Unlike “Beverly Hills, 90210,” “Melrose Place,” its Spelling Spinoff, was never an obsessive rewatch for me. Now, don’t get me wrong. I watched pretty much every episode up until around the time that Kristin Davis showed up. No offense to KD, who was my favorite on “Sex and the City.” “Melrose Place” just didn’t have my heart the way “90210” did, especially considering that the MP people were both older than me and way more worldly than my straight-edge, virgin self.
I’m not sure if that’s why its theme song operated as like some kind of mind wipe for me, but for YEARS, “Melrose Place” worked as the stump-everyone theme song; like, even if people remembered what the credits looked like, they (and I) could not hum it to save our lives. Even people who were really into the show! It’s just so similar to the “90210” theme, minus the “bonk bonk” from Brandon.
So it’s nice to rehear the theme, as the pilot opens with it. Back in the day, it was soooo cool — all the shots of California, but the slicker side to “90210’s” beach-focused opening. And whoa, one of the first shots shows full-on ass through a jean hole, and not even a jean hole at the bottom but in the middle of the cheek. Was this on FOX?
These are weird, old credits — pilot credits?
Anyway, the pilot of “Melrose Place” opens with Courtney-Thorne Smith (Allison) waking up. CTS had my good will already back in 1993 thanks to “Summer School” and even more especially, “Lucas.” Allison was poised to be my favorite, but probably would have been anyway based on the fact that she’s wearing a man’s shirt, not lingerie, has vaguely messy hair, and very little makeup on. In SpellingLand, that’s like veering on dirtbag.
Allison wakes up and immediately starts calling for I guess her roommate Natalie, and who does that? Wakes up and immediately starts yelling for her roommate, unless she’s had a nightmare or just heard a loud noise? I don’t actually think “It’s your turn to make the coffee” constitutes a valid reason for so much bellowing at 7:30 a.m., as the radio VO helpfully informs us. She storms down the hall with really fit legs, but there is NO TIME for gam envy, because she opens her roommate’s door (BOUNDARIES, Allison!) and gasps in horror when she sees that her Natalie’s room has been ransacked! “Oh my God,” she mutters.
Allison waltzes out of her apartment in her nightshirt, and goes to Matt’s apartment, who’s already waiting with a cup of coffee for her, but she’s all Lorelai Gilmore in “Christopher Returns; i.e., something ain’t right in Whoville. “Natalie’s gone! She took off!” she cries, and when Matt worries that she’s kidnapped, Allison makes me LOL by exasperatedly saying, “Oh come on, Matt! Who’d want Natalie?” Then there’s some banter about space aliens, and Allison scampers away…
…to Jake’s! Who spun the show off in the first place, as he creepily dated Kelly Taylor on “90210,” and here he is with his shirt off, like hilariously Masters of the Universe looking (which is not an insult; Grant Show kind of is like a Hollywood superhero, but more on that later). He’s all, “Why is it that whenever a girl doesn’t show up in her bed, they assume she’s at my place?” Paraphrased, you get the point, but what you cannot see is the downright bizarre way he’s leaning into Allison and saying it all like “Do YOU want to come in and be that girl?” but Allison gets even more points in my book by remaining completely unphased, and staring straight into Jake’s aggressive sexuality with NO FEAR, as she obsesses some more about her roommate, and runs to the next neighbor’s apartment, holding her shirt in front of her in the weirdest way possible.
To be unsnarky, this is actually a really fun way of introducing the show and all the characters, of which the complex itself is one — kind of like Tokyo in “Lost In Translation!”
Ohhh, it’s Jane! Who bears the distinction of having kissed one of the same men as Jenny Lewis, back during one of IIRC Jenny’s last acting gigs. Allison exposits that Natalie stuck her with the rent, and Michael shows up, also shirtless.
Allison: no money. Michael: no power to waive her rent, despite his and Jane’s being the managers (I think? Seriously, my eyes and ears glaze over when it comes to anything business. Quite possibly why I’m poor.) Anyway! Allison: plucky, needs roommate. Jane: sorry.
Vanessa Williams! Not the singer, the actress, looking great as usz in an early-90s workout outfit — of which there are many, and I totally miss. She says that it’s easy to find a roommate, lets us know that she teaches aerobics, lives with Amy Locane, and literally runs off to work, ’cause, endorphins.
The more things change; the more they remain the same — as Allison does the ’93 version of texting and driving by writing her ad while she drives her car among many ‘80s/early ‘90s cars. Not cool, Allison.
Kind of cool misdirection, as you keep expecting her to get into an accident. As luck would have it, she does not, but she parks at the same time next to another dude, and when she opens the door to get out, it slams into his (empty) passenger side! And don’t get me wrong; she’s been driving like a selfish jerk, but this dude like RUNS out of his car in this uber-aggressive manner, YELLING, and it’s kind of scary. Also, I rewound and he’s like at the VERY edge of the parking space right next to her car; she parked first, and he tore in after she’d clearly parked in an organized manner. And Allison is extremely apologetic.
Turns out, yelling car dude is some VIP at D&D (like our town’s liquor store!) Advertising Agency. Allison is the new receptionist, and I remember that I did always love her clothes, back in ’93 when it was super-sans irony. Right now, she’s rocking first of a billion tight-black-Kelly-Bundy-but-work-chic dresses, with a red blazer on top. But not quite as matronly as all the “90210” blazers, more Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” minus the leather aspect.
Whoaaaa. I don’t know WHY it’s always so weird for me whenever “90210” people show up on MP, but it is. Kelly, Donna, and David pull up to a restaurant that’s awesomely shaped like a hamburger, with a huge outdoor patio. Kelly’s being stalky to Jake, and Donna totally calls her on it.
Weird overall porn vibe, between the music and Amy Locane’s slowwwww, pretty creepy delivery and movements (I do like this actress and character, but this scene is hilarious), all of which is to establish that she and Kelly are both Jake’s Ladies, only Amy Locane is sophisticated and worldly, whereas Kelly is still just a high-school girl, and feels outleagued.
It’s Billy! He was my crush, back when the show was on. Like I said, I was innocent, and he was really sweet. Plus, while I was no longer reading Teen Beat, and it was pre-Internet, I was pop-culture savvy enough to know that Andrew Shue was a truly great guy IRL.
So basically, I’m not going to make fun of his acting. So many others did, and I always thought it was mean. Let he among his who’s had a successful, years-long acting gig cast the first stone! Also, I’m an underdog fan, and IMO, Andrew Shue : Melrose Place as Shane Kippel : Degrassi. *Waves to Rebecca if you’re reading ;)*. Both started out as ostensibly weaker links, but seemed real and were endearing. Then before our eyes, they grew so much as actors and when all is said and done, are Xanders of the show ❤
Okay, back on track. We’re only 10 minutes in. Good Lord. Billy talks about kissing girls on his squishy bed since the eighth grade (as you do), and Allison’s Very Exasperated. Oh, she’s also bought Life cereal. And clearly has not read The Gift of Fear, as she lets Billy just follow her around in the dark. Long story shorter, he wants to be Allison’s roommate. Though she is kind of awesome when she mocks his aforementioned junior high romances. He is very pushy and asks to take a look at the place.
Also, Allison has “Pizzerias,” a chip I don’t remember.
Billy hits a sore spot with Allison when he calls her her mother, then gives her his phone number.
Shooters! Jake plays pool with a maxi-cleavage chick, while Amy Locane comes over and calls out Jake on his playerdom, and especially Kelly, who as she rightfully points out, is not even 18.
Obligatory “How dare you try and be my roommate!” interview scenes, first with a purple-mohawked chick showing up at Allison’s, smoking a cigarette. Allison prissily tells her it’s a no-smoking place, and mohawk lady gets indignant, as she’s “down to a pack a day.” Next up, a blonde chick who is not Daphne from “Party of Five,” but might as well be. She also uses the phrase “making love,” so it’s good that Allison shuts the door in her face.
Not going to touch on the trans-phobic, ageist clips that follow. Actually, I kind of just did.
Michael shows up and gives Allison an eviction notice that the owner sent.
Shooters. Amy Locane is wearing that sheer black shirt over a bra that I still do miss from the ‘90s. Oh, Allison is looking for Billy and as luck would have it, there he is, playing pool. She tells him she wants him to move in. In true ‘90s tradition, Allison would go from pretty to slamming if she just took off that stupid blazer. I hang my own head, as I too wore a ton of blazers in the ‘90s, and what was UP with that?
Creepy bed scene with Jane and Michael. She asks him if he doesn’t get horny anymore and they frolic, but are thankfully interrupted by Allison with her rent and introduction of Billy.
Vanessa Williams is spying through the blinds, and barges into Sandy’s (that’s Amy Locane’s name) room, pulling up the shades and saying that it’s almost noon. She and Allison should just save everyone a lot of trouble and move in together. Personally, I’d have to totally bitch slap a roommate who barged into my room, yelling and judging me for sleeping late. Rhonda (Vanessa Williams) is sad that Sandy already knows who Billy is, but as a 20-year on-and-off waitress, especially given where I work in my small town, I appreciate how Sandy’s like, “I work at Shooters and no one knows things before I know things!”
Obligatory shirtless Billy, as he and Allison “banter” about living with strange members of the opposite sex, and they discuss boundaries. Allison has the unmitigated gall to talk about how knocking on doors is important, and then to be all 😮 that her hot, 20-something male roommate that she’s clearly not throwing a leg over might possibly be having sex from time to time. They agree on “one night a week,” for both of them.
Allison shows him the refrigerator, and she has Post-Its on all of her food, with designated shelves. There is interminable back and forth regarding baths and peanut butter, which I think is supposed to indicate underlying sexual tension.
Rhonda’s in another awesome workout outfit, and bugs Matt (who’s in the pool) about Billy. She asks him to go to a movie on Saturday, but he exposits that he’s leading a “drug-free” talk at the shelter where he works. They refer to “Yours, Mine, and Ours” as a young person naturally would do in 1993, and fight over who’s going to get Billy.
Weird-ass scene of Billy dancing to Latin music, and we find out that he’s a writer when Allison shows up. He compares himself to Norman Mailer, though he’s not even drinking iced tea.
Oh man: the ‘90s when our economy was so much different. Billy mocks Allison for being a receptionist, and while nothing besides waitressing has proven to me more than answering phones that the majority of our populace is deeply stupid, I’d still kill for her job. This scene is the worst; I can’t even go any further.
Kelly Taylor! Wearing one of those awesome culottes dresses from this time. Jake does his now-standard aggressive door jamb sexuality thing. Kelly pouts away, so Jake does what any guy in SpellingLand would do: yell at her and grab her by the arm. Overall, this scene is making Jennie Garth a worse actress, and I don’t think she’s a bad actress at all. Okay, THIS scene is the worst. But the cheese is delivered in spades, which is pretty awesome. Still not worth recapping though. Bottom line: Jake asks Kelly out to dinner the next day. And innuendos “I don’t think either one of us is gonna get off that easy.”
Awesome Workout Outfit again on Rhonda, who is seriously obsessing over Billy. Weird establishing shots montage, then Rhonda’s aerobics class. All joking and corny mustaches (on the guy who’s clearly there to mack on her) aside, I’d totally go to Rhonda’s classes. She’s a fun motivator.
Moustache Man is named Daniel, and he asks out Rhonda. Her reaction is actually super cute and endearing. I never understood why (SPOILER) Rhonda was taken out of the cast after the first season. Perhaps wardrobe could simply no longer afford her, especially as workout outfits grew more scarce.
Ew, it’s the creepy bad parker, here to give Allison orders. End scene.
Rhonda shows up at Jane’s boutique, needing clothes for her date. Again, jokes aside, I do think that this pilot does a pretty tight job of establishing the characters of a fairly sprawling cast). Jane exposits that she and Michael never see each other, after Rhonda envies her being married. It’s a cute scene.
MORE WEIRD! As we get a Kelly/Donna scene. Kelly wears that denim vest that we all inexplicably wore in ’92-’94, and Donna sports unprecedented balls, as she tells Kelly she doesn’t approve of Jake.
Was Billy supposed to be a coke addict, or did the MP creators really think that young guys just sort of acted this way in general? Regardless, he dances with a mop and carries a rose in his teeth, all alone in the apartment until Allison comes home.
Oh okay, we find out that Billy teaches dance at Arthur Murray. Allison’s laughter is super bitchy, but again a sign of the times — where anyone should be ashamed by such a job, even if it wasn’t “just” to supplement his Norman Mailer aspirations. What could be hotter as a day-to-day job than teaching dance?
Billy says he was hoping that Allison would be his dance partner. She responds, “Billy, I live with you, but I don’t have to dance with you,” as if in some alternate universe, that’s a really clever thing to say, then stalks off whilst cackling.
Kelly/Jake date. She’s wearing another awesome babydoll dress (fitting!), and they’re at Shooters. Because nothing says romance like a sports bar where your wannabe boyfriend’s hot other chick is working. Obviously, I have great and abiding love for that setting, but come on, Jake. How did Kelly get in here, anyway? Sandy shows up in 1 second flat and snarks about getting a chocolate milk for Kelly. As IF any waitress wants to make chocolate milk ever, much less on a busy weekend night. Turns out she was just kidding anyway, and Kelly orders a Coke; Jake orders a beer. In television tradition, “beer” is all the info needed.
Steve Sanders and David! Joining Donna, and seriously, who IDs at Shooters? They’d get fired from Townhouse in less time than it would take to see Allison sporting another blazer.
Hey, Sandy heard me! Steve asks for “whatever’s on tap,” which is still more specific than “beer,” and Sandy drawls about needing to see some ID.
“Kelly, you’re hurting me,” Donna unsettlingly foreshadows Ray, as Kelly pulls her into the more intimate…pool room.
Steve and David are now at Jake’s table, trying to act tough. Jake is predictably and dreamily unimpressed. Amy Locane comes over and announces in her per-usz deeply bizarre cadence, that if Jake’s going to date high-school girls, she’s going to date high-school boys, as “Melrose Place” manages to outdo even itself, on the creepazoid level.
She hits on Steve and IMO they should have married them off, if only so that she could be Sandy Sanders, pulling her overall porny vibe full circle.
Jake lets us all know that Sandy’s an actress, and Steve…whose lap she’s sitting on…starts talking about his mother.
I’m sorry, but this scene is even harder than usual to take seriously, as aside from David Silver and kind of Donna, the whole “90210 kids are KIDS and MP adults are ADULTS,” is so absurd. Kelly flounces back from her convo with Donna and it’s clear that she’s supposed to be the kid to Sandy’s adult, but I mean, come on now. And this is Kelly, not even Andrea or Dylan.
Needless to say, I’m enjoying the hell out of this pilot rewatch 😀
And I really really love Kelly’s dress.
Jake gives a weirdly delivered speech about how Kelly’s Too Young, and is also wearing a denim top, though I can’t tell if it’s a vest or a shirt, as obviously, it’s underneath a leather jacket. Kelly storms away, and Jake gets on his motorcycle.
Back at Melrose Place. Jane opens a bottle of wine and can I just express my dismay at how very young she looks to me? Back in the day, she was the elder!
I like Jane’s dress too, in structure, though not as much the color and pattern. Early ‘90s were a weird time that way, but by ’99, they’d figured it all out for at least two years; then it fell back to crap.
I feel like I should rewind, but kind of don’t want to Basically Allison is being shrewish again, some more, and Billy is once again without a shirt. Allison’s wearing an awesome moon-bedecked terry-cloth bathrobe.
New scene! Jane’s in the pool, and Allison’s stopping next to it as they have a conversation. Then Jake comes by and scoops Allison into his arms, but she tricks him and makes HIM fall in the pool! Because it was 1992, and What Couldn’t Women Do?
Boring conversation with Allison and Bad Parking Boss.
I can’t even jump down the rabbit hole of explaining Matt’s costume in the next scene, as he eats a green apple and talks to Rhonda, who is not wearing a workout outfit, but still by far the best-dressed on the show.
Now we’re at a party with Allison and Bad Parking Boss, which probably relates to the aforementioned, non-recapped scene. Bottom line is that Allison’s wearing a nice, very flattering black-and-white dress, sans culottes, that you can only now find on a lucky day at the thrift shop. And I’ve yet to determine whether it’s sociologically intentional, but Allison’s creepily flirty with this man in all of their scenes together.
Rhonda’s on a date with Daniel (Moustache Man, plus with that very specific “I’m cooler than most people” gold hoop earring from back in the day). He harkens back to my earlier words when he complains about the economy. If ONLY, 1993. Rhonda looks insanely gorgeous, and is incredibly charming, as is Moustache Dude, telling her that she’s so charismatic, but it turns out that he’s just using her to sell his stupid vitamins 😦
Bad Parking Boss is grabbing Allison by the arm (DRINK!) as he takes her back to her apartment, and she says that she had an amazing time; thank you. The addition of alcohol and the presence of a hot lady in a dress makes BPB even creepier than usual. He says “Btw, you’re smart and all that, but also SEXY.” To which Allison responds, “Oh trust me, I’m not.” And between that and her response earlier to Billy (Jake? It’s been a long hour and a half) that “(she’s) not cute,” I’m wondering whether this is the ‘90s SpellingLand version of female self deprication, or signs of a deeper character issue. The fascinating thing about this show is that it really could go either way.
BPB leans in and basically acts like a sexually predatory Joker/Miss Hannigan in “Sign,” and not in the good way.
But, lo! Here is where all of Allison’s misgivings about having a platonic male roommate are put to rest, because who comes to the rescue, but Billy Campbell! Hahaha he’s near naked yet again, and tells BPB that “(he’s) her husband, slimeball.”
Allison self loathes again, saying “God, I am so STUPID!” She and Billy bond on the couch, and despite(?) all of the cheese, I’m viscerally reminded of why I loved this show so much, back in the day.
Kelly “most unsupervised high school kid in the ‘90s” Taylor creeps out from the shadows to knock on Jake’s door, wearing an outfit that is 1,000 times better than any outfit she ever wore on “90210,” not counting all the baby doll dresses. It’s a red I’m guessing bodysuit (MISS those, they were ubiquitous back then!), paired with a skirt that I can only describe as “funky” (said in Cindy Walsh voice, ’cause, age). I remember reading an interview with Jennie Garth back in the day, after her workout DVD came out. She was asked what body part she was most fond of, and answered “My tummy.” Then she was asked what part she liked least, and I vividly recall that the workout included “(embarrassed pause),” before she answered, “My tush.” This was before asses were all the rage, and IMO, Jennie was ahead of her time!
Back to the plot! Kelly asks to come in but Jake’s like if you walk through this door, you and I both know what’s going to happen, and Kelly’s like so? Rather than a hot Grant Show/Jennie Garth hookup, “Melrose Place” gives us an interminable scene where it’s established that Jake and Kelly are from different sides of the tracks. Don’t worry, Kelly. In a few months, you’ll have an even older man — Dylan!
Billy’s almost naked on the bed (DRINK!), and Allison graciously tells him that he can stay. Underlying Sexual Tension is firmly established, so to speak.
Michael SCATS, which I capitalize not to disrespect scatting, which is awesome, but to seriously wonder after SpellingLand, where kids were the oldest things ever, between the business deals, gambling, Lucille Ball, and scatting. In a couple of characters, I’d really appreciate it; like this past week, Previously.TV fans questioned “Degrassi’s” Imogen and Jack’s Phyllis Diller reference, but others (me included) thought it totally fit their characters. But on “90210” and “Melrose Place,” there’s just this weird (yet awesome) old-person vibe running through every one of The Youngs.
Michael serves Jane breakfast in bed. ENJOY IT WHILE IT LASTS, Jane.
Aw, I remember why I always had such a heart for Jane. She says: “I’m lonely, Michael. I thought people got married to avoid that,” and props to Josie Bissett, as she seems genuinely distressed. She doesn’t want Michael’s “fresh-squeezed orange juice;” she wants their old life back.
Pool time! I don’t even know how to explain Allison’s outfit; it involves biker shorts in a specific shade of blue that I haven’t personally seen since shopping at Sugarplum for a prom dress, but Billy’s unprecedentedly clothed.
Rhonda and Matt talk about her bad date, and she expresses sadness that they can’t just be together. Was this before Matt was out, show-wise? Either way, he makes it clear that they have no “strong physical attraction,” but it’s obvious that they love each other a lot, and out of all the characters on the show, probably have the strongest bond. Also, can I just say how extra-more this scene made me love Rhonda? She’s the personification of vulnerable, and while I understand — and she does too, in her eyes — that it’s not like that, really love how she conveys that she wishes she and Matt could just be with each other.
Then Amy Locane shows up in an animal-print bikini, and kicks off her…slippers? Crocs before crocs? Some sort of foot covering.She jumps in the pool to tackle Jake. Jane reads a magazine, poolside (thought not Jane magazine). Sandy and Rhonda chicken fight, while Michael sits in a hat and sunglasses, yelling for kids to get off his lawn. Until Jane pulls him into the pool!
Allison joins Billy at the grill and is her normal life of the party self, as she worries about her boss, until Billy scoops her off, and jumps both of them into the pool!
~ THE END! (Complete with super-weird ending-credit shots, and one last shot of a nearly naked dude, via Grant Show, staring into his refrigerator.) ~