MELROSE PLACE: THE FIFTH SEASON, VOLUME 1 Studio: PARAMOUNT / CBS DVD Year: DVD: 2009, SHOW: 1996-1997 Rated: NR Film Length: 14 Hours, 47 Mins Aspect Ratio: Full Frame, 4:3 Audio: English 2.0 Stereo Subtitles: English (CC) The Show – 3 1/2 out of 5 “Oh that Michael, I hate him. He’s just so smug!” – Jerry Seinfeld Fun Fact… Did you know that an estimated 38% of the people who lived at “Melrose Place” between the years 1992 and 1999 died? It’s true! That's a pretty high mortality rate for an apartment building. But hey, who cares?! If you live at “Melrose Place”, for $600 a month you can lie, cheat steal, blackmail, get away with murder (and pretty much ANY felony) and of course have lots of guilt free sex with zero repercussions… except for the fact you have over a 38% chance of dying as a result of living there. Live fast… die young… and leave a really good looking corpse… its par for the course… of course at “Melrose Place”. “Desperate Housewives” owes a lot to “Melrose Place”. In addition to recruiting several Melrose alumni including Doug Savant and Marcia Cross, it also cribs the same outlandish, over-the-top storytelling style that made Melrose such a memorable show. The only difference between the two is that when it comes to awards season, “Housewives” smartly classifies itself as a comedy (and thus wins awards), while “Melrose” tried to take itself seriously and be a “drama” and (the result being Emmy voters snubbed the show, and more specifically Heather Locklear, who for nearly the entire run of the series (she shows up halfway into season one), was the show’s Anchor and held the series together in good times (1992 – 1995) and not-so-good times (1997-1999). What I love most about “Melrose Place” is the fact that the more serious the show tried to be, the funnier and more entertaining it got. Watching the show again (season by season in order), ten years after the series completed its seven year run on Fox, I think I’m more entertained now than I was when I watched it when it originally aired. Yes, now that I’m a little older, I’m not afraid to admit that I really love watching the guilty pleasure that is “Melrose Place”. And while I feel the show peaked with series creator Darren Star’s (“Sex and the City”) departure at the end of season three (rumor has it that he mapped out several of the storylines that continued in the strong season four) the series still showed that it had a little life left in it for season five. My BIG complaint here is now that Paramount has decided to “split” this DVD release into two parts, with “Melrose Place: The Fifth Season, Vol. 1” including only the first twenty episodes (with the remaining fourteen episodes coming out in a future release, presumably). Clearly with the new “Melrose Place 2.0”, coming back in the fall on the CW, Paramount plans to milk this series for all it’s worth (they certainly had no problem putting out a complete thirty-four episode season four, before the new series was announced), and its obvious they want drag this out for as long as they can. None the less, “Melrose Place: The Fifth Season, Vol. 1” is here and for those who are seeing the series in order for the first time (and those like me who are reliving it on DVD and enjoying every minute of it), the residents of Melrose Place are back and are up to their lying, cheating, back stabbing, alcohol abusing, pill popping, stealing, blackmailing and murderous ways. The skirts are still short, the rap sheets are long and the more things change, the more they stay the same. SPOLIER WARNING: The next paragraphs has a description of the end of season four and a short summary of season five. If you are watching this series on DVD in continuity and haven’t gotten to seasons four or five… SKIP THIS PART OF THE REVIEW! At the end of season four, Peter (Jack Wagner) was arrested for Bobby Parezi’s murder. His alibi, Kimberly (Marcia Cross), drifts into a coma. Amanda (Heather Locklear) who witnesses the murder marries Peter in a jailhouse ceremony so that she won't have to testify against him. Matt (Doug Savant) starts taking drugs to get through medical school. Jake (Grant Show) starts dating Alison (Courtney Thorne-Smith) behind Billy’s (Andre Shue) back while he still holds a torch for Alison in hopes they might reconcile. Jane (Josie Bissett) pushes Jake away after Richard (Partick Muldoon) attempts to rape her again but Sydney (Laura Leighton) wacks him on the head with a shovel, thinking they kill him, they bury poor Richard alive and leave him for dead, but not until his hand POPS out of the ground (like the final scene in Carrie). The first “big name” series regular leaves the show, when Jo (Daphne Zuniga), falls in love with Dominick (Brad Johnson) and leaves Melrose Place with him for Bosnia (yes… Bosnia). Season four ends when a detective shows up on Amanda’s doorstep and reveals to her that her new husband, Peter is not who he says he is and lying about his identity. Season five picks up right at the end of season four. Peter’s in Jail. Kimberly’s in a coma (again). Matt’s got a drug problem. Jake and Alison are hiding their relationship to protect Billy and Jane. Richard Hart keeps coming back from the dead to get back at Jane and Syd. And with Jo off to a war torn country, there are vacancies at Melrose that need to be filled. New characters, Kyle and Taylor McBride (Rob Estes (playing a different character than he did during his couple episode arc in season one) and Lisa “Lips” Rinna) move in, open a restaurant and we discover that Taylor has a secret connection to Peter’s past and his real identity. Craig Field (“Baywatch” alumn David Charvet) and his father Arthur (Michael Des Barres) attempt a hostile takeover of D & D Advertising in order to oust Amanda. Samantha Riley (Brooke Langton) moves in as Jane’s perky, new roommate and Megan Lewis (Kelly Rutherford) is a hooker with a heart of gold who Michael starts shacking up with (and doesn’t know she’s a high priced call girl). And this is just the beginning! SPOILER END. While I enjoyed season five, it just doesn’t love up to the greatness and outrageously entertaining seasons two, three and four. It’s still good, but at this point you can see cracks in the foundation and many people would agree with me when I say the show should have wrapped up storylines and ended with this season. The producers add too many new characters in season five in an attempt to invigorate the show and instead, it just becomes a little more difficult to follow. I consider season five to be a “transitional season” for the show as the remaining few seasons became more increasingly difficult to watch and follow. Still, I love visiting Melrose Place and like any good voyeur, I can’t get enough of watching these people, so despite my reservations about the direction and quality of the show versus previous seasons, I still think this is terribly entertaining and continues to be one of the greatest primetime guilty pleasures ever to grace the idiot box. The Video – 2 out of 5 Using my Sony PS3 Blu-Ray player, kicking up the standard DVD up to 1080P, the image looked average at best. The 4:3 full frame image looked dated (this season aired in 1996 and 1997) and with Paramount cramming four to five 44 minute episodes on one disc, quality suffers. Edge enhancement, compression artifacts and noise dominate the image, however, when I popped the DVD in on an old fashioned CRT TV, it actually looked better (it’s and old show that was seen on CRT’s back in the day, so…). But hey, this isn’t meant to be a reference disc, it’s Melrose Place for crissakes! I really didn’t care. It’s good enough! The Audio / Sound – 2 out of 5 Again, same as the video. The 2.0 soundtrack was adequate and average. It’s from the mid 1990’s and it’s as good as can be expected. Most of the action comes from the center channel, with all of the dialogue free and clear of distortion. Don’t expect much in the way of any LFE action either. It’s just not happening. But as it said in my video review… This isn’t meant to be a reference disc, it’s Melrose Place for crissakes! I really didn’t care. It’s good enough! Note: It seems that the original score is still intact, however, all of the "hit" music that was featured in the show (especially after the opening credits) has been replaced. It's barely noticable, but none the less, should be mentioned. The Extra's – 0 out of 5 None. Final Thoughts What can I say… I’m a fan of this show and if you haven’t seen this pop culture phenomenon from the 1990’s, you should give it a shot. HIGHLY recommended if you like “Desperate Housewives”. Start with season one and jump to episode 21, “Picture Imperfect” (Heather Locklear’s first episode). You’ll get hooked, trust me. Overall Score – 3 out of 5 Release Date: February 10, 2008 Eric Douglas My DVD Collection: DVD Profiler, by Invelos Software, Inc.