Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Return of Melrose Place, But Not of the Melrose Update

The Original Cast of Melrose Place in 1992

Tonight the brand-new Melrose Place premieres on the CW at 9pm and my TiVo is all geared up to record the first episode. Since I'd watched the original MP pretty religiously it was a given that I would check out the new version to see how it compared. Yet, I didn't actually get excited about it until I read a preview in the Wall Street Journal of all places. Dorothy Rabinowitz's piece, "It's the Place to Be," managed to stir up some serious nostalgia for the show. She writes:

"They live in the romantic huddle of apartments that could pass for the dream home base of every young single out to build a life and career--a nest, whether covered by moon glow, the sun, or those occasionally sinister-looking shadows, that remains constant in its promise of excitement."

Although this rose-colored glasses description of post-college life could only apply to the old Melrose Place for a very short period during the first season, it made me a wee bit wistful about the early 1990s.

When the original Melrose Place premiered in 1992 I was in my 20s working at an advertising agency in San Francisco. Part of the show's appeal was that it was an attempt to portray my generation and the industry in which I was working. It was fun to bitch and moan about how ridiculous the people on the show were and how inaccurate their depiction of the ad biz was.

So, as these early 1990s memories starting swirling in my head, I remembered that one of the most awesome things about the original Melrose Place was the fan culture surrounding it. People regularly got together for MP viewing parties and I remember watching at home and calling friends to recap during commercial breaks.

And then I discovered "the Melrose Update." Written by two Oracle co-workers, this emailed episode summary hilariously lambasted the show week after week. Starting out as a quick recap for a friend who'd missed an episode, the update grew and grew and eventually had thousands of subscribers. The "Melrose Update" became its own pop culture phenomenon, with many subscribers admitting that they preferred the updates to the show itself.

In 2009, where everyone is a blogger/critic, it's almost hard to remember those quaint times in the mid-1990s when someone could become famous because of the viral spread of emailed musings. So, as I got myself ready for the Melrose Place premiere tonight I had the nagging urge to find out what ever became of the guys behind the Melrose Place Update.

I tracked down Peter Goldmacher (he shared writing duties on the update with his friend Keith and eventually had primarily responsibility for it) to get his take on all of the Melrose Place nostalgia and find out if he's planning to tune in. Although he spent a good five years (1993-1998) chronicling the goings on of the denizens of MP, Peter said that he will not watch the new show.

Owing to life changes and lack of interest, Peter prefers to keep MP in the past. He said, "I'm almost 40...I'm not the demographic anymore." He also mentioned that he only has about 20 minutes a night where he can watch TV, so he's more selective about the programs he chooses, preferring Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert to other options. He added, "my wife dominates our DVR."

Peter also told me that he's perplexed by the resurrection of TV shows from the 1990s, saying that he is not nostalgic for that era. He said, "it's not old....it's not retro," adding that it was a "lost decade." He said, "I think it's too current to get nostalgic." Although he rhetorically asked me if I was nostalgic about my 20s, I have to admit that I definitely am. I drove by my first San Francisco apartment yesterday, keep thinking about how weird it was that I was at Burning Man in 1993, and laugh about the early days of the Internet and the length of my very first work email address (Waits*=20Jennifer=40CHGomsm#%forwarder@fcb.geis.com).

I think Peter is more nostalgic than he thinks, as he admitted to me that he has a book compiling all of his Melrose Updates that he'll occasionally look through. He said, "It was a point in time" and was "great while it lasted." He also pointed out that it's funny to read the old Updates, but that they really can't stand on their own today, saying, "it was funny because of the time...and in tandem with the show."

He added that he's dubious about the new Melrose Place, saying that it's a "too thinly veiled attempt....to retread old ideas." When I told him that Sydney would be back as the landlady and that Ashley Simpson was in the cast he said, "there you go!"

Like me, Peter is now a parent and added that this also changes what he can watch on TV. He said, "I'm really into penguins...Madagascar."

Fans of Peter's old Melrose Update will be happy to know that he hasn't lost his snarky sense of humor. He told me, "There's no TV show that's worth watching," something that could easily have come from one of his old updates.

Sydney Andrews at the center of the old Melrose Place

I asked Peter if it's weird to think about the fact that he was ahead of his time as far as being an Internet TV critic goes. He joked, "I was the Internet!" He added, "I had content before content was king...before websites." Peter said, "talk about timing" and went on to speculate that if it had been a different time he may have ended up with syndication deals writing for other websites. However, even in that limited world of the early days of the Internet he had over 3000 direct subscribers (not to mention those who got forwarded copies). He said, "I was always amazed....by how pervasive [the Update] was" and told me that people continue to bring up the Melrose Update even today, telling me that he probably gets asked about it once a month.

Since we won't be graced with new Melrose Updates from Peter, here's a look back at a choice tidbit from a 1995 update to get you in the mood for the new series:

"This week's show opens with Michael enjoying the fourth movement of Beethoven's Ninth symphony as Kimberly slips deeper and deeper into the clutches of permanent sleep. But before we get to Schiller's 'Ode to Joy,' Syd interrupts this masterful scene and discovers Michael's timely forgetfulness of his Hippocratic oath. Busted, Michael works feverishly to revive his loving wife and is fully disappointed when he is able to do so. In the heat of moment, Syd takes Kimberly's suicide note and slips it into her jacket...Kimberly decides she wants to frame Michael and enlists Syd's aid..."

I'll be watching tonight, looking for references to the Melrose of old. I'm glad to hear Michael Mancini will be back. He was the sole original character who remained with the old MP for its entire run and he was sure a sleaze-ball. I wonder what else will be in store. Will someone get thrown in the swimming pool? Does D&D Advertising still exist? What's up with this new adult son of Michael Mancini and who's the mother? And, as Peter might ask, does anyone else besides me in Generation X still care?

Stay tuned.

1 comment:

Jennifer Carole said...

Jen - thanks for the memories. I haven't watched the show yet (thank you TiVo) but I plan to and love dishing afterward (except strangely, it will probably be with my tween!). I hope someone goes irreverent!