we STILL get 75% Jonah/Ella/Riley bullshit (with a sprinkling of Drew getting a belligerent patient to give him her real name by the master strategy of saying he'll fill out her form with "Dumbo" otherwise). Surely at some point somebody in a position of power maybe realized David is a far more intriguing character than Jonah, right? Why are they only reflecting that in teasers and not the actual show? The original succeeded because they listened loud and clear to us wanting more of Jake, Michael, Amanda and Sydney and less of Billy, Alison and Jane and made it happen; this one just keeps pushing the dull characters with a vengeance.

-"I have never been so bored in my life. I am thinking about my organic chem homework right now and looking forward to getting back to it." -Megan

-Oh, it's so adorable how Drew left a skeleton in the pool where two people have been murdered thus far this weekend as a goof--I like him (I don't really)!

-Ok, if you're going to put Jonah and Ella together, fine, actually do it and don't wimp out again this time. Let's see where it goes. Riley seems to moving on into some sort of thing with Ben. Great. That triangle is played out, but maybe these new pairings will work.

-I called the "I'm a vampire" joke the minute Drew said he was specializing in hemotology. If he and Riley get together I may ave to DVR their scenes and go watch them when I'm having trouble sleeping.

-Megan and I both predicted that Michael would be Lauren's "final client," but that's ok--it was inevitable! More to the point, Calabro was brilliant (again) in that final scene as he evoked the over-the-top Machiavellian Melrose of old and yet again gave me hope for the show in the closing moments of an awful episodes. Curse you, Calabro!

-But seriously, if they go with more stuff like that (Michael's scheming, his blood feud with David, Lauren being manipulated, etc.) plus rely on Billy Campbell to make Riley interesting and pair off Jonah and Ella for good, we MAY be able to salvage what I fear (or perhaps hope) are this show's final episodes. They've been way too deliberate and repetitive thus far with the show as the original Melrose was short attention span theater, so I'm hoping they'll shake things up and go for broke. Regardless, I'll be here, watching so all of you don't have to (and if the ratings are any indication, most of you are taking me up on that).

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