Paramount // 1994 // 1432 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // November 28th, 2007
When the going gets tough, sleep with your neighbor.
For more than forty years, Producer Aaron Spelling had his finger on the pulse of America. The finger rarely moved. Spelling's productions pretty much stuck to the same formula: Good-looking people in outlandish -- but not unidentifiable -- situations. Spelling's successes came in waves. Some years, he had a number of series running concurrently, while other years, he had nothing running at all.
After a slow spell at the end of the '80s, Spelling bounced back with the iconic Beverly Hills 90210. The soapy antics of these well-past-puberty teens became a buzz show. Spelling knew the audience wouldn't stay in high school forever, and in 1992 came out with Melrose Place, which featured a group of randy twentysomething professionals in an L.A. apartment complex.
Paramount gives us the DVD premiere of Melrose Place: Third Season, so gel your hair, darken your roots, shorten your skirt, and let's have at it.
The best way to keep up with any season of Melrose Place is to start with a quick rundown of couplings. For Season Three:
Alison (Courtney Thorne-Smith): Sleeps with Billy, Zack (Brian Bloom), and Terry (David James Elliott); becomes a drunk and sleeps with a succession of bit players.
Billy (Andrew Shue): Sleeps with Alison, Susan (Cheryl Pollak), and Brooke (Kristin Davis).
Amanda (Heather Locklear): Sleeps with Jake and Peter.
Jane (Josie Bissett): Sleeps with Michael, Jake, Chris (Andrew Williams), and Richard (Patrick Muldoon).
Jake (Grant Show): Sleeps with Brittany (Kathy Ireland), Jane, Jo, and Sydney; breaks up with Amanda in the first episode, so he gets a point for residual carnality.
Michael (Thomas Calabro): Sleeps with Kimberly, Amanda, Sydney, and Jane.
Peter (Jack Wagner): Sleeps with Amanda, Kimberly, and Caitlin (Jasmine Guy).
Kimberly (Marcia Cross): Sleeps with Peter and Michael.
Jo (Daphne Zuniga): Sleeps with Jake and Jess (Dan Cortese), Jake's brother.
Sydney (Laura Leighton): Sleeps with Michael, Jake, and Chris (Andrew Williams), who was her sister Jane's fiancé and business partner.
Matt (Doug Savant): Sole gay character, generally sexually inactive. Little Eva got more action on the ice floe than the hunky Matt usually does in West Hollywood. Uncharacteristically, has a relationship with Jeffrey (Jason Beghe), who is HIV positive, and later gets involved with Paul (David Beecroft), who's only sleeping with Matt to set him up to take the fall for a murder.
Significant plot threads this season include:
* Alison is a drunk and was molested by her father;
* Kimberly tried to kill Michael at the end of Season Two and this season implicates Jane and Sydney;
* Michael has amnesia from the murder attempt, then he doesn't;
* Jane dates a creep who almost ruins her;
* Amanda's father is a crook;
* Peter and Amanda execute a hostile corporate takeover;
* Peter tries to kill Amanda;
* Jo fights for custody of her unborn (and later born) child;
* Kimberly steals Jo's baby;
* Amanda gets cancer, Michael helps cure her;
* Sydney joins a cult;
* Jake searches for his roots and helps all the other characters with their problems, and almost gets killed several times for his trouble;
* Michael makes everyone's life miserable;
* Billy marries a rich girl.
There are also numerous blackmail efforts, attempted murders, thoughts of murder, the occasional successful murder, and a suicide thrown in for good measure.
Oh, and in the season finale, Kimberly, on orders from a demonic hippie living her head, blows up the apartment complex.
It's not what you think. It's worse.
One of the most affirming half hours I've experienced watching television was a Season Six episode of Seinfeld. In it, Jerry and the gang confessed to a secret that many of us held: They had been watching Melrose Place and were too embarrassed to talk about it. America drew a collective sigh, and we embraced the horny West Coast miscreants for years to come.
Season Three was a high point for Melrose Place. The characters were familiar but not stale, back stories had been established, and the actors fit their occasionally mono-descriptive roles like gloves. The writers were able to put these known quantities in increasingly bizarre yet intriguing situations. Like any good story, the events of MP followed their own logic, and past deeds good and bad impacted the present and the future.
This was the year of Kimberly. Marcia Cross elevated insanity to an art form as the calculating, disturbed doctor, whose relationship with the scheming and sleazy Michael brought out the worst -- and best -- in them both. Matt's reading of Kimberly's psychological evaluation, ordered for all doctors at the hospital after Peter tried to kill Amanda during a midnight appendectomy, sums it up best: "You have no mechanism for dealing with stress, a high degree of suppressed hostilities, sociopathic tendencies, a disassociative personality disorder. In short, you're a walking time bomb."
This season also introduced Peter Burns, who started out as a villain, complete with Sideshow Bob hair, and spent the rest of the series vacillating between good guy and bad guy.
Of course, part of the charm of Melrose Place is that everyone gets to be a villain now and then.
Except Jake, who's always a good guy.
MP had a long third season. Thirty episodes were aired, including two that ran in two-hour timeslots. The final episode ran on May 22, 1995, just a month after the Oklahoma City bombing. Instead of the explosion that was planned for the Season Three sendoff, we are left with Kimberly pressing the detonator. Fans had to wait until the first episode of Season Four for the big ka-blewie.
This set contains all 30 episodes spread out over eight discs. There are four cardboard cases with two discs in each and episode recaps on the back.
Typical of Paramount, nothing seems to have been done to clean up the image. The picture looks grainy, particularly in the darker scenes, and the audio is standard for a TV series. Unlike many of Paramount's TV releases, we get a few extras here, the best one being "Melrose Place According to Jake," which features interviews with Grant Show and creator Darren Star, as well as an archival clip of Aaron Spelling talking about the program. This is a nice, comprehensive overview of the third season and gives a little insight on Star's vision. "Melrose Place: Seven Minutes in Hell" is just a bunch of clips of explosions, shootings, fights, and such, and "Everything You Need to Know About Melrose Place Season 3" features John Aboud and Michael Colton, who are apparently humorists, making occasionally humorous observations about the show.
Since this season came during the height of Melrose Mania, it's too bad Paramount didn't do a little more with the extras. There were two specials aired around this time about the program, one with Traci Lords, former porn star who achieved fame by revealing that she was underage when she'd made some of her films, who played one of Sydney's cult buddies. Sure, these "specials" (and the 2004 "reunion") were puff pieces of crap, but they do have nostalgia value.
And isn't that what Melrose Place is all about now, nostalgia?
Lest we forget, there's a reason that our infatuation with Melrose Place was the shame of the nation. These were shallow, silly people who looked great but made ridiculous choices in ludicrous situations. If you had a quarter for every time you rolled your eyes at something they said or did, you could buy your own apartment complex.
Like it or not, Melrose Place was a cultural touchstone a decade or so ago. Watching this set reminded me just how easy it was to get caught up in these goings-on. Melrose Place had a couple of good years left before most of the cast started moving on and the writers started recycling old ideas.
Melrose Place: Third Season is nighttime soap at its sleazy best.
It would take me weeks to sentence this crew. Let's make it a blanket assessment:
You are all guilty! Guilty! Guilty!
Now, when you go out in public, you must wear big, red letter "M"s around your necks, and all good citizens will shun you!
Except, secretly we'll be dying to know what you're going to do next -- and what you're going to wear to do it.
Paramount, the court must again remind you that we love our TV. Start showing a little more respect on these sets, OK?
Review content copyright © 2007 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 1432 Minutes
Release Year: 1994
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "Melrose Place According to Jake" (19:00)
* "Melrose Place: Seven Minutes in Hell" (7:00)
* "Everything You Need to Know About Melrose Place Season 3" (14:00)
* DVD Verdict Review of Seasons One and Two
* Episode Guide
* Melrose Space: Fan Site