In January ATV celebrated the career of legendary television producer Aaron Spelling by making him an ATV Icon and focusing on 1970s detective drama Charlie’s Angels in our flashback feature. Now we take a look at the Beverly Hills franchise which was launched by Spelling in the 1990s and comprises of Beverley Hills 90210, Melrose Place, Models Inc and recent revivals 90210 and Melrose Place.Beverly Hills 90210
The show which spawned all the spin-offs which were to follow; the series launched on Fox in October 1990 and followed the Walsh family as they move to California and settle into their new life. The teen-drama was created by Darren Star and the early seasons focused on Brandon [Jason Priestley] and Brenda [Shannen Doherty] as they adjust to life in Beverly Hills and make new friends.
The teen-drama covered many issues during its ten years on air such as date rape, teenage pregnancy, abortion, homosexuality, alcoholism and drug addiction and although episodes tended to be self contained to begin with slowly it took on a more soap feel with longer running storylines – such as the various romances and live triangles of the teenagers.
The series ran for ten seasons and nearly 300 episodes and was the starting ground for many house hold names such as Luke Perry, Tori Spelling, Jennie Grath and Shannen Doherty. Ratings for the teen-drama reached a peak during its third and fourth seasons when over 20 million viewers regularly tuned in.
At the conclusion of the fourth season actress Shannen Doherty departed the series and subsequent seasons saw a slow decline in ratings until the 10th and final season averaged around 10 million viewers per episode. Over the course of the series the teen-drama attracted a number of high profile guest-stars such as former Dynasty actress Stephanie Beacham who had a recurring role on the series. Beacham wasn’t the only Dynasty actress to appear in the franchise as Emma Samms and Heather Locklear would both appear in the spin-offs from Beverly Hills 90210.
The first spin-off from Beverly Hills 90210 launched in 1992 with several characters crossing over for the earlier episodes of the series. Amongst those to crossover were Jennie Grath, Tori Spelling, Brian Austin Green and Ian Ziering. As with its parent show the drama was created by Darren Star and aired on Fox being produced for television by Aaron Spelling’s production company. Melrose Place was set in a small apartment complex inhabited by young adults and its storylines mirrored those covered by Beverly Hills 90210 – typical soapy storylines.
Amongst the original cast of Melrose Place were Thomas Calabro, Josie Bissett, Andrew Shue, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Grant Show, Doug Savant, Vanessa A Williams and Amy Locane. Former Dynasty actress Heather Locklear appeared during the first season as Amanda Woodward but Spelling decided to make the character a regular from the second season onwards in order to boost the series popularity – Locklear remained on Melrose Place until its finale. Laura Leighton was another actress who initially appeared as a guest-star before being promoted to the regular cast from the third season onwards.
Amongst the guest-stars on the series was former Dallas actress Linda Gray who played Hillary Michaels – the mother of Locklear’s character – In 1994 Gray would be given her own spin-off series. Melrose Place lasted for seven seasons and over 200 episodes but in 1999 the series was cancelled by Fox – a year later parent show Beverly Hills 90210 would also be cancelled.
Future Desperate Housewives actors Marcia Cross and Doug Savant were also cast members on the series. Marcia Cross played Dr Kimberly Shaw on the drama and was originally intended to be a one-episode character. However, Cross was invited back as her character became the antagonist of the series – mentally unbalanced with various schemes against the other characters.
In the fifth season of Melrose Place her character was finally killed off. Actor Doug Savant played social worker Matt Fielding on the drama and was an openly gay character. However, a kiss between Savant’s character and another man was edited from fear of provoking a conservative backlash – despite the fact the straight characters routinely kissed. Savant bowed out of the series in 1997 after five seasons.
The third entry in the franchise which saw actress Linda Gray reprise her role of Hillary Michaels which she had played in several episodes of Melrose Place. Hillary was the mother of Amanda Woodward, the Melrose Place bitch, and had a difficult relationship with her daughter. The new spin-off launched in 1994 and revolved around Hillary’s modelling agency but the series wasn’t as popular as its predecessor. In 1995 after 29 episodes and at the conclusion of its first season Fox cancelled the spin-off.
Starring alongside Gray in the spin-off was Emma Samms who Aaron Spelling had worked with before on Dynasty and its spin-off The Colby’s where she played Fallon Colby-Carrington after original actress Pamela Sue Martin departed the soap. Actress Stephanie Romanov played two roles in the spin-off after her original character was killed off – sparking a murder mystery storyline. Romanov then played her characters twin-sister in the series. Other stars of the short-lived spin-off included Brian Gaskill, Cassidy Rae, Kylie Travis, Carrie Anne Moss, Cameron Daddo, James Wilder and Teresa Hill.
The series is a spin-off from the 1990s teen-drama Beverly Hills 90210 and marked the first revival of the franchise since its conclusion in 2000. Although the new drama mainly revolves around new characters actors have returned to the drama to reprise their roles amongst them are; Shannen Doherty, Tori Spelling, Jennie Grath, Ann Gillespie and Joe E Tata. While the original series aired on Fox the updated spin-off airs on The CW and is produced by CBS Television Studios.
In September 2008 a pilot episode aired on The CW which rated well enough for the broadcaster to order a full weekly series of the drama. Amongst the new cast of the series are Rob Estes, Shenae Grimes, Tristan Wilds, Ryan Eggold, Jessica Stroup, Michael Steger, Lori Loughlin with Matt Lanter joining the main cast for its second season. As with the original show the drama starts with a family moving to the wealthy Beverly Hills and their adjustment to the new life-style and the teenagers of the family making new friends. The third series of 90210 has introduced a gay storyline as the character of Teddy (Trevor Donovan) realised his gay – across the season Teddy’s journey of coming to terms with his sexuality, accepting it, coming out to friends and exploring relationships are a prominent story-arc.
Following the successful revival of 90210 by The CW rumours soon began that the broadcaster was considering reviving Melrose Place as well. It wasn’t until early 2009 that the broadcaster confirmed it was discussing a revival of the drama and a pilot was commissioned. Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer, show-runners on fellow CW drama Smallville, were the producers of the new Melrose Place. The pilot was followed by a weekly series which had a running story-arc; the murder of Sydney Andrews [Laura Leighton], one of the characters from the original series of Melrose Place. Actress Laura Leighton agreed to reprise her role for the pilot and subsequent weekly series in which she would appear in flashbacks. Other actors to reprise their role for the new series include Josie Bissett, Thomas Calabro and Daphne Zuniga while it was widely rumoured that Heather Locklear would reprise her role in the new spin-off.
Amongst the new cast were Ashlee Simpson-Wenz, Colin Egglesfield, Katie Cassidy, Michael Rady, Jessica Lucas, Shaun Sipos and Stephanie Jacobsen who was a regular in the Australian soap Home & Away in the early 2000’s and had also had roles in Battlestar Galactica and The Sarah Connor Chronicles. While 90210 enjoyed ratings success Melrose Place struggled to retain audiences during its first 13 episodes as figures continued to decline. In late 2009 it was announced that Ashlee Simpson-Wenz and Colin Egglesfield had been dropped from the series as part of a revamp to boost ratings and that the Who Killed Sydney storyline would be concluded. Heather Locklear reprised her role of bitchy Amanda Woodward, from the original series, but despite the media interest in the actress’ return ratings did not improve. Melrose Place became the second entry in the franchise to be cancelled after just one series.
[This feature was originally uploaded on the 2nd February 2010. It has been updated with additional information for this new version].