is a spin-off from the popular Beverly Hills, 90210
series as a summer show for the FOX network (the show originally debuted July 8, 1992), Melrose Place
was originally billed as a twentysomething drama about life in the city, and all that entailed -- careers, money, romance, and friendship. The action took place in the apartment complex Melrose Place, where the main characters all lived - Michael (Thomas Calabro
), a surgical intern and building manager, and his wife Jane (Josie Bissett
), an up-and-coming fashion designer; Alison (Courtney Thorne Smith
), a college graduate just starting out in the corporate world; Billy (Andrew Shue
), another college graduate who was trying to make his way as a writer - without much luck to begin with; Jake (Grant Show
), the local "badboy" with a heart of gold, who actually appeared on 90210
shortly before Melrose Place
was spun-off as Kelly Taylor's (Jennie Garth
) handyman/boyfriend; Matt (Doug Savant
), an openly-gay social worker; Sandy (Amy Locane
), your typical aspiring actress who worked as a waitress at the local bar Shooters; and Rhonda (Vanessa Williams
), a former dancer who now made a living as a dance-aerobics teacher.
Over the course of the show's first season, it became clear that the "lesson of the week", twentysomething issues drama wasn't making for avid viewing, and the producers -- one of whom was the primetime soap magnate Aaron Spelling
-- retooled the show with a more soapy, melodramatic bent: Amy Locane's Sandy was written off without so much as a goodbye, replaced with the aloof and mysterious Jo (Daphne Zuniga
- who actually lived with Melrose creater Darren Star when they were both fresh out of college, and is actually the basis for the Alison character); Thomas Calabro's Michael was slowly rewritten into an "erection in scrubs", starting an affair with future-Melrose psycho Kimberly Shaw (Marcia Cross
); and, in a coup-de-gras, Heather Locklear
was cast as Amanda Woodward, Alison's boss at the advertising agency and, most importantly, a manipulative, raging bitch.
The show's banner second and third seasons saw the re-introduction of Jane's wayward, scheming sister Sydney (Laura Leighton
); the "death" and later return of Kimberly, who wound up an absolute nutjob who stole Jo's baby and blew up the apartment complex (at the end of the show's climactic third season, arguably Melrose's finest year); and the introduction of Peter Burns (Jack Wagner
), a megolomaniacal bastard whose treacherous ways were on-par with Heather Locklear's Amanda, who he frequently slept with and backstabbed throughout his run on the show.
During the show's fourth year, creator Darren Star left the show, as the network began to think about more retooling - by the time the show's fifth year rolled around (minus Daphne Zuniga's Jo, swept off to Hong Kong with nary a mention), it was clear the show was starting to lose steam. All the interconnected relationships (who hadn't slept with whom by the end of season four?) were wearing thing, and to compensate a truckload of new characters were introduced, including the whore-with-a-heart-of-gold, Megan (Kelly Rutherford
) and the femme fatale-like Taylor (Lisa Rinna
). Unfortunately, season five also marked the departures of many of the original cast - Josie Bissett, Marcia Cross, Courtney Thorne Smith, Grant Show, Doug Savant and Laura Leighton would not return for season six (although Savant appeared in the season premiere).
Season six saw even more new characters - the duplicitous Brett "Coop" (Linden Ashby
) and southern belle Lexi (Jamie Luner
) among them - and even more departures: the final block of episodes, which were aired as part of season seven by the network, said goodbye to many more cast members (Linden Ashby, Brooke Langton, Alyssa Milano, Lisa Rinna, Andrew Shue and David Charvet), although it did return Josie Bissett (Jane) to the fold for the seventh season.
That seventh season turned out to be the last for the show, and a good thing too - with only eight main characters left (John Haymes Newton joined the cast as Rob Estes' on-screen brother Ryan) the patented melodramatic soap twists were becoming tired, and the romantic couplings were beginning to get repetitive and predictable. The show managed to go out with a bang, though, ostensibly killing off Amanda (Heather Locklear) -- who was being investigated for a murder rap -- and Peter (Jack Wagner) only for them to turn up on a private island, getting married.
Despite the dip in quality (and ratings) the series took once it lost the bulk of it's original -- and more popular -- cast, Melrose Place
is frequently mentioned as benchmark series for any and all primetime serials and was spun-off into Models Inc.
, a short-lived series that followed the daily life at a modeling agency. The show is also talked about as one of the defining television series of the nineties, and can easily be held accountable for the successes of such shows as Grey's Anatomy
and Desperate Housewives
. Melrose Place
also went a long way to launching the careers of such current stars as Courtney Thorne Smith, who went on to star in the Emmy-nominated comedy/drama Ally McBeal
; Marcia Cross, who had a yearlong role on Everwood
, before landing her role on Desperate Housewives
; Doug Savant, who can also be currently seen on Desperate Housewives
; and Kristin Davis, who landed one of the four leading roles on the defining female comedy Sex and the City
; not to mention that of creator Darren Star, who went on to produce The WB sitcom Grosse Pointe
, HBO's Sex and the City
, and the short-lived series Miss Match
and Kitchen Confidential