Welcome to Melrose Place… We have a pool

The CW’s reboot of MELROSE PLACE started out intriguing, but the players all too quickly revealed themselves to be mere “types” rather than true characters. But then a funny thing happened on the way to 90210-style irrelevance – MP started to get a little fun.

Clearly inspired by Sunset Blvd., the main story hinges on the discovery of the body of Sydney (Laura Leighton) floating in the pool. Flashbacks sketched in a handful of suspects and motives (ranging from Sydney evicting someone to threatening to expose an affair), while the characters tried to introduce themselves to the audience.

The standout is undoubtedly Katie Cassidy’s Ella. She is clearly a gloss on Heather Locklear‘s utravixen Amanda, but Cassidy has put a lot of effort into distinguishing Ella with her mercurial mood swings. Ella is a stone-cold bitch, but can turn on the charm like flipping a switch. She’s sexually omnivorous, but has a soft spot for Jonah, the naïve artistic type. But that doesn’t mean she won’t manipulate him; she played him like a Stradivarius at that birthday party. Bravo to Cassidy – perhaps best-known for playing the demonic Ruby on SUPERNATURAL — for showing the layers to this pivotal character so quickly. She is far and away my favorite character.

At the other end of the spectrum, I despise David (Shaun Sipos) because he’s such a facile caricature of the “Obnoxious Rich Kid,” and thus, dull. He’s Michael Mancini’s son and they don’t get along? Extra boring. As a legacy character, he should bring something more to the table. Speaking of Michael, Thomas Calabro returns to his signature character, and this time Michael is crazy rich and has a family. And, clearly, a chip on his shoulder.

The other returning character, Sydney, has somehow become the landlord on the complex, and made tons of enemies – one (or more) of whom stabbed her and dumped her in the infamous pool. In the opening moments of the show, viewers learned she appeared to lean on David and Auggie, a chef played by Colin Egglesfield, late of ALL MY CHILDREN. Egglesfield looks extremely furious at every moment; can he unfurrow his brow even a little?

The neighbors are all up in each other’s business, apparently interdating and meddling, just like the old days, Aspiring filmmaker Jonah (played by Michael Rady, formerly of GREEK) proposed to Riley (Jessica Lucas), who kept him hanging because she thinks he’s a boy who needs to grow up. Zzzzz…). Riley is too wishy-washy, and something tells me Jonah will regret not kicking her to the curb as soon as she hesitated.

I was going to suggest that Violet (Ashlee Simpson-Wentz) is dumb as a box of rocks, but I think the complex’s newbie is actually as dumb as just a single, lonely rock. There must be more to her, and it’s pretty clear to me what it is. (Let’s just hint at a very specific mommy issue.) Someone else who deserves to be mentioned: Lauren, the cash-strapped medical student. She’s staring at a mountain of debt just as Toby comes along and offers her $5,000 to… uh, go back to his room with him. They saw everyone has a price, and Lauren’s is $5,000. However, I want to like this fledgling hooker, because she is played by Stephanie Jacobsen, who was so memorable as Kendra Shaw in BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: RAZOR and Jesse on TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES.

The direction was a little too on-the-nose for me. For example, when Auggie was eulogizing Syd, the camera cut to a reaction shot of Violet, just in case the audience wasn’t suspecting that she’s more than just an interested newcomer. But overall, I think the episode was just lurid enough to be intriguing, and the “Who Killed Sydney?” mystery is promising enough to warrant tuning in. At least, next week.

Oh, yeah? Sez you!

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