90210, when Kelly Taylor (played by Jennie Garth) developed a crush on bad-boy hottie Jake Hanson (Grant Show). Jake was Melrose Place's handyman, and the flirtation between Kelly and Jake served to take viewers from one show to the next (Melrose Place aired immediately following 90210 in the weekly lineup). Whether by design or in response to initially tepid ratings, Melrose Place quickly went from fairly tame and realistic (a la 90210) to over-the-top, near-camp. And viewers loved it.
Much of the salacious transformation centered around Dr. Michael Mancini (Thomas Calabro), who abruptly went from salt-of-the-earth hubby (to beautiful fashion-designer Jane, Josie Bissett) to two-timing evil schemer.
This being an Aaron Spelling show of a certain era, the spicing-up of Melrose Place was greatly enhanced by the incomparable Heather Locklear. Locklear was brought in at season two as Amanda Woodward, a high-powered advertising executive with a predilection for extreme power and extremely short skirts. So involved was Amanda in the lives of the Melrose Place residents that she bought the complex, notorious pool and all. Over the next six seasons, the show was filled with affairs, returns-from-the-dead, and murder plots.
Part of the lasting appeal of Melrose Place lies in the fact that the characters were played by young actors who ended up with big careers. It's almost like life imitated art in that sense—this group of apartment-dwellers was embarking on their adult lives together, even as the actors who played them were doing the same.
In fact, one of the greatest in-jokes on TV today is that Doug Savant and Marcia Cross went from Melrose Place to Wisteria Lane together. Savant played the gay, Birkenstock-wearing, do-gooder social worker Matt Fielding on Melrose Place while Cross played is-she-or-isn't-she-totally-nutso Dr. Kimberly Shaw. Now the two appear on Desperate Housewives as Tom Scavo and Bree Van De Kamp, respectively. Every time they share the screen, thirty-something campy-TV lovers around the country rejoice. (And in real life, Savant is married to fellow Melrose alum Laura Leighton, who played adorable, irascible Sydney Andrews.)
Also featured on Melrose Place were then-unknowns Courtney Thorne-Smith (Allison Parker), Andrew Shue (Billy Campbell), Daphne Zuniga (Jo Reynolds), Rob Estes (Kyle McBride), Kelly Rutherford (Megan Lewis Mancini), and Kristin Davis (Brooke Armstrong).
Thomas Calabro and Heather Locklear were back for a few episodes of Melrose Place 2.0, the 2009 update of the beloved series with an otherwise all-new cast. It's been said that you can't go home again, and for many of us who loved the original series, that phrase was never truer than when the home in question is Melrose Place.