The Fall of Melrose Place

I have thought the unthinkable. Now I must speak the unspeakable:Melrose Place has gone downhill. It has peaked, moved past its prime. It is even becoming (I shudder to say this) stale. Have you noticed this? Have you felt it too? When it's all over on Monday nights at 9, do you find yourself sitting in front of the TV feeling let down, mildly dissatisfied, even a little bored? If so, there are reasons. Consider, if you will, the following.* Redundant plot lines Watching Melrose this year has been like experiencing one very long deja-vu. Jake and Jo got back together (again) and then broke up (again). Sydney moved into the beach house with Michael (again). Amanda started dating Peter (again). Kimberly, who'd gone off the deep end at the close of last season, got better and then went off the deep end (again). Jake's new business is failing (again). And Alison relapsed (again), ending up locked in a room by herself (again) with a large bottle of vodka (again). This makes me sad. One of the great things about Melrose in seasons past was that you could never quite predict what would happen next: what devious, underhanded scheme might Amanda pull off? Who might start sleeping with whom? What new character might appear out of the blue to wreak havoc in the rest of the characters' lives? Now you can pretty much predict from week to week what will take place: oh, gay Matt has encountered a gay-looking patient in the hospital. They'll get romantically involved and Matt will be hurt and disappointed (again). Ho-hum.* Outrageous plot development Once upon a time, Melrose story lines were held together by a fine but critical thread of believability. As whacked-out as the plots could be, the writers stayed just close enough to the realm of the possible to keep viewers engaged. So, when Kimberly blew up the apartment complex during last year's finale, it seemed both suitably insane and suitably probable, the result of a delicate blend of fantasy and realism. This year, that careful balance between plausible drama and total camp has been lost and it's hard to believe anything. Alison marries Haley after knowing him for something like two days and then he basically abducts her in the middle of the night, ostensibly to take her on a second honeymoon, and then he announces that he's lost his huge fortune and has to flee the country, and then she agrees to stay with him even though it means leaving behind everything she cares about, and then he gets drunk and plunges off the side of his yacht and drowns. Huh? Who's writing this stuff? It makes no sense. For me, the last straw came several weeks ago, when Kimberly, who'd gone nuts again and become a radio talk-show host, was kidnapped by a crazed, misogynistic caller who tied her to a bed and threatened her with a knife. And that wasn't even the unbelievable part. The unbelievable part came toward the end of that story line, when Kimberly, still tied up, kicked the crazed, misogynistic caller to the ground and knocked him out, then managed to grab his knife with her toes, fling it into the air so that it landed on the pillow right next to her hand, and cut herself loose. Excuse me, but that was a tad too much, even for Melrose.* Deteriorating fashion and make-up What is with Sydney these days? Sydney used to be the queen of glam on Melrose: great hair that changed from week to week; fab make-up; excellent clothes. This season she has become so over-the-top, in both character and appearance, that she's almost clown-like. Did you see her a few weeks ago at that hospital fundraiser, wearing a frilly pink dress and a pink bow in her hair? She looked absurd. Ditto the time she came to see Kimberly -- who, by the way, is now practicing therapy as a psychiatric resident (see "Outrageous plot development," above). Sydney was wearing some horrendous black-and-yellow checked suit with black knee-high boots and her hair was pouffed up on top of her head and flipping out at her shoulders and she looked nothing like the conniving vamp of seasons past. She looked like a Barbie doll. Very disappointing. Jane has had very bad clothes this year, too (trashy, for the most part). And the little skirted suits worn by all the babes at D&D Advertising have become so short they're not even funny anymore. And every time Amanda wears jeans, they have her in a pair of stupid little white sneakers. Have you noticed? Most annoying. You'd think they'd have great shoes on Melrose, but no. This upsets me beyond words.* Inconsistent head sizes Jo still has an enormous head, possibly the largest head on prime-time television, especially since Mariel Hemingway has gone into TV limbo with Central Park West. In itself, this has been, and continues to be, one of the great appeals of Melrose, the chance to ogle Jo's head and marvel at its enormity. But this year, the producers of Melrose have introduced a new character, Bobby Parezzi, who has extremely broad shoulders and a truly minuscule pinhead. Have you noticed how tiny his head is? It's like a teensy little speck with hair and eyes. So now we have the largest and the smallest heads on prime-time TV competing for attention in the very same show. I see this as a dangerous development: so far, Jo and Bobby haven't appeared in any scenes together, but if they did, it would look like an optical illusion, further disrupting the careful balance between fantasy and reality cited above.* More bad men The men of Melrose have always been particularly oafish and dull. There's Billy, who still seems incapable of saying anything more interesting than, "Uh, gee, Alison" (or, this season, "Uh, gee, Brooke"). There's Matt, who basically does nothing but stand around staring blankly, poised for another round of homosexual hurt and disappointment. And there's Jake, who literally does nothing but flip his hair about, break up with Jo, and fail at new business ventures. This year, those winners have been joined by Bobby "The Pinhead" Parezzi, who brings nothing more interesting to the show than his cranium size (see previous item); by Haley, who was so bland, boring, and unbelievable they had to push him off a yacht to get rid of him; and by Jane's soon-to-be ex-business partner in the design firm, who's played by an actor so completely expressionless and unremarkable I can't even remember his character's name. Truly bad men, exceptionally oafish and dull.I pray that all these deficiencies will prove to be mere blips on the screen of Melrose history. I pray that the writers will stop taking whatever drugs they've been on and return the show to its earlier glory. I pray that Sydney will get a new wardrobe assistant, that Brooke will add another expression to her repertoire and treat us to something other than her bad-girl smirk, that Matt will have a truly wild and unpredictable romance, and that Billy will fall down an elevator shaft and die a horrible death. Until then, I won't give up hope entirely. I'll hang in there, every Monday night from 8 to 9. I'll be dedicated. Thank God for Jo's head.

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