Creativity running in ‘Place’

Posted Sept. 07, 2009, at 8:25 p.m.

The TV industry has stumbled onto a way to capture that precious 18-to-49 demographic it so desires: repurposing.

Developing a new version of an already existing series should prove both cost-effective and simpler than starting from scratch.

At first, programmers started with new U.S. versions of shows from overseas. But for every “The Office” that successfully makes the crossing, there are many, such as “Coupling” and “Kath & Kim,” that just don’t translate well for the more puritan American market.

Now television producers are updating domestic shows from the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s and even ’90s. After all, viewers of the right age already have a warm place in their hearts for such properties, so they should be ratings winners, as long as they aren’t totally bollixed up.

The CW had a surprise hit last season in “90210,” its new-millennium version of the Aaron Spelling classic “Beverly Hills 90210.”So naturally, the junior network, desperate for another hit, has ordered an updating of that series’ popular spinoff “Melrose Place,” debuting at 9 tonight.

The first “Melrose,” created by Darren Star (“Sex and the City”), started slowly, but soon became an over-the-top nighttime soap on the order of “Dallas” or “Dynasty.” During its seven seasons, it sparked life into the careers of such actors as Heather Locklear, Doug Savant, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Marcia Cross and Rob Estes.

The producers of the new “Melrose,” Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer, have obviously studied the original, for many of the same archetypes return. There’s the bitchy villainess, the bad boy, the earnest hunk, the sweet couple, the nonwhite young professional and the naive girl right off the bus.

Just so viewers will know what they’re watching, the producers also brought back two original cast members: Thomas Calabro’s Dr. Michael Mancini, the estranged father of one of the current tenants; and Laura Leighton’s Sydney Andrews, now the superintendent of Melrose Place who has come back from the dead (details, details!) Since death apparently isn’t that big an obstacle, who’s to say how many others might return?

It’s not enough to have the residents of this West Hollywood apartment complex lusting after each other, so for good measure Slavkin and Swimmer have thrown in a murder mystery too.

With its pretty characters and their many secrets, this “Melrose Place” is a worthy successor to its fondly remembered forebear. Together with “Gossip Girl,” it makes The CW the place to go for intriguing nighttime soaps.

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