TVSource Magazine reviews three dramas airing this Fall on the CW.
The Cast: Ashlee Simpson-Wentz, Colin Egglesfield, Michael Rady, Jessica Lucas, Katie Cassidy, Stephanie Jacobsen, Laura Leighton, Thomas Calabro, Shaun Sipos
Premiere: Tuesday, September 8th 9/8c, The CW
This show isn’t resting on its laurels. Unlike its counterpart, 90210, this reboot hits the ground running with its pilot, and it just gets better with each passing episode. This isn’t your mom’s Melrose Place either. The gays won’t be restricting themselves to a hug once every 10 episodes. The show’s new Billy and Allison (Michael Rady and Jessica Lucas’s Jonah and Riley, respectively) will be a far cry from the original’s wholesome twosome. Aspiring videographer Jonah grapples with his morals, while schoolteacher Riley struggles with the idea of marrying boyfriend Jonah. This show is simply scandalous. And it will draw you in from the start. Threesomes, adultery and murder are a few of the show’s story lines and the show wastes no time getting down to business.
The action starts from day one, the new Melrose won’t be waiting on Heather Locklear’s mid-season salvation like its predecessor. The show kicks off with a bloody body face down in the middle of LA’s most infamous apartment complex pool. Katie Cassidy, who plays PR hotshot Ella, is Melrose’s obvious breakout star. Last summer’s scream queen on cult hit Harper’s Island, Cassidy plays Ella as a self-described “trysexual” meaning she’ll try just about anything. Soap fans will recognize Colin Egglesfield (ex-Josh, All My Children) as Auggie, the object of Violet’s (Ashlee Simpson-Wentz) unrequited affection. Auggie is an avid surfer who works at a Hollywood hot spot as a sous chef with aspirations of working for himself one day. Violet reads as a naive twentysomething with hidden dark undertones, basically a Syndey/Jane hybrid for you fans of the original. Violet’s rival for Auggie’s heart is Lauren (Stephanie Jacobsen), a med student looking to climb her way out of debt by climbing on top of a man for a reasonable fee. With the original’s Laura Leighton and Thomas Calabro in the mix as vixen Sydney and master manipulator Michael, Melrose has just the recipe for success the CW is looking for. Rounding out the cast is Shaun Sipos as David, Michael’s estranged son as the result of a one-night stand years ago. Handsome and rebellious, David boasts of having bedded his father’s former wife Sydney. But David isn’t the only Melrose tenant to have ties to our favorite catty conniver. He may have more in common with wide-eyed Violet than first meets the eye.
The Beautiful Life: TBL
The Cast: Ben Hollingsworth, Sara Paxton, Nico Tortorella, Mischa Barton, Corbin Bleu, Elle Macpherson, Ashley Madekwe
Premiere: Wednesday, September 16th 9/8c, The CW
The premise of this show is simple. Iowa unknown Chris (Ben Hollingsworth) is catapulted into the New York City fashion world as a really, really ridiculously good looking male model who interacts with other really, really ridiculously good looking models like Sara Paxton’s Raina and Mischa Barton’s Sonja. The difference between this show and Zoolander is that this show isn’t actually intended to be a joke. From Executive Producer Ashton Kutcher, don’t expect a hidden camera crew to jump out of the bushes…you’re not being Punk’d.
The network is still tinkering with the pilot, which for an hour-long drama was only clocking in at 30 minutes when I saw it. I’m still surprised the network went with this mess instead of underrated gem Privileged. The show may get by on glam, a good soundtrack and quick camera work, but I don’t expect to be reporting on it this time next year unless major creative changes are made.
The buzz about this show may be all about Mischa Barton’s return to television and her subsequent breakdown this summer, but the real breakout of the show is Sara Paxton. Without Paxton’s up-and-coming runway diva extraordinaire with a secret past, TBL would be simply unwatchable. The defining scene of the pilot is when Paxton’s Raina literally steals the show from Barton’s washed up Sonja. When Sonja can’t fit into Zac Posen’s finale dress at a fashion show due to excess baby weight from her super secret pregnancy and subsequent 6 month leave of absence from the modeling world during the height of her career, Raina is ready waiting in the wings. The rest of the pilot is fluff strung together with more fluff. We’ve seen more cutting edge fashion and behind-the-scenes model drama on an episode of TBL’s lead-in, America’s Next Top Model. TBL is like the rest of the modeling world it portrays — superficial. It doesn’t dig deeper into any of its story lines, which may just be the downfall of the show. It’s definitely the weakest spot on the CW’s fall lineup.
The Vampire Diaries
The Cast: Paul Wesley, Nina Dobrev, Ian Somerhalder, Candice Accola, Katerina Graham, Steven R. McQueen, Kayla Ewell
Premiere: Thursday, September 10th 8/7c, The CW
The opening scene of Kevin Williamson’s The Vampire Diaries reminds me of the opening scene in Williamson’s hit slasher flick, Scream, only this time it’s with vampires and it’s made for television. Paul Wesley’s brooding, self-deprecating “vegetarian” vampire Stefan is juxtaposed with his no-apologies bloodsucker brother Damon, played by Lost bad boy Ian Somerhalder, throughout the pilot. The two brothers feud over the soul of Nina Dobrev’s Elena, who bears a striking resemblance to Katherine, a woman from Stefan and Damon’s past — from centuries before they return to town. Damon follows Stefan to Mystic Falls when Stefan sets out to find Elena and enrolls in high school. And the body count begins to rise.
While vampires are very en vogue right now, don’t expect to see the next Twilight or True Blood here. The series is based on L.J. Smith’s book series of the same name. The show is basically Dawson’s Creek meets Scream meets Buffy. The vampire brothers don’t twinkle in the sunlight as in Twilight and they don’t burn into oblivion when standing underneath the sun’s rays as in True Blood. And unlike Twilight, these sexy vamps aren’t the victims of Stephanie Meyer’s political agenda – there will be lots and lots of sex.
The focus of the show isn’t solely on the vampire brothers, but also on the daily dealings of the high school students they’re surrounded by. Elena struggles with her brother Jeremy’s (Steven R. McQueen) downward spiral after their parents’ death. If only every troubled teen had an older sister quipping “just know that I am going to be there to ruin your buzz every time,” when they tried to get high in a school bathroom… Things heat up in the town of Mystic Falls as Stefan and Elena begin to fall for each other, but these two aren’t immune to teen clichés like jealousy and angst. Soap alums Kayla Ewell (ex-Caitlin, The Bold and the Beautiful) and Zach Roering (ex-Casey, As the World Turns) star as the misunderstood Vicky and her brother, Matt, who happens to be Elena’s jock ex-boyfriend. Jeremy has his sights set on Vicky, who’s got a mixture of self-esteem problems and too many walls built up to protect herself. When Vicky’s attacked, Stefan learns that Damon is back in town and he’s not giving up on Elena that easily. And with Damon’s bloodthirsty appetite feeding on half the town, how long until Stefan’s secret is revealed?
This show has guilty pleasure written all over it. Well cast and paired with the already established Supernatural for its Thursday night lineup, the CW may just have a runaway hit on its hands. All the elements for success are there – teen drama, sex, mystery and a brotherly rivalry. The Vampire Diaries executes and will be a strong freshman drama for the CW this fall.