Friday, September 18, 2009

New US TV Delights: Gossip Girl, The Beautiful Life and Melrose Place

I indulged in some new US TV this week with two newbie shows "Melrose Place" and "The Beautiful Life" (its being called "The Beautiful Life: TBL" but I refuse to acknowledge that awful AWFUL title) and the return of one of my fave's "Gossip Girl".

"The Beautiful Life" was a huge disappointment. The idea is solid, Mischa Barton as the reigning super model/super bitch returning to NYC while newbie models attempt to make their name. Sadly for all the promise of the premise the pilot was mawkish, unconvincing and (worst crime of all!) boring stuff. Biggest offender is Chris, the Iowa bred farm boy who falls into modelling (Ashton Kutcher is an exec producer on this and this incidental detail is a dead giveaway) with scenes so cheesy you half expect the whole thing to be some kind of an elaborate spoof on stupid dramas. But alas its not. Not only is the show incredibly cheesy, it also looks flat and most of the cast don't look like models. There are glimmers of a good show here, Mischa Barton's character Sonja has the potential to be a complex and interesting hellraiser and lead character Raina could be moulded into an interesting heroine with some decent scripting but I can't see the show going that far. With piss poor ratings to start off and such a lacklustre approach it wouldn't surprise me if The Beautiful Life ended up on the CW scrapheap faster than you can say "Smile With Your Eyes".

"Melrose Place" thankfully was a pleasant surprise. Maybe its because I've seen two episodes but I'm already hooked on this show and hoping it lasts the season. A glossy reboot of the 90s hit, in the vein of last year's "90210" remake, this places a bunch of glamorous 20 somethings in a swanky L.A. apartment complex. Within minutes of the first episode, Sydney of the previous incarnation is found dead in the complex's pool and a season long mystery is set in motion. There is a nice array of characters, the obvious highlight being Ella, the bitchy but likeable publicity whose rampant sexuality and sharp tongue set her apart from some of the more drippy characters on display. Ashlee Simpson Wentz (as the credits refer to her as) seems awkward and stilted but this seems like a deliberate move for her twitchy and probably unhinged character Violet. The plot lines are suitably ludicrous too. Before she died Sydney had a connection to everyone in the complex it seems, meaning the season long mystery is sure to have plenty of turns, Lauren the eager med student has accidentally become a high class hooker and we have a feeling that Violet will go fairly psycho by episode 13, if not earlier. This is shaping up to be fantastic trashy drama, not far removed from the slick thrills of Gossip Girl and if it can build a decent word of mouth this could be one of most enjoyable debuts of the new TV season.

Now onto the return of an established fave, Gossip Girl. Although most season openers can be a slow affair the GG crew managed to fit lots in. Without going into too much plot details (to keep things spoiler free) the writers have managed to put a fresher spin on things after the rather muddled and rushed feeling to Season 2. Using last season's "back from summer" device allows us to catch up with the main characters before college comes into change things up. Blair and Chuck are already interesting, equal parts sexy and sweet and a nice change from the Dan and Serena's of this world. Dan is moving on up and Serena is fast becoming a US Sienna in a slightly ludicrous bit of plotting that we hope isn't dragged out all season. And for some reason both Jenny and Vanessa have been subjected to the same, rather horrid Christina Aguilera circa 2003 ratty hair extensions which hopefully will be shorn off soon. This was a bold and fresh opening and I'm quite excited to see where things go this season on Gossip Girl.

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