Commentary: What ‘Melrose Place’ Needs In Order To Succeed

by | September 29, 2009 at 8:32 AM | 42-Inch Television

The new Melrose Place (The CW)

The new Melrose Place (The CW)

Here’s one thing I know about ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street,’ starring Hollywood’s go-to guy for creepy losers, Jackie Earle Haley, as accused (but possibly innocent!) pedophile Freddy Kruger: based on the just-released trailer, it promises the usual menagerie of torture porn and nostalgia that everyone has come to expect from Hollywood horror remakes. In April 2010, expect it to make a boatload of money.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise: from ‘Star Trek’ to ‘Friday the 13th,’ the more familiar the title, the more cash there is to be made. Hollywood might be out of new ideas, but they have a century’s worth of movies to cull old one’s from. As it turns out, celluloid is a renewable resource.

On television, though, the field is tilted a bit differently. Remakes and reboots hold about as much currency as the American dollar. Time and again, networks have tried to bring back old brand names, with precious few results. The latest soon-to-be causality in this war is the new ‘Melrose Place,’ which through three episodes has seen its middling ratings get even worse. When it was announced last week that original ‘Melrose Place’ star Heather Locklear would be returning for a November sweeps episode, I didn’t think ‘oh great, I can’t wait to see that!’ but instead, ‘I wonder if the show will even make it that far.’

The problem for ‘Melrose Place’ lies in the perception. It might have a famous brand name, but that brand name was popular nearly twenty years ago and no one in the target demographic actually cares. (Yes, it turns out that if you remember when the original ‘Melrose Place‘ was on the air, you are officially old. Sorry about that.) So despite the fact that the updated version is chock-a-block with fresh young faces who were clearly cast with 18-25-year-old viewers in mind, when those viewers tune in and see Laura Leighton, Thomas Calabro and, eventually, Heather Locklear, it leads to one gigantic mass shrug.

The CW’s other Tuesday night remake, ‘90210,’ ran into similar problems last season. Putting aside for a minute the various tonal shifts that the show underwent during its freshman romp, the biggest reason why ‘90210’ failed to get any narrative footing was because it tried (and failed) to toe the line between the two worlds: storylines geared for the under-25 set mixed with appearances from Shannen Doherty and Tori Spelling. Thankfully, for the sake of the series, new executive producer Rebecca Rand Kirchner started cutting back the nostalgia to end season one and has all but exorcised it during season two—only Jennie Garth remains, and her Kelly Taylor has barely been seen this year. Even the familiar theme song has been downgraded. This is ‘90210’ in name only.

For ‘Melrose Place’ to succeed past a season one, it will have to follow a similar path. It’s one thing to bring back Amanda Woodward, but quite another to have Heather Locklear don her patented skirt suit. You don’t see Robert Englund playing Freddy Kruger now, do you?

Three More Inches

Worse ‘Saturday Night Live’ host: Megan Fox or Paris Hilton? I’ll take Megan Fox. Humorless doesn’t begin to describe her. Anti-personality actually might be a good start, though…

It’s getting a bit redundant to keep calling each episode during season three of ‘Mad Men’ the best one yet, but if the shoe fits…

And finally, I realize ‘Desperate Housewives’ stopped being ‘cool’ about four years ago, but a funny thing about that: the show is better than ever! The season premiere was soapy and funny and filled with great performances. Everyone likes to bemoan the lack of quality roles for women, but on ‘Desperate Housewives’ there are four home run roles and four home run performances. Don’t sleep on the ladies of Wisteria Lane.