First of all, there is an academic paper just waiting to be written about how Lifetime has made a cottage industry out of making TV movies about TV shows. It’s like Inception of guilty pleasure TV. And this HAS to be the final time they do this sort of movie; ratings were bad and also NOTHING HAPPENED IN IT. Because here is the thing: Just because a show itself was soapy and dramatic, it doesn’t follow that the making of said show is likewise soapy and dramatic. In fact, the plot of this whole movie is basically: Melrose Place was boring the first season, then they hired Heather Locklear and realized it was actually a soap opera, and then it was great! Everyone was nice and professional! The end! And there is a LOT of back and forth between Aaron Spelling and Darren Star about Star’s creative desires etc etc/how he’s going to take a job on Central Park West, instead of running Models, Inc, and the dude playing Star is totally competent in the part but WHO. CARES. ABOUT DARREN STAR AND AARON SPELLING’S EXTREMELY LOW-LEVEL INTERPERSONAL CONFLICT?
I’d argue, in fact, that the only REAL plot point here is that Doug Savant shot a gay kiss and the network cut it, without giving him a heads-up, and he was PISSED, both that they didn’t have the guts to do a gay romance, and because he had to find that out by watching the episode. Per this movie, Doug Savant is apparently a stand-up dude, refusing to clarify his own sexuality (until the network forced him to, I think) because he thought it was a douche move to be like, “well, my character is gay, but I AM STRAIGHT! NOT GAY HERE.” I am happy to believe that Doug Savant is cool. Other than that: I HAVE NOTES. Please put on your wig and prepare to rip it off with me.
PS: Tori Spelling allegedly also cast Andrew Shue. The entire subplot of all these movies seems to be that Tori Spelling is an unsung hero with razor-sharp televisual instincts.
Fuggery: 2. We saw an insufficient number of clogs. Basically, whoever costumed this movie had a very realistic grasp of the time period, which is actually admirable and a salute to them as a professional, but boring for ME. I will give GIANT extra credit to the silent man who plays Tommy Lee, though. HE WAS GLORIOUS. Just you wait.
Fromage: 4. INSUFFICIENTLY CHEESY. Do we really REALLY care that Aaron Spelling was mad at Darren Starr for going off to do Central Park West? NO. Do we need ENDLESS SCENES with the writing staff standing in front of corkboards breaking story? I have stood in front of a corkboard breaking a story and it is boring to watch if you’re not the person in the middle of it, and I suspect the writers breaking the story about the story breaking were also like, “ugh, there is no plot in this movie, you guys. Can we go to Chipotle now?” I will note that Dan Castellaneta has several moments where he veers out of “Aaron Spelling” and into full-on Mr Burns, which is weird given that he doesn’t voice that part on The Simpsons.
F*ckwittery: 7. They never should have made this movie, because there is no story to tell. It was a successful show that had a rocky first season, and was apparently peopled largely by professional actors who behaved professionally, even when two of them broke up. There is slight professional jealousy over Daphne Zuniga and Courtney Thorne-Smith being cut off the front cover of Rolling Stone – in the course of which neither of the two of them do anything destructive nor dramatic other than being like, “oh, that’s a real bummer for me,” and which Laura Leighton handles by telling the person in charge that it’s not cool to treat them as anything other than equals. There is no reason for this to be Unauthorized, because I feel like everyone would authorize a film in which they behave largely like professionals who work hard and basically get along. That said, the filmmakers also changed actual facts; here, they claim that they were originally going to have Kimberly crash a plane into Melrose Place as the finale of season three, and then had to switch gears when a plan to crash a plane into the White House was thwarted. But in actuality, the apartment was ALWAYS going to blow up in the end of season three, but they had to recut the finale in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, and the actual explosion didn’t happen until the premiere of season four. There’s also a throwaway line in a writing session mentioning Kimberly giving Peter a lobotomy, but that doesn’t happen until the next season, either (Jack Wagner isn’t even in this movie). The word “unauthorized” implies a project contains soapy intel people don’t want you to know, but it also implies some truth, and not a needless fictionalization of facts that anyone who cared enough about the show to watch THIS VERY MOVIE will realize are wrong, and which they can easily fact-check on Wikipedia in one minute. I don’t understand some of the choices the writers made here; if you want to get into the super insane soapy stuff this show did, and I understand why you would, then you need to come up with a better place to end this movie than before all that stuff happened. And, look, I get that it’s easy to be like, “who fact checks a Lifetime movie?” and it’s not like this is the #1 thing I’m most peevish about in the history of the world, but Us Weekly ran a story this morning that listed “all the things we learned from The Unauthorized Melrose Place Story.” Just…like…why?