The latest update of a treasured 1990s trash favorite, Melrose Place is cannily crammed with stars to please every age group, save for angry health-care-plan protesters. Whether new (Supernatural's Katie Cassidy as a delightfully cynical bisexual publicist), familiar (Melrose classic's Laura Leighton: sexy, silly Sydney), or familiar-yet-new (Ashlee Simpson-Wentz, stretching her wings post–7th Heaven), the Melrose cast remains reassuringly nutso.
The premiere culminates in a murder, but not before we meet Jonah (Swingtown's Michael Rady), an aspiring filmmaker who'll blackmail a movie producer, and Lauren (Stephanie Jacobsen), an indigent med-school student who'll do something randy to help pay her grad-school bills. (They may both be cute, but this is Melrose, baby.) Also central to the big-cast shenanigans is Melrose prime's Thomas Calabro, reprising his jaded Michael Mancini role but barely looking a decade older.
For this version to work, all the subplots and characters have to keep moving with precision, and the first episode, directed by Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth), does a skillful job of that. But a nighttime soap is a marathon affair, and one that morphs as various characters take off with fans while others fade into the L.A. stucco. So it remains to be seen whether the new Melrose will become as giddily addictive as its predecessor but it's off to a promisingly dizzy start. B