The most dramatic block of '90s television will be resurrected tonight, when the CW welcomes us home to Melrose Place.
Ten years after it left the air, the salacious soap will return to its
proper place: right after the yawn-worthy remake of Beverly Hills, 90210. Since they're back to back, it's unfortunate that the network's second go at Melrose Placefalls similarly flat. When the original aired from '92 to '99, it was
the kind of period piece─to some working young professionals,
anyway─that left viewers both loathing and loving the drama. The bombs,
the catfights, not to mention the smoking-hot cast, kept everyone glued
to the TV, even if it wasn't the kind of thing you wanted to admit
around the office.
For a guilty pleasure like that to succeed, a show has to actually be enjoyable. We got hold of the first three episodes of the new series, and the new Melrose Place is more boring than one of Ashlee Simpson-Wentz's blank stares, a resident of the soap that should quickly end up in that famous pool. Here's what else needs to go, and how Melrose Place can try to stay relevant:
Add some La Locklear (or even Alyssa Milano).
Looking back at the cast of the old Melrose Place is like paging through a yearbook of television's most unexpected stars. Marcia Cross broke out on the show before upgrading to Wisteria Lane. Alyssa Milano had a turn; so did Kristen Davis of Sex and the City, not to mention scores of other ladies you probably recognize, among them Kelly Rutherford (who's now on Gossip Girl) and Lisa Rinna (in between stints on Days of Our Lives). But no one could compete with Locklear, who was so conniving as Amanda Woodward that she turned the character from a cameo to the show's centerpiece. These days, Locklear weasels her way into Hollywood every time America's about to forget her─and, yes, she may return to the new ─but few things could ever replace her. Certainly not the character Ella Simms (Katie Cassidy), who looks impressively like Locklear and has some bitchy lines─"Everything you do is one click away from being texted to Perez"─but lacks that va-va-voom that still keeps L'Oreal chasing after La Locklear.
Come up with characters we haven't seen on other shows.
It's bad enough that the CW is re-creating a show that already had its heyday; it's even worse that every character's storyline seems cribbed from something in the last decade. To start, there's Michael Rady as Jonah Miller, a character who's a dead ringer for Seth Cohen from Like Adam Brody, Rady has that curly dark mop on his head─but both actors also seem to share an affected love for videogames, comic books, and making their loved ones home movies scored to Bright Eyes songs that came out in 2005. So far, my favorite plotline from the series is about Lauren Yung (Stephanie Jacobsen), a go-getter doctor whose father gets laid off (cue "these tough economic times") and has to decide whether to pay her tuition by becoming a high-class hooker (cue Ashley Dupre). The only problem is that Dr. Yung seems just like Dr. Yang from Grey's Anatomy. Television producers: have we used up all the stereotypes?
And make it sexy enough for soapy success.
For a show that's cast from the same formula as reality TV─all hot bodies and dirty looks─you'd think the CW would learn how to make these characters more appealing to the teenagers they hope will devour the show. To do that, the characters will need to stop saying things like "This is why God created neighbors who have the same shoe size!" Also, the insanely frequent references to Twitter need to be stopped. But I do have to give the CW credit because, for once, it outfitted its characters with cell phones─think BlackBerrys and iPhones─that kids would actually want to be texting with. You don't want your character's cell phone being the most alluring thing about him, though, right? That's the problem with Without clever actors or creative storylines, we expected this show to be juicy enough for us to feel guilty writing about it. To that end, here's a spoiler: there's hardly even a sex scene in the first three episodes.