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Snapshots From Camp Melrose

May 02, 1999|WILLIAM KECK | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

After seven seasons of desktop sex and swimming pool cat fights, "Melrose Place," the prime-time series that proved anyone, including the dead and the deranged, deserves a second chance, will forfeit its Monday night lease on May 24.

Ten years ago, executive producer Aaron Spelling plunged into nigh-time soapy waters in a big way with "Dynasty," providing "Melrose's" queen of mean, Heather Locklear, a prior address. But the show was axed by ABC after turned-off fans complained they were being forced to suspend a tad too much disbelief. (Case in point: the infamous royal wedding massacre, in which the entire cast was gunned down by Moldavian revolutionaries.)

Pushing the envelope may have been the root of "Dynasty's" decline, but for Spelling's next foray into serialized surrealism, over-the-top antics proved the perfect recipe for ratings success. Over the years, "Melrose's" dead were resurrected, certified psychos became practicing psychologists and victims married their attempted murderers.

While producers have promised to "send off the show with the fanfare it deserves," how could they possibly outdo some of television's most outlandish gimmicks and stunts?

WORST CARRIE RIP-OFF

Years before "The Rage: Carrie II," the recent flop sequel, the theatrical bickering sisters Jane (Josie Bissett) and Sydney (Laura Leighton) finally made amends joining forces to bury the body of Jane's rapist, Richard (Patrick Muldoon) in a shallow grave. As the would be murderers drove off, Richard's hand clawed its way through the soil, a la Sissy Spacek. While Carrie's comeback was only a dream, boring Richard's resurrection early in season five was tragically real.

BIGGEST BOMB

The cliffhanger that closed the 1994-95 season found wacky Dr. Kimberly Shaw (Marcia Cross) blowing up the entire apartment complex . . . just days after the Oklahoma City bombing that destroyed a Federal building and killed 168 people. Out of respect for the victim's families, producers edited out some of the more violent scenes (though it was still pretty gory), but did not cancel the show. Guest star Morgan Brittany was the show's sole casualty. A few episodes later, Kimberly found work again on "Melrose" as a psychiatric counselor.

FASTEST REMISSION

In season three, Locklear was forced to tone down the mascara when her character was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. After several grueling days of chemotherapy treatments, and a few equally grueling episodes of a kinder, gentler, Amanda Woodward, fans witnessed a miraculous experimental cure restoring the character to her wonderfully bitchy self.

BEST WIG-OUT

Nothing was more shocking than Kimberly's second season return from the dead after seemingly perishing in a horrible car wreck the year before. And nothing more gross than the unforgettable moment they whipped off her red wig, revealing the gruesome scar she'd sustained during lifesaving (though regrettable, mind-altering) brain surgery. Kimberly ultimately succumbed to a brain tumor near the end of the season five.

THE CAPPER

Courtesy of past clips, Kimberly, Sydney and all will appear in the flashback-filled finale. Though Spelling is keeping all plot and casting details hush-hush, rumor has it some vets may be in attendance for a confirmed wedding and funeral, executive producer Charles Pratt Jr. has said, "Everyone's going to want to know where all our characters are going to be and who they're going to be with-not just at the end of the season, but for the rest of their lives . . .We have a finale planned that will rival M*A*S*H and a few others." For "Melrose," the true challenge will be living up to its own scandalous past.

"Melrose Place" airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on Fox through May.

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