In the '90s, "Melrose Place" was scandalous enough. Imagine how it would be now.
Actually, you don't have to. The success of last season's "90210" update has inspired the CW to dip back into the catalog of shows first made for Fox by the late television-producing mogul Aaron Spelling, so "Melrose Place" reopens in a new version that debuts Tuesday at 9 p.m. on CW/11.
As with "90210," some familiar faces are back, though new tenants of the Los Angeles apartment complex get equal time. Laura Leighton is back as ever-scheming Sydney Andrews, now the building's landlady . . . and the cougar who has her claws in notably younger resident David (Shaun Sipos), whose father happens to be the original show's Dr. Michael Mancini (still played by returnee Thomas Calabro).
Among others now paying rent at Melrose Place: publicist Ella (Katie Cassidy, daughter of "Partridge Family" icon David), who has run afoul of Sydney; sous-chef Auggie (Colin Egglesfield), who also counts Sydney as an ex-friend; financially challenged medical student Lauren (Stephanie Jacobsen), and romantically involved couple Riley and Jonah (Jessica Lucas and Michael Rady).
Joining the complex is Violet (actress-singer Ashlee Simpson-Wentz), whose arrival coincides with a discovery that shakes not only her, but all her new neighbors: a corpse in the Melrose Place pool, sparking a mystery that will reverberate through at least the first several episodes of the revival.
"We are huge fans of the original," says executive producer Todd Slavkin, who left the CW's "Smallville" with longtime creative partner Darren Swimmer to make the new series. "When we set out to do our version of 'Melrose Place,' we wanted to pay tribute to the old show but really create our own show with our own group of characters inspired by the experiences Darren and I have had. We grew up in Los Angeles and have known each other since sixth grade, so this city is special to us."
That said, Slavkin adds that Melrose Place is - at least in television terms - "definitely still the most scandalous address in West Hollywood. That hasn't changed."
Many of the younger cast members admit they're getting to know the "Melrose Place" premise for the first time.
"My two older sisters watched it," recalls recent "Harper's Island" co-star Cassidy of the original series. "Obviously, I had heard all about it, but I still haven't checked it out. When I had gotten the role, I didn't want anything to affect the character I created or my performance. Now that I think I have a very good idea of who Ella is, I can go back and look at it without it having any sort of effect."
The same applies to Simpson-Wentz, who says she appreciates the chance "to play the innocent side, but the really innocent girl is probably not so innocent. I definitely remember moving to L.A., and I didn't have a cool style or anything like that."
Formerly a regular on "7th Heaven," Simpson-Wentz likes being part of another ensemble cast: "We've pretty much all been in our swimsuits, so we got to know each other real fast."
For CW entertainment president Dawn Ostroff, "90210" (which returns for its second season Tuesday) was the template that prompted the order for "Melrose Place." She remembers that "somebody called me up about two years ago and said, 'Would you guys ever think about remaking "[Beverly Hills] 90210" or "Melrose"? We decided to try '90210' as an experiment and [thought] if it worked, wouldn't it be great if we could also do 'Melrose'? Shortly after we got '90210' on the air, we started to talk about it, and it all just came together."
Leighton is pleased it did, as someone who was there for most of the first edition's run. "This version is hitting the points," she maintains. "It's got all the scandal and the sex and the fun. It's modern, and it represents the concept of the shared apartment building, but in today's time."
RESIDENT EVILDOERS LEIGHTON AND CALABRO RETURN
Laura Leighton welcomes the chance to revisit the part of Sydney on the new "Melrose Place." She says the producers offered "an approach to the show that incorporated my character in a very unique way. I had no expectation, going in, of what it was going to be. I only knew that playing Sydney the first time was such fun, there was no downside to coming back to play her again."
Thomas Calabro also was open to tackling Michael in a fresh way, though he muses, "I wanted him to be more handsome. That turned out to be so, so I was 'on.' Like Laura, I wasn't looking forward to anything specific, but I was more interested in the ideas they had to bring the show forward. I was very excited to find out that had even more money than before, and ultimate power. If he continues to be an evildoer, that bodes well for his ability to do so."
Other "Melrose Place" veterans also will turn up again, if not for lengthy stays. Josie Bissett will resurface as Jane, Sydney's sister and Michael's ex-wife, and Daphne Zuniga - a CW presence in recent seasons as the mother of Brooke (Sophia Bush) on "One Tree Hill" - has signed back up as Jo. Grant Show is committed to Jenna Elfman's new CBS sitcom "Accidentally on Purpose," but neither he nor the "Melrose" producers rule out his temporary return as Jake. There also was speculation that Heather Locklear was interested in reprising her role as Amanda Woodward.