Nighttime Television

Melrose Place

Melrose Place is an American primetime soap opera that ran between 1992 and 1999, created by Darren Star for the FOX network and executive produced by executive producer Aaron Spelling for Spelling Television. It is the second series in the Beverly Hills, 90210 franchise, and is set in a small apartment courtyard complex in the West Hollywood district of Los Angeles, where several young individuals reside, each with their own dreams and drives. The show's popularity led to a rash of similar nighttime serials about sexy, powerful women, such as Models Inc., Savannah, Pacific Palisades, and Central Park West, all of which were short-lived.

Like its predecessor, the show struggled in its first season with low ratings. However, with the arrival of more interesting characters and over-the-top storylines, ratings increased. The show was cancelled after its seventh season. In 2004, the network SOAPnet began repeating the series. Seasons 1 through 4 are currently available on DVD.

Season One (1992-93)

During the first season, the show was a relatively earnest serial drama with low-key storylines, and focused on how young people come to Los Angeles to realize their dreams.

The series was introduced with a cross-over story from Beverly Hills, 90210 involving Kelly Taylor (Jennie Garth) pursuing Melrose Place resident Jake Hanson (Grant Show), a struggling manual laborer and bad-boy biker. Jake appeared in two episodes of 90210 and Kelly appeared in three episodes of Melrose Place; Jake eventually breaks off the potential romance because of their different backgrounds. Tori Spelling later appeared in two episodes of Melrose Place as her 90210 character Donna Martin, and Brian Austin Green appeared in three as David Silver.

Michael Mancini (Thomas Calabro) and Jane Mancini (Josie Bissett) were originally the stable couple in the apartment building, with Michael working as the building superintendent, and a sympathetic doctor at Wilshire Memorial Hospital, and Jane working as a budding fashion designer. Their neighbors were roommates Alison (Courtney Thorne-Smith) and Billy (Andrew Shue). Allison was a receptionist as D&D Advertising, a local advertising firm, and Billy was a struggling writer who worked odd jobs from a taxi driver to a copywriter at a local magazine company. Allison and Billy later began a love affair. Matt Fielding (Doug Savant), was a homosexual social worker who had no love life during the first season, and spent much of his storyline involved in one discrimination-related lawsuit after the next when he was beaten up in a gay-bashing incident, lost his job, and regained it.

Other original cast members were Rhonda Blair (Vanessa A. Williams), an African-American aerobics instructor, and her roommate, the blonde, budding Southern belle starlet Sandy Harling (Amy Locane), who moonlighted as a waitress at a bar called Shooters which served as the group's hang-out place. Sandy was written out after 13 episodes when the powers that be decided they were not interested in having to continually address her acting pursuits. Rhonda was removed after the first season when she got engaged to a wealthy restaurant entrepreneur.

Early in the show's run, photographer Jo Reynolds (Daphne Zuniga) arrived from New York to escape her alcoholic ex-husband. The tough Jo was compatible with Jake, and the two would enjoy an on-again, off-again romance, remaining close throughout whether they are romantically involved at the time or not.

Producers were faced with mediocre ratings and attempted to revamp the series during the first season. This revamp came in the form of the first-season arrival of Dynasty and T.J. Hooker alumna Heather Locklear as the opinionated and assertive Amanda Woodward, who worked as the ambitious art director at D&D Advertising and became Alison's confidante after she received a promotion. Initially intended as a high-profile guest, Amanda was retained on the series on a permanent basis, but Locklear kept her "Special Guest Star" billing throughout the show's run. Amanda soon vied with Alison for Billy's affections and became a vice-president for D&D Advertising, and had affairs with several male residents. Amanda's crudity, catty one-liners, and sexy-but-tough wardrobe helped make Melrose a guilty pleasure for many millions of viewers around the world. Over the course of the show, Amanda hooked up with every male character (except the gay Matt Fielding) during the first five seasons. The show became less of an episodic series, and more of a soap opera with ongoing, interwoven stories, beginning with Michael Mancini's love affair with the lonesome co-worker Kimberly Shaw (Marcia Cross) and Alison's affair with a married man who eventually stalks her. The first season came to a close with Alison and Billy coming together as a couple, Michael and Jane splitting up when Jane finally discovered his infidelity with Kimberly, and the discovery that Amanda has purchased the apartment complex.

Season Two (1993-94)

As the second season started to simmer, Michael divorced Jane and got engaged to Kimberly, and then had a fling with Jane's irresponsible sister Sydney (Laura Leighton). Sydney was presented as somewhat a chaotic schemer, often outwitted and double-crossed by others, forcing her into ill-advised jobs such as a prostitute and later, a stripper.

The storylines began to heat up when a drunken Michael crashed his car, sending him and Kimberly tumbling down a ravine. Kimberly's angry, grieving mother sent word that her critically injured daughter had died in a medical facility in Ohio. Michael eluded potential manslaughter charges when Matt faked Michael's blood alcohol test results at the hospital -- and Sydney used this information to blackmail Michael into marrying her, despite sister Jane's protest which led to a cat-fight in the Melrose Place pool when Jane arrives home to find Sydney stealing/wearing her wedding dress. Sydney's plan is foiled when Kimberly later re-appears, alive and well, revealing that her mother had lied to keep Michael away. Kimberly returned as a more ruthless, unstable individual, with her sanity negatively affected by brain surgery and her accident. She reclaims Michael as her own, and it is ultimately revealed that her motive is to take vengeance upon him by killing him, which she enlists Sydney's aid for when she is financially unable to hire an assassin. In one of the series' most famous moments, Kimberly removes her wig in front of a mirror to present a gruesome scar left from the drunken car accident.

Jo became romantically involved with supposedly innocent ex-con and former high school flame Reed Carter, who works on boats upon which he secretly smuggles drugs. Jo's discovery of his stash leads to her kidnap on the Pacific Ocean. Jo killed Reed in self-defense, but learns later that she is pregnant with his child.

After various ups and downs as a couple, Alison and Billy get engaged and plan a wedding set in the building's courtyard, but Alison flees through a window shortly before the ceremony after she realizes that her recent nightmares are flashbacks to childhood sexual abuse perpetrated by her father, who threatens her on her wedding day. The season ended with the psychotic Kimberly, wearing a short blonde wig, running Michael down with Jane's car, and Jane getting arrested for the crime.

Season Three (1994-95)

As the high-octane third season gets underway, Jane first, and then Sydney, are blamed for Michael's hit and run accident, which has left him with amnesia and Kimberly, the real culprit, completely getting away with it. Though Michael eventually regains his memory and realizes Kimberly was his attempted killer, the pair reconcile and soon marry in an impulsive Las Vegas wedding.

Jo gets embroiled in a custody battle with Reed's parents, who want to take their grandchild away from the woman who "murdered" their son. Kimberly appears to want to help Jo conspire to fake the baby's death so that Jo can escape and live in anonymity with her child, but, having recently learned that she is unable to bear children of her own, Kimberly actually plans to steal the baby from Jo and raise him herself. She and Michael refuse to give the baby back to Jo, but after Jo reports them to hospital chief of staff Peter Burns (Jack Wagner), Michael relents and returns the child for fear of he and Kimberly losing their medical licenses. Enraged, Kimberly informs the Carters (Reed's parents) that Jo's baby is alive. The Carters hire a nanny to steal the baby from Jo. After tracking them down and getting shot in the back for her troubles, Jo ultimately decides to give her son up for adoption, a course of action that she explains to her young infant during their very emotional departure.

Matt gets involved with a doctor, Paul, at the hospital who is in the closet and still married to a woman. Paul ends up murdering his wife and meticulously sets Matt up as the perpetrator.

Sydney became a waitress at Shooters, where she grew closer to Jake, and ended up getting involved in a cult with her new roommate but was rescued by Jake and Jane. Jake reconciled with Jo shortly before reuniting with his half-brother, Jess, after their mother's funeral. Jess sets out to infiltrate Jake's life, getting involved with Jo and setting Jake up to be robbed at gunpoint at Shooters and getting shot. Jo does not believe Jake's claims against his brother until Jess gets violent with her. When Jake discovered Jo beaten up, he set off to avenge her, and he and Jess tumble off the top of a construction site in their brawl.

After ending her relationship with Billy, Alison descends into alcoholism and ends up in a rehab center to recuperate. Amanda gets involved with Wilshire Memorial chief of staff Peter Burns, who secretly conspires to take her down as President of D&D so his old girlfriend can take her place, and attempts to kill her on the operating table in a fake appendicitis attack until Michael comes to her rescue and Peter is arrested.

Amanda later discovers that she is suffering from lymphoma, and Michael begins to fall for her while serving as her doctor and they have a brief affair--enraging the increasingly unstable Kimberly. Amanda rejected Michael's advances once her health was restored, and she put her energies back into reclaiming her status at D&D, teaming up with upstart Brooke Armstrong (Kristin Davis) to overthrow Alison as the new president. Brooke gets involved with Billy and the two marry in the season finale, despite Alison's interrupting the ceremony to beg Billy for another chance.

Kimberly sets Michael up for assaulting her, and he is bailed out of prison by Peter Burns, who needs Michael's and Kimberly's help in testifying to the medical board in the Amanda debacle in order for Peter to keep his medical license. Peter seduces Kimberly into a romance to get her to take his side. Once the medical board lets Peter go, his real motives become apparent to Kimberly, finally pushing her over the edge and, pushed by demonic visions in her mind, plants four fire bombs in the apartment complex in a thrilling third-season cliffhanger. Due to the Oklahoma City bombing that occurred April 1995, one month earlier than the May cliffhanger, the actual bombing did not take place onscreen until the beginning of season four.

Season Four (1995-96)

Picking up where Season Three left off, Kimberly sets off a horrendous and spectacular series of explosions that destroy half the Melrose apartment complex. Jane's potential new boss is killed and Alison temporarily loses her eyesight. Jess died in the fall at the construction site, leaving Jake plagued with guilt. Matt is exonerated in Paul's wife's murder when Paul confesses to the crimes before dying after being shot by the police. Matt later enrolls in medical school, and turns to drugs to cope with his course load and quickly becomes an addict.

Kimberly is declared insane by the courts for the bombing and locked away in a lunatic asylum. Peter takes special care for her, revealing to Sydney that his concern stems from memories of his now-deceased sister who suffered similar mental problems. Kimberly reveals that she is being coaxed into violent and murderous actions by visions of a man named Henry, and Kimberly's mother admits that Henry was once their family's gardener whom Kimberly, then a child, stabbed to death when she walked in on him raping her mother. Kimberly is released into Peter's protective custody, but becomes lonely when he starts devoting his time to rekindling his romance with Amanda.

Alison eventually gets involved with and marries Brooke's father Hayley (Perry King), and Brooke and Hayley interfere with each other's marriages. Hayley eventually discovers he is financially ruined and, during a trip with Alison, he drowns after falling from his yacht while drunk. Brooke and Billy's marriage is rocky from the start due to her jealousy over Alison, and Billy threatens to leave her when he discovers she lied about a pregnancy and miscarriage. They reconcile when Brooke attempts suicide, but Billy leaves again, for good, when he cannot put up with Brooke's behavior any longer. Brooke eventually drowns in the Melrose Place pool, and Billy is haunted by her death and tries to keep her "memory" alive by emulating her personality in his work life, becoming ruthless and vindictive.

It is learned that Amanda once faked her own death years ago in Miami to escape her violent husband Jack Parezi, a businessman with Mafia connections, who now tracks her down in L.A. and dies in an accident after trying to reclaim Amanda as his. Shortly after, Amanda is reunited with her long-lost first love, Jack's brother Bobby, and dumps Peter for him. Peter soon gets involved with Alycia Barnett, who had been Matt's lawyer in the Paul situation, and the two also conspired to ruin Bobby so that Alycia could take control of Bobby's TV cable company empire and, secretly, so Peter could win Amanda back. Bobby discovers the duplicity and, when attacking Alycia at Peter's office, she accidentally knocks him out of the high-rise window to his death. Peter is arrested for the crime, and Alycia is killed in a car accident while trying to leave town.

Kimberly and Michael reconcile and remarry, but her sanity begins to break down once again and she develops multiple personality disorder, often reverting to the persona of a '50s-era housewife named Betsy Jones who had a tendency to become violently angry. While driving with Peter to the police station to give her statement as his alibi for the night Bobby died, Kimberly slips back into Betsy mode and kidnaps Peter and takes him to a mental institution, where she locks him up in an act of revenge for previously declaring her insane.

After breaking up with Jake, Jo gets involved with Richard Hart, creating a rift between her and Jane. Jane pretends to seduce Michael to make Richard jealous, infuriating Sydney, who tries to sabotage Jane by spiking her drink with prescription pills which accidentally cause her to suffer a stroke that temporarily leaves Jane paralyzed on one side. Jake becomes an ally during this time, and he and Jane start a relationship. While on a business trip to New York, Richard rapes Jane, and in her anger she unexpectedly breaks up with Jake and sets out to get revenge on Richard. Jo begins a relationship with one of Matt's medical school professors, Dominick O'Malley. At the end of the season, Amanda and Michael set out to rescue Peter from "Betsy" at the mental institution; Kimberly snaps back to reality before tumbling off a scaffolding and falling into a coma from her injuries, leaving Peter once again without an alibi. Jo decides to move to Bosnia with Dominick, thus departing from the series. Billy decides to get back together with Alison and seeks Jake's help in reuniting them, but Jake and Alison develop feelings for each other instead and begin a relationship of their own.

In the season's final episode, Jane discovers that Sydney was responsible for her stroke and blackmails her into helping her murder Richard. Sydney seemingly kills Richard with a shovel and the two sisters bury his body in a field. The last scene reveals that Richard is really alive as his hand shoots out of the ground as Jane and Sydney speed away in their car.

Season Five (1996-97)

By the fifth season, the series seemed to have peaked, with Amanda softening and Kimberly's long-running reign of terror finally running out of steam, and there was a growing consensus that the show could no longer shock or entertain viewers as it once had. Producers promised the fifth season would include more character development and less convoluted plot twists. After a season finale where Jo vacillated over leaving L.A. to join her new lover in Bosnia, the new season quickly explained that the now-absent Jo had indeed left town. Alison started a relationship with Jake, while Billy begins to pursue newcomer artist Samantha (Brooke Langton). A slate of other characters are introduced, such as hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold Megan (Kelly Rutherford), restaurateur Kyle McBride (Rob Estes), his vengeful, lush-lipped wife (and Peter's sister-in-law) Taylor (Lisa Rinna), and Michael's bratty sister Jennifer (Alyssa Milano). After a brief tryst with Sydney, Kyle soon takes up with Amanda who is reluctant to do so considering Jennifer's constant involvement in Kyle's life now after it is revealed that he and Jennifer had a 5-month affair back in Boston many years ago during the early years of his marriage to Taylor. As ratings began to falter, Amanda morphed from vixen to victim, being rescued or assaulted or teary-eyed on a frequent basis. This season also saw many enduring characters leave the series. Jane discovered she was adopted, and after an identity crisis, moves to Chicago. Alison, who has no interest in being a mother, despite having previously miscarried Jake's child, fools Jake into thinking she has fallen off the wagon so that he reunites with the mother of his long-lost child, and the two leave town separately. After dominating storylines for several seasons, Kimberly quietly died of a brain aneurysm. Her death is even more tragic as she passes away while trying to find Michael to tell him she has always loved him. Michael has a moment alone with Kimberly in her coffin, telling her he'll never forget her while fighting back tears. The season came to a close, when Sydney and Craig were married and Samantha's jail-bird father kidnaps her and steals her car. Sydney and Craig, the happy couple take pictures together in the street in front of the church. Samantha and her father driving from the police collide into Sydney, leaving her lying in front of the church with Craig crying over her body, and Sydney dies from getting hit by a car.

Season Six (1997-98)

Sydney's death leads to animosity between Craig and ex-lover Samantha who attempts, at one point, to kill in retribution for the death of his wife, Sydney, who passed away. By the time Matt left Melrose Place at the beginning of the sixth season, he remarked that he wanted to say goodbye but "there's no one left." After Sydney's death, Craig blames Samantha and holds her responsible, but apologizes to her. Indeed, more characters had to be introduced to revive the series, including violent Dr. Brett Cooper (Linden Ashby) and his seductive, rich Daddy's girl and ex-wife, Lexi Sterling (Jamie Luner). The focal point of the season was the troubled relationship between Kyle and Amanda, who returned to her nasty ways after creating her own advertising agency, Amanda Woodward Advertising. Craig attacks Jennifer who is aided by Billy in a fight for her life, but Craig escapes, steals Jennifer's car, and commits suicide, unable to live with the grief of his lost love Sydney. The characters of Billy, Sam, Taylor, Jennifer, and Coop depart with Taylor, who gives birth to Michael's child and agrees to share mothering duties with the returning Jane, leaves and keeps the baby for herself as Billy and Jennifer move to Italy. After Coop's failed murder attempt on Lexi's life, diverted with Megan's aid, he leaves to take up a job offer with a man who previously tried to con Megan into sex, knowing of her past as a prostitute. The show was renewed for a seventh season, which would also be its last.

Season Seven (1998-99)

New characters were hurriedly drafted into the series for its final waltz: Kyle's younger brother Ryan McBride (John Haymes Newton), who secretly has a daughter living at a convent in New York, following the death of her mother, and Eve Cleary (Rena Sofer). Both characters had difficulty gaining a following during this period of cast instability. Overall, the series seemed unable to handle the high number of cast changes in such a short time, and its popularity never recovered. Amanda remained a leading character through the end of the series.

As the seventh and final season began, residents learned that Matt, who had moved away a year earlier for career advancement provided by Michael, was killed in a car accident on his way to a reunion dinner at Kyle's restaurant. The residents also learned that Matt had kept a journal of all the secrets they shared with him and each of them schemed to get their hands on it. This was the driving force behind the stories for this season. One of the most notable story was that of the hidden relationship between Amanda Woodward and Eve Cleary Burns. (They were high school cheerleaders together till an ugly encounter ended up in the death of Eve's boyfriend, and Eve spending 15 years behind bars.) Kyle eventually learns about their secret past and grudgingly agrees to keep the truth from Peter, Eve's new husband. Amanda and Kyle enjoy wedded bliss and even try to get pregnant, but things come crashing down when Peter gives Kyle the wrong test results that indicate he cannot father a baby. They reunite after Kyle goes through rehab. Amanda agrees to sell the building in order to pay for their dream home, but eventually their marriage comes to an end anyway.

Bissett returned to the series as Jane in 1998 in a move to halt the series' downward spiral, and story lines centered on the rekindling of her relationship with Michael. It's revealed she slept with a current client of Amanda's the day before her wedding to Michael, leading to his distrust of her now as they decide to marry again. They exchange wedding vows again, only to end up estranged and on the road to an ugly divorce within hours. The two reunited at Christmastime, but it didn't last.

Megan and Ryan begin a relationship. Lexi underwent a transformation from the rich, daddy's girl to a scheming but popular super-bitch who succeeded in purchasing the Melrose Place building from Amanda and started a new agency, Sterling-Conway, which drives Amanda out of business. Eventually, the show paired the long-suffering Jane with Kyle (the actors were real-life spouses) and returned to the coupling of Amanda and Peter, in spite of the fact that Peter was still married to Eve.

By early 1999 FOX decided that the ratings erosion as well as the extremely high production costs spelled cancellation. In the final episode, Amanda and Peter faced mounting scrutiny as he was investigated for stealing money from the hospital and she was faced with the revelation that Eve didn't kill her boyfriend 15 years ago, Amanda actually did. They decided to flee the country and fans were shocked when their hide-out exploded killing them both. Eve, who had been showing signs of going crazy, finally cracked at their memorial service throwing Peter's ashes on Lexi. Eve then found herself back in jail. Michael became chief-of-staff. Kyle and Jane find out they are having a baby girl, and an anonymous envelope shows up with Amanda's locket inside. Amanda and Peter are then wed on a tropical beach, and rejoice in their success at faking their own deaths and paying Michael $1 million to cover it up. In the closing shot Amanda and Peter walk together on the beach to the song, Closing Time...

Models, Inc.

In early 1994, former Dallas star Linda Gray guest-starred as Amanda's frosty mother, Hillary Michaels. Hillary ran a modeling agency, and viewers were invited to follow Hillary to her own series, Models, Inc.. In spite of the presence of Gray and other names such as Emma Samms, poor ratings caused FOX to pull the plug in spring 1995.

Cast

Legacy

Melrose Place's blend of melodrama, black humor, unapologetic sexuality, and shocking moments have helped the show remain relevant in the years since the show went off the air. Besides launching numerous careers (most notably, Marcia Cross, Doug Savant, and Kristin Davis later landed starring roles on Desperate Housewives (both Cross and Savant) and Sex and the City respectively), the formula of sex and over-the-top storylines led Aaron Spelling to revamp 90210 as an over-the-top soap opera-style show when Melrose Place overshadowed 90210 in popularity in the mid-1990s. The show also has become the standard bearer for shocking storyline twists in the prime time drama genre, with classic moments such as Kimberly Shaw revealing that she had scars on her head from brain surgery.

GALA Committee

A group of artists and Melrose Place producers formed the GALA Committee, headed by artist Mel Chin, in order to bring artworks out of galleries and into nighttime television. GALA artists designed artworks that were used as props by Melrose Place characters in the fourth and fifth seasons, often with hidden political messages:

  • When Alison is pregnant, her quilt is decorated with the molecular structure of RU-486.
  • A bag of Chinese take-out food is emblazoned with two opposing ideograms translated from Chinese as "Human Rights" and "Turmoil"; both terms were used by the Chinese government to justify a restriction on student protesters of June 4, 1989.
  • Bottles behind the counter at Shooters bar are decorated with ads and documents chronicling the history of alcohol.
  • As Alison quits D&D Advertising, a framed ad in the background features a bombed-out building. The damage to the structure is in the shape of a liquor bottle, and the words "Total Proof" appear on the poster.

Chin compared the works to viruses, symbiotic and invisible. Almost fifty of these artworks were auctioned off for charity; the actual charity show appears in a fifth-season art gallery scene. The project was also dubbed "In the Name of the Place", as well as "Uncommon Sense".

DVD releases

CBS Home Entertainment has released the first three seasons of Melrose Place on DVD in Region 1, Region 2 and Region 4 for the very first time. Season 4 was released on April 15 2008 in Region 1.

DVD Name Ep # Region 1 Region 2 (Swedish Edition) Region 2 (UK Edition) Region 4 Additional features
The Complete First Season 32 November 7 2006 November 13 2006 November 13 2006 November 1 2006 Season 1 episode recaps, Mini Featurettes.
The Complete Second Season 32 May 1 2007 May 28 2007 May 14 2007 May 3 2007 Audio Commentary by Series Creator Darren Star, Melrose Place: Meet The Neighbours, Melrose Place: Complex Relationships, Melrose Place: The Best of the Worst
The Complete Third Season 32 November 13 2007 March 13 2008 April 9 2008 Melrose Place: According to Jake, Melrose Place: Seven Minutes In Hell, Everything You Need To Know About Melrose Place Season 3
The Complete Fourth Season 34 April 15 2008 December 2008
The Complete Fifth Season 34 TBA TBA 2009

Possibility of a new "Melrose Place" spin-off

On September 23rd, 2008, Marc Malkin of E! Online reported on the possibility of a new Melrose Place spin-off in the vein of the new Beverly Hills, 90210 spin-off series 90210 (). According to Malkin, former Melrose Place star Lisa Rinna was at TV Guide's post-Emmy party and was quoted as saying "I've heard a rumor of them bringing back the show like they did 90210" and "I heard that it's somewhere at the CW." When asked if she would be willing to reprise her role as Taylor McBride in a new series, Rinna said "I would do it in a heartbeat."

However, Malkin also reports that "a rep for the CW insists there are no plans to bring back Melrose Place."

Notes and references

External links

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