“Tuesday Night’s a Bitch” …they sure were in the 1990s in Australia when TEN screened the addictive Melrose Place.
There were pizza nights and group screenings around the country for the over-the-top melodrama by Darren Star. It was a TV phenomenon.
But Melrose Place wasn’t always that way. It was actually floundering in its first season.
“Every episode wrapped up with a bow, was a little preachy and was trying to say something about society and young people. It wasn’t juicy. There was no soapy element. They realised quickly the show wasn’t tracking well,” actor Andrew Shue (‘Billy’) recalls.
Sandy Grushow (then-president at Fox Television Entertainment) adds, “We started to shed audience. I remember a lot of anxiety over what was starting to feel like a missed opportunity. I’ll never forget the night [shortly thereafter] when I got a call from Aaron (Spelling) asking what I thought of the possibility of bringing Heather Locklear on the show full-time.”
Heather Locklear (Amanda Woodward) recalls, “I’d heard about the show, about them closing off Melrose Avenue for a big promotion. I watched it and thought, “Oh my God! I would love to be on that but I’m too old.” Then, when I got called to meet with Aaron, I told him I didn’t want Amanda to play dumb. I wanted her to be business-like. In the beginning, those first four episodes mostly had me just be the boss. By the second season, though, Amanda thought everyone was incompetent.”
Here are several other memories from cast and creatives, as published by the Hollywood Reporter:
Grant Show (Jake, the heartthrob): We started shooting several months after those three episodes of 90210 and I’ll never forget walking onto the soundstage and seeing they’d dug a swimming pool into the stage floor. I thought, “We’re going to be here for a while. We have to pay off that pool.”
Courtney Thorne-Smith (Allison Parker): I auditioned for an Aaron Spelling medical show called Partners. I was going back in every day for a week and it was brutal. Then I didn’t get it and was just devastated! Aaron said, “I’m gonna work with you, doll.” And the next day a stack of scripts was on my doorstep. One was Melrose Place. I called my agent about it and was told, “This is going to get buzz and you’ll get some name recognition.”
Josie Bissett (Jane Mancini, aspiring fashion designer): I’d just received an offer to play Robert De Niro’s daughter in a movie when I also heard about a role on some new Fox show. So I did the audition for Melrose Place and had to decide between starting a movie career or a TV career. The deciding factor was that Melrose was already picked up.
Thomas Calabro (Michael Mancini, a doctor initially married to Jane): I was tossing out almost all of the scripts I was seeing because they were so bad. Then, there was one that actually read well — Melrose Place — so I said I’d go in for it. They told me when I went to audition that I was 10 years too old for the part and I should forget about it.
Doug Savant (Matt Fielding, a gay social worker): My audition for Melrose Place was everything I hated about the business. There were all these young women, fluffed up and attempting to be hot. It was all about being eye candy and wasn’t at all what I wanted to be a part of. Still, I went through with it but didn’t think what I had to offer was what they were seeking. So when they wanted to make a test deal and take me to network, I was flummoxed. I was excited, too, because Matt was an exceptional character and maybe the lone openly gay character on mainstream TV at the time.
Daphne Zuniga (Jo Reynolds, Jake’s love interest): I was brought in midway through the first season. Darren had been a roommate in college and he said he had a new character I’d be interested in even though I hadn’t done a TV show before.
Marcia Cross (Dr. Kimberly Shaw, Michael’s love interest): I’d auditioned to be on just one episode. The part was for a doctor, which sounded cool. They had me back for one more. Then it was two. Then it was three. They just kept asking me to come back even though they’d had Kimberly dying. I was told, “We have an idea of how you can come back.” I’d recently lost a true love to a brain tumor so the show was a lifeline to me. It gave me a rope to hang onto.
Laura Leighton (Sydney Andrews, Jane’s younger sister): I came on near the end of season one and there was no sense of how Sydney was going to fit into the context of the show. I saw her as pushing people’s buttons from the beginning. She was written as younger than me, which was part of my panic. I was a couple years older than Josie but I was playing her younger sister, so I was afraid people would find out and I’d lose the job.
You can read more memories from the cast here.
This reunion is from 2012: