Returning to 'Melrose Place': Where Watching Is Beyond Reason

By Monica Hesse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The "Melrose Place" I used to sneak-watch in the early '90s never made any sense, which I assumed was because it was too mature, which is why I was forbidden to watch it to begin with, which is why Wednesday nights meant huddling in front of the muted basement television.

Surely an adult would have understood why Sydney, in a wedding dress, ended up catfighting with Jane in the cursed SoCal apartment complex's pool. Surely there was a reason Kimberly's relationship with sanity seemed strangely dependent on sweeps week. (Best moment ever: ripping off her wig in the bathroom to reveal the giant car accident scar.)

In the show's second incarnation, premiering Tuesday night, a new gang of yoga-bodied 20-somethings resides at Melrose, but the show remains just as logical. Which is to say, things happen Because.

Crazypants Sydney, who died at the end of the original's Season 5, is now alive again Because. Star medical student Lauren becomes a call girl to pay her tuition Because. (Because there are no Stafford loans in Melrose Place?) Ostensibly straight Ella makes out with a hot girl Because. The show stars Ashlee Simpson Because.

Because the show still needs a plot, the first episode opens with Sydney (an ageless Laura Leighton) boozily begging David -- son of Michael, another original Melrose alum -- to come over for an emergency. Ten minutes later Sydney's floating facedown in the pool, and the mystery du season is which resident did it.

Was it brooding chef Auggie, who knows Syd from rehab? Was it Simpson's blushing Violet? Was it one half of the token functional couple, Jonah and Riley, who exist solely to provide exposition ("You've been my boyfriend for how many years?") and to eventually, we anticipate, demonstrate that functional people on "Melrose Place" never stay that way for long?

Perhaps it was Sydney herself, crawling out of her 1997 grave and teleporting to 2009 to punish future Syd for idiotically returning to the building that once caused her to become a home-wrecker, then a stripper, then a prostitute, then a cult member, then an inmate, then a mental patient, then a con artist, then dead?

Stranger things have happened in Melrose Place.

It's fitting that the new version of the show will air on CW, land of "Gossip Girl" and "90210" 2.0, land of the Becauses, where beautiful millennials do insane things for no reason. One might worry about a show like "Melrose" finding a niche in such a super-saturated market. But then one might read what fans of the original "Melrose" are saying in anticipation of the new version:

"Jake had a son named David, in Season 5 and he was already a pre teen," writes a poster on one entertainment site, who wonders whether David's parentage is as simple as the audience is led to believe. "Michael had a son with Taylor, but . . . I am just wondering what happened to the daughter that Michael conceived with Jane but they were passing off as Kyle's??? I just hope that David is Taylor's son so Lisa Rinna will come back, god she was a [witch]!!!"

Ah, sweet memories of incoherence. We always did watch "Melrose Place" for one reason. Because.

Melrose Place (60 minutes) airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on CW.

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