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TV Tonight: Mediocrity Has a New Address

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The CW

The CW

What’s the best yardstick by which to fairly judge the CW’s new remake of Melrose Place? The 1990s original? Last year’s remake of 90210? The CW’s other stable of soaps and teen dramas? (Please don’t say actual good television. I mean, we’re talking Melrose Place here.)

By the standards of the original, the remake actually comes off fairly well. Where the 90210 spinoff—about twentysomethings in a Los Angeles apartment complex—took a while to find its decadent, over-the-top tone, the new version skips over its forebear’s early attempts at earnestness and goes straight for the trashy stuff. (Mostly. There are a couple misplaced stories about career-crises-of-conscience, particularly one involving aspiring filmmaker Jonah, played by Michael Rady of Swingtown, who seems to mistakenly believe he’s in a TV show that requires realistic emotion.)

The problem isn’t that the new version—which dives right into the pool (literally) with a murder mystery and re-introduces several characters from the original—is bad, exactly. It’s competent. It also seems a little familiar and unnecessary. The luridly lit nightclub scenes, for instance, by now seem familiar from the CW playbook of Gossip Girl and 90210.

But whereas Gossip Girl uses its settings of extravagance and decadence to create a kind of end-of-days backdrop for its intrigues, among the young careerists of Melrose Place, it just seems like we’re attending a party with publicists—which, naturally, one of the characters, Ella (Katie Cassidy, above), actually is. In other words, it feels like work.

I suspect some viewers of a certain age will tune in at least for the reprise performances of Laura Leighton as Sydney and Thomas Calabro as Michael. But I wonder if The CW’s actual audience is already looking past it to anticipate Thursday’s debut of The Vampire Diaries, which after all has vampires. The undead are cool. But twentysomethings mixing with nostalgia-bait 40-year-olds? You might as well be dead.