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TV Review: The CW's 'Melrose Place' revamp

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'Melrose Place'
Three stars
8 p.m. Tuesday

There were two "Melrose Places" in the '90s. There was the struggling, earnest first season, when we met Billy and Alison and that nice Mancini couple. Remember when the gang used to hang out at Shooters?

And then there was the wham-bam post-Amanda era, when Aaron Spelling called Heather Locklear in to unleash her inner bitch. Soon, redheads were running roughshod over the apartment complex, setting off bombs, ripping off wigs, etc.

Which "Melrose Place" can we expect from the CW?

The revamp - emphasis on "vamp" - tries to have it both ways. This time around, the villainess vixen is already in residence, in the form of publicist Ella. Played by the promising Katie Cassidy ("Supernatural," "Harper's Island"), she one-ups Amanda by being conveniently bisexual (possibly omnisexual).

But we are also introduced to corny sweethearts Jonah and Riley. He is a puppyish aspiring filmmaker played by "Swingtown's" Michael Rady, and she is an angelic teacher played by "Cloverfield's" Jessica Lucas. They have been dating for five years in apparent bliss. I cannot wait for bad things to happen to them.

From the start, we are assured that logic and the laws of nature will not get in the way of over-the-top plot twists. Laura Leighton's Sydney, for instance, who died in a car accident during the season five finale, is back and looking smashing. Did we miss something?

She faked her death, we learn. But that doesn't really explain why she not only moved back to Melrose Place using her real name, but ended up as its landlord. Hardly seems worth the trouble. And can you imagine calling Sydney when your sink backs up?

Among the nubile neighbors this time around:

Auggie (played by Colin Egglesfield), a studly sous chef with a dark past.

Lauren (Stephanie Jacobsen), a pouty medical student mulling creative ways to pay her tuition.

David (Shaun Sipos), a rich bad boy suddenly without funds.

And then there's Violet -- small-town, wide-eyed, and played by Ashlee Simpson-Wentz. When we first meet the character, she looks distraught and out of place. Since Simpson-Wentz's acting is about on a par with her singing, it looks like things will continue in that vein.

The new "Melrose Place" is probably best experienced the way the first one was: accompanied by brightly colored alcohol and hooting crowds. And like the new "90210," the initial buzz is all about its stunt-casting. Notable additions for young viewers include singer/designer/actor/hipster Taryn Manning as a pop star, and Jenna Dewan (the newlywed Mrs. Channing Tatum) as a movie exec.

As for us nostalgia fans, there seems to be no limit to the fortysomething alumni cameos. I suppose it's either "Melrose Place" or "Dancing With the Stars." Thomas Calabro reprises the evil Dr. Mancini, who is David's disapproving father. Daphne Zuniga will be back as photographer Jo, Josie Bissett makes an appearance as Mancini's ex, and negotiations with Heather Locklear continue to tantalize. Dare we hope?

And here's a fun fact: The pilot is directed by Davis Guggenheim, who won an Oscar for "An Inconvenient Truth" - and who is married to Elisabeth Shue, original "Melrose" resident Andrew Shue's sister. Andrew went on to found cafemom.com, believe it or not. At least he's got better ways to spend his time than returning to the campy scene of a crime against culture.

Do I? Not really. With murder, prostitution, blackmail and hot lesbians in just the first episode, it won't be long before that iconic swimming pool boils over. Innocence lost is always fun to watch, especially when it's this good-looking.

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1 Comment

Ashlee Simpson is an awful actress. She alone can really ruin this remake.

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This page contains a single entry by Paige Wiser published on September 5, 2009 4:57 AM.

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