Melrose Place aired for seven seasons from 1992 through 1999. Fans and critics argue about which season was the best and which was the worst. At Circa 98, we like to put things in context and deliver a fair ranking. Let’s take a look at our order for the best Melrose Place seasons.
1) Season 1
If you’ve read Circa 98 before, you know the first season of any series is rarely our favorite. However, Melrose Place is an exception to the rule. Melrose’s inaugural season is, in fact, the series’ peak and is almost an entirely different show than what it became famous for later on. Though lower-than-expected network ratings precipitated its shift from an episodic series into a full-fledged soap opera, the original writers traded viewership for dignity. The first season is quite good and explores the lives of working-class 30somethings, which contrasted the glamour of the series’ predecessor Beverly Hills 90210. Rhonda and Sandy’s inclusion in the initial season makes it a no-brainer selection for the best season.
Characters had more diversity, with each of them working in separate locations and leading mutually exclusive lives. This essence is most poignant in examining Billy Campbell, an aspiring screenwriter who drives cabs as a side-gig. Also, Allison Parker’s career is nuanced in Season one, as are her relationships. The first season exhibited wonder and a genuine curiosity about these people’s lives. Everything would change next season.
Best Episodes: For Love or Money, Second Chances, Dreams Come True
Best Characters: Rhonda Blair, Billy Campbell, Michael Mancini, Allison Parker, Jake Hanson, Sandy Harling
2) Season 5
Season 5 was Melrose Place’s second peak and, ultimately, the last season that mainstream viewers watched. Several top characters like Sydney, Allison, Jake, Kimberly, and Jane would depart either during or after the season ended. Despite the mass exodus of integral cast members, it’s challenging to refute Melrose’s idea to go out with a bang. The problem, of course, was that they didn’t leave. Far be it from a Spelling production to leave money on the table, and though the final two seasons were watchable enough for die-hard fans, season 5 would be the last time Melrose Place felt special. So many plot points converged during the fifth season that looking away seemed risky. While Melrose became a far cry from its initial concept, the soap opera it evolved into was never more appealing than in this season. Sydney’s death in the season finale seemed fitting since, for many viewers, the show died along with her.
Best Episodes: Over Dick’s Dead Body, Going Places, Who’s Afraid of Amanda Woodward? Part 2
Best Characters: Sydney Andrews, Michael Mancini, Jane Mancini
3) Season 2
Season 2 is probably the most famous Season of Melrose Place. Kimberly’s car accident and shocking return from her coma surprised viewers across the world. Sydney’s pursuit and eventual blackmailing of Micheal into marriage is another famous plot point. As Amanda’s first season serving as the apartment complex owner, the dynamic at Melrose Place changed dramatically. Sydney’s decision to move into the complex further complicated everyone’s lives but added much-needed drama for viewers. Writers buried Melrose Place’s innocence in Season 2, but it received more viewers, more buzz, and more money in exchange. If you can move beyond the show’s philosophical shift and focus purely on entertainment, season 2 will keep you engaged.
Best Episodes: Revenge, Collision Course, Psyco-Therapy
Best Characters: Kimberly Shaw, Michael Mancini, Sydney Andrews
4) Season 3
Season 3 feels like the natural continuation of the previous season and equally as compelling. While the television show’s idealism is long gone, Season 3 is quite entertaining for what it intends to convey. As an over-the-top soap opera, the third season of Melrose gives the people what they want. So much so that Seinfeld parodied the season in one of their episodes, The Beard. Most viewers related to Jerry Seinfeld’s sentiment categorizing Melrose Place as a guilty pleasure that remains highly addictive though inexplicable. From Jo chasing down her baby’s armed grandparents to Kimberly blowing up the entire Melrose Place complex, Season 3 left an indelible impression, albeit one where some viewers didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. The show’s deliberate absurdity became comedic without losing its entertainment appeal. Characters like Michael Mancini and Kimberly Shaw transitioned into parodies while simultaneously playing it straight enough to avoid full-fledged satire.
Best Episodes: In-Laws and Outlaws, Love Reeks, The Big Bang Theory
Best Characters: Michael Mancini, Sydney Andrews, Amanda Woodward
5) Season 7
Tenured viewers noticed Season 7 as a last-ditch effort to revitalize a series on life support. Jane Mancini (an original cast member) returns to placate long-standing fans with a thirst of yesteryear. While her reappearance certainly helps the show, it falls short of delaying its inevitable demise. The final season’s writing is superior to its most recent predecessor though considerably beneath its peak level. Characters like Kyle, Eve, and Ryan put forth admirable performances, but none of them are enough to fill voids left from departed cast members. Despite its apparent flaws, Melrose Place’s swan song is decidedly watchable due mainly to the evolution of characters like Lexi and Peter Burns. Original staples like Michael and Jane provide enough of a foundation for newer characters to flourish. The final episode failed viewers in multiple ways, but the season itself was enough to keep the last of them around.
Best Episodes: Ball n’ Jane, Fiddling on the Roof, Not Quite All About Eve
Best Characters: Kyle McBride, Lexi Sterling, Peter Burns
6) Season 4
Season 4 is atrocious. While the show remains watchable because of its star-studded cast, the episodes during the fourth season leave viewers in a state of perpetual misery. Somehow they all survived the apartment building’s explosion, with only Allison suffering long-term effects. And by long-term results, we mean temporary blindness that she drags on for sympathy. Kimberly Shaw’s story arc extends beyond any semblance of reality. She gains control of mental health asylum by convincing doctors that she’s not ill, and instead, Dr. Peter Burns is mentally unstable. If viewers hadn’t taken a moment to process exactly how far removed from reality the series had gotten, they might find such absurd storylines as par for the course. Nevertheless, as someone who remembers the pilot, Season 4 was a disgrace to the series legacy.
Best Episodes: Postmortem Madness, Drawing Henry, Dead Sisters Walking
Best Characters: Michael Mancini, Matt Fielding, Sydney Andrews
7) Season 6
Season 6 rivals the fourth season as the series low-point. However, the distinction between 6 and 4 is the disparity of original cast members, mostly gone by Season 6. With poor storylines and lesser characters, the sixth season looked an awful lot like rock bottom. In fairness to the series, newcomers like Kyle and Taylor McBride started to feel like regulars. They delivered memorable performances that indoctrinated them into Melrose folklore. Unfortunately, a badge of honor is not appropriate for every new cast member (won’t mention any names), which kept viewers longing for the originals. From a minor league baseball player stealing Billy’s wife (Samantha) to a forced romance between Billy and Jennifer (double write-off, anyone?), Season 6 left a disturbing taste in the collective mouths of Melrose faithful.
Best Episodes: The Doctor is in… Deep, Attack of The Scalpel Woman, A Bump in The Night
Best Characters: Michael Mancini, Kyle McBride, Taylor McBride