Monday, 26 April 2010

Is this the end of the Melrose Place reboot?

The Season One finale of Melrose Place aired last week, after only 18 episodes. Whilst that's still a lot, by US standards it's actually short, with the average being 22 episodes for a full series on the main networks. And it's actually bad news - because it means the CW decided not to pick up a full run for the show, and it's still not been renewed for next year, a comfort already being enjoyed by the likes of Gossip Girl, 90210 and The Vampire Diaries. And the reason? Very bad ratings - the show averaging around 1.3m viewers an episode (compared to 90210 which airs before it in the US and gets around 1.8-2m viewers). And the reason for those bad ratings? Unlikeable characters, boring, soapy, ridiculous storylines and no catch, no drama. Just, erm, stolen paintings.

The season falls roughly into two parts: the murder mystery (episodes 1-12) and the fun and sexy revamp (episodes 13-18). The mystery surrounding who killed Sydney Andrews (again) was less enticing that an episode of Midsummer Murders. They made a mistake in bringing back Laura Leighton and then killing off her character in the pilot (then showing her only in flashbacks and as a ghost) because Sydney was one of the best characters in the original with some of the most demented storylines. They should have reverted to the old magic and have her come back alive having inconceivably faked her own stabbing in some bizarre and unrealistic twist just to make the old faithful sigh with happiness that Melrose Place has gone crazy-amazing again. But they didn't, and they shot themselves in the foot. They did to their credit solve the mystery in the most ludicrous of fashions, but it was the wrong focus for a remake of the original show.  At least the producers noticed this wasn't pulling in the viewers so they wrapped it up quickly, axed two of the new cast, and instead concentrated on the relationships between the characters and giving Heather Locklear's Amanda a more prominent role.

They made a mistake in axing Violet. She was creepy, clearly off her rocker and capable of going to the extremes - a perfect Melrose Place inhabitant. What they should have done was re-cast her. Ashlee Simpson was useless in the role and her acting skills painfully bereft, but that shouldn't have meant the end to her character. US stars are re-cast all the time ("the part of so and so will now be played by..."), and on a show like MP they could have dreamt up any number of ways as to why she is now a completely different person - just think about Kimberley! Violet should have gone into her bathroom, ripped off her wig, peeled off her face and then we could have carried on like nothing had happened. Another shot in the foot from the producers.
Auggie on the other hand was the angry boring alcoholic and his departure was no loss to the show. His replacement Drew however - beamed down from the planet annoying - is horrendous. They should have just kept the conveyor belt running. His 'cliffhanger' in the finale of the season - "I have the dodgy Mancini valve implant and I DON'T KNOW HOW LONG I'VE GOT TO LIVE!!!!!!!!" - made my face dive into a pillow. Hopefully if this show is given the kiss of life NOT VERY is the answer, and we have yet another person move into the block. Oooh, it could become the ill-fated, doom stricken flat, etc, etc.

The 'stable' group of the new cast have been up and down, with the girls definitely holding court over the boys. JonAH is infuriating - as much as Billy was infuriating on the original. He has no spine, no edge, no attractive bones. I hope there's a horrible stunt accident on the set of his movie and he dies horribly. David, who sadly gets all the yawnorific plots involving jewellery, is actually the best out of the male bunch and his relationship with Lauren the most authentic (cough) on the show. His cliffhanger - being blackmailed by the man he stole from - is again dull, but there is potential there for some double twists and turns as long as the characters are allowed to think for themselves and not succumb to cliché. The reveal about him being the real father of Noah was hilarious, because not only did it suddenly appear then it drastically disappeared, leaving you wondering whether it happened at all! It's as if the scriptwriters put it in as an idea for a story, disbanded it, but then forgot to edit it out of the concerning episode. OOOPS.
Riley is only relevant because Jessica Lucas is so beautiful and radiant. The writing of her character has been incredibly inconsistent and full of holes (a two second affair with Amanda's boyfriend, being sacked from her teaching job yet still managing to afford her flat and go shopping) and she doesn't seem to fit comfortably with any of the love interests she's been given. Other than her stupid schools programme she's trying to get off the ground, her purpose on the show has been linked with one of the men, meaning she is fairly oblivious otherwise. She desperately needs something to do, or to have a dark side or a vice.
Lauren has been very strong this season - she's only just shy of being my favourite character. Her pretty woman storyline has been the most engrossing of the season, and I was surprised and delighted by her confession when it came - I thought it was going to drag for ages, especially with Dr Mancini beginning to blackmail her. Actually I wouldn't have minded that carrying on for a few episodes because it would have led to a great showdown between Michael and David when it all came out. I love Lauren and David together, I think it's very genuine and they're one of those 'couples to root for' - a bit like Liomi in 90210. If we don't get a Season Two then I'm glad we got to see them reunited in the last eppy.

But Ella Simms is by far the most appealing part of the new Melrose Place. As I said in a previous post, I love Katie Cassidy - when all the Supernatural fan girls were shooting her death looks every time she stepped on the screen as demon Ruby in Season 3 I thought she was terrific, and getting a major role on a CW show was just what she deserved. Unfortunately the show she's got lumbered with has been less than matching of her star quality, and I am sure if MP does get renewed for a second go then Katie Cassidy will have more than helped that come about. She just 'gets' her character so much more than the rest of them, and manages to pull off the ruthless bitchy Amanda Woodward 2.0 role with such charm and glamour, that it's impossible to hate her. I was *so* pleased in the finale when she gave wet Jonah the what-for (although I know a lot of Ella supporters wanted her to shut down his film as well!) and walked away. Ella is far too good for anybody on the show - she should stick to scheming and dismissing everyone she meets with her classy put-downs.
And her wardrobe was just flat out amazing. All of the girls were beautifully dressed (I did fall in love with Riley's coat during her school fundraiser), but Ella pulled off the more daring, adventurous outfits with such a teasing elegance, such as the backless knee high boots she wore earlier on in the season - they were fabulous! She is fabulous. In fact if they don't renew MP, someone please GOD give Ella her own show! Let her take the money she gleaned from Amanda, set up her own PR agency and let's follow the fortunes of that and dump the rest of 'em. I would definitely watch! They could keep the Amanda rivalry going as well, because Katie and Heather Locklear did work well together in their episodes. The painting storyline was dull, dull, DULL! but their bitchy interactions, false niceties and full thronged back stabbing was just what MP should be all about. So Amanda can stay too (although she's just been arrested for a hit and run in real life...!)

As for the returning cast (the ones they didn't kill off) Dr Michael Mancini has had the biggest role to play, featuring in several episodes. It's good he gets to interact with Lauren and Drew at the hospital and also be linked to David as his estranged father - and although I've never been a fan of the character, the fact that he is an unlikeable 'sleaze ball' as they say over the pond probably works as you've got to have villains on this show. Jane - who looks the most stunning by far out of the older generation - has had very little to do, and should be included more. I can give or take Jo as she has always been boring and whiney. There was a little part of me which got very giddy when they had a brief reunion on the balcony though, as I'm sure it did for a lot of long standing fans. I wonder if their time has gone though - bringing back the original stars in the new 90210 was nice'n'all, but the show has been much more successful and interesting in its second season breaking free from the old ties and just going its own way. Perhaps that needs to happen for the new MP, too.

Sadly things don't look very promising. One of the show's founding producers, Darren Swimmer, posted this on his Twitter feed recently: "Melrose Place: Thnx for the love, fans. Honestly, a season 2 looks like it ain't gonna happen. All signs say no, but no official word yet." And of all the shows that are desperately trying to get a renewal for September 2010, Melrose Place is pretty far down the list of wants, although there are some fans campaigning out there for its survival. It's not unusual for a show to be renewed so late on in the season, but I would say the CW are checking out all the other options first - looking at shows like Life Unexpected that are currently airing and assessing the strength of their pilot programmes. So the fate of MP could actually rest in the hands of the Gods - it's played its final card, now all it can do is wait upon Ms Ostroff's final decision. 

And do I want to see it back? I don't think it's engrossed me enough. I get enough guilty pleasure out of Gossip Girl and 90210 so another show of similar tone and genre vying for my attention needs to pull out all the stops, and I'm afraid I've seen all the stops time and time before. There are characters I enjoy, but I'm not going to pull a hissy fit if they're taken off my screen for good. And Katie Cassidy will only receive good publicity from this 'mess' and she'll hit back with an even stronger role when her agent starts getting bombarded with calls. And if I want a slice of crazy action in LA's most hip and happening complex, then I have the original boxsets to go back to. Perhaps that's where the likely disappointed few should head for, too.

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