Only 7 minutes into the new Melrose Place, and there’s already a dead body in the pool. We had high hopes that the rebooted show would build on the ’90s original in terms of trashy, scandalous fun, and this pilot starts with even more of a bang. Murder? Check. Inappropriate sexual tension? Check. Prostitution? Check. Lying and blackmail? Check. Girl-on-girl action? Check.
Things kicked off as a still-radiant Laura Leighton returns to the show as Sydney Andrews, who seemingly faked her own death 11 years ago — with the help of old flame/ex-brother-in-law Michael (the also-returning Thomas Calabro) — before returning to the infamous apartment complex as the landlord and resident cougar. Bad-boy tenant David was her latest prey.
Sydney lured David over for drinks late one night and announced: “Something’s happened. I’ve done something really, really bad.” We’ll have to find out what the bad, bad thing is in flashback, because Sydney was soon the body in the pool. The prime suspect was David, who blacked out while drinking with her the night before. He was the first to be questioned by the police, but neighbor and publicist pal Ella lied to give him an alibi.
Now would be a good time to mention that David is Dr. Michael Mancini’s estranged son, and — oh yeah — Syd slept with now-happily-married Michael too. Somehow I think there’s going to be some tense moments on Father’s Day after David proclaimed to Michael: “I kinda freaked out when I found out Syd came after me to get back at you. But when she told me I was better, that made I all worth it.” But then again, maybe they have something to bond over — Michael has his own motive to kill Syd after she threatened to tell his wife about their affair.
A few doors down, Melrose 2.0 offers our new version of Billy, the show’s would-be moral compass, in aspiring filmmaker Jonah, who reminds me of a geeky-but-cool grown-up Seth from The O.C. He started the episode by proposing to his girlfriend of five years, Riley, but didn’t get the reaction he hoped for (maybe she was unimpressed by the cheesy green-screen shots in his video love letter). Teacher Riley seems stable (read: boring) and eventually said yes to the proposal. Jonah also proved his stability by turning down a chance to fast-track his career by exploiting his tape of a film mogul’s embarrassing liaison with his daughter’s friend.
Still, we fear (or secretly hope?) it might be an rocky engagement for Jonah and Riley. For starters, earnest medical student Lauren told Riley: “You guys are the most perfect couple I know” and that has to be foreshadowing for utter disaster. Also, it seems bisexual Ella directed some lustful looks at Jonah. She consoled herself about their engagement with a lesbian liplock in a bar parking lot, but we’re dying for this new queen bee to stir up big trouble. She’s already a mini Amanda Woodward — she gets the show’s best job, best outfits, best highlights, and certainly the best lines (“I love love, I just hate monogamy”). Can I start the 2010 Emmy campaign for actress Katie Cassidy yet?
Meanwhile, med student Lauren’s dad lost his job and she has to come up with tuition somehow; a cute, rich date offers her $5,000 to sleep with him. She is initially offended but then reconsiders her financial position. (Another thing that might help your medical career, Lauren? Stop taking personal calls every time you’re with a patient! Aren’t cell phones banned in hospitals?)
The only flat characters in the pilot were recovering alcoholic/aspiring chef Augie Kirkpatrick (who comes up with these names!?), who might be getting more interesting as we see him burning bloody evidence in the final scene, and new resident Violet, played by poor Ashlee Simpson-Wentz, who didn’t have much to work with in this episode. Her “gee-shucks” new-girl-in-town naivete is already growing old. But she does say to Lauren: “You and me, we’re good girls. It’s just not as fun.” You got that right, Violet. Start causing your share of trouble (with Augie?) because Melrose Place certainly isn’t the right address for good girls.
All in all, things are off to a strong start; much more scandalous from the get-go than the rather tame original 1992 first series – juicy characters like Sydney and Amanda didn’t become regulars until later seasons. The vibe is slicker and more up-to-date, with an emo-y soundtrack and references to Twitter and Lady Gaga. One thing remains thankfully the same — the male cast seems to be required to be shirtless as much as possible — even earnest Jonah has been seen barechested in bed and bath scenes and Augie rushed to the pool with button-down conveniently half-off.
I’m hooked already. What about you, PopWatchers? Will you be tuning in to see who killed Sydney, whether or not sweet Jonah turns out to be a cheater, and when Violet inevitably gets corrupted?
Photo Credit: Michael Desmond/The CW