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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Melrose Place - The Complete First Season
Melrose Place - The Complete First Season
Paramount // Unrated // November 7, 2006
List Price: $54.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Jeffrey Robinson | posted November 6, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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The First Season

Melrose Place is a spin-off series from Beverly Hills, 90210 that first aired in 1992 and ran for seven seasons. Melrose Place is a soapy, melodramatic show about the tenants of the apartment complex at 4616 Melrose Place in Los Angeles, California. The show offers viewers a soapy look into several twenty-somethings as they struggle through life: careers, romances, friendships, successes, failures, etc. In the series' inaugural season, there are thirty-two drama-packed episodes. Overall, it is a solid over-the-top, dramatic television show. And despite being almost fifteen years old, the series' content still works well, although the styles from the nineties sometime look a little silly.

The season one cast consists of ten different characters that change throughout the season. The original cast is made up of eight different people: Alison, Billy, Michael, Jane, Rhonda, Sandy, Jake, and Matt. Midway into the season, Sandy is cut and replaced with Jo. Jo brings her plenty of drama to the show. Later, an additional character named Amanda is brought on board to heat things up and the show's tone gets very soapy. Here is a brief description about the season one characters.

Alison (Courtney Thorne-Smith) is a college graduate who came to Los Angles with the hope to become a successful businesswoman in advertising. She graduated from college with an English degree. She currently works at D & D Advertising as a receptionist. Billy (Andrew Shue) is Alison's new roommate. He is a good natured guy with an innocent demeanor from a middle class family in the Valley. He takes on odd jobs to support himself while he attempts to launch himself into a successful writing career. He is relatively new to living on his own and he makes a few bonehead mistakes in his daily life. Michael (Thomas Calabro) is man of many talents. He is a medical doctor in the middle of his residency. He also doubles as the building super for the residents at 4616 Melrose Place. He is at first a very good guy, but his character moves into a dark direction. His wife is Jane (Josie Bissett), who aspires to be a clothing designer. She works in a hip clothing boutique.

Jake (Grant Show) is the Dylan McKay of Melrose Place. He is a righteous dude with a bad guy facade and all of the ladies love him. He comes complete with a kick ass motorcycle, black leather jacket, and the cool dude "hair". His profession is construction, which he supplements working other jobs as a bike mechanic amongst other things. Rhonda (Vanessa Williams) is a talented dancer who works as an aerobics instructor. She rooms with Sandy for the first part of season one. She does not have a huge impact on the season one stories. Matt (Doug Savant) is the good natured gay guy. He works at Lander: Shelter For Teens, a halfway house. He is best friends with Rhonda and an all-around good guy who tries his best to do what he thinks is right for not only himself, but his friends and everyone around him.

Sandy (Amy Locane) is the sultry southern girl. She works at the local bar everyone hangs out at, Shooters. She is an aspiring model/actress. In the early episodes, she has a very bitchy, conniving personality. She becomes more likeable as the episodes progress and she is depicted as a kinder person. In "Dreams Come True", she leaves the apartment complex to star on a soap opera Forever and Tomorrow in New York. Jo Reynolds (Daphne Zuniga) is the new kid on the block. She moves into the apartment complex to replace Sandy. Jo makes her first appearance in the episode "House of God". She is an amateur photographer from New York. She came to Los Angeles to get away from her old life. Amanda Woodward (Heather Locklear) joins the cast in the episodes in "Picture Imperfect". Amanda is Alison's new boss at D & D Advertising. She spices up everything for the Melrose group as the sexy executive who finds her way into places like Billy's bed!

The characters, overall, provide a decent balance of roles and personalities. I especially enjoy the chemistry Thorne-Smith and Shue have together. The two make for likeable characters as get to know each other and become roommates and best friends. Michael and Jane also have good chemistry as a newlywed couple. The other characters are also fairly good in their role. At first, Sandy is a strong character (lots of over-the-top drama) as an utter bitch you aren't sure if you are supposed to like, but she quickly turns into a kind, friendly person. I did not find it a horrid move when she left the show. Matt and Rhonda are not developed nearly as much as I would have liked in the episodes. But Rhonda does not make it into season two. Jake is okay in his role. He is a bit confusing at times as he acts like a bad boy, but also tries to be a good guy. Jo feels like a forced character trying to fill Sandy's void. But she gradually grows on you as she opens up. Amanda is handled well. She fits the overly melodramatic role with perfection and makes for a solid character. You don't like her, but you do. When she comes on, the show gets really really really soapy.

The season one episodes cover a ton of different subjects from racism to bad relationships to adultery to seductive temptations to hate crimes to spoiled friendships. The overall tone starts off with developing the characters as they try to succeed in that crazy thing called life. The melodramatic tone is there, but not nearly as strong as the latter portion of the season. I found the initial episodes to be pretty fun. I liked the characters a lot and the stories, while sometimes hokey were enjoyable. For instance, I think we as a society have become more education about issues such as racism and sexual harassment that the storylines dealing with those kinds of topics are not as "powerful" as they probably were when the show first aired. In those cases, I did not feel the stories were particularly strong.

In the earlier episodes, Melrose Place meets Beverly Hills, 90210 with several of the "90210" cast as guest stars. Notably, Kelly (Jennie Garth) makes several appearances to explore the magic between Jake and her while David (Brian Austin Green), Donna (Tori Spelling), and Steve (Ian Ziering) try to dissuade her. Kelly met Jake when he was working a job at her mom's house. The two fell in "love", or at least what they thought was love. This storyline might have been an interesting, but it was not. The problem with it is the overly melodramatic nature. The two characters don't really fit together, or at least not having the "90210" episodes fresh in my mind it is hard to get a good feel for their relationship. Also, the fact Kelly is a minor and Jake is a several years older also made it a little weird/gross.

Other storylines of interest dealing with romantic relationships includes Sandy being stalked by a guy who just doesn't understand the meaning of no, Jake and Jo's heated relationship, Alison's affair with the very married and confused Keith and the impact the relationship has on the Melrose group, Jane and Michael's depreciating romance that results with Michael having a heated office romance with fellow doctor Kimberly (Marcia Cross, Desperate Housewives), and a love triangle with Billy, Alison, and Amanda. In addition to the romantic relationships, there are platonic relationships covered, which mostly deal with the cast getting to know each other and helping friends out in one predicament or another.

The characters' careers are all stories brought into the fore time and time again. Billy's career is of interest. He is an aspiring writer, but his dad wants him to become a salesman at the family furniture store. Of course, Billy will do anything to keep at his dream. This is a fun storyline that has Alison getting caught up in the middle of it. There are also several other stories with Billy and work, including writing for a newspaper column, driving a taxi cab (and getting robbed!), etc. Matt is the victim of a hate crime. Some guys beat him up for being gay. When his boss at the halfway house finds out, he fires Matt for being gay. Matt learns just how much its means to him to work at the halfway house. He is forced to sue the halfway house for wrongful termination.

Alison's career is another big story. She is aspiring to find her place in advertising. Lucy Cabot, an executive at D & D Advertising, takes Alison under her wing to teach Alison the fundamentals of advertising. Alison's career is covered in many stories that include an idea-stealing coworker, a personal relationship with Keith that puts her job in jeopardy (as well as friendships!), and a promotion that comes with a new, feisty boss. Michael's career is always a big part of the show and how being a doctor and the building super pan out and the ramifications it has upon his relationships with his wife Jane. Jane's career also starts to take off when a hot designer gives her a chance to make something of herself. Rhonda has a storyline about her past and how her fears led her to losing out on her dream of being a professional dancer. Jake's career is always an issue, or rather lack of. Lately, there hasn't been much work for a guy in construction and he is always struggling to keep up. At one point, he considers doing some dodgy.

What works for season one of Melrose Place are the characters. I really enjoyed getting to watch them, and while many of the stories they were involved in were corny and over-the-top, they still had an enjoyable tone. Part of the enjoyment came from an almost hearty, feel-good nature that came from the characters as they dealt with and conquered their problems. This good feeling appears in the episodes prior to Locklear's appearance. Once Locklear joins the cast, the show takes a much soapier, dramatic tone. The melodramatic approach also works, but I enjoyed the other aspect a lot more. In the end, I think Melrose Place's first season is a pretty fun watch. Its content has held up remarkably well over the years.

Episode Guide

1. Pilot: When Alison's roommate unexpectedly moves out, her "For Rent" ad leads to potential romances, bitter reprisal, and a sexy pool party for the residents of 4616 Melrose Place.
2. Lost And Found: It's time to read between the lines when Billy entrusts Alison with his particularly bad screenplay, and a daring Jane loses her weeding ring during a wild night at Shooters.
3. Friends And Lovers: Billy and Alison work out the essential boundaries of their new roommate relationship, while unemployed Jake tells Kelly (Jennie Garth from Beverly Hills, 90210) she's crossed the line by posting his bail.
4. For Love Or Money: All's not fair in love and business when Alison's sly date steals one of her moneymaking ideas, and Jake finds the profits from his new art venture going up his partner's nose.
5. Leap Of Faith: Jane receives some breathtaking, life-changing information, while Billy attempts a death-defying stunt in order to have an "experience" to write about.
6. My Way: Appearances can be deceiving when Billy invites Alison to meet his parents in Palm Springs, and Sandy lets a role in a horror movie go to her head.
7. Second Chances: Rhonda decides it's time to take new steps towards an old dream of being a professional dancer, while Jake and Alison's intense "studying" time has everyone suspicious.
8. Lonely Hearts: Flirtation turns to frustration when Sandy finds herself being followed by a handsome young man named Paul after a particularly awkward date.
9. Responsibly Yours: Sticking around for the long haul becomes a test of courage for Billy when he dates a hot single, mother, while Jake and Sandy question whether they have more in common than a fondness for sex.
10. A Promise Broken: Sometimes bad things happen to good people, and it's up to a rambunctious puppy and a friendly red-headed medical colleague named Kimberly (Marcia Cross, Desperate Housewives) to remind Jane and Michael what really matters.
11. Burned: Rhonda makes it her mission to help Billy after he's attacked in South Central, while Jake has difficulty getting past old wounds when his mother suddenly appears at his birthday.
12. Polluted Affairs: Alison dives into a steamy new relationship with a passionate environmentalist, but when she comes up for air, she discovers that he may not be all he seems.
13. Dreams Come True: Friendly concern is misconstrued as meddling when Billy confronts the married man Alison is seeing and Jake urges Matt to get revenge on the hoodlums that attacked him.
14. House Of God: Silence speaks volumes when an aloof new tenant, Jo Reynolds, moves in, and Jane and Michael suspect that their friend's wife is the victim of domestic abuse.
15. Drawing The Line: The Melrose group faces difficult new beginnings as Keith leaves his wife for Alison, Matt sees a lawyer about his discrimination case, and Rhonda takes on the challenge of finding a new roommate.
16. The Whole Truth: Billy and Jake both make a move for Jo, but she remains immune to their charms. When she's arrested by the police, however, one of them will manage to crack her chilly facade.

17. Jake VS Jake: Jake is emotionally unprepared when an old girlfriend announces he has a son, while Alison realizes she needs help in dealing with her serious medical problem.
18. Single White Sister: Family problems surface when Jane's little sister wants to move in, Jo gets troubling news from her ex-husband, and Rhonda meets Terrence's parents.
19. A Melrose Christmas: 'Tis the season for surprises when Alison comes out of surgery with a romantic revelation and Michael makes his first baby delivery.
20. Peanut Butter And Jealousy: Some relationships aren't made to last as Jo considers going back to her old marriage and Jane bursts at the seams over her sister's overly friendly behavior.
21. Picture Imperfect: D & D Advertising gets a whole lot sexier when Alison gets an unexpected job promotion, Amanda Woodward comes on board as her boss, and Jo takes some very revealing shots of an underwear ad.
22. My New Partner: There's a little too much mixing of business and pleasure when Alison confronts Billy about his dates with Amanda, and Jo has an interesting solution to Jake's unemployment woes.
23. Three's A Crowd: Things heat up fast when Jake and JO move their relationship to the next level, and Amanda is immediately attracted to Alison's roommate, Billy, after a game of Truth or Dare.
24. Bye Bye Billy: Alison is terrified when she's accosted after a theater performance, and her decision to find safety in Keith's arms has Billy packing his bags.
25. Irreconcilable Similarities: As both of their relationships take the fast track to commitment and compromise, Alison and Billy both begin to wonder if they're making the right move. Is it too late for love?
26. The Test: It's a wicked game of "cat and mouse" when Alison begs Amanda for her old advertising job and Billy finds his padded resume gets him into more trouble than it's worth.
27. End Game: Billy is shaken by the sudden death of his father, but he is even more surprised when both Amanda and Alison show up at the funeral.
28. Pushing Boundaries: Things heat up at the workplace as Kimberly reveals to Michael that she wants to be more than just friends, and Billy finds himself doing too much "overtime" with his new boss, Nancy.
29. Pas De Trois: Money makes everything messy when Jo and Jake have a falling-out over taxes, Jane's new fashion assignment has her spending less and less time with Michael, and Amanda flaunts her higher position in the company.
30. State Of Need: There are no easy answers when Amanda announces she's pregnant with Billy's child and Jane agrees to let Michael sleep on the couch if they go to couples' therapy.
31. Carpe Diem: It's a romantic evening to remember when Alison and Billy have their first "date" and Michael finds himself town between two women on the night of his wedding anniversary.
32. Suspicious Minds: Melrose Place is for sale, and while Jane and Michael wonder if a new start might help their struggling relationship, Alison is afraid to leave her apartment after receiving threatening phone calls.

The DVD

Video:
The video is given in 1.33:1 ratio full frame color. The picture quality is average for a television series from the early 90s. Generally, the episodes look fine, but there are noticeable visual distortions and some problems with color representation. There are also traces of dirt in the film and a couple glitches from damaged film. Overall, the picture is acceptable and should not ruin the viewing experience.

Audio:
The audio track included with this release is English 2.0 Dolby digital stereo sound. The sound quality is decent with dialogue consistently audible. It is an average TV on DVD audio track, dialogue driven and is pretty flat with little use of the stereo sound. Music is also very flat and bland.

This release does not come with subtitles, but it is closed caption enabled.

The DVD covers have an explicit warning that "some music has been changed in this home entertainment version".

Extras:
For extras, Melrose Place: The Complete First Season comes with six featurettes and an extended episode guide.

  • Beginnings (5:27) features Darren Star, creator of Melrose Place, talking about his motivation for creating the series. It is a show about young adults who have just left home and/or graduated college to be on their own. It also stars Josie Bissett, Andrew Shue, Doug Savant, and Vanessa Williams, but mostly focuses on comments from Darren Star. They also talk about other things like the relationship between Melrose Place and Beverly Hills, 90210, series season one evolution (getting soapier), characters and castings, and some other things.

  • Friends & Neighbors (6:23) has Darren Star, Grant Show, Thomas Calabro, Josie Bissett, and Doug Savant. The content focuses on the characters and their relationship: Jane, Michael, Sandy, Matt, and Jake.

  • Neighbors & Friends (5:50) is more discussion about the show's characters. It stars Andrew Shue, Darren Star, Courtney Thorne-Smith, and Vanessa Williams. They focus on Billy, Alison, Kimberly, and Rhonda.

  • Melrose Place: Behind-the-Scenes (4:58) was a Fox television promo for the show. It features a cast and crew interviews with Aaron Spelling, Grant Show, Darren Star, Vanessa Williams, Doug Savant, Josie Bissett, Thomas Calabro, Andrew Shue, and Courtney Thorne-Smith. The featurette opens with a narration about what the show is about and how it relates to Beverly Hills, 90210, and then proceeds to talk about the characters.

  • Amanda (2:15) is a short featurette about Heather Locklear's super soapy character Amanda. Darren Star talks about her role and how it developed into something more than just Alison's new boss.

  • Melrose Place: New Style Profile (4:41) is another Fox television promo for the show. It begins with an introduction to what the show is about. Next it shows off the Fox premiere party and talks about the characters getting famous. It includes short interviews with Andrew Shue, Courtney Thorn-Smith, Vanessa Williams, Doug Savant, Darren Star, Thomas Calabro, Josie Bissett, Grant Show, Amy Locane, and Aaron Spelling.

    Final Thoughts:
    Melrose Place is a television drama about the lives of a large group of twenty-somethings who live in the same apartment complex. The content focuses on their relationships with each other, romantic interests, careers, successes, failures, etc. Throughout their daily lives, the Melrose group runs into situations that are perfect for a soap opera that include marital affairs and love triangles. The season one's tone makes a dramatic change from the first half to the second, with the show becoming more and more dramatic. Overall, I found the episodes to enjoyable. I really liked the early episodes and getting to know the cast, but I also found the eye-rolling drama in the second half exciting. In the end, I think Melrose Place: The Complete First Season should make for a good investment if you enjoy soapy, melodramas.

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