Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Melrose Memo VII: Windsor

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!

-Ok, let's make the concession first and foremost that no matter what they did tonight, short of a surprise cameo from Grant Show and Violet blowing up the building tonight's episode stood little chance of keeping pace with last week's tour de awesome. That said, it was a Jonah/Riley-centric episode, and on the sliding scale I've quickly developed to judge this sort of thing, it wasn't bad at all for what it was. The pace was still elevated and some of the plot threads and relationships are starting to make progress in one direction or another, so I give credit. That said, it was still a Jonah/Riley episode, so let's take it one step at a time and see where we end up.

-If I never have to see the flashback of Ella saying, "Jonah, you are a hugely talented director" again, I will be fine with that. I don't know why, but I can't stand that clip.

-As mentioned above (more than once), this was another week in which Jonah and Riley's relationship took center stage, and as it tends to do, it dragged down the rest of the episode as we had to endure a lot of their insecure Billy/Alison retread junk. I actually feel bad for the actress playing Riley (Jessica Lucas), because she's certainly not tanking ability-wise, her character is just highly grating and preachy; granted, so was Alison, but she was more tolerable because the show seemed designed to kick her when she was down via Amanda or whoever else was handy, whereas everybody loves Riley but those of us watching. I enjoy her scenes with Ella more than anybody else because Ella gives her shit, and even when they were bonding a bit today, it felt more genuine then any of her other relationships. Riley could be a far better character in smaller doses, but they seem determined to make her the center of the show at least every other week, which is just too much; however, again going back to Alison, the original MP started with her getting the lion's share of the attention and then flourished once the spotlight was moved off her, so maybe that lesson will be learned again (frankly it should have been already though).

-The Riley stuff was made all the more painful this go-around by the fact that she had to split screentime with my favorite blockhead birdwatcher, the returning Auggie, who was thoroughly out-acted by a nest of sparrow eggs that may or may not have been real. This guy has the charisma of my air conditioner with none of the ability to make me feel more comfortable (that was admittedly a weird metaphor, but I just turned on my air conditioner).

-Violet is truly the saving grace of any scene or situation--a dumb tableau of Riley and Auggie looking at birds instantly becomes a potential sparrowcide when Vi wanders in with those crazy eyes.

-"I love Ella's retarded hat," -Megan.

-Riley logic question number one: Why did she lie to her kids about having a cold as opposed to telling them she's going to be a fucking fashion model which at least 50% of her class would find awesome?

-Riley logic question number two: Does she not own a cell phone and if so why did she not notify her new employers she was caught in traffic?

-Inspired by David offering to loan Lauren twenty grand for med school, I will be asking my elderly neighbor Marge for some cash to attend "law school" tomorrow. If it works out, I will be in possession of several new Flash figures next week and need Rickey to print me up a fake degree.

-Hey look, it's the completely unheralded return of Jo Reynolds! Though she was never one of my favorites back in the day, it was nice to see her back for a night and to see that she has aged pretty gracefully. That said, it was a pretty pointless and arbitrary guest spot, and certainly not one worth having to lose Michael and Sydney for another week. I appreciated that they did a bit of continuity by noting Jo was last heard from in Africa, but as with Jane, some filling in of her last few years would have been nice (where is Dr. Dominick O'Malley?). Actually, lack of explanation of how Jo got from point A to point Z was almost more frustrating than Jane if only because the epiode's big moral message revolved in large part around her "selling out" by trading in news photography for fashion shoots and teaching Riley an oh-so valuable lesson in the process, but we didn't learn why she abandoned her old gig outside of a throwaway line or two about the fashion stuff paying more. Overall, a pretty unnecessary return, but glad Daphne Zuniga got work and hopefully she can now make a Vision Quest sequel.
-Maybe it's because we're getting married in a few days(!), but both Megan and I got pretty annoyed about how a simple "Aren't you a bit young to be getting married?" line from a complete stranger threw Riley into such a crisis of the soul. Again I marvel at how woefully ill-suited Riley and Jonah seem for a relationship with one another given that they've supposedly been together for years.

-"I hate when they get those wide-eyed 'look at all this that I'm a part of' looks--they look so friggin' happy!" -Megan on Jonah daring to enjoy his trip to the Paramount lot.

-Another really frustrating aspect of Jonah/Riley is their over-the-top lack of professional flexibility. Jonah is constantly bitching about how he can't find work as a director, but like three times so far in the first seven episodes he has had opportunities but always refuses to budge out of a ridiculous level of commitment to his "vision." I understand sticking to your guns creatively, dude, but gimme a break! Riley is just as bad, refusing to break that sacred taboo of showing her bare back in a jeans ad. These two will never make any money ever.

-Holy shit, Ella and Riley need to hook up! It is the only solution! I say that not just as a heterosexual male, but as somebody who wants to see this show succeed.

-David only cases houses of white collar criminals and then tips off the cops--he is Batman! Ok, more like he's Robin Hood, but I prefer Batman!

-Mentions of Johnny Depp, "Leo," Cameron Diaz, Michael Bay and "Are you punking me?" over the course of five minutes--I'm pop-cultured out.

-Was wondering halfway through if Jo got dragged through the same bitchier machine as Jane during her time away, but at least by the end she kinda sorta explained her bitterness and apologized for it.

-Have I asked where Jane went yet this week?

-I'm amazed at what a 180 David has done over the past three episodes or so, from one of the characters I least enjoyed to one of my favorites. I appreciate the fact that he can actually lie on his feet pretty well and with a smile, which is a nice change of pace from most characters on these types of shows who trip over themselves trying to tell the simplest of fibs. I also think he and Lauren are a good pairing, both as far as romantic potential but also just for plotlines.

-Ugh, hated when Riley blew up at Ella for "only wanting to further her career." Why wouldn't she? Take fucking notes, girl.

-I feel like Jonah should have to work harder for girls. Having Riley then Ella then that pop star chick and now this studio girl all want him just for his goofy charm is stretching the everyman credibility of the character.

-"Go home, hooker! Nobody follows you to your hotels!" -Megan after Lauren trailed David to the house he was robbing.

-Jonah is going to be infinitely more interesting once he actually cheats on Riley--there, I said it.

-Violet rocked simply by staring off into space and putting her fingers in the pool; it reminded me how desperately this episode needed more of her. I also liked the way she stirred up shit in the Jonah/Riley/Auggie triangle as this show badly needs more characters who aren't so nice.

-I give the dude playing Jonah all the props for being able to have a shouting scene with a brick wall wearing a white shirt.

-Getting hammered on champagne--you are hardcore, Jonah!

-"First you're my doctor, now you're my shrink?" -Nice old school Melrose line from David to Lauren. I do like the throwing stones from glass houses storyline of the hooker playing holier than thou to the thief.

-Who killed the birds?! This is the true murder mystery of the season!

-Nice easter egg line from Jo about the motorcycle in the complex. Also, I'm glad the entire episode didn't go by without Jo finding out she was dealing with girls who lived in Melrose Place. I also love the fact that she tells Riley her "life began" when she left her fiance but neglected to mention he beat the shit out of her or that she killed another ex with a harpoon gun--these are valuable life lessons, Jo!

-Why did Jonah buy that girl a drink? What happened to the company card?


Mr Saturday Morning said...

Nice recap!

I do think the show needs to "check in" on the Syd mystery once a week, if only to keep momentum. And it's almost glaring to bring back Jo and Jane, and NOT have them mention/react to Syd's death. Especially Jane, her own sister (they had a complicated relationship).

I did appreciate that Jo had a change of heart toward the end. I was afraid all the oldtimers would be brought back, only to be dressed-down by the MelNewbs. Glad that isnt the formula. And as far as Jo's career changes and all.... this is Melorse-land; These people changed jobs and fiances more than their underwear. I think Jo's episode arc, overall, worked better than Jane's.

I dont mind Riley and Jonah as the "good couple" in the Billy/Allison tradition. And I appreciate that their relationship is slowly crumbling. I mean, we know where this is headed, and once one of them cheats, we'll get some good Melrosian hijinx. Riley is suffering from being "too boring" right now, but I'm not bothered by the actress, so I'll wait and see.

I'm not as enamoured with Ashlee Simpson-Wentz as you are; It's more in the writing than Simpson. Her creepy-weird Violet is perfect in the Melrose tradition, and I love when she's on screen. LOVED thinking that Violet might have killed those birds. lol. LOVED Jonah's comment to her around the pool.

David has emerged as a favorite character now. Really enjoyed the Lauren/David scenes. Looking forward to the moment when David learns about Lauren's part-time "job." We all know this will blow up in her face.

And Augie.... yeah, he's the weak link here. I wouldnt mind if he was the killer and got written/killed off.

Ben Morse said...

Great analysis, Nightwing. Agree 100% on the "Syd check-in" thing. And as I've said before, I'm not sure Ashlee Simpson can act, but she can certainly play this part and do it well.

Rich said...

Gave up watching the show after the second episode despite the awesomeness of Katie Cassidy and the general attractiveness of Jessica Lucas and Stephanie Jacobsen.

Your recaps and reviews, however continue to be awesome.

On the Zuniga front, I think she's pretty much a regular over on One Tree Hill these days. Apparently.

Ben Morse said...

Thanks for sticking around, Rich. :-)

www.cantabria-3d.com said...

What exactly you're writing is a horrible mistake.