Melrose Place 1.3: Third Time's Not the Charm

MELROSE PLACE was considerably less lurid this week, emphasizing exposition over exploitation, and thus much less compelling.

Most of the action centered on Jonah and Riley, which was not really a good thing. Jonah is the kind of stupid you usually only see in horror movies. The tale of this engaged couple is what is known in the industry as an “idiot plot” – meaning the characters are required to behave like idiots or the story doesn’t work. (You know, like in a horror movie when the babysitter goes into the cellar in her underwear to check out a noise.) The warning signs here are almost as prominent: Riley took an entire day to accept his proposal. And she hasn’t told anyone – friends or family — that she’s engaged. She’s ludicrously jealous of him while hanging all over her hunky neighbor Auggie (whom she got drunk with and kissed last night). She hadn’t even changed her Facebook status. He fecklessly made up with her, and then they committed the ultimate soap opera boneheaded move, the DNSP: the Dreaded No Secrets Pact. By this time next week, they should both be harboring some pretty hefty secrets.

As odious as the Jonah/Riley pairing is, Jonah is still an appealing character (if a bit too theatrically naïve), and he would be much more interesting paired with Ella. But until that happens, Ella (Katie Cassidy) remains intriguing. She was depicted as a lot more vulnerable this week. She was clearly intimidated by blowhard boss Caleb, and she is almost completely helpless around Jonah. It’s funny to see the barracuda become a kitten. She’s even jealous of Riley!

The exposition mostly concerned Michael: We learned that he faked Sydney’s death; she served 6 years for the felony while he went on to marry and have a child. When Syd got sprung she embarked on an affair with Michael, and used the threat of telling the medical board about his role in faking her death to keep him in line. She also could have told his wife, so Michael actually had two strong motives to kill her. Michael invented some kind of medical device that made him a fortune large enough to afford the $2 million painting that David stole at the end of the premiere. And he’s been keeping files on a number of MP residents old (like Jo, Allison and Amanda) and new.

Let’s hope MP returns to its trashier (read: entertaining) roots next week. I recommend turning budding nutjob Violet (and her loopy smile/stare) loose…