Set aside that a remake of "Melrose Place" just 10 years removed from the original seems like too much too soon. The CW's new version of the '90s soap begins with a surprisingly well made pilot that's better than either the 1992 first episode of "Melrose Place" or last year's "90210" reboot.
The new "Melrose Place" begins with a fast-moving hour that introduces a new batch of attractive young apartment-dwellers and re-acquaints viewers with a few familiar faces.
The famed apartment complex of the show's title looks pretty much the same as it did back in the day with Sydney (Laura Leighton) now residing in the Heather Locklear suite. Dr. Michael Mancini (Thomas Calabro) also makes an appearance but the story will center on the new residents who get caught up in a murder mystery when one denizen turns up dead, floating in the complex pool. It's not a bad device to propel the story forward, and the pilot competently sets up the new characters and their motivations without confusion.
Starring: Laura Leighton, Thomas Calabro.
Fans of the original may scoff at the notion of an alive Sydney, who appeared to die in a car accident before the first series ended. Future episodes may clear up the particulars but this week's pilot addresses that incongruity by suggesting Michael helped Syd fake her own death.
"Melrose Place" (9 p.m. Tuesday, WPCW) also needs to clear up why Syd is back living at the apartment after all these years, something that's likely to happen in flashbacks that are as plentiful in the new "Melrose Place" as they were on season one of "Desperate Housewives."
New residents include David Breck (Shaun Sipos), who romances Syd as she makes her way through what appears to be a wistful, aging starlet phase.
"I've done something really, really bad," Syd tells David. "I wish you'd known me when I first moved here. We were like a family. I know it sounds stupid but I thought if I came back I could start a new family."
Syd was also romantically entangled with another resident, Augie Kirkpatrick (Colin Egglesfield), a chef at a club frequented by bisexual publicist Ella Simms (Katie Cassidy), who also lives at Melrose Place.
Long-time couple Jonah Miller (Michael Rady, "Greek") and Riley Richmond (Jessica Lucas) represent the more earnest first season of the original show. Jonah's a wannabe Quentin Tarantino; Riley's a school teacher who has second thoughts about marriage.
Medical student Lauren Yung (Stephanie Jacobsen, "Battlestar Galatica: Razor") receives an indecent proposal in the pilot and new resident Violet (Ashlee Simpson-Wentz) plays the innocent well but may be less naive than she seems.
Executive producers Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer ("Smallville") tie the show's tangle of plots and relationships together with an agile skill that makes this new "Melrose Place" more appealing than the show's concept suggests should be possible.
Contact TV editor Rob Owen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1112. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. First Published September 6, 2009 4:00 AM