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MELROSE PLACE

"From a demographic standpoint, we expect it ('Melrose Place') to be slightly broader than '90210' since the characters are all 4 to 5 years older and we will be able to deal with slightly more mature and older relationships," a representative of Fox Television indicated at the launch of 'Melrose Place' in 1992. 

'Beverly Hills 90210's' (1990-2000) target audience were teenagers. Barry Diller of Fox Television approached Aaron Spelling with an idea for a show about high school. Aaron recounted, "I said, 'What in the hell do I know about high school?' Then I overheard this girl tell (daughter) Tori, 'I have to go visit my father this weekend. All he does is ask what my mother is doing. Then I come home, and all my mother asks is what my father is doing.' I thought, 'Wow, that's an episode!' Children go through so much more than we ever went through." As a result, 'Beverly Hills 90210' was born. Joan Collins observed, "Aaron has his finger on the pulse of what people really want to see." 

In its first season, 'Melrose Place' looked at "issues of responsibility when you are in your 20s that have never been present in your life before." Creator Darren Star continued, "The stakes are a little higher when you get involved in relationships. Your job is not a part-time job, but your career. We'll be doing stories involving ethics in the workplace and what it's like to be out of work. A lot of stories deal with living up to parental expectations and becoming your own person when your parents expect one thing and you're living the other. But we'll also have a lot of fun stories." 

However viewers weren't interested in the serious, issue-oriented 'Melrose Place', "they tune in to unwind." After Heather Locklear joined the cast, 'Melrose Place' was turned into "the chocolate cake of television shows", "the lite beer of television shows" and "the perfect soap for the twentysomething generation (also known as Generation X)." By 1993-94, Josie Bissett believed, "It's really got its own niche. I think when it really took off was when it started getting somewhat corny, sort of like a 'dramedy'. There's nothing like that, and people really like to follow the characters through the sort of unrealistic things that happen to them." 

Courtney Thorne-Smith told 'Golf For Women' in 2004, "There was a lot of pressure on 'Melrose Place' to look a certain way, because it was very much a show about 'a look'. I wanted to fit in with the show; at the same time, I was conflicted about presenting an unattainable image." Stephen Collins of '7th Heaven' recalled, "It never fails to amaze me, the things he (Aaron Spelling) notices. He oversees and approves all the casting. He sees Polaroids of every wardrobe piece - everything worn by every character. He looks at color schemes. No hairstyle is allowed to be changed without being okayed by him."

'Sunset Beach' (1997-99) marked Aaron Spelling "first exposure to a daytime bible." He told 'Soap Opera Digest', "I have to learn that it takes time for a daytime soap to really catch on. It's like a daily struggle . . . The first thing Susan (Lee of NBC) said to me was, 'You're moving too fast'. I didn't know how you were supposed to do this. We thought, 'Let's do something different in daytime'. We did a new look, shooting on film, which cost us a lot of money to make it more glamorous, and we got so many letters from fans saying they didn't like that. And then with our sets, some were painted in white and light colors. We reprinted them dark: then began to realize when I was watching other soaps that there is more sense of mystery if the set isn't so bright. There's a different sense of drama. It's like, 'We'd like to suffer with you'. Isn't that really what it is? I used to say that when people would say, "Why are you doing 'Dynasty'?' I'd say, 'To show you that rich people have bigger problems than poor people'. No one objected, because they loved to see the rich suffer."

By 1996 on 'Melrose Place', Charles Pratt Jr. remembered, "We went through a period where we were throwing so many new faces and storylines at people that it became overwhelming. The audience wasn't as invested in the new characters and they went elsewhere." On reflection, Darren Star remarked, "I always thought the show had limitless possibilities because anybody could move in and out of that building. I think the show always worked best when there was a core of relatability in the characters."

Andrew Shue played Billy Campbell. His story: "It was a long auditioning process, and I was very lucky to be at the right place at the right time. I had just moved out to Los Angeles, and auditioned for 'Melrose Place' early on, but had not gotten a call back. Then I did another pilot for Aaron Spelling. It got canceled, and they inserted me into 'Melrose Place' at the last minute. I’d say I’m about 70% like him (Billy). I like that he's very open, willing to fail, and willing to learn and grow. I don't like that he's a little na├»ve, but I guess that makes him interesting. I'm not as sheltered as Billy; he's still trying to find his way. I guess we're all trying to find our way, but he's a little behind."

By 1995-96, Charles conceded, "We knew we had gone too far. It definitely became 'how much crazier can we get?' Ultimately, we had Priscilla Presley running around the sanitarium as Nurse Ratchet. Kimberly had an electric drill and was about to give Jack Wagner, who was drooling in a wheelchair, a lobotomy. It left me thinking, 'This is just absurd.' We just went over the line and everybody knew it, but it was too late to do anything about it." In the 1998-99 season, Carol Mendelsohn outlined, "We're taking huge steps to avoid the kind of humor that winks at the audience, because it really takes you out of the show. 'Melrose's' humor always works best when it's coming from the characters in an organic way."

In September 1996, 'Melrose Place' launched its website: www.melroseplacetv.com. Guest star Chad Lowe played a computer software mogul. Laura Leighton as Sydney told 'E! Online', ". . . I probably brought a lot more of myself to Sydney, in terms of her goofiness. I had a lot of fun trying silly things with her. First of all, Sydney only blackmailed one, and I don't think she slept with as many as some others I could mention. But I think Chad Lowe's character, Carter, was probably her soul mate, and when she screwed that up, she was devastated and married David Charvet's character on the rebound, which of course led to her inevitable gory death."

Of Heather, makeup artist Lisa Ashley told the press, "She's a genetic freak. We call her Camel because she can go so long without drinking water. I don't even know how her skin stays looking so pretty. I think she gets better with age." Heather confessed, "I would never cook vegetables and eat them, or couscous, or whatever it is they make. But they're all tasty. One time we went out with this couple and we finished early, and they said, 'Great! We'll make it home in time for 'The West Wing!' (1999-2006) And I went, 'Oh! You don't watch us.' And she was so embarrassed. She's like, 'I'm sorry. I do watch your show sometimes.' I said, 'Just shut up, 10 million people watch it, I don't want to make my friends watch it.'"

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