DVD Review: 'Melrose Place: The Complete First Season'

Midway through the first season of "Melrose Place," creator Darren Star recalls on one of the extras in the show's season-one DVD set, he got a note from FOX executives that "it was okay for the characters to start sleeping together."

"We were shameless. And we couldn't afford not to be," Star says.

From that lack of shame was born one of the biggest TV phenomena of the early 1990s. Piggybacking on the success of "Beverly Hills, 90210" (which Star also created and from which "Melrose Place" was sort of spun off), the show was FOX's stab at reaching a slightly older audience than what had made the former show a hit.

It's interesting to watch how the show evolves, or maybe devolves, over the course of the first season's 32(!) episodes. At the start "Melrose Place" was, essentially, "twentysomething," and offered a fairly well-grounded look at the lives of people just starting to figure out adulthood. (Even Marcia Cross, whose Kimberly Shaw would go on to become one of the all-time TV nutjobs, seemed pretty nice in her first appearance in episode seven.)

That started to change midway through the season, first with the arrival of Laura Leighton as Jane's (Josie Bissett) scheming sister Sydney, and especially a few episodes later, when Heather Locklear joined the show as Amanda Woodward. Star explains in a featurette titled "Amanda" that the character was "thinly written" at first, but once Locklear came aboard, "it helped us go in the direction of a campy nighttime soap. ... That's when the show really began to get fun."

Star is the only one connected with the show to provide new material for the DVD set, which is unfortunate (it might have been interesting to hear from the cast about how the show changed their lives, for instance). And even his interview segments, which appear to have been done all in one sitting, is chopped up into several mini-featurettes, which along with two 1992-era behind-the-scenes pieces are rather inconveniently spread across six of the eight discs in the set.

And, while it's not part of the official extras, you could easily make a drinking game based on the number of times Alison (Courtney Thorne-Smith) cocks her jaw in exasperation or Jake (Grant Show) and Billy (Andrew Shue) appear shirtless. For a shot of pure, early-'90s nostalgia, you could do a lot worse.

EXTRAS:Featurettes "Beginnings," "Friends & Neighbors," "Neighbors & Friends," "Amanda," "Behind the Scenes," "New Style Profile."
PRICE: $54.99

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