Who Won The 'Melrose Place' Pilot?


For three years, it stared at me from its spot in the “TV Shows” section of my roommate’s Netflix account, challenging me to begin the journey. For three years, I resisted its beckoning. I told myself it would be too daunting an endeavor. That I would a) lose too many hours to the show, or b) give up half way through and judge myself for giving up. However, slowly but surely, it chipped away at my steadfastness. And after three years of it daring me to finally watch it, I cracked. It was time to start the original Melrose Place from the beginning. A few weeks ago, I pulled up the first of 226 episodes, and I haven’t looked back. The primetime soap won.

The Darren Star-created series, which premiered in 1992 on Fox, is a spinoff of Beverly Hills, 90210, and it’s hard to forget that while watching the pilot: Kelly Taylor, Donna Martin, David Silver, and Steve Sanders appear throughout the episode. But this show isn’t about Kelly Taylor, Donna Martin, David Silver, and Steve Sanders. This show is about the characters who live at 4616 Melrose Place. This show follows the lives of the attractive young adults who live in a Los Angeles apartment complex.

I'd caught a few MP eps here and there back in the '90s, but the pilot was not one of those eps. (I was a youth when it originally aired. Primetime soaps would not be my jam for at least five more years.) So, when I fired it up on Netflix last month, it was the first time I'd watched it. (It is a great hour of television, would recommend.)

Based on the pilot and the pilot only (you can watch it here), I've ranked the titular apartment complex's tenants.

The Melrose Place First Impressions Rankings

#1 — Billy (Andrew Shue)

While his “let me live with you, complete stranger” (I’m paraphrasing) pitch to Alison was pretty terrible (like, maybe leave out the part about being “a sexually repressed newt” next time), he redeemed himself:

  1. He danced around the apartment with a mop. At one point, he grabbed a rose with his teeth. I rewound and rewatched the scene four times.
  2. He’s a dance instructor at Arthur Murray who has little to no dance experience. He read one dance book, lied about his dance training in the interview, and BAM. The school hired him. He proved that anything is possible if you read the right book.
  3. He showed off the gun exhibit that is his arms several times.
  4. When Hal the ad man crossed the line with Alison, Billy had Alison’s back. Great roommate.
  5. “What happens when I bring a babe home and bada bing bada bang right here on this couch?”

I am a big Billy fan.

#2 — Rhonda (Vanessa A. Williams)

Not only does she have a likable personality AND cool style, but she's also too smart to get suckered in by a nutritional supplement pyramid scheme. Yeah, she did agree to go to dinner with a pervy towel sniffer from her aerobics class (ugh, barf), but she immediately saw through and rejected his pyramid scheme offer. And that’s REALLY what matters.

#3 — Matt (Doug Savant)

Matt didn’t get a lot of screen time in the pilot, but what I saw of him made a great first impression. My one note about Matt: “He seems nice.”

#4 — Alison (Courtney Thorne-Smith)

Alison is a hard-working, well-intentioned young lady who works as a receptionist at an advertising agency. She aspires to be an ad exec one day (heeeey, Peggy Olson!).

I had to knock her down a few spots because SHE HAND WROTE A ROOMMATE AD WHILE DRIVING ON A FREEWAY IN LOS ANGELES. That moment was an anti-writing-newspaper-ads-while-driving PSA waiting to happen.

#5 — Jane (Josie Bissett)

I love Jane’s bowl cut. She, like Matt, seems nice. Why is she in the middle of the pack, then? This might not be fair to Jane, but I totally judge her for choosing to marry Michael. Michael is such a drag.

#6 — Sandy (Amy Locane)

If baby powder could talk, its voice would sound like Sandy’s.

When the aspiring actress found out that Steve Sanders’s mom is a well-known soap star, Sandy flung herself at the high schooler. Nothing came of it, but she did say she would do “just about anything to meet her.” It was weird. I did not like it.

Credit where credit is due: Sandy had my favorite line of the pilot. When Rhonda and Matt challenged her to a chicken fight, she replied, “Sweetheart, I am chicken fight champion of Charleston, South Carolina!” DO GO ON.

#7 — Michael (Thomas Calabro)

By day, Michael is the property manager of Melrose Place. By night, Michael is a doctor. Here are three things Michael did in the pilot that got under my skin:

  1. Rather than simply pull on a pair of sweatpants to answer his door, Michael decided to fashion himself an elaborate toga skirt out of a bed sheet. Like, we get it, Michael. You were not dressed. No need to make a show of it.
  2. He wore a distracting straw sunhat to lounge by the pool. I couldn't stop staring at the goofy headpiece. If you told me he stole a child’s Easter Sunday hat, I'd believe you.
  3. When Alison said she was worried about affording rent after her roommate left in the middle of the night without any notice, Michael told her to spend an evening at the hospital to get “a dose of perspective” and “learn a thing or two about pain and suffering.” Awesome response, landlord!

Michael is a drag.

#8 — Jake (Grant Show)

In the pilot, we learn Jake and high schooler Kelly Taylor have a "thing.” By episode’s end, they ended the “thing," but not before they smooched at least once. AUGHHHHHHHHHHHHH. When it comes to an ah-dult man dating a teenager, I have a zero tolerance policy.

Additionally, Jake seems kind of boring. Doesn't help his case.

#9 — Natalie (????)

(Her name was still on the lease for her and Alison’s apartment for half of the episode, so I'm counting her as a resident.)

Let me get this straight: Not only did Natalie ditch her roommate and the lease without bothering to leave a note (or next month’s rent), but she also didn’t think it might be a good idea to warn Alison that she told some random dude he could have her room? (Luckily for everyone, “some random dude” turned out to be Billy, and Billy is great.) We never actually see her face, but I assume Natalie is a literal goblin. May she never return to 4616 Melrose Place.

Wait. I’m not done. Here are my rankings of the main locations featured in the pilot:

#1— 4616 Melrose Place

Here are the reasons why the apartment complex is number 1:

  1. There's a pool. Pools are awesome. I wish my apartment had a pool.
  2. The bathrooms and kitchens are tiled exactly like my bathroom and kitchen. I feel a kinship with the characters. They have to scrub at grout in between small square tiles just like I do!
  3. All of the neighbors are friends. You can't put a price tag on neighbor friends!

#2 — The burger restaurant

The Beverly Hills, 90210 kids hung out at a burger-shaped dining establishment several times. IT LOOKED INCREDIBLE. All restaurants should be shaped like food.

(Sadly, The Burger That Ate L.A.—yes, that was the real name of the real burger-shaped restaurant—is now a Starbucks.)

#3 — The aerobics studio

Rhonda teaches aerobics at the most quintessential ‘90s aerobics studio where everybody wears the most quintessential ‘90s aerobics gear. I love all of it.

#4 — The store where Jane works

Jane is a salesperson at what appears to be a printed blouse emporium. It’s a Margaritaville dream.

#5 — Alison’s office

"Business casual" does not cut it in this here ad agency. This is the '90s, and in the '90s, we wear crisp power suits.

(The exterior shots are of Miracle Mile's Wilshire Courtyard business campus.)

#6 — Shooters

Ugh, Shooters. No, thanks. I bet Shooters smells like cigarette smoke and surface cleaner.

And here are some miscellaneous items that deserve honorable mentions:

The electric guitar riffs, Natalie’s green cowboy boots, chocolate milk, Rhonda's black and white striped unitard, the purple mohawk, Michael and Jane’s sea foam green + mauve + coral bedding, Jake's leather jacket, and a particularly rancid flavored wine cooler.

OK, I'm done now.

Miss you already, Billy.

Images: Fox; mlrsplc/tumblr