By: Aleks Chan
Aaron Spelling series are like the Velveeta of cheese: Mostly processed, it’s just cheesy enough to harbor an addiction if you eat enough of it. The MELROSE PLACE update, as long as we’re still going with the cheese analogy, would put the lactose intolerant into a diabetic coma. But for the cheese able (I’m done now), tonight’s premiere is a spread: Blackmail, prostitution, adultery, larceny, and murder, all delivered with heavy-handedness and contrivance, some even before the five minute mark. They say efficiency is an important asset during a recession.
And it all circles around Laura Leighton’s scheming Sydney Andrews, raised from the dead and now landlord of the eponymous apartment complex, she sits perched, cougar-like, as her new tenants run around looking pretty and sharing problems, like when one is murdered and left floating bloody in the pool. Who died and who did it is beside the point, and not because none of the actors can effectively feign bereavement.
Yes, this MELROSE is also about getting younglings into all kinds of crazy, completely unbelievable trouble, fashioned for the GOSSIP GIRL demographic. (Katie Cassidy’s Ella actually says, “It’ll give ‘em something to tweet about!”) It dresses, has soapy plot points, and acts like those teens from the Upper East Side, but gets it all wrong. To pull off addictive camp, there needs to be a balance of melodrama and (somewhat) believable reactions by the characters – a rule of thumb MELROSE simply ignores either out of misguided virtue or simply out of not knowing any better.
But it isn’t fair to expect anything higher than lowbrow with a show like this. Most of the time it could get away with it because it’s ultimately harmless – it can be as big and dumb as it wants, just as long as it knows it isn’t going to do anything more substantive. MELROSE sort of has this down, but like the many psychotic flare-ups the original series was famous for, it loses it. (Lessons learned: Don’t blackmail people, because no one will marry you, and if you need to whore yourself out to pay for school, why not?)
I’d imagine that initial viewing audience will be comprised of those nostalgic for the ‘90s series and the younger viewers who are already watching the network’s cadre of silly teen soaps. I ward you against it: It’s missing the requisite Heather Locklear element and GOSSIP GIRL is already doing this way better. C-