Melrose Place: The Complete First Season

Along with Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place is half of this highly requested duo of DVD sets finally seeing release. Music rights were the culprits of the delay and this is apparent in the sets, with excessive muzak taking the place of early ’90s "adult alternative.” In any case, their dual release is certainly cause for celebration for a generation who avidly tuned in to see who slept with who and what "social issue” was being tackled this week. Though the less popular of the two, Melrose was a personal favourite. The adult-oriented setting allowed for the soap to be soapier and the sex to be sexier. And while it was 90210 that had the teenage girls screaming for Luke Perry and Jason Priestley, it was its spin-off that was the water cooler show during its peak seasons — even Jerry and Elaine were obsessed! However, the first season is not the show at its peak one remembers so fondly. Characters like Brooke (Kristin Davis) and Sidney (Laura Leighton) are nowhere to be found. Mega-bitch Amanda (Heather Locklear) and crazy, crazy Kimberly (Marcia Cross) don’t pop up until late in the set and their antics are just getting started. However, there is something to be said about watching the origins of what would eventually become a cultural phenomenon — the awkward way it spun off from 90210 (Tori Spelling, Brian Austin Green and Jennie Garth are all in the first few episodes) and the quick exits and entrances of some of the main characters are certainly interesting. But interesting doesn’t always translate into entertaining. The plots can get downright boring (Rhonda’s decorators can’t get the colours right! Jake can’t do his taxes!) and the acting is often horrible (I’m looking at you, Andrew Shue). This makes Heather Locklear’s entrance as Amanda Woodward all the more remarkable. She gives the atmosphere a much-needed shot of camp and her torturing of Allison (the irritating Courtney Thorne-Smith, now of According to Jim fame) and sexual manipulation of Billy are a true joy to watch. She leads the season to a juicy cliffhanger of a finale, which in turn leaves the viewer pumped for the next season set. Too bad she didn’t use her classic bitchiness to make the producers give up some decent extras. A few low-quality featurettes (including the particularly horrible "New Style Profile of Melrose Place”) is not what an anticipated DVD set deserves. (Paramount)