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.
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.
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.
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".