Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A spinoff from Beverly Hills 90210 (though not featuring any permanent cast members crossing over), Melrose Place is an apartment block in the West Hollywood district of Los Angeles with young adults living in it. In the story, teenage Kelly (Jennie Garth) left 90210 long enough to pursue hunky, brooding carpenter Jake Hanson (Grant Show), then returned to her zip code when she realized they were from different worlds. During the first season, the show was a relatively earnest serial drama focused on how young people come to Los Angeles to realize their dreams. The ratings were poor, and as time went by, the show took a more sensational and soapish turn as more and more rich and powerful characters appeared and the focus was on their rivalry for power and money. The real turning point in the show was the late first season arrival of former Dynasty vixen Heather Locklear as the conniving Amanda Woodward. Amanda owned the apartment building and quickly took over the company many of the principal characters worked at; her catty one-liners, sexy-but-tough wardrobe and man-stealing helped make Melrose a guilty pleasure for many millions of viewers around the world. Within a few seasons Locklear had slept with or made out with every male cast member except the gay Matt (Doug Savant). The show is remembered fondly for its twist endings, miniskirts, and the many "vixens" who were regulars on the show.
Dr. Michael Mancini, played by Thomas Calabro , was the only original character that appeared during every season. Jane Andrews Mancini, played by Josie Bissett , took a brief hiatus but returned for the final season. Michael and Jane were originally supposed to be the stable couple, with Michael a good guy, but in no time at all Michael was cheating on Jane with unstable Dr. Kimberly Shaw (Marcia Cross), divorced Jane, married Kimberly, then slept around with Jane's sarcastic, trashy prostitute/stripper sister Sydney (Laura Leighton). This established Michael as the goofy, wisecracking slut and con artist he would remain until the end of the show. Kimberly was the love/hate of Michael's life until her death in 1997 and quite an awe-inspiring character in her own right, providing many jolts to the audience, such as Kimberly pulling off her wig to study her shaved, scarred head in the bathroom mirror, having her wig torn off in view of hospital staff by Matt Fielding, blowing up the apartment complex, with multiple personalities, etc.
Michael's only real friend was fellow apartment resident Matt Fielding (Doug Savant). Matt was gay, and fit the widely seen long-suffering homosexual characterization of much of TV, frequently being harassed, fired, or beaten up for his homosexuality. Matt had very few relationships and those relationships always ended with Matt being dumped, being abused, or in one case, being framed for the murder of his lover's wife. Matt had none of the red-hot sex scenes which helped make Melrose famous; when he and then-boyfriend Dan (guest star Greg Evigan) shared a brief kiss, FOX forced producers to edit the scene out. Savant felt that his character was in love with Michael Mancini, but producers turned the story down. Savant exited the canvas in 1997 and Matt was killed off-screen in a car crash a year later.
Other original cast members were the African-American Rhonda (Vanessa Williams), who was written out after the first season, chronically depressed photographer Jo (Daphne Zuniga), who pined for Jake and searched for the son she gave up at birth, and star-crossed, pure-hearted lovers Alison (Courtney Thorne-Smith) and Billy (Andrew Shue). Amanda's first major sin upon arriving in Melrose was to seduce Billy, who was generally dim-witted and thought with the wrong head. Alison and Billy reconciled but Alison fled their wedding after flashing back to childhood sexual abuse. Billy later married rich brat Brooke (Kristin Davis) while Alison married Brooke's dad (Perry King), both of whom tried to control Alison and Billy's lives. Brooke and her father drowned in separate incidents and Alison hit the bottle, then took up with Jake, while Billy turned to the dark side before marrying simpering Samantha (Brooke Langton ).
In 1995, Jack Wagner, known for his role as Frisco Jones on General Hospital, delighted viewers with his portrayal of the charismatic but very corrupt Dr. Peter Burns. Peter tormented Amanda, nearly killing her on the operating table before he was arrested, but for all his crimes Peter was also the first man to be the equal of ice queen Amanda (her previous lovers had been chosen more for their jeans than their genes). Sensing the chemistry, producers quickly made Wagner a contract player, and Amanda/Peter would remain a popular on-again/off-again couple for the remainer of the series.
By the 1996-1997 season the series seemed to have peaked, with Amanda softening and Kimberly's long-running reign of terror finally running out of steam, and there was a growing consensus that the show could no longer shock or entertain viewers as it once had. After a end-of-season cliffhanger ending where Jo vacilated over leaving LA to join her new lover in Kosovo, the new season quickly explained that the now-absent Jo had indeed left town. A new slate of characters was introduced, such as hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold Megan (Kelly Rutherford), restauranteur Kyle (Rob Estes) and his vengeful, lush-lipped wife Taylor (Lisa Rinna), and Michael's bratty sister Jennifer (Alyssa Milano). Kyle soon took up with Amanda and, as ratings began to falter, Amanda morphed from vixen to victim, being rescued or assaulted or teary-eyed on a frequent basis.
This season also saw many enduring characters leave the series. Allison fooled Jake into thinking she had fallen off the wagon so that he would go be with the mother of his long-lost child, and the two left town separately. After Sam's jailbird father accidentally killed Jane's sister Sydney running her down in a car right after her wedding Craig (David Charvet), Billy and Sam left town in 1998. After dominating storylines for several seasons Kimberly quietly died of cancer. Though the new characters were popular, the series seemed unable to withstand the high number of cast changes in such a short time and its popularity never recovered.
The final seasons featured a revolving door of hirings and firings, with the last year returning Amanda back to her bitchy roots and pairing long-suffering Jane up with Kyle (Estes and Josie Bissett were real-life spouses). By early 1999, FOX decided that the ratings erosion as well as the extremely high production costs -- it was said that they could have filmed an entire pilot just on Heather Locklear's salary -- warranted cancellation.
In early 1994 former Dallas star Linda Gray guest-starred as Amanda's frosty mother, Hillary Michaels. Hillary ran a modeling agency, and viewers were invited to follow Hillary to her own series, Models Inc.. In spite of the presence of Gray and other names such as Emma Samms, the show was forgettable stuff and poor ratings caused FOX to pull the plug in spring 1995.
- Thomas Calabro as Dr. Michael Mancini (1992-1999)
- Josie Bissett as Jane Mancini (1992-1997, 1998-1999)
- Andrew Shue as Billy Campbell (1992-1998)
- Courtney Thorne-Smith as Alison Parker (1992-1997)
- Grant Show as Jake Hanson (1992-1997)
- Doug Savant as Dr. Matt Fielding (1992-1997)
- Daphne Zuniga as Jo Reynolds (1992-1996)
- Vanessa Williams as Rhonda Blair (1992-1993)
- Amy Locane as Sandy Harling (1992-1993)
- Marcia Cross as Dr. Kimberly Shaw (1992-1997)
- Heather Locklear as Amanda Woodward (1993-1999)
- Laura Leighton as Sydney Andrews (1993-1997)
- Jack Wagner as Dr. Peter Burns (1994-1999)
- Kristin Davis as Brooke Armstrong Campbell (1995-1996)
- Rob Estes as Kyle McBride (1996-1999)
- Lisa Rinna as Taylor McBride (1996-1998)
- Brooke Langton as Samantha Reilly (1996-1998)
- Kelly Rutherford as Megan Lewis (1996-1999)
- David Charvet as Craig Field (1996-1998)
- Alyssa Milano as Jennifer Mancini (1997-1998)
- Linden Ashby as Dr. Brett "Coop" Cooper (1997-1998)
- Jamie Luner as Lexi Sterling (1997-1999)
- John Haymes Newton as Ryan McBride (1998-1999)
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