The Great Absurdity of Melrose Place

Stephanie Jacobsen (Lauren Young), Colin Egglesfield (Auggie Kirkpatrick)Ashlee Simpson-Wentz (Violet Fostter), Shaun Sipos (David Breck), Katie Cassidy (Ella Simms),  Michael Rady (Jonah Miller) Jessica Lucas (Riley Richmond)

The cast of the CW’s take on Melrose Place.

Courtesy of the CW Network

My fascination with The CW reboot of Melrose Place started out as a joke. I found the show banal, preposterous, ludicrous. But my harmless indulgence amused me. Because the irony of an overeducated male watching a program targeted at empty-headed young women was hysterical, at least in my mind. I went from Kantian metaphysics to the melodramatic antics of seven 20-somethings in West Hollywood, CA. This context was far more entertaining than the trashy show.

I have since had a change of heart. My sarcasm has turned to sincerity. Now, I genuinely savor almost every single aspect of Melrose Place. Put the show on mute and it moves beautifully and colorfully; watch it with sound and be blown away by how outrageously absurd it is. The climactic “San Vicente” episode is case in point, here all the following transpires:

  • Violet murders the woman who killed her mom during an epic catfight in a pool;
  • David kidnaps his brother who it turns out might actually be his son;
  • Auggie breaks his longtime sobriety because he is heartbroken;
  • Amanda threatens Sydney while she is praying at church;
  • Lauren, who moonlights as a prostitute to pay her med school tuition, is drugged by a sleazy client and overdoses.

This is just business as usual for the residents of 4616 Melrose Place. In the previous episode, Ashley Simpson’s character (Violet) has an unwanted visit from her crystal meth addicted brother who wants to try and recreate their childhood wonder days when they, you know, had sex behind their parents’ backs. He’s her step-brother, but still.

And in another episode David picks up a woman in a graveyard. They have sex. Then David wakes up with a knife in his hand and her corpse floating in the pool. — Just another day in the life.

Melrose Place is constantly bringing us there. It’s riveting and titillating magic. Euripides would have loved it. It’s absurdist literature for fans of Nip / Tuck and Desperate Housewives. It’s dark humor with a lurid a cover of glam and dazzling dynamics.

The one low point is the relationship between Jonah Miller and Riley Richmond. In the “CW Lounge” the fans label them a “snooze fest” as well as “incredible boring” and guess what, no one really stands up to defend them. In a show fueled by rampant vice and radical values, they’re painfully annoying caricatures of suburban normalcy, your average everyday couple with their average everyday stupid problems. Pass. Thankfully! They break up and Jonah hooks up with Ella Simms, a sexy autocrat of a publicist. Ella, mind you, also enjoys kissing girls.

Melrose Place has so many gifts to give to all types of viewers, even pedantic minds granted they can pass the Rubicon of the real –– which, it should go without saying, is a prerequisite for most television and fiction. The show unfolds in a matrix of absurdity and there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s what makes the show so exceptional.

Let’s hope it stays on the air and for more madness. New episodes begin again on Tuesday, March 9. In the meantime, this trailer:


Punchier? Pouncier? Nastier then ever? Awesome. This is going to be good. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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